Changes to the Ordinance on the financing of school and preschool institutions
During the current period, changes to the Ordinance on the financing of institutions in the preschool and school education system were made. The upbringing, socialization and education of children in the kindergartens and in the groups for compulsory preschool education in schools are financed entirely with funds from the state budget. Until now, the funding was only partially from the state budget for nursery groups and groups with children up to 3 years of age. The regulations regarding the determination and approval of the budgets of the institutions in the preschool and school education system by the primary budget managers have been supplemented. In addition to the distribution of funds according to standards, supplementary standards and norms for a child or student, determined by the act of the Council of Ministers, the regional coefficient, the excess of receipts over payments under the budget of the school or kindergarten, established at the end of the previous year, own revenues, additionally funding and the funds due, not transferred by the funding body at the end of the previous year are added. There are also changes in the rules for allocating funds for work with children and students from vulnerable groups. Funding includes:
1. Funds in an amount determined according to the number of children and students in the institution and the corresponding annual funding amount for one child and student. These funds can be used to pay for additional remuneration for employees included in the teams for the inclusion and retention in the education system of children and students of compulsory preschool and school age, for payment of additional study hours in the Bulgarian language in schools and for additional modules for children who do not know the Bulgarian language in kindergartens, as well as for staff engaged in measures to support access to education and prevent the risk of dropping out of the preschool and school education system for children and students from vulnerable groups.
2. Funds in an amount determined on the basis of the calculated number of educational mediators, social workers and/or teacher's assistants and the amount of funds for one employee; the amount of funds for one employee for a normal working day is determined annually by an order of the Minister of Education and Science, which is published by February 28 on the official website of the Ministry of Education and Science. These funds are used to pay for the appointment of educational mediators, social workers and/or teacher assistants.
The allocation of funds from the state budget for work with children and students from vulnerable groups has been determined. The number of educational mediators, social workers and/or teacher assistants was calculated according to the funding group and the number of children or pupils.
From January 1, 2024, changes related to the inclusion of private kindergartens or schools in the state funding system will enter into force:
- The deadlines for providing additional information to clarify the facts and circumstances for and to eliminate the malfunctions in the documents are shortened.
- The method of calculating funds and information provided to the Ministry of Education and Science has been changed.
- Private kindergartens and schools plan the funds received from the state budget based on the number of children/students and groups/parallels and the standards set by the Council of Ministers for the activities delegated by the state - per child/pupil, per group/parallel and per institution.
With Decision No. 408 of May 31, 2023 of the Council of Ministers, National Education Development Programmes for the current year have been approved. Kindergartens can apply for Module 2 "Traffic Safety Training Areas" from the National Programme "Ensuring a Modern, Safe and Accessible Educational Environment", under the National Programme "It's Good in Kindergarten", National Programme "Information and communication technologies (ICT) in the system of preschool and school education", National Programme "Qualification of pedagogical specialists", National Programme "Together for every child", National Programme "Optimization of the internal structure of the staff" and National Programme "Prevention and rehabilitation of the pedagogical specialists".
Preparation for compulsory preschool education from the age of 4
Municipalities are preparing the creation of the necessary conditions for the implementation of compulsory preschool education for children at the age of 4, which will come into force from the academic year 2023/2024. In this direction are the provisions adopted by the Decision of the Council of Ministers of March 22, 2023 Action plan until 2024 for the Strategic Framework for the Development of Education, Training and Learning in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021 – 2030) goals and activities.
The plan envisages providing a place in a nursery and a kindergarten for every child according to their place of residence, paying particular attention to municipalities with a shortage of places. For the academic year 2021/2022, 8,322 places are provided in Sofia, 9,544 places in Plovdiv, and 14,968 places in Varna. It is planned that 20,000 places will be opened in Sofia by 2024, and 15,000 places each in Plovdiv and Varna. 39,274 children whose mother tongue is different from Bulgarian are included in additional training in Bulgarian. By the end of 2024, this number is planned to reach 40,000. Work is being done to ensure conditions for a smooth transition of the child from the family environment to education and early childhood care. Another goal is to improve the conditions for raising, educating, training and socializing children in kindergarten.
