Ireland for Family and Friends

The lifestyle that a country offers has a major impact on your experience working there. The way of life has to work not just for you but for your family and the families of your key staff too. When it comes to relocating with your family, there are many factors that need to be considered – childcare, education, healthcare and even, how feasible it is to bring along the family pet! Outlined below, is some information about each of these topics along with some useful links that will help you to learn more.

Family field

Childcare and Early Years Education

For children under the age of three, there are a number of childcare options available  including private nannies, créches and childminders (where a self-employed individual cares for one child or a number of children in their own home). In urban areas, nannies and créches are popular however, childminders remain the most popular form of daycare in Ireland.[1]

From September 2016, every child in Ireland will be able to start free pre-school at age three, and to remain in pre-school until they start primary school (usually at age 5) through the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. The ECCE year(s) are offered free of charge for three hours per day (9-12), 38 weeks per year. If you need additional daycare hours, you’ll be charged for these by the pre-school. You can choose to enroll your child in any pre-school that offers the ECCE programme as long as they have space available and they can start at three different points in the year – September, January or April. You can find out more through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs or Citizens Information.

Woman and child playing with a cat

Primary school options

There are a variety of primary school options available throughout Ireland including state-funded primary schools, special schools (for special needs pupils) and private primary schools.

For historical reasons, the majority of primary schools are state-aided parish schools, although this is beginning to change. In urban areas and in the suburbs of the major cities there are a larger number of non-denominational or multi-denominational schools. Most schools teach through English, with Gaelic/Irish taught as part of the curriculum however, there are also Gaelscoileanna, where the entire curriculum is taught through Gaelic/Irish.

Globally mobile families may be interested in the International School of Dublin, which offers the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme for 3-12 year olds. There are a variety of language options available to students also.

Children are obliged to attend school from the age of six, but almost all children in Ireland take their first steps into school life from the September after their fourth birthday. They attend Primary School for eight years: two infant classes and first to sixth class, before transferring to post-primary school when they are 12.

State-funded schools generally provide a high level of education and as a result, they are well-subscribed. It’s advisable to apply to state-funded primary schools as early as possible; even before you arrive in Ireland. Each school is responsible for its own admissions policies. They usually give priority to children who live in their catchment area and may take other factors into account, including religion.

To apply or find out more you should contact the school directly. Most allow you to apply by post, in person or often, by email, by filling out and returning an application form.

You can find out more about the primary school system in Ireland from the Department of Education and Skills.

Post-Primary Schools

At the age of 12 most children transfer into post-primary school, where they will study for five or often six years. There are state-funded and private options but all schools generally follow the same curriculum (unless they offer an international option – more about that below). From first year, students begin a three year Junior Cycle at the end of which they sit a series of exams, followed by a two or three year senior cycle, which concludes with Leaving Certificate exams.

In some schools the three year cycle is mandatory, in others the first of the three years is optional. For students who study the three-year senior cycle, they will take a Transition Year (TY) immediately after the Junior Cycle. The aim of this year is to give students an opportunity to learn through a wide range of experiences and often includes work experience, voluntary work in the community, trips and new physical activities. While the vast majority of students complete the Leaving Certificate, the Baccalaureate or International Baccalaureate (IB) are offered in a few schools.

An individual school’s website will provide information about its ethos and curriculum. Secondary school league tables rank schools on the basis of % of the last graduating class at university. These league tables are published annually by The Sunday Times and jointly, by The Irish Times and Irish Independent newspapers.


Onward and upwards – Higher Education in Ireland

For its small size, Ireland provides a large number of higher education options and the quality of education is generally very good. In middle class homes, progression from school to higher education is taken for granted and 80% of students make the leap.[2] Third level student numbers have increased by 13% since 2011, with numbers rising from 196,000 to 225,000, according to a report from

Applications for undergraduate courses at university, college and some specialist institutions are processed by the Central Applications Office (CAO).  The CAO system aims to allocate university/college places on the basis of points, which are usually drawn from results of the Leaving Certificate or an international school qualification.

The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 was launched in 2011. It sets out changes to take place during that period that aim to provide a more flexible system with more choice, better teaching and improvements to the student experience. One of the motivations for this Strategy is to ensure that higher education connects better with the needs of enterprise and society through the relevance of its programmes and quality of its research.

Family Healthcare in Ireland

Healthcare in Ireland is a two-tier system with public and private options available. Public healthcare is free to all residents of Ireland, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals. If these categories don’t apply to you, you may still be entitled to certain services free of charge. Private health care is also an option and as it is usually associated with shorter waiting lists for treatment, many  families opt to invest in voluntary health insurance.

All children under six years of age who have an Irish Personal Public Service (PPS) number can register for free GP care. Families register directly with a GP of their choice who is taking applicants. Details about this scheme can be found here.

You can find out more about applying for a PPS number through Client Identity Services, Department of Social Protection, Lo Call 1890 927 999 or email

Four-legged, furred and feathered family members

If you have a beloved family pet, you are probably keen to ensure that they can join the family on your Irish adventures.

Within the EU cats, dogs and ferrets can enter Ireland without quarantine as long as they meet some basic criteria set out on the Department of Agriculture website, including evidence of micro-chipping, an up-to-date rabies vaccination/blood test and tapeworm treatment for dogs. Coming from within the EU with horses, small mammals or birds is also very straight forward.

It is possible to move animals from outside the EU.  The Department of Agriculture provides very good information to help you manage the process and ensure that your animal friend remains at the heart of your family.

Finally a few quick tips for pet immigration:

  1. Pets can only be brought into Ireland by an approved carrier.
  2. The Department of Agriculture includes links to the airlines and ferry companies who will carry pets to and from Ireland within the EU and from outside the EU.
  3. Check with your carrier what size crate you need to provide for your pet.
  4. Work with your vet to complete relevant documentation.
  5. Ensure that you have all of that documentation completed and to hand before departure and on arrival in Ireland.


[1], 2016
[2] ERSI, 2015


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