“Children's interests and welfare shall be the primary mission of all preschool activities.“ From Article 2 of the Preschool Act.
The first level of schooling
The nursery school is the first level in the schooling system, and is for children under the age of compulsory school attendance, i.e. under the age of 6. It is for all children, irrespective of mental and physical ability, culture or religion.
Parents bear primary responsibility for the raising of their children, while the nursery school is an additional developmental tool.
Parents apply for nursery-school placements for their children in the local community where the child has legal residence. Nursery schools are variously operated by local authorities, private entities, or privately operated with a service agreement with the local authorities.
Some local authorities allow applications on the birth of a child, although the majority have age limits.
Nursery-school placement applications are made via the websites of service centres, local authorities and nursery schools.
Parents need to pay a certain fee for the nursery-school placement of their children in the majority of municipalities. The nursery-school fee is collected for 11 months per year, as the child is expected to take four consecutive weeks off during the summer. Information on nursery-school fees may be found on municipal websites.
Single parents and students are entitled to a discount on nursery-school fees. Sibling discounts are also provided. Information on discounts for particular groups may be found on municipal websites.
The advisory and psychological assistance service of neighbourhood service centres in Reykjavík are responsible for providing special services to nursery schools in the city. In other municipalities the service is often handled by education and family departments. Schools refer cases to the service with the approval of parents, and parents may, moreover, apply directly for assistance.
The nursery school shall build the foundations for Icelandic language skills for children whose native language is not Icelandic, and introduce them to Icelandic society.
Many of the nursery schools have waiting lists, and parents and their children may have to wait some time for placement. Children are generally listed in order of age on waiting lists, with the eldest at the top. Placements are often allocated during the period between March and May each year.
Generally, children attend nursery school from the age of 18 months until they go to primary school. The children stay for between four and nine hours, Monday to Friday, in the nursery school.
When a child begins attending nursery school, a placement agreement is made between the school and the parent, with a one-month mutual notice of termination.
Staffed playgrounds are operated in the majority of the larger municipalities, and their opening hours change according to the season. They are intended for younger children, and age limits vary. Further information can be obtained from municipal websites.
Rights of the disabled
By law, disabled children are entitled to nursery-school placement. These placements shall be in general nursery schools with the necessary support services, or in specialised departments.
Regional offices for the disabled provide advice, information and services.
The disabled receive a discount on the nursery-school fee. Further information on discounts for particular groups may be found on municipal websites.
Lists of available childminders and information on them are available on local community websites.
Get information about a childminders childcare circumstances and facilities. The childminder price list is unregulated.
Find out about rules for day-care fee subsidies through local community websites.
Inform the childminder about the child's daily habits, health and any changes in circumstances.
Apply for a nursery school placement in the local community where the child is domiciled.
Find out about rules concerning nursery schools, as these may vary between communities, including:
when you can apply for a placement in a nursery school for your child and when you can expect to get a place for the child,
nursery school price lists, subsidies and other discounts,
how to give notice of changes to a child's circumstances.