The Kadriorg and Kalamaja neighborhoods of Tallinn continue to be the areas with highest demand for kindergarten places. Demand in those districts exceeds the number of available places.
Head the Tallinn Education Board Andres Pajula noted in an overview sent to the Ministry of Finance that whereas there are not enough places in the nurseries in Kadriorg and Kalamaja, in Lasnamäe and Mustamäe nurseries, the situation is reversed and there are a surfeit of places, even though these are two of the most populous districts of the capital. Kindergarten attendance is not compulsory in Estonia.
In the Nõmme, Pirita and Kristiine regions, the demand and the number of places are in virtual parity.
"One nursery was added to the Haabersti region, which starts accepting children from February 15. Fourteen groups, for 260 children, are planned to be opened, including for children with special needs," Pajula noted.
As of October 30, 2020, there were 876 children aged one-and-a-half to two years of age on the waiting lists for a nursery place in Tallinn. Tots can start kindergarten from age three, continuing through to age seven, when the mandatory grade one of "beginners' school" (Algkool), itself a part of the basic school (Põhikool) system, begins.
"Most children who are on the waiting lists are those who have been offered a free place, but their parents didn't find that suitable and have opted to wait for a more amenable place. There is a large number of parents who want to put their children in a specific nursery, and decide to reject other offers," Pajula said.
At the same time, Pajula said that there are still about 350 free nursery places across Tallinn's municipal nurseries, which can be offered immediately to those who wish to take them up for their children.
The board's overview of nursery places came in response to a request from the Ministry of Finance, which plans to renew the support measure "Sustainable Development of Urban Areas", and as a result is requesting information on the availability of nursery places in local governments nationwide.
Kindergarten places or the shortage thereof has been a hotly-debated topic for some years. While schools switched to remote learning during the spring and autumn coronavirus waves, kindergartens generally stayed running throughout, though restrictions were in place, including barring parents or guardians entry on to the kindergarten premises.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte