Early childhood care
Children's groups(dětské skupiny) provide non-profit childcare service for children from 6 months of age until compulsory schooling (i.e. up to 6/7 years). However, children from 5 years of age would attend it only in exceptional circumstances, as they are required to attend compulsory education. Children’s groups are regulated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs under the terms of Act on Children's Group. They can be established by employers (private, public and state organisations) for their employees, by various non-profit entities (municipalities, regions, church organisations, benevolent corporations etc.), and in groups up to 4 children also by the childminders. No centralised education programme exists; the law stipulates only the focus on education and care. Nevertheless, children's groups are obliged to draw up their own individual programme of education and care, the quality of which is verified as part of the evaluation of compliance with the standards for quality of care.
The care for children from birth until 3 years of age can also be provided in childcare facilities for children under 3 years of age (zařízení pro péči o děti do 3 let), established according to the Trade Licensing Act.
Pre-primary education (ISCED 020) is provided in nursery schools (mateřské školy) designated for children from 2 to 6 years of age. The municipality is obliged, on the basis of parental interest, to ensure pre-primary education in a nursery school for children from age 3.
Some 6-year-old children with the “postponement of the compulsory school attendance” and also some 5-year-old children attend preparatory classes (přípravné třídy, ISCED 020), which may balance out their development. They are established in basic schools (základní školy, ISCED 1+2). However, most children with postponed compulsory schooling attend nursery schools.
Pre-primary education is obligatory for children in the last pre-primary year. It concerns children who reach at least 5 years of age before 31 August. This requirement can be fulfilled in nursery schools or in the preparatory classes. Under certain conditions, individual education (home schooling) is possible. The last pre-primary year of the nursery school as well as preparatory classes are free of charge in public and state schools.
Pre-primary education in all types of provision is administered by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport at the central level, based on the Education Act. Nursery schools (as well as basic schools including the preparatory class) are mostly established by a municipality or a group of municipalities. Private and denominational organising bodies represent just a small percentage.
The Framework Education Programme for Pre-primary Education is a binding document for all types of nursery schools as well as for preparatory classes. Through this document, schools are able to create their own school education programme.