A study examining parents' perspectives of the free pre-school year /
Over the last few years, Ireland has put measures in place to support educational opportunities for all members of society including children through the provision of early educational opportunities. This has led to the free preschool year or early childhood care and education (ECCE) scheme. While participation in the scheme is voluntary, Pobal (2016:1) state that in the 2015/2016 programme there were 73,964 children participating at a cost of €178m. With the scheme recently extended to a two year term, this study raises the question of parents’ perceptions of the free preschool year. Specifically, this research is targeted at parents of preschool children in order to show how the scheme is utilised. The guiding hypothesis sets the contextual framework in which the research was conducted. In this study, the two main hypothesis focused on the fact that parents are guided by family circumstances and also, paid or free, they value preschool. Data was collected using surveys and interviews. The data was analyses through SPSS and thematic analysis. Data analysis revealed that when asked, 85.7% of parents would pay for the preschool scheme if it was not free. Also, 88.2%of parents felt that both aspects of care and education combined was vital for preschool children. Parents also felt that the free preschool year was an extension of support to the family and held many benefits for the child such as preparing them for school and developing social interaction. In conclusion, this research sheds new light on parent’s perspectives on the scheme as research is limited in this area to date.
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