Written Answers. - Early Childhood Education.

Thursday, 29 May 2003

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 567 No. 7

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  171.  Mr. F. McGrath  Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey   the amount of money spent on early start programmes in 2002. [14979/03]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Expenditure by my Department on the early start pre-school project in 2002 amounted to approximately €4 million.

  172.  Mr. F. McGrath  Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey   if he will urgently invest in early childhood education in disadvantaged schools; and his future plans in this regard. [14980/03]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dealing with educational disadvantage remains a key priority of this Government and my Department has introduced a range of key interventions and programmes in primary schools aimed directly at tackling the problem of educational disadvantage. The early start pre-school pilot project is in place in 40 selected schools in designated areas of disadvantage. It is aimed at children who are considered to be most at risk of not reaching their educational potential and are aged between three and four years. Early start units have been established in 40 schools and all of these schools are benefiting from additional resources to cater for the pre-school children attending. Over €1.8 million, exclusive of teachers salaries, was spent on this programme in 2002 benefiting 1,570 pupils in 16 full units and 24 half units, with 56 teachers and 56 childcare workers.

My Department also funds the Rutland Street pre-school project which caters for 95 pupils age three to five years and which includes a pre-school centre, a special staff teaching allocation, classroom assistants, secretarial services and cooks, together with the provision of school meals. Over €225,000, exclusive of teachers salaries, was expended on this project in 2002. The Deputy may be aware of the White Paper on Early Childhood Education, “Ready to Learn”, [1746]which sets out a comprehensive strategy for the development of early childhood education for all children from birth to six years. The question of developing and funding particular pre-school initiatives or the extension of the early start project to additional schools will be considered by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education, which I recently established.


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