Pre- and primary schools
Pre-school is the first level of the Icelandic school system, for children under 6 years of age, irrespective of mental and physical ability, culture or religion. Parents bear primary responsibility for the raising of their children and pre-school is an additional developmental tool.
Pre-school is not compulsory but has very 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.
Generally, children attend pre-school from the age of 18 months until they start primary school. The children ususally stay four to nine hours, Monday to Friday, in the pre-school.
Parents apply for pre-school placements for their children in the local community where the child has legal residence. Pre-schools are variously operated by local authorities, private entities, or privately operated with a service agreement with the local authorities.
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.
Parents need 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 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 pre-school placement. These placements shall be in general pre-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 pre-school fee. Further information on discounts for particular groups may be found on municipal websites.
See information here about 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.