Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
Early childhood education and care institutions usually admit children from the age of 1 year, at the end of parental leave. Children who reach 1 year of age by 31 August of the current year may attend the standard programmes on weekdays. Under certain conditions, children who reach the age of 6–11 months by 31 August of the current year may also be admitted.
Every year, as a rule, the kindergarten owner decides on the timing and conditions of entry in a joint notice of enrolment of children in kindergartens, which is published on the noticeboards in all kindergarten facilities. Along with the notice, kindergartens publish detailed information about the programmes offered by the institution in accordance with the national enrolment plan.
Within the period determined by the owner, the parent or guardian of a child submits an application for registration of a child in a particular kindergarten programme, which is, as a rule, at the closest preschool to their place of residence but may be somewhere else if they are interested in the specific programme offered by another kindergarten. Along with the application for registration of a child, the parent or guardian submits the following:
• the child’s birth certificate or a copy of the birth certificate or a certificate with information about the birth of the child or the written approval of parents that the kindergarten can check the data on the birth of the child in the birth register;
• a certificate of residence of the child and copies of the parents’ identification cards.
A parent or guardian is required to sign a contract with the kindergarten on the conditions of the programme.
Children who have not previously attended the standard kindergarten programme must enrol in the short preschool programme (maximum of 200 hours per year) in the year before starting primary school. This obligatory programme aims to prepare children for starting school. The tasks of the programme are training children to understand their responsibilities in school; encouraging children to behave spontaneously and express their needs; encouraging willingness to learn, including through activities with others; encouraging receptiveness to oral and written messages; and supporting understanding of how to process those messages.
Group size and child-staff ratios
Working with children in preschool institutions is organised in educational groups.
Educational groups are formed according to children’s age, the type and duration of the programme, and the abilities, needs and interests of the children and parents. There may be separate educational groups for children of nursery age (6 months to 3 years) and kindergarten age (3 years to school age (6 years)). Educational groups may be formed of children of the same age or different ages (so-called mixed groups). Mixed educational groups are formed only in cases where a group of the same age cannot be formed.
The number of children in an educational group must not exceed the prescribed standards and norms. This is regulated by the laws on preschool education. The number of children in an educational group is determined as follows:
• a nursery group of children aged 6 months to 1 year may have up to 6 children;
• a nursery group of children aged 1–2 years may have up to 12 children;
• a nursery group of children aged 2–3 years may have up to 15 children;
• a mixed nursery group may have up to 14 children;
• a kindergarten group of children aged 3–4 years may have up to 21 children;
• a kindergarten group of children aged 4–5 years may have up to 24 children;
• a kindergarten group of children aged 5–6 years may have up to 25 children;
• a mixed kindergarten group may have up to 25 children.
In an optimal educational group, there can be no more than one child with disabilities, except in a preschool institution with fewer educational groups than the number of enrolled children with disabilities. When there are two children with disabilities in a group, the permitted number of children in the group decreases by three.
The ratio of staff to children depends on the type of group. As a rule, in nurseries and kindergartens there is one teacher per group, unless it is a full-time or mixed group, in which case two teachers or a teacher and a professional associate are required. Professional associates who can be hired to work in in preschool education may be:
• professional associates who work on the improvement of educational work (pedagogues, psychologists and those specialised in supporting children with disabilities);
• professional associates in the areas of social work, preventive healthcare, nutrition and childcare (social workers, nutritionists/dietitians, medical doctors and paediatric specialists).
The duties of an educator and professional associate must be performed by a person who, in addition to the general conditions established by the law governing employment, meets all of the following conditions:
• has an appropriate level of higher education – at least the first cycle of the study programme and a professional qualification in a relevant field or equivalent;
• has passed the professional exam for educational work;
• has a medical certificate stating that they have the mental and physical ability to work with children.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
The annual programme of work is carried out to the full extent from 1 September of the current year to 30 June of following year, followed by a special summer programme lasting from 1 July to 31 August. These are adopted by the preschool board of directors.
Preschool activities are carried out during varying daily periods, depending on the needs of children, parents, the local community and the owner, as well as on the programme of the preschool institution. The laws on preschool education provide for two types of programme:
• full-day programme – up to 12 hours a day;
• half-day programme – up to 6 hours a day.
Preschool institutions may, if they wish, organise after-school care for children in the first grade of primary school.
The working hours of preschools are 7.00 to 17.00, but, as a rule, times are adjusted to the needs of parents.
Various types of activities are organised: directed activities, free activities, play, outdoor activities, breakfast, lunch, snack and afternoon rest. All activities that are planned and implemented within the daily routine depend on the specific conditions and needs of the educational group. In most institutions, the daily schedule for children attending full time, Monday to Friday, is as shown below.
Out-of-hours provision (before activities)
Out-of-hours provision (after activities)