Minister O’Gorman awards contract for independent review of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, today, 5 August, announced he has appointed Stranmillis University College, Belfast, to undertake an independent review of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme, in fulfilment of a commitment in ‘First 5: A Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families (2019-2028)’.

The ECCE Programme offers up to two years of free pre-school education and, since it was first introduced in 2010, more than 800,000 children have benefitted from it – the Programme has an uptake rate of more than 95%.

The core objectives of the ECCE Programme are:

  • to provide children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school;
  • to promote better cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes for children; and
  • to narrow the gap in attainment between more and less advantaged children.

The review will assess whether the ECCE Programme is meeting these core objectives and will identify any changes or improvements that can be made to the Programme, based on international evidence and experience to date; informing work to introduce a universal legal entitlement to pre-school.

Welcoming the review, Minister O’Gorman said:

“I am delighted to initiate this review of the ECCE Programme, which will prepare the ground for putting the ECCE Programme on a statutory footing, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to fully funded pre-school provision into the future. The ECCE programme is a central pillar in our funding model given the benefit it confers to children, their families and society more broadly”.

The Review will be completed in Quarter 3 2023.