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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of centre-based ECEC


4.Early childhood education and care

4.2Organisation of centre-based ECEC

Last update: 19 September 2022


Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting

Admission requirements are set out in the Provincial Kindergarten Education Acts for centre-based settings and relate primarily to the age of the children attending (i.e. crèches for children aged 0–3 years, kindergartens for children aged 3–5 years and mixed-age groups of children aged 1–5 years).

Parents or guardians are free to choose their child’s crèche or kindergarten. The decision on whether a place is granted is the responsibility of the operators: there are no central regulations, only local regulations used by providers, most often related to employment and family status (e.g. children of working and/or single parents or guardians are given preference in the allocation process).

According to the provincial laws, children can be excluded from attending an ECEC service in certain circumstances. This is the case, for example, if the parents or guardians repeatedly fail to ensure the child is accompanied to and from the institution, fail to pay the fees, conceal infectious diseases in the family or fail to fulfil another obligation incumbent on them despite a prior written reminder.

If the child has a mental or physical impairment that could put other children at risk or seriously disrupt educational work, he or she may be excluded. In most cases, exclusion is only possible at the request of the management; often a medical and/or psychological statement and a written explanation of the reasons are required beforehand (Burgenland Child Education and Care Act, §23; Carinthian Child Education and Care Act, §25; Lower Austrian Kindergarten Education Act §19, Upper Austrian Child Education and Care Act §12, Salzburg Child Education and Care Act §16, Styrian Child Education and Care Act § 28, Tyrolean Child Education and Care Act §22, §24, Vienna Kindergarten Act § 3, § 16, Vorarlberg Kindergarten Education Act §13).

Group size and child/staff ratios

Child–staff ratios are regulated by provincial laws. There are differences between the provinces.

The maximum group size in crèches varies from 8 to 15 children under the responsibility of one professionally trained pedagogue and one or two assistants. In kindergartens, one professionally trained pedagogue and usually one assistant take care of a maximum of 20–25 children. In some provinces, an assistant is compulsory only for 20 hours per week or if there are at least a certain number of children in the group.

All groups in crèches, kindergartens and services for older children are led by at least one professionally trained pedagogue. The specialist training required of pedagogues is ISCED level 5 (vocational/professional): graduation from a teacher-training college for early childhood education or a vocational education and training course at a teacher-training college for early childhood education.

In most cases, the second member of staff is an assistant. They are occasionally also a trained pedagogue, for example in a crèche or in groups with a wide age range of 1–6 years. The training of assistants who support the group-leading kindergarten teachers in their work is not regulated uniformly throughout Austria. It takes place either at school, as part of the 3-year vocational course for pedagogical assistant professions, or in continuing education and training institutions.

Annual, weekly and daily organisation

Organisation of day, week and year

In general, there is no strict daily, weekly or yearly schedule governing ECEC. Routines are determined by the Austrian social pedagogical approach, which has a focus on learning through play. The approach considers that an enriched play environment encourages unstructured and self-determined play. Usually, a day begins with a phase of free play, followed by some guided group (especially small-group) educational activities, snack time, free play combined with individual educational work, a lunch break and again free play and guided small-group educational activities in the afternoon.

Long-term educational planning respects the four seasons, the main seasonal festivities and the educational domains set out in the Nationwide Framework Curriculum for Austrian ECEC Services.

Organisation of time

Daily and weekly hours and the number of weeks that the service operates for per year are determined by the provider. About 90 % of ECEC services are open for at least 6 hours per day, 5 days per week. On average, services are closed for 22 days per year, mainly in the summer.

According to daycare facility statistics for 2019/2020, 60.3 % of under-3-year-olds and 46.7 % of 3- to 5-year-olds attended a VIF-compliant ECEC service in the 2019/2020 kindergarten year. VIF is the indicator of parents' or guardians' ability to balance family life and work (=Vereinbarkeits Indikator Familie und Beruf).

VIF-compliant childcare requires a weekly opening time of at least 45 hours, at least 9.5 hours per day on at least 4 days per week. This childcare provision, including meals, must be offered for at least 47 weeks of the kindergarten year.

According to Statistics Austria, more than 85 % of crèches and more than 90 % of kindergartens open before 7.30 on average. Around half of crèches are open until at least 17.00. One fifth of kindergartens close before 14.00, while one in three kindergartens is open until at least 17.00. Four out of ten childcare facilities offer childcare for 10 hours or more per day. 6.97 % of childcare facilities are open for fewer than 6 hours per day on average.

Holiday periods in ECEC services are based on those of schools, but ECEC services generally have significantly fewer closing days than schools.

According to Statistics Austria, in 2018, 20.9 % of kindergarten children were cared for in facilities with a maximum of 10 closed days per year, 33.8 % in facilities with 11–25 closed days per year and 45.4 % in facilities with more than 25 closed days per year. In crèches, on the other hand, only 15.1 % of children attended facilities with more than 25 closed days. 47.1 % of the children in crèches attended facilities with a maximum of 10 closed days and 37 % of the children in crèches attended facilities with 11–25 closed days.

The preparatory hours used by kindergarten teachers for planning, documentation, team and parent meetings, etc., are integrated into working hours by law. No childcare is to be provided by the staff during these hours. The legally prescribed preparatory time varies between 2.5 hours and 10 hours per week depending on the federal province. On average, 5–7 hours per week are scheduled for this. In Vienna and Vorarlberg, there is no legal regulation on this preparatory time.