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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of Centre-based ECEC


4.Early Childhood Education and Care

4.2Organisation of Centre-based ECEC

Last update: 27 November 2023

Admission requirements and choice of settings

Children attending ECEC settings are divided into levels according to age:

  • Nursery: the children’s age span from 26 weeks to three years old.
  • Kindergarten: the children’s age span from three to five or six years old.
  • Age-integrated institution: the children’s age span from 26 weeks to five or six years old.
  • Home-based provision: the children’s age span from 26 weeks to five or six years old.

Parents choose each type of ECEC settings without any restrictions. Parents can express their wishes for a particular institution and the municipalities have to take the parents’ wishes into consideration when distributing places. 

In 2019, the number of children who attended ECEC in municipal self-governing institutions and home-based provision is distributed as follows (Statistics Denmark 2021):

  • Day care in private homes: 31,002 (12 %)
  • Day care centre (0-2 years): 70,817 (27.4 %)
  • Day care centre (3-5 years): 156,643 (60.6 %)

The priority admission rules are set by the municipalities. The following criteria are examples that might be taken into consideration by the municipalities: siblings, children with special needs and geographical location of the ECEC setting.

Group size and child-staff ratios

There are no top-level regulations on the maximum number of children assigned to each pedagogue or day care assistant. Usually, an ECEC setting divide children into groups of 11-12 children and 3-4 pedagogues and day care assistants are assigned to each group. The grouping of children vary from setting to setting. Often municipalities have guidelines concerning child-staff ratios. 

The Day Care Act do not state any minimum qualification level for core practitioners or assistants. In 2018, 58 % of all ECEC staff in municipal day care centres had a Bachelor’s degree in pedagogy (Statistics Denmark 2021).

Annual, weekly and daily organisation

The ECEC settings are open Monday to Friday all year round except for public holidays and other closing days. There are no specific legislative demands regarding the opening hours of the ECEC settings. The opening hours must cover the local needs for flexible childcare. In 2017, on average children under the age of three spent approximately 35 hours in day care a week, while the average child over the age of three spent approximately 33 hours a week in day care.

ECEC settings normally open around 6.30 - 7.00 and close at 17.00. On Fridays, most of the settings close at 16.00. Some special ECEC settings are open all day and night. These types of settings are for children whose parents have shifting working hours. Normally, the day in an ECEC setting consists of both organised play, project work and free play.