A National Framework for the Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care has been prepared together with a set of indicators and benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating the quality of services for care, training and education of children at an early age in Bulgaria. A modernized material base, equipment and didactic tools, including materials for the development of thinking and imagination of children, have been provided to many kindergartens. Free use of educational books for children is also provided. Conditions have been created for the operation of innovative kindergartens. The plan envisages the implementation of an individual approach to the child in all early childhood education and care services, with the goal of having a teacher: child ratio of 1:10 by the end of 2024. Integrated measures to increase the qualification and motivation of specialists are also applied.
The amendments in the Preschool and School Education Act are related to the publicity of the kindergarten's development strategy, which is published on its website. It is required that it contain strategic goals and institution-specific goals, at least according to the following guidelines:
- quality of education and measures to increase it;
- patriotic upbringing, formation of national self-awareness and general human values of children and students;
- provision of conditions for physical activity and participation in sports activities;
- civic, health, environmental and intercultural education;
- a mechanism for working together with the institutions on coverage and inclusion in the preschool and school education system of children and students of compulsory preschool age;
- provision of equal opportunities for training and/or education;
- inclusion of children;
- countering harassment and violence;
- prevention of the risk of early dropout from the system of preschool and school education.
The tasks to achieve the goals are planned in the strategy by years, and the results are reported at the end of each school year.
One of the most significant changes during the current period is related to the abolition of fees for nurseries and kindergartens. The National Assembly passed this decision with an amendment to The Local Taxes and Fees Act, in force from 1st of April, 2022.
With amendments to Ordinance 3 of February 5, 2007 on the Health Requirements for Kindergartens and Ordinance of November 18, 2008 on the Organization and Operation of Nurseries and Children's Kitchens and the Health Requirements for Them, in force from July 16, 2022, additional conditions for safety and maintenance of the outdoor space of the kindergarten were introduced.
The use of electronic devices with video displays, multimedia projectors and television for educational purposes only is regulated, in accordance with the requirements for the prevention of visual and musculoskeletal disorders and followed by age-appropriate forms of physical activity (exercises, mobile games, sports activities, dancing, outdoor walks and games, etc.). An obligation to systematically raise the qualifications of those working in nursery groups in kindergartens was introduced.
The range of persons who can hold the position of director of a nursery and work in the nursery has expanded, as in addition to nurses and midwives, persons with the professional qualifications of medical assistant and paramedic have been added. A large part of the changes in both Ordinances are related to the periodic increase in the professional qualification of those working in nurseries on topics in the field of hygiene, early childhood development, health promotion in infancy and early childhood, and first aid.
The number of children, for the upbringing and education of which is assigned one pedagogue has decreased from 60 to 40, and for every next 20 children, one additional pedagogue is assigned. Due to the shortage of medical specialists for the care of children in a nursery group, it was foreseen from January 01, 2023, as an exception, that in a nursery group in a nursery or kindergarten, at least one teacher and one babysitter can be cared for the children.
The teacher must have received training on topics from the field of early childhood development, comprehensive health promotion and first aid. The exception applies only on the condition that at least one medical specialist is assigned to the nursery. It is possible other specialists in the staff of the nursery to be included, depending on the needs of the children in the nursery. It is expressly arranged that the activities in the nursery are carried out while respecting the rights of the children.
Special attention was paid to cooperation and interaction with parents through information, counseling, parent meetings, trainings, as well as general practitioners and other specialists from the health and social system.
For the first year, a separate National programme "It's good in the kindergarten" was adopted. The national programme was developed in accordance with Priority Area 1 "Early Child Development" of the Strategic Framework for the Development of Education, Training and Learning in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021-2030). The objectives of the programme are:
- building a supportive, welcoming, safe, multicultural, interactive environment
- sharing innovative practices for carrying out activities with children and families in and outside the kindergarten and for promoting children's physical activity
- building a learning community within the kindergarten and between kindergartens
For the seventh year, the new National Programme "Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the preschool and school education system" includes institutions from the preschool education system. Modern e-learning methods will be implemented, while at the same time emphasizing the training of pedagogical specialists to search for and present appropriate content in the relevant age group.
Within the framework of the National Programme "Motivated Teachers and Qualification" it is planned to hold a National Conference on preschool education "Leading the future by the hand", as well as training pedagogical specialists employed in the system of preschool education to acquire an additional professional qualification "resource teacher".
