The Ministry of Education plans to change the law so that children would not have to be placed on a waiting list for kindergarten immediately after birth, but local authorities would have to allocate places within two months of a parent's application. Many municipalities say that the change is not practical.
The supply of kindergarten places is becoming an increasingly pressing issue in areas with fast-growing populations. It is common for a newborn baby to have to queue up already in a maternity ward. However, the Ministry of Education is considering a move that would delegate the duty of locating a place to the local government.
"Parents have to fill out an application where they state their preferences. The local authority, in its admission procedure, specifies how many preferences the parent can list – we have quite different local circumstances – and the local authority then has to consider the parent's preference. If there is no place available that matches the preference, then proximity to the child's home must be taken into account," Maila Rajamets, the head of early childhood education at the Ministry of Education, said.
The municipality must offer the child a place within two months of the application. Robert Lippin, the deputy mayor of Harku, said that it is not feasible.
"That kindergarten may not even exist at that time; maybe we will build it, maybe not, or maybe it will be rebuilt. Also when we get further down to the level of the child's needs, we wouldn't really know which kindergarten or special group would make the most sense for that child," Lippin explained.
Andres Laisk, the mayor of Saue, said that from the moment a child is guaranteed a place, the parents have to pay for it.
"Parents could apply for a place two months before they actually want to use the kindergarten. And if they don't start using it and don't give it up, then they still have to pay the fee," Laisk said.
Both the mayor of Saue and the deputy mayor of Harku consider it reasonable for a parent to give them six months' notice instead, so as to prevent the municipality from receiving an unexpectedly large number of applications at once.
"To get an idea of how many people want a place and where they want to go, and this does not yet be considered an application in the sense of the law," Laisk said.
The change is slated to come into force from next year.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa