Pre-school education in Northern Ireland


The latest paper in the Ulster University series looking at the NI education system focuses on the pre-school year just before starting primary school.

While pre-school attendance is not compulsory in Northern Ireland, it is seen as offering a smooth transition into primary school and has been developed so as to lead onto the Foundation Stage of the Northern Ireland Curriculum (Primary 1 and 2). The government’s commitment to provide a free pre-school year to every child whose family wants it resulted in 92% of all three-year-olds taking up a preschool place in 2018/19.Pre-school education in Northern Ireland

The briefing paper, the sixth in the “Transforming Education” series, refers to recent UU research which found that:
“The governance of pre-school provision reflects Northern Ireland’s complex and divided education system. The fragmented nature of pre-school education in Northern Ireland has produced a system with many types of provision and multiple oversight from a range of bodies.”

The authors of “Pre-school education in Northern Ireland”, conclude:
“It has been recognised that pre-school enrolments might reflect the community in which they are found but, over time, there was a hope that these settings could have an increasing role in embracing diversity and building peaceful communities. Challenging community divisions is difficult, even if there were a political will to do so.”

Download the briefing paper

The UU School of Education has received funding from the IEF, the UNESCO Centre, The Community Foundation NI and The Ireland Funds to support publication of the research.