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Short description / Current status and future steps / Lessons learned:
= Case description =
According to paragraph 1 of the Oö. Kinderbetreuungsgesetz (Upper Austrian Child Care Act), the State of Upper Austria avows itself to the right to high-level education, care and support for all children living in Upper Austria, and to primarily considering, in terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the child’s welfare.
The Upper Austrian Child Care Act therefore pursues the following targets: ensuring a high quality of pedagogical training, under consideration of current scientific knowledge; improving the balance of family and career to allow the true equal treatment and non-discrimination of genders; supporting and complementing the families in their tasks of education and care; and further development of childcare offers in terms of a qualified planning of demand.
In accordance with these targets, the non-contributory (free) kindergarten for children from 2.5 years until school entry and the compulsory last kindergarten year were introduced in Upper Austria on 1 September 2009. Each child must attend the kindergarten regularly for one year before school enrolment. The attendance of 5 weekdays totalling 20 hours per week is required by law and prescribed to fulfil the educational mission. The observation of compliance with the compulsory kindergarten attendance is a public task: penalty sanctions are stipulated against the parents for non-compliance.
The non-contributory kindergarten ensures the best possible starting prospects for children in Upper Austria. Free access to early education, the very clear position of the kindergarten as an elementary educational institution and not least the relief for the parents were the guiding principles for the introduction of the non-contributory kindergarten.
In a further step, in autumn 2010 the entire field of child care was merged into one department. The new dynamics in child care and the quality of pedagogy from infancy to the end of compulsory schooling were the target of this measure. Age-appropriate and qualitative expansion of child care facilities, the balance of family and career, as well as intercommunity offers are intended to meet the needs of the families. By merging the so-called ‘Child care under one roof’, these targets are to be achieved by best exploitation of synergies. Through a thorough assessment of needs, needs-based child care opportunities should be provided that meet the principles of thrift and economic efficiency.
While in Upper Austria kindergartens have expanded state-wide, there is a backlog demand in the care of the children aged under 3; the care ratio of the 0-2 years old was 9.4 % in 2009. For this age class, the EU-wide Barcelona target provides a care ratio of 33%. The measures mentioned above are also intended to converge to this target.