In Ireland, children of pre-school age (3yrs 2mths to 4yrs 7mths) can benefit from the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) in Ireland.
View more information on the above link. A quick overview:
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides a free year of early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. In general, children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months on 1 September of the year that they will be starting. The upper age limit can be extended in some cases – see ‘Rules’ below.
The State pays a capitation fee to participating playschools and daycare services. In return, they provide a pre-school service free of charge to all children within the qualifying age range for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks (see ‘How the ECCE scheme is provided’ below).
In general, children only qualify for ECCE in one school year. However, a child who has been assessed as having a disability may be able to spread their free pre-school year over 2 years – see ‘Children with special needs’ below.
So, I made a large number of Freedom of Information Requests to some Public Authorities. One of them being the Department for Education, in my request entitled Importance of Play for Under 8s. I have received a sort of response (after some hassles) which I am satisfied with. This response releases the following information:
1: Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage – Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five.
2: Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – This non-statutory guidance material supports practitioners in implementing the statutory requirements of the EYFS.
3: Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years.
In addition the DfE have linked me to the search results for all publications containing ‘Play’ in the title.
So, it is clear, from documents already in circulation, in addition to common sense, that children learn the most important lessons for their life in the first five years of their life. Lessons which involve their Primary Physical and Psychological development. I highly recommend looking at the guidance in (2) above, in addition to other information located at http://www.foundationyears.org.uk/.