Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
The age at which children are accepted (generally from three months at the earliest until entry to compulsory pre-school at 4-5 years of age) depends on the centre-based facility.
The admission requirements also depend on the centre-based facilities. State-run, subsidised child day-care facilities can restrict admission to children who are domiciled/have their place of residence in the same place as the facility, or give preference to these children. Other potential criteria when there are not enough places available are whether both parents work, the family status (in particular single parents), siblings who are already cared for in the same facility, or the social situation of the parents. As the use of these services is voluntary, the choice of facility rests with the parents or legal guardians.
Group size and child/staff ratios
Within the framework of the national legislation (PAVO, Verordnung über die Aufnahme von Pflegekindern [Ordinance on the Placement of Children]) the cantons or communes regulate or specify the prerequisites for the approval of child day-care centre-based facilities. These usually include rules on childcare conditions (number of children per care-giver, ratio of qualified to non-qualified childcare staff, special staff ratios for babies etc.).
Many cantons no longer specify the maximum group size. As a rule, only recommendations are made. These cantons are in agreement with the national association kibesuisse, which deliberately does not set any guidelines on group size in its current guidelines, in order to focus on the child day-care centre as a whole and on the child/staff ratios.
Regarding the child/staff ratio: as a rule, the younger the children are, the fewer children can be looked after by the same person. In general, the requirements of the French-speaking cantons are somewhat less strict than in German-speaking Switzerland. One possible reason for this could be that in French-speaking Switzerland, the caregivers more often have a tertiary education. In addition, a higher proportion of trained staff is prescribed in French-speaking Switzerland.
The following table shows for each age group the lowest, highest and average cantonal target for the number of children per caregiver in Switzerland. It also shows the modal value, i.e. the number of children most frequently set per age group. For children under 2 years of age, the most common requirement in Switzerland is that one caregiver can supervise 4 children. For children between 2 and 4 years of age, a majority of the cantons allow 6 children per caregiver, while from 4 years of age on, 8 children may be looked after by a single caregiver.
Minimum, maximum and average cantonal target on the number of children per caregiver:
Table: Ecoplan 2020
The importance of well-qualified childcare staff for the quality of a child day-care facility is emphasised in varied regulations. National legislation (PAVO) already stipulates that childcare staff must have sufficient qualifications to look after children. All cantonal regulations specify these requirements for the qualification of staff. Most cantons mention explicit training as a minimum requirement, namely Specialist in care, majoring in childcare (EFZ, [ISCED 3]). Related professions with educational or social background are also generally accepted as are qualifications with higher ISCED level.
The qualified personnel is supported by unqualified personnel. Most cantons set regulations on the ratio of qualified and unqualified personnel. In German-speaking Switzerland, a ratio of at least 50% qualified personnel is usually specified. In French-speaking Switzerland, as a rule, at least two out of three caregivers must have a recognised qualification. The cantons also have different rules on the extent to which childcare staff in training can be counted as qualified personnel.
Often, young adults during an internship or in Civilian Service also support the care team. In most cases, they are considered unqualified and can be counted towards the child/staff ratio.
Young adults in an internship or in Civilian Service as well as other assistants do not usually have to meet any minimum qualification level.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
For child centre-based day-care facilities the cantons or communes can lay down rules on minimum opening hours each day and/or rules on a minimum number of days open per year (generally only for subsidised establishments).
Most child centre-based day-care facilities have only a few weeks of company holidays per year, unlike pre-school or the first learning cycle (which usually have 12-13 weeks of school holidays per year). Child day-care facilities are usually also closed on public holidays.
Most child day-care facilities are open all day, often from early morning until around 18:30. In larger towns there are a few facilities that are open longer in the evening or even offer night and weekend care.
The organisation of the daily routine in a child day-care facility is usually laid down in the educational concept of the facility. There are recommendations on this, e.g. by the national association kibesuisse and in the orientation framework for early childhood education, but no binding regulation.
In many child day-care facilities, the day begins with the children, who are brought early, having breakfast together. As not all children arrive at the same time, this is usually followed by a time of free play. Circle games, guided activities in the groups and a joint mid-morning snack (Znüni) are on the programme until lunchtime. After lunch, smaller children take a nap, while older children have a midday rest. Afterwards, guided activities, snacks and free play continue. To ensure that the daily routine is not interrupted too often, in many places there are fixed pick-up and drop-off times before or after lunch for children who are looked after half day. Babies usually have their own bedroom so that they can sleep when they need to.