- Age-appropriate care for children up to school-age.
- Various forms of elementary education: crèches, kindergartens, nurseries, children's groups, playgroups and (male and female) childminders.
- Availability of special needs education, remedial education and integrated education.
- Compulsory final year of kindergarten.
The main differences between the various forms of institutional childcare in Austria relate to the age-structure of the children being cared for in a crèche, kindergarten, nursery or children's group and the designations assigned to these types of institution differ considerably between one federal province and another. Childcare services are also provided by playgroups and (male and female) childminders.
Over 60 percent of all childcare institutions are operated by territorial bodies (mainly municipalities). Other childcare institutions are operated by parishes, family organisations, charitable associations, companies and private individuals.
Children with special needs can either attend a general kindergarten (integrated and remedial educational groups) or a kindergarten for children with special needs.
Since September 2010, all children whose fifth birthday falls on 31 August or earlier are required to attend an institutional childcare facility. Attending a kindergarten in the morning or afternoon will account for between 16 and 20 hours a week and is compulsory between the months of September and June, except during the school holidays. In addition to the school holiday periods and any individual days on which schools are not open, a holiday may be taken for a period of up to 3 weeks.
Crèches provide age-appropriate childcare for children below the age of three. As the services provided by crèches are primarily targeted at working parents and single parents, the majority of crèches are open all day on a continuous basis and are open all year round. These can predominantly be found in the larger towns and cities and two thirds of the crèches in Austria are located in Vienna.
Kindergartens provide supplementary non-family childcare to children from the age of three years up to school-age. The objective of the education provided in a kindergarten is to promote the physical, intellectual and emotional development of the children through suitable forms of play and the educational effect of the group. The kindergarten is generally accepted as the form of pre-school education on offer.
Children's groups (Kindergruppen) have become established alongside the conventional child-care facilities. These are characterised by a high degree of parental input and parental self-responsibility. In the majority of cases, the children are cared for in mixed-age groups consisting of five to ten children. In some federal provinces, the term 'children's group' is also used for nurseries and other mixed-age childcare facilities.
Childminders (male and female)
Childminders primarily care for small children, mostly together with other children in a private household. In recent years, the significance of this type of childcare has increased significantly, due to the fact that on the one hand, the number of children in daily childcare has increased, whilst on the other hand the level of qualifications held by childminders has improved. In some federal provinces, childminders are required to undergo compulsory training.
Opportunities for Special Needs Education, remedial education and integrated education
Children with disabilities may either be cared for in a general kindergarten, a kindergarten with integration groups or in a special kindergarten that provides remedial education. In integrated kindergartens, children with disabilities are cared for and taught alongside children without disabilities. In an integrated group, an average of four children with a disability and 16 children without disabilities are cared for together. The childcare team will consist of an early years educator, a special needs educator and two nursery assistants. Remedial education groups, in which a maximum of twelve children are provided with all-round care and development represent a particular type of integrative childcare facility. Even in the context of a primary school attended by children from the age of six onwards, children with disabilities are able to attend integrated classes made up of a reduced number of pupils.
The next step:
After completing their pre-school education, children will start to attend primary school, where they will remain for four years. Children who are not yet ready to attend primary school will be able to attend a pre-school year. Children with special educational needs will be provided with primary school teaching incorporating specialist help in the context of integrated classes. Alternatively, they may be given the option of attending a special school that is in keeping with the disability involved.
Sources (in German)
Federal Chancellery / Families and Youth
Education in Austria
Special needs and Therapeutic Education