Under the Department of Education's Pre-School Education Expansion Programme additional pre-school provision has been introduced on a phased basis since the 1998/99 school year.
New places have been created through the building of new nursery schools and units in the statutory nursery sector and the funding of places in the voluntary and private sectors.
In the current school year there are approximately 23,000 funded places. The availability of places for children in their final pre-school year has increased from 45% in 1997 to over 90% this school year.
Pre-School education places are available in a range of centres including nursery schools, nursery classes/units in primary schools and voluntary and private centres which are part of the expansion programme. (These centres may also offer places for which parents pay).