Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
Pre-school education is aimed at children between the aged 3 to 5 years. However, children who are not yet 3 years old but will turn 3 years old by 31 December of the current school year can attend kindergarten from the beginning of the school year on 1st September. The very youngest (those born on 31stDecember) will then be 2 years and 8 months old. In exceptional cases, children can spend an additional year in kindergarten so that they start primary school at the age of 7 years instead of 6 years.
As of 1st September 2024, children will be eligible to be admitted to pre-primary education from the age of 2.5 years.
No test has to be taken when entering the kindergarten.
The Decree of 31st December 1998 contains the rules regarding the enrolment obligations of schools organised or subsidised by the government of the German-speaking Community. The same rules apply to pre-primary, primary and secondary education.
Regardless of the network, certain admission requirements must be met for a child to be enrolled in basic education. For pre-primary education, the only general admission requirement is the age of the child (see above).
In addition to the general admission requirements, the enrolment obligations of schools organised or subsidised by the government of the German-speaking Community are as follows.
- Schools organised by the German-speaking Community (Gemeinschaftsschulen) must, at the request of the parents, enrol any child who lives in the German-speaking Community.
- Subsidised schools run by municipalities (Gemeindeschulen) must, at the request of the parents, enrol any child who lives in the municipality. They must also enrol any pupil living in a neighbouring municipality in the German-speaking Community if the school is the closest municipality school to the child’s residence.
- Free subsidised schools (freie subventionierte Schulen) must, at the request of the parents, enrol any child who lives in the German-speaking Community provided that the parents agree with the school’s ethos. All the free subsidised schools in the German-speaking Community are Catholic schools.
Schools may not turn away children who fulfil the requirements. Through these enrolment obligations, the German-speaking Community ensures that every child has access to pre-primary, primary and secondary education.
In practice, schools do usually enrol all children whose parents request it, not least because they are funded or subsidised on the basis of the number of pupils enrolled.
Group size and child/staff ratio
In most larger kindergartens, age-homogeneous groups or classes are formed (horizontal division). However, a mixed-age, vertical division is also common. There are no regulations in this regard. Especially in rural areas, where there are small schools with not enough children to form several groups, children of various ages are combined in a single class.
There are no top-level regulations on child–staff ratios. Class size depends on the staffing plan of the kindergarten, and the staffing plan depends on the number of children enrolled. The number of full-time positions for pre-primary teachers is determined on the basis of a per capita system: 6–19 children = 1 full-time position, 20–25 children = 1.5 full-time positions, 26–32 children = 2 full-time positions and for 33 children or more there is an additional 0.25 full-time position for each additional group of five to seven children. The cut-off date for calculating this number of posts is 15 March of the previous school year. Only those children who were present on at least 5 half-days of school in the previous month are taken into account. The number of full-time positions determined on the basis of the number of pupils on 15 May will be revised over the course of the school year, after recounting the number of pupils on the last school day of September and on the fifth school day of April, with the calculation taking into account only those children who were present on at least 5 half-days of school in the month in question.
Teachers in pre-primary education, called Kindergärtner, are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in pre-primary education (Lehramt Kindergarten).
In addition to pre-primary teachers, a new position was created in 2018 in order to prepare for the lowering of the entry age to kindergarten to 2.5 years, which was expected to happen in 2021 but has been postponed to 2024. This role is for kindergarten assistants who work alongside and under the supervision of the pre-primary teacher.
Kindergarten assistants are required to hold a secondary school qualification.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
Organisation of the school year
The school year starts on 1 September and ends on 30 June. A school year must comprise 178–184 teaching days.
Every year, the government of the German-speaking Community sets the dates of the school holidays. In addition to the 2-month summer holidays (from 1 July to 31 August), there are 2 weeks of winter holidays (the week of Christmas and New Year), 2 weeks of spring holidays (at Easter), a 1-week holiday around 1 November and a 1-week holiday for carnival celebrations in February. Furthermore, there are no lessons on the following days: Easter Monday, 1 May, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, 1 November, 11 November, 15 November (official holiday of the German-speaking Community) and 24–26 December.
Schools can hold three pedagogical conference days dedicated to staff. During these days, the school is closed to children. Since 2019, schools have been given the opportunity to hold a fourth in-school conference day on a topic relevant to the development of education in the German-speaking Community. The topic of this fourth conference day is determined annually by the government of the German-speaking Community. The government approves the school’s corresponding application to hold a fourth pedagogical conference day on the basis of a report resulting from the school’s inspection.
Organisation of the school week
The school week comprises 5 days. Lessons take place from Monday to Friday. In basic education, there are no lessons on Wednesday afternoons.
Organisation of the school day
The start and end of lessons must be between 8.00 and 16.00 and are determined by the school head. In basic education, the lunch break must last at least 60 minutes.
Children are not required to attend education until they are 5 years old. They must then attend kindergarten all day.
The youngest children often attend kindergarten only in the mornings, as they are not of school age and therefore are not required to be present.
All children aged 3–12 years who live in or attend school in the German-speaking Community can be cared for in out-of-school care, which is organised in all nine municipalities by the Regional Centre for the Care of Small Children (Regionalzentrum für Kleinkindbetreuung (RZKB)). The hours are from 7.00 until the start of school and from the end of school until 18.00. The out-of-school care organised by the RZKB is run in accordance with the principle of autonomous play.
The daily fee is based on the net income of the household in which the child lives.
Besides the RZKB provision, two schools organise their own out-of-school care. They are recognised by the Ministry of the German-speaking Community and have their own tariff.