In the latest numbers from RÚV, around 90 positions need to be filled before Reykjavík preschools can be considered fully staffed. Approximately 500 children aged 12 months and older remain on waitlists in Reykjavík City alone.
Hjördís Rut Sigurjónsdóttir, Information Office for the Department of Education and Recreation at City of Reykjavík, has stated that filling the vacant positions has so far gone more smoothly than expected, with around 95% of full-time vacancies filled. Nevertheless, many children still remain on waitlists throughout the city, with 478 children 12 months and older and 48 children 18 months and older still waiting on placements.
Not limited to the capital region, all of Iceland is experiencing something of a preschool crisis at the moment. Due to recent population growth, however, the problem is most keenly felt in Reykjavík and surrounding settlements. Traditionally, municipalities have accepted children into the preschool system starting at 18 to 24 months. Recently, there has been a push in the City of Reykjavík to start accepting children already beginning at 12 months into the system, to bridge the gap between parental leave and the preschool system. While the 12 month target was a much-requested concession for working parents, the preschool system has had to cope with much higher numbers this year, leaving many children stuck on waitlists.
In a statement to RÚV, Hjördís said: “Recruitment for the kindergartens is going beyond expectations and it is clear that the actions taken by the City of Reykjavík have yielded results, such as advertisements and a new application website.”
Despite the progress made, many parents feel that not enough is being done to address the problem, with some having to resort to private daycares or else reduce their rate of employment to care for their children.
This August, working parents staged a demonstration at Reykjavík City Hall, turning the building into a sit-in daycare. The protest was an attempt to force action from a City Hall that they saw as doing little to care for their children.
So far, Reykjavík City has pledged to expand capacity through construction of new preschools and expansion of existing facilities. However, critics say the expansion of facilities cannot address the fundamental staffing shortage and that deeper changes in the education and remuneration of preschool teachers must be made.