Pre-school and primary school
Pre-school is the first level of the Icelandic school system, intended for all children under six years of age, access is available irrespective of mental and physical ability, culture, or religion.
Municipalities are responsible for the oversight of pre-schools and most of them are run by municipalities.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture issues a National Curriculum Guide for preschools, which is regularly reviewed. It sets out the main objectives of preschools and their educational and instructional role. The municipalities, however, are responsible for the activities of preschools and pay for their operations.
In most municipalities you can apply to have children enrolled in preschool from the age of six months, but only in exceptional cases are children under eighteen months of age accepted into preschools. Children usually go to in-home child care until a preschool space is available or attend special preschools for infants, although these are very few in number.
Children generally have to have legal residence in the municipality to be entitled to attend a preschool, although there are exceptions to this. Most preschools require children to take a four-week vacation over the summer and many preschools close.
In pre-school emphasis is placed on enhancing positive effects on children‘s development, not least by advancing social skills. Often having children in a pre-school during the day is necessary if both parents need to work away from home.
Parents apply for pre-school placements for their children in the local community where the child has legal residence. In some municipalities, it is possible to apply for a pre-school placement when a child is born, but in most municipalities, there is an age limit. Pre-school placement applications are submitted via the websites of service centres, local authorities and pre- schools.
Preschool is not free, parents must to pay a certain fee for the pre-school placement of their children in majority of municipals. The pre-school fee is collected for 11 months per year, as the child is expected to take four consecutive weeks off during the summer. Single parents, parents with disabilities, and students are entitled to a discount on pre-school fees. Discounts for siblings are also provided. Information on discounts for particular groups may be found on municipal websites.
Many of the pre-schools have waiting lists and parents and their children may have to wait some time for a 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.
By law, disabled children are entitled to priority pre-school placement. These placements shall be in general pre-schools where necessary support services are provided, or in specialised departments. Regional offices for the disabled provide advice, information, and services.
See information here about at home day-care for younger children.
Primary schools are run by the municipalities and is free of charge. There are no waiting lists for primary schools.
Studying in a primary school is compulsory. That means children and young adults aged 6-16 must study in primary schools. Parents must enroll their children in primary schools and ensure that they engage in study.
Primary education is divided into three levels: Class 1 to 4 (aged 6 – 9), class 5 to 7 (age 10 – 12) and class 8 to 10 (young adults aged 13 – 15).
Children and young adults who experience educational difficulties caused by disability or social and emotional issues are entitled to special study support.
Primary schools have continuous teaching days, with recesses and a lunch break. Pupils study for a minimum of nine months per year, 180 school days.
Application forms and further information can be found on the websites of most primary schools and municipalities.
Pupils in the upper classes may engage in study or distance learning with secondary schools alongside their primary education. Decisions on studies are made in consultation with school administrators.