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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in early childhood education and care


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.1National reforms in early childhood education and care

Last update: 11 April 2024


Pedagogical Guidelines for Creches (PGC) 

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security set up a working group whose mission was to produce a guideline document for the development of children's pedagogical activity in creches. 

The outcome was the Pedagogical Guidelines for Creches (PGC), a key document for pre-primary teachers that is based on a set of foundations and principles of early childhood pedagogy. Such information supports teaching, in conjunction with educational teams, leaders, families, as well as various professionals and political players whose coordinated action provides quality education and care for children up to the age of three.

It is important to emphasise that, in this complex and systemic early childhood education framework, the role of the pre-primary teacher is crucial, ensuring respect for the child’s rights and an ethical commitment to children, families, the institution (team and employer), community and society.

The PGC are based on the idea of education up to the age of 6 years old. It is seen as an integrated stage that seeks to dovetail with the Curricular Guidelines for Pre-Primary Education (CGPPE), while safeguarding the specific characteristics of education and care for children up to 3 years of age. To this end, these guidelines adopt a holistic approach, viewing the child as both competent and keen to participate.

The document is divided into eight chapters:

I. Fundamentals and principles of early childhood pedagogy

II. The role of the pre-primary teacher

III. Intentionality in education

IV. Organisation of the educational environment

V. Areas of experience and learning

VI. Working with families and community

VII. Leadership and teamwork

VIII. Educational continuity and transitions

After an initial consultation process with specialists in early childhood education from different areas of knowledge and experience (May 2023), the public consultation regarding this document will take place between 16 January and 16 February, 2024. This is done to encourage broad reflection and enhance the participation of society in general. After this process, which will allow a variety of contributions, the final version of the PGC will be prepared.


Creche Feliz - Free  Creche Network

September 2023 saw the launch of the Creche Feliz Programme, which offers free access to all creches in the social and solidarity sector, social security childminders and creches that are part  of the for-profit network.

The beneficiaries of this policy are children born on and after 1 September, 2021, who are in the first and second family contribution income scales, who attend creches on the social and solidarity network. This also applies to children born at the same time who attend the following social provision: creches, family creches on the solidarity network, as well as social security childminders and for-profit network creches which are part of the pool of participating creches.

This free support is available to children during the years they attend the creche and includes the activities and services usually provided.

Bodies and institutions that form part of the private for-profit network can apply to be part of the creche pool, which then means that the family must apply for support on behalf of the child. 

The support is paid directly to the institution and the family will not be charged any amount, except for optional extra activities in which parents or legal guardians enrol the children, as well as the purchase of nappies and school uniforms, transport and other optional services and items.

Families can use the Creche Feliz application to search for free places in creches, to visit institutions or consult the crèche(s) where free places are available.

Teaching career progression

As part of the strategy to improve public services and reduce inequalities, the government approved a decree - enacted in late August - that establishes the terms for implementing accelerated career progression mechanisms for pre-school, basic and upper secondary school teachers. Decree-Law No. 74/2023, 25 August, establishes a special system for remedying imbalances in career progression, introducing equity factors via positive discrimination for teachers whose career has been affected by pay and progression freezes between 2005 and 2007, and again between 2011 and 2017.

This legislation is expected to affect approximately 70,000 teachers, who can now reach one of the three highest scales (8th, 9th or 10th).

Child guarantee action plan

The Council of Ministers Resolution No. 3/2023, 17 January, approved the Child Guarantee Action Plan 2022-2030, which aims to prevent and combat poverty, as well as social exclusion. It places children and young people at the top of its priorities, defending their rights, fighting child poverty and promoting equal opportunities. In doing so, it fulfils the principle of the 11th European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan (Childcare and support to children), which aims to reduce the number of children in this situation by at least 5 million by 2030.

The National Childhood Guarantee Action Plan, which was approved by the Council of Ministers on 30 November 2022, is part of the implementation of the Council Recommendation (EU) 2021/1004, 14 June 2021, approved during the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Free crèches and childminders

Following on from the measures adopted previously regarding free crèches and childminders, Ordinance No. 305/2022, 22 December determines that, from 1 January 2023, free crèche services will be extended to children born on or after 1 September 2021, who attend crèches on the private for-profit network and IPSS without a cooperation agreement located in municipalities with no free places at IPSS with a cooperation agreement or the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML). This allowance is valid for the years the child attends the crèche or is cared for by childminders. Children not covered by this measure, i.e., born before 1 September 2021, and who are not in the first and second family contribution income brackets, will pay an amount according to their income, in addition to the fixed contribution paid by the State.


Free creches and childminders

Following the measures adopted in 2020 and 2021 regarding free creches for children from families in the first and second family contribution scales, Law No 2/2022, 3 January establishes the gradual extension of free places for all children attending crèches managed by private not-for-profit institutions (IPSS and other legally equivalent institutions) with a cooperation agreement with the MTSSS, as well as in childminders managed by the ISS, I. P, according to the following schedule:

(a) In 2022, all children entering the first year of crèche (from 1 September 2022)
b) In 2023, all children entering the first year of crèche and proceeding to the second year
c) In 2024, all children entering the first year of crèche and proceeding to the second and third years.

Upgrade and expansion of the social facilities and provision network

As part of the Recovery and Resilience Programme (Component 03 - Social Provision, in investment RE-C03-i01 - New Generation of Social Facilities and Provision), measure C03-i01-m01 appears - Upgrade and Expansion of the Social Facilities and Provision Network.
The main objective of this measure is to consolidate, adapt, upgrade and innovate in the area social provision for children, elderly people, people with disabilities and families. Applications are eligible if they focus on creating new places in facilities like kindergartens. 
Regarding this measure, funding is focussed on new construction, renovations, extension and adaptation of infrastructures; building works that reconvert facilities to offer new social provision that responds to diagnosed needs and the acquisition of property or fractions and the respective adaptation for the creation of social facilities. 
The time for application submission was from 7 December 2021 and 22 February 2022.

21|23 School+ Plan

Launched for the 2021-2023 period, this integrated learning recovery plan for students in basic (from pre-primary onwards) and upper secondary education focusses on three fundamental action areas - 1- Teaching and learning; 2 - Supporting educational communities; 3 - discover and assess. This plan is divided into (i) priority focus areas and specific actions, which are proposed to educational community; and (ii) means and resources made available.

For additional information, see Subchapter 14.2. National reforms in school education.