Place guarantee to ECEC
Compulsory pre-primary education will apply to all 4-year-olds from 2023/2024 (see amendment to Article 8 of the of 18 September 2020). Preschool education will be compulsory from the school year in which the child reaches 4 years of age. The state and municipalities will be obliged to establish the conditions to offer places to these children in either kindergartens or preschool education groups in primary schools. Prior to the 2023/2024 school year, compulsory preschool education for children over 4 years old will apply in the municipalities that have developed sufficient provision. In the remaining municipalities, legal entitlement to early childhood education and care (ECEC) will still apply only to children who have reached 5 years of age.
For children who are not of compulsory preschool education age, there is no legal guarantee to a place in ECEC.
The state provides funds to reimburse the costs directly related to a child’s upbringing and education when the child is not able to attend preschool education in a state or municipal kindergarten or school due to lack of full-time or half-day places. These funds are provided to the parents of children from the age of 3 years until their admission to the first grade of school if no equivalent place in a municipal kindergarten or school has been offered by the municipality of the child’s place of residence.
Compulsory preschool education in state and municipal kindergartens and primary schools is free of charge for children of compulsory preschool age. Parents pay fees only for meals other than those that are state funded, as well as for extra activities that their child participates in (sports, art, foreign languages, etc.)
Private kindergartens may receive a state subsidy for compulsory preschool education, in which case they may charge parents for only those activities that are not funded by the state. The maximum amount of funds collected by parents for these kindergartens is determined by the ordinance on the financing of institutions in the system of preschool and school education.
The Preschool and School Education Act sets out measures to support equal access of children to state/municipal kindergartens, including:
- purchasing textbooks for free use;
- supporting the payment of the fees due by parents for children’s meals in compulsory preschool education, other than meals financed by the state;
- reimbursing the costs of caring for and educating children who are not accepted due to lack of preschool education places in state and municipal kindergartens and schools;
- for children of compulsory preschool age from areas where there is no kindergarten or school, providing funds from the state budget for transport to and from the nearest kindergarten or school that conducts the relevant level of education.
Funds from the state budget partially finance activities for the upbringing, education, socialisation and training of children in nursery groups in public kindergartens and those for children aged 2–3 years in groups in municipal and state kindergartens. For the use of nurseries and kindergartens by children who are not of compulsory preschool age, monthly fees are paid by the parents or guardians for activities other than those financed by the state and the municipality. The fees are set out in regulations established by each municipality. Fees are paid only for the time during which the child has actually attended the nursery or kindergarten.