Czech Government Mandates Preschool Places for Children over Three, Sparking Municipal Concerns

The Czech government has recently announced that municipalities will be obligated to provide preschool places for children over the age of three starting next year. This requirement can be fulfilled through nursery schools or children’s groups located in the child’s place of residence or within the school district. The aim of this initiative is to facilitate the expansion of preschool education, which is considered vital for children’s development.

Under the new regulations, any child who turns three before the start of the school year will have the right to attend a preschool education program in a local nursery school. The program will be offered to all children up to the capacity of the nursery school. Municipalities must also ensure the provision of preschool education in children’s groups within their premises for those who cannot be accommodated in nursery schools. These groups are already intended for children as young as six months.

Currently, only five-year-old children are obliged to attend preschool education, leaving three-year-olds without a legal entitlement to a preschool place. Mothers whose parental leave is ending have limited options, often having to seek employment or search for a place in a private nursery school, which can come with a monthly cost of up to 20,000 CZK. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs believes that introducing this legal entitlement will enable parents and employers to plan the return to work more effectively. Germany’s implementation of a similar legal right has shown positive effects on fertility rates.

However, municipalities are expressing dissatisfaction with the change, citing limited opportunities to create additional places in nursery schools. This is particularly challenging for municipalities that lack the resources to expand existing nursery schools with children’s groups.

The alteration in regulations is part of a broader package of reforms that includes the replacement of current health regulations with new, more flexible provisions aimed at facilitating the expansion of preschool education. These rules, agreed upon by the Ministries of Labor, Health, and Education, will come into effect on October 1.

The new regulations will adopt a flexible approach to ensuring public health and safety in preschool education, focusing on the internal climate of facilities by setting limits for temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels. These rules will apply to new facilities established after the implementation of the new regulations or to those undergoing renovation. Other requirements will be left to the discretion of the facility’s founder and operator.

Additionally, the new regulations will address the issue of inadequate capacity in nursery schools. Currently, municipalities face challenges in finding suitable land to construct children’s groups. The updated regulations will allow for the creation of groups in alternative locations, such as public playgrounds, to address this capacity issue.

Article by Prague Forum

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