A permanent Mechanism for cooperation of institutions on coverage, inclusion and prevention of children and students dropping out of the education system was adopted. It includes compulsory preschool and school age. The National programme "Together for Every Child" aims to support the activities of outreach teams in implementing measures for the coverage and inclusion of children in compulsory preschool and school age. State and municipal kindergartens can apply to Module 2 "Good practices for interaction with parents of children and students in compulsory preschool and school age".
National programme "Optimization of the internal structure of the staff" aims to increase the cost effectiveness of the institutions of the system of preschool and school education by optimizing the internal structure of the staff and increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession.
National programme "Assisting municipalities for educational desegregation" was developed in accordance with priority area 5 "Effective inclusion, permanent inclusion and educational integration" of the Strategic Framework for the Development of Education, Training and Learning in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021 - 2030), as and in fulfillment of the Strategic Objectives of the Activity Programme of the Center for Educational Integration of Children and Students from Ethnic Minorities. The National Programme aims:
- Educational integration of children and students from vulnerable groups, including Roma, through implementation of activities by municipalities for educational desegregation and prevention of secondary segregation.
- Provision of a supportive educational environment, promoting positive interaction between all participants in the educational process in the conditions of non-segregated, accepting educational institutions
The National Programme "Prevention and Rehabilitation of Pedagogical Specialists" was developed in accordance with priority area 3 "Motivated and creative teachers" of the Strategic Framework for the Development of Education, Training and Learning in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021-2030). The objectives of the programme are:
- protecting the life and health of pedagogical specialists in the system of school and preschool education, improving their health and the prevention of risky socially significant and occupational diseases
- early diagnosis of possible complications after passing COVID-19
- provision of conditions for rehabilitation to restore the health of pedagogical specialists with proven illnesses.
By Decision № 188 of the Council of Ministers of March 5, 2021, the following were adopted:
National Program "Providing a modern educational environment", whose main objectives aimed at early childhood are: providing conditions for equal access to preschool and school education and improving the quality of the educational process and providing training in road safety by providing on outdoor and indoor playgrounds (mobile areas) in kindergartens and schools in order to reduce accidents with children and students on the roads.
National Program "We succeed together": After the regulation of the possibility for preschool children to work with the support of their parents from a distance in an electronic environment, it became necessary to support kindergartens and schools where compulsory preschool education is provided in two directions. : to share innovative practices for conducting activities with children and families inside and outside the kindergarten / school and to promote children's physical activity. This program also aims to: build a family community within the kindergarten, build a supportive, receptive, safe, multicultural, interactive environment, develop and implement effective measures to ensure a smooth transition of the child from the family environment to kindergarten.
For the sixth year, the new National Program "Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the system of preschool and school education" 2021 includes institutions from the system of preschool education. Modern e-learning methods will be integrated, while emphasizing the training of pedagogical specialists to search for and present appropriate content in the respective age group.
The National Program "Together for Every Child" this year is focused on increasing the scope of children included in preschool education, and the need for this is significantly strengthened by the amendments to the Preschool and School Education Act from 2020 compulsory pre-school education also for children over 4 years of age.
The National Program "Optimization of the internal structure of the staff" aims to increase the cost efficiency of the institutions of the preschool and school education system by optimizing the internal structure of the staff and increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession.
The National Program "Support to Municipalities for Implementation of Activities for Educational Desegregation and Prevention for Non-admission of Secondary Segregation" has the general goal of providing municipalities with equal access to quality education for children in compulsory preschool education and students attending segregated educational institutions by implementing activities for educational desegregation and prevention to secondary segregation. The specific objectives related to the implementation of activities to provide an educational environment that encourages mutual communication between children in compulsory preschool education, students, parents and teachers, providing free transport for children in compulsory preschool education and for students attending segregated educational institutions, for training, education and socialization in non-segregated educational institutions and providing free teaching aids and materials or electronic devices for distance learning (tablets).
The Sofia Municipal Council adopted an entirely new ORDINANCE for admission of children in the municipal independent nurseries, kindergartens and in the preparatory groups in the municipal schools on the territory of Sofia Municipality in force from March 1, 2021, which determines the criteria and procedure for applying for children in nurseries and kindergartens.