The Czech government has recently announced that municipalities will be required to provide places for children over three in preschool settings from next year. This could be either in a nursery school or in a children’s group located either in the place of residence or in the school district. This move aims to facilitate the expansion of preschool education, which is seen as crucial for the development of children.
Under the new regulations, any child who reaches the age of three before the start of the school year has the right to attend a preschool education program in a local nursery school. The program is offered to all children up to the capacity of the nursery school. Municipalities must provide preschool education in children’s groups on their premises for those who cannot be accommodated in nursery schools. These groups are already intended for children from the age of six months.
Currently, only five-year-old pre-schoolers are obliged to attend preschool education, leaving three-year-olds without legal entitlement to a place. Mothers whose parental leave is ending have no other option than to apply for work or to look for a place in a private nursery school, which can cost up to 20,000 CZK per month. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs believes that including this legal entitlement will allow parents and employers to better plan their return to work. The introduction of a similar legal right in Germany has demonstrably positively impacted fertility rates.
However, municipalities are unhappy with the change, as they claim to have limited opportunities to create places in nursery schools. This is especially true for municipalities that cannot expand existing nursery schools with children’s groups.
The change in regulations is part of a larger package of reforms. The current health regulations will be scrapped and replaced with new, vague provisions designed to facilitate the expansion of preschool education. These rules, agreed upon by the Ministries of Labor, Health, and Education, will take effect from October 1.
The new regulations will provide a flexible approach to ensuring public health and safety in preschool education. The focus will be on the internal climate of the facilities, with limits set for temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels. These rules will apply only to new facilities created after the new regulations take effect or to those that undergo renovation. Other requirements will be left to the discretion of the founder and operator of the facilities.
The new regulations will also address the issue of inadequate capacity in nursery schools. Currently, municipalities do not have suitable land on which to build children’s groups. The new regulations will allow for the creation of groups in other locations, such as public playgrounds.