Charlie McConalogue TD has described proposals to implement a minimum age of 5 for children starting school as an attack on families and a move that would seriously hinder children’s’ education and development.
The Fianna Fail spokeman on Children said the proposal from the Department of Education would have significant implications for families in Co Donegal and for the early development of our children.
“Fianna Fáil in Government rejected this proposal and we will continue to oppose it. I am urging this Government to do the same without delay.
“If a minimum age of 5 is set for starting school, many children would not enter the school system until they are 6 years of age depending on what month they were born in.
“My concern is that parents will be left to bear the enormous burden of an extra year’s childcare costs and many simply cannot afford it,” he said.
He added the Government should be concentrating on increasing supports for early childhood education, instead of considering any measures that could damage development.
“Fianna Fáil in Government introduced the free pre-school year under the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE). This is a major initiative providing equal access to early childhood education for 70,000 children across the country.
“The free pre-school year benefits children in the key developmental period just before starting school. At the moment children are eligible for the programme where they are between 3 years 3 months and 4 years 6 months on 1st September each year. If the Government is even considering raising the school starting age, they must commit to extending free pre-school year.
“The Government cannot simply bring in a major change that affects thousands of families without providing additional support and resources to ensure all children still get the best possible start in their most influential development years.”