Childcare facilities for children under 3 years of age
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). They are established according to the Trade Licensing Act within the trade “Daily care of children under 3 years of age”. The registration is carried out by the Trade Licensing Offices within the purview of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The trade is registered mainly by private individuals or legal entities, but also by some public entities.
Childcare facilities for children under 3 years of age (zařízení pro péči o děti do 3 let) can admit children from their birth. Criteria for admission are set by the provider. According to the Act on Protection of Public Health, the legal guardian of the children must show that the child has undergone prescribed regular vaccinations or that he/she cannot be vaccinated due to permanent contraindication. Neither the number of children per group nor the number of children per staff member is stipulated by the law. All persons caring for children have to have a qualification in the area of health or social care, specified by the law, generally a minimum of ISCED level 3. The fees are not legally limited, they are set by the provider without any restrictions.
The annual, weekly and daily organisation is the responsibility of the provider, more precisely it depends on the agreement with parents. The facilities usually operate throughout the year, including the summer months, and offer regular care from several hours a day to whole day and also a short time babysitting or babysitting in families.
No centralised education programme exists. The Government Regulation on the Contents of Individual Trades stipulates that the educational care should focus on the development of intellectual and speech, movement, work, musical and visual arts abilities, and cultural and hygienic habits appropriate to the age of the child. To secure safety and health of children, their stay outside, boarding, sleeping in an appropriate hygienic environment and the personal hygiene, including the provision of first aid should be also ensured. The above-mentioned Decree on Sanitary Standards in Institutions and Facilities for Education of Children and Youth, stipulating the details on the daily stay outdoors, applies to the facilities.
Organisational variations of pre-primary education
Since the 2016/17 school year, the forest nursery schools (lesní mateřské školy) that fulfil legal conditions became an official type of a nursery school (mateřské školy). According to the Education Act, education in the forest nursery school takes place mainly outside and the school does not have a classic school building. In most of the aspects (content of education, management and funding, teacher qualification) the same rules apply to them as for mainstream nursery schools. However, they are subject to reduced hygienic requirements. On the contrary, lower number of children in a class and lower number of children per teacher are required. The length of stay in school is also restricted. Forest nursery schools of all types and some eco nursery schools are united under the Association of Forest Nursery Schools (Asociace lesních MŠ). In the 2022/23 school year, there were 82 forest nursery schools in Czechia with the total of 1609 registered children.
For foreign children who are subject to the compulsory pre-primary education, the language training groups are established if there are 4 or more such children in the school. If there are less children in the school, individual language support is granted to them.
Members of national minorities have the right to be educated in the language of the respective national minority. In 2022/23 school year, there were 24 nursery schools (mateřské školy) in Czechia providing education to 845 children in Polish. (Source: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.)
Nursery schools (mateřské školy) enjoy a high degree of flexibility in organisational matters. The existing alternative structures comprise of several Waldorf, Montessori and Christian nursery schools.
The Czech version of the international programme Step by Step (Začít spolu), implemented and monitored by the company Step by Step ČR, o. p. s., has been in use since 1994. An inclusive approach to ethnic minorities and children from disadvantaged environments is its main feature. According to the annual report for 2021, 127 nursery schools and basic schools (základní školy) work on the basis of this programme.
The focus of pre-primary education on ecology is a new trend. We are talking either about eco nursery schools (ekoškolky) that put greater emphasis, in contrast to regular nursery schools, on ecology education, or above-mentioned forest nursery schools.
The nursery schools at medical facilities can be also considered to be the organisational variant of nursery school.
Preparatory classes (přípravné třídy) are established in basic schools (základní školy) for children in the last pre-school year (preferentially for children with the postponement of compulsory school attendance) where there is a presumption that this education may balance out their development. They fulfil the compulsory pre-primary education there.
Compulsory pre-primary education can take the form of individual tuition (home education) without regular attendance at school.
Alternative pre-school facilities
Apart from the nursery schools other types of preschool facilities for older children exist.
The project Centres for Preschool Children (Centra pro předškolní děti) arose in Prague in reaction to insufficient number of places in nursery schools. These centres operate under the framework of leisure time centres for children and youth (listed on the registry of schools and school facilities). They operate in the mornings of all days of the week and can be attended by preschool age children both regularly and occasionally. The maximum number of children, mostly between 3 and 6 years, in one group is 15. Children are always supervised by experienced and qualified teachers. They provide education programmes focused on the development of movement, music, art and game activities, as well as personal and social development that aim at satisfying children’s personal interests. The project is inspired by the Framework Education Programme for Pre-primary Education.
Non-profit organisations (unincorporated associations – spolky – or benevolent corporations – obecně prospěšné společnosti) can run facilities only on the basis of general legal regulations (e.g. various preschool clubs). Organisations can apply for grants from programmes of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports or financial support for European Social Fund projects.
Facilities for children over 3 years of age may operate on the basis of the unqualified trade Out-of-school Education (Mimoškolní výchova a vzdělávání), the organisation of courses, training, including lecturing activities. "Education of children over 3 years of age in preschool facilities, unless these facilities are listed on the registry of schools and school facilities“ is part of the trade; thus, such facilities do not provide education. They follow the same hygienic regulation as regular nursery schools; however, in other aspects (educational documents, qualification of pedagogues, number of children per group etc.), no official rules apply to them. Such facilities are subject to the inspection of the Trade Licence Office.
For the children of the applicants for international protection (asylum seeker) there are childrenʼs centres (dětská centra) in the asylum facilities.