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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: 19 June 2023

Admission requirements and choice of settings

The entitlement to enrolment in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is universal for all preschool-aged children. Parents decide when and where to enrol their child.

The main admission requirement is the age of the child. Parents can enrol their child in ECEC when the child reaches 11 months, which also marks the end of their right to parental leave in the form of full-time absence from work. Parents have to submit the certificate from a paediatrician on the health of their child. Parents can enrol their child at any time during the year and at any age up to their 6th birthday or until the child starts basic school.

Parents can choose to enrol their child a programme in a public or private kindergarten. Parents can choose any kindergarten in any municipality; they are not limited to applying for kindergartens in the catchment area of their residence. However, children usually attend a kindergarten in their catchment area. Parents can enrol their child in a kindergarten outside their catchment area if it has available places (e.g. near their place of work).

Kindergartens make a public call to new applicants for the next school year at least once a year, usually in March, online and on their information displays. Municipalities publish these calls on their webpages.

Public calls have to include, at minimum, information about the application, deadlines, and when applicants will receive further information about enrolment.

Kindergartens can enrol more children than there are available places. If there are more applicants than available places, a selection commission takes the final decision. A municipality appoints the selection commission and specifies the selection criteria on the recommendation of a kindergarten’s council. The commission considers all applications. It examines the information in the applications and the information it receives by virtue of the position from administrators of personal information databases. It specifies the priority order of all candidates according to the number of points awarded under the relevant criteria (e.g. the municipality of permanent residence, disadvantaged family background, age, and other children of the same family already attending the kindergarten). Children with special educational needs whose needs have been recognised by the competent authority have priority and children whose parents submitted the relevant opinion of the social work centre have priority, as well. These are the children from families with health, economic and/or social issues. The children not admitted are waitlisted. Parents have the right to challenge the ranking and/or placement on the waiting list with the kindergarten’s council. The decision of the kindergarten’s council can be further disputed administratively.

Parents of children accepted onto a programme sign an agreement with the kindergarten about mutual rights and obligations.

By law, a municipality that has several kindergartens in its catchment area can introduce a single enrolment system for all of them. It creates a central registry of children enrolled and lays down the same criteria for all kindergartens.

Group size and child–staff ratios

According to the Kindergarten Act, children attending kindergartens are organised into two main age groups:

  • The first age group comprises children aged from 1 (or 11 months) to 3 years of age.
  • The second age group comprises children aged from 3 to 6 years or until they start school.

The same law specifies the minimum and maximum number of children allowed in a class, as well as the number of education staff per class.

The rules on standards to conduct pre-school education activities apply.

The minister responsible for education specifies further provisions on the number of children in a class.

Kindergartens can set up homogeneous, heterogeneous and composite classes: classes with only 1-year-olds, with children in the first or second age group, and with children in both age groups.

Number of children per class:

For the first age group (children under the age of 3 years):

  • a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 12 children of the same age can be in an age-homogeneous class;
  • a minimum of 7 and maximum of 10 children can be in an age-heterogeneous class.

For the second age group (children aged 3–6 years):

  • a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 17 children aged 3–4 years can be in a homogeneous class;
  • a minimum of 17 and a maximum of 22 children aged 4–6 years can be in a homogenous class;
  • a minimum of 14 and maximum of 19 children aged 3–6 years can be in a heterogeneous;
  • a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 17 children of all ages can be in a composite class.

In certain circumstances and situations, a municipality may raise the maximum number of children in a class by a maximum of two. The municipality can also issue a decision to decrease the number of children in individual classes.

Preschool teachers (who has to have a bachelor’s degree in preschool education (International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 6) and preschool teacher assistants (who have to have upper secondary education in the relevant field – ISCED level 3) manage educational activities together in a class (see Chapter 9.2 Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education).

The number of hours per day during which a preschool teacher and a preschool teacher assistant are both present in a class varies according to the type of programmes attended by children. In the case of a day programme, they are both present at the same time in a class of the first age group for at least 6 hours a day, and in a class of the second age group, for at least 4 hours a day. For the half-day programme in a class of the first age group, they work together for at least 3 hours a day, and in a class of the second age group, they work together for at least 2 hours a day.

Only one person – either preschool teacher or preschool teacher assistant – is required to supervise the children during their rest time.

During the time when the preschool teacher and the teacher assistant are present at the same time in a class, the child–staff ratio is 7:1 in the first age group and a maximum of 11:1 or 12:1 in the second age group.

Annual, weekly and daily organisation

Kindergartens carry out ECEC programmes throughout the year. Certain private kindergartens shut during the summer for up to 2 weeks. By law, kindergartens determine their own business hours in their annual working plan; they take into consideration the needs of employed parents and the specifics of the programme.

Kindergartens operate 5 days a week. Some kindergartens organise Saturday walk-in sessions for all children from all kindergartens in the municipality, some stay open until late at night. All kindergartens are closed on Sundays and public holidays.

A kindergarten can set up several separate units. A kindergarten can group children from different units if there is a drop in attendance during certain times (e.g. during summer months or before or during public holidays). They carry out the programme in one of the kindergarten units for children from different units. A kindergarten can carry out three types of education programmes for preschool children, which are of different durations.

In day programmes, children attend activities for 6-9 hours a day in the morning and/or afternoon or alternately (one week in the morning, the next in the afternoon).

In half-day programmes, children attend activities for 4-6 hours a day.

The short programme is organised, in particular, in demographically challenged areas and distant localities. It aims to attract 5-year-olds so that they can attend kindergarten before they start school. By law, the ministry responsible for education invites kindergartens to apply to carry out the 240 to 720-hour programme. Kindergartens decide how they will carry out the programme, namely in a composite form (every day) or spread out (every second or third working day, for example) throughout the year.

Commonly, kindergartens open at 5.30 or 6 and close between 16.30 and 17.30 and/or at 21.00 if they operate in shifts.

Kindergartens offering the day programme are open 11-12 hours. At the beginning and end of the business day, the education staff brings children from the different groups together in the walk-in playroom. A child should not spend more than 9 hours in the kindergarten.

Day and half-day programmes include education, care and meals for all children. The short programme includes education and care and can include meals for all children. Kindergartens are autonomous in scheduling the activities of their programme and flexibly adjust the provision to meet the needs of their local community, namely within their opening and/or business hours. They take into account specifics of the age groups, the times that children arrive and leave, meal times and biorhythm, as well as the needs of parents.

By law and collective agreement, the full-time teaching load is 30-hours a week for preschool teachers, and 35-hours a week for preschool teacher assistants.

Usually, the day and half-day programmes start by welcoming children in the morning. The day then proceeds as follows.

  • Children choose an activity they enjoy.
  • They then prepare everything for breakfast (personal hygiene, care, cleaning up and arranging of the playroom, etc.).
  • Breakfast.
  • After breakfast, they begin the activities according to the curriculum in playrooms and outside.
  • Between activities, children have a morning snack.
  • 11.30-12.00 is time for lunch. This is followed by a naptime (sleeping or quiet activities).
  • After their rest, children have an afternoon snack.
  • Children choose afternoon activities, in playrooms and outside.