Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice


4.Early childhood education and care


Last update: 5 March 2024

Place guarantee to ECEC

There is no legal guarantee to a place in ECEC for children under age 3.

From the age of 3, families are required to send their children to pre-primary school, except in the case of home schooling. For all children aged three and over, education has been compulsory since September 2019. The opening or closing of a school (location, construction, fitting out of premises) is the responsibility of the Municipal Council, but the allocation of the corresponding teaching posts is the responsibility of the local education authorities (DASEN). Similarly, the opening or closing of a class, and therefore the addition or withdrawal of a teacher, is the responsibility of the DASEN and not the Municipal Council.


Public pre-primary education is free for all families. The fees are minimal in private subsidised pre-primary schools. There may be additional costs to be borne by households:

  • catering expenses: article R531-52 of the French Code of Education stipulates that prices of catering are set by responsible local authorities: it is set by municipalities for pre-primary;
  • day nurseries/teacher-assisted study halls. These services consist of looking after children after regular school hours upon parent request.

For these two types of costs, in public education, municipalities may apply sliding fee scales according to family income levels.

For children below 3 years of age, access to childcare structures has a cost for families, which generally depends on the parents' income (center-based childcare) or is negotiated with the childminders (home-based childcare). For instance, for a two-earner family with an income of 2 minimum wages in 2017, the remaining cost of a child in a crèche is 133 euros.