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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 March 2024

Admission Requirements and Choice of ECEC institution

There are no admission requirements for a child to be admitted to a day-care centre.  Parents are free to choose the facility. There is no entitlement to admission to a particular day-care centre, however.

Group Size and Child/Staff Ratios

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) takes place to some extent in age-based groups and to some extent in groups of mixed ages.

Regulations on group size and staff-to-child ratios are determined by the Länder and are therefore difficult to compare. Group sizes are either not specified or range from a maximum of 20 to 25 children per group for children aged 3 to 6 and from a maximum of 8 to 15 for children aged 0 to 3. In groups with children under the age of three, the nationwide staff-child ratio on 1 March 2022 was on average 4.0 children per pedagogical staff member. The range at Länder level was from 3.0 to 5.8 children per pedagogical staff member. In groups with children aged from three years to school entry, one pedagogical staff member was responsible for an average of 7.8 children nationwide in 2022. The range at Länder level was from 6.5 to 11.9 children per pedagogical staff member.

The child/staff ratio relates to trained pedagogic staff such as, for example, Erzieherinnen und Erzieher. As a rule, trained pedagogic staff in early childhood education and care are trained at Fachschulen for youth and community work which are internationally assigned to the tertiary level. In some Länder, supplemental pedagogic staff, especially nursery assistants (Kinderpflegerinnen and Kinderpfleger), are employed in the ECEC sector alongside trained pedagogic staff (pädagogische Fachkräfte). In most Länder, these staff attend a two-year training course at Berufsfachschulen, full-time vocational schools. For more detailed information, please see the chapter on

Annual, Weekly and Daily Organisation

The organisation of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in day-care centres during the year corresponds to a large extent with the organisation of school time. If day-care centres close during holidays, the maintaining body of the public youth welfare has to ensure alternative supervision for children who cannot be supervised by the persons who have parental power.

In Germany, early childhood education and care in day-care centres is not part of the state-organised school system, but is assigned to Child and Youth Welfare, which means that the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder therefore do not adopt regulations governing the time-table in early childhood education and care. However, in some Länder there exist legal entitlements to child care hours that must correspond to the best interests of the child.

The opening hours of the day-care centres are mainly regulated by the responsible bodies in consultation with the municipalities responsible for planning the services and with the involvement of the parents. These times may vary between the different day-care centres and depend to some extent on the needs of the families in their catchment areas. In terms of contractually agreed care hours, the spectrum of services generally ranges from up to five hours in the morning to between six and seven hours of daily care, sometimes with lunch breaks, to over seven-hour all-day services with lunch. There are considerable regional differences in the pattern of daily use of places in day-care centres.

Many day-care centres are now trying more consciously than before to adapt their opening times in line with the needs of families and, if necessary, are organising an early-morning service or a late service as well as a lunch-time service for some children or groups of children. However, any extension in opening hours is to some extent limited by the number of staff employed at each establishment, the capacity of its premises and the obligation to take into account the child’s best interest.