Reykjavík Evens Out Fees for Daycare and Preschool

preschools in iceland

The City of Reykjavík is increasing its subsidies to daycare providers so that parents of children 18 months and older will pay the same fees whether their child is placed with a daycare provider or in a public preschool. The changes were approved at a meeting of the Reykjavík City Council this morning.

In the last election cycle for Reykjavík City Council, campaign promises were made that children would be guaranteed a spot in preschool from the age of 12 months, when government-mandated parental leave ends. This has not yet been realised, with staffing shortages and long waiting lists remaining widespread in the capital area. Children are currently guaranteed a place in public preschools from the age of 18 months, though not necessarily in a preschool near their home.

The changes to fees take effect in February 2024 and will apply retroactively from July 1, 2023. The changes do not apply to children under 18 months of age. Daycare providers are permitted to charge an added fee for additional services that are not included in the standard fee, for example for diapers.

The council also approved a motion stipulating that parents who have children who turned 18 months old between June 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024 can apply for an increased subsidy for childcare fees.

 

New Daycare Providers to Receive ISK 1 Million in Start-Up Funding

Reykjavík City Hall ráðhús

Reykjavík’s City Council recently passed a proposal stipulating that new daycare providers receive a startup grant of ISK 1 million ($7,300 / €6,700). The Chairman of the Council believes that the proposal will result in significant cost savings for parents, Vísir reports.

Same fee for daycare and kindergartens

On Thursday, June 15, the City Council of Reykjavík approved a proposal stipulating that daycare centres that commence operations in Reykjavík will receive a start-up grant of ISK 1 million ($7,300 / €6,700). ISK 250,000 ($1,800 / €1,700) will be paid upon the signing of a service contract, and ISK 750,000 ($5,500 / €5,000) a year later. In addition, the City of Reykjavík will organise and pay for an accident prevention course every two years for all daycare providers, Vísir reports.

Einar Þorsteinsson, the Chair of Reykjavík City Council and future mayor, highlighted a significant change in the recently agreed proposal; under the new arrangement, parents will pay the same fee to the daycare centre as they would for kindergarten once their child reaches 18 months of age. As noted by Vísir, the ruling coalition had previously promised that children as young as twelve months could enrol in kindergarten.

“The city’s rules stipulate that children should be admitted by the age of eighteen months,” Einar told Vísir. “Ensuring equal treatment for parents, regardless of whether they opt for daycare providers or the preschool system, is important. The new proposal aims to achieve this by implementing a uniform fee structure. It also aims to support families who have been on the kindergarten waiting list for an extended period by covering their expenses.”

Einar maintains that parents’ payments are being reduced by tens of thousands of króna per month. “Alongside this proposal, we’re also advertising for housing among private parties. We are specifically seeking ground floors, mobile units within open-air playgrounds (i.e. gæsluvellir), and unused retail spaces that could potentially serve as suitable locations for daycare facilities. These spaces may not be suitable for kindergartens, but they meet the requirements for daycare services.”

The new proposals are not unfair to those who already work as daycare providers, according to Einar: “These proposals are aimed at increasing the number of daycare providers, improving their working environment and conditions. Reykjavík’s School and Recreation department had a good meeting with both of the two daycare parents’ associations, and the proposals take into account their views.

500 Children on Waitlist for Preschool in Reykjavík

preschool iceland

Árelía Eydís Guðmundsdóttir, director of the Council for Education and Recreation for Reykjavík City, has stated in a recent interview with RÚV that this will be a “difficult year.”

Last week, registration for preschool in Reykjavík opened for next year. Of the applicants, some 1,500 children will be placed, but more than 500 remain on the waitlist.

In Focus: The Preschool System

On the news programme Kastljós, Árelía ensured Reykjavík parents that children born in February 2022 and before would be guaranteed spaces at a preschool.

In the last election cycle for Reykjavík City Council, campaign promises were made that would guarantee children a spot in preschool from the age of 12 months. This has not yet been the case, with staffing shortages and long wait lists being a problem last year as well.

Preschool Staffing Shortage Leaves 90 Positions Unfilled

Árelía did not say exactly how many children would be without placements this year, but expressed her hopes to “empty the waitlist” as much as possible.

Other Reykjavík City Councillors have also called for increased funding to the preschool system, such as Independence Party representative Ragnhildur Alda Vilhjálmsdóttir.

For the past 15 years, around 1,000 children throughout Iceland have been without preschool or daycare every year.

Exacerbating the situation has been a recent decrease in the number of preschool workers, with many positions left unfilled.

On Kastljós, Árelía stated: “This will be a difficult year. There is no magic solution, but we are working to improve the situation.”

 

Almost 700 Children Waitlisted for Reykjavík Preschools

school children

Nearly 700 hundred children aged 12 months and older are currently waitlisted for places in preschools around Reykjavík, RÚV reports.

Parents of waitlisted children gathered at Reykjavík City Hall on Friday to protest the situation. Speaking to reporters, they explained the difficulties of finding childcare during the workday. One parent noted that he’d gone through the same situation with his first child five years ago, but said the process was even worse now. Another father described splitting babysitting duties between his child’s grandparents—three days a week with his father, two days a week with his mother—while he worked night shifts in order to ensure that neither he nor his partner needed to cut back on working hours in order to be able to take care of their toddler. A mother said that after calling preschools all over the city, she’d tried to find a professional childminder to watch her baby during the workday, but there were extensive waitlists with all of these individuals as well.

According to data provided by the City of Reykjavík, of the 669 children waitlisted for spots in local preschools, 60 are currently enrolled in private preschools until places can be found for them in city-run facilities. It’s assumed that many of the waitlisted children are in the daily care of privately employed childminders, but no information is available on how many at this time.

As of Friday, the city was preparing to allocate 200 more preschool spots, leaving 470 eligible children in limbo. City officials have said it may be possible to accept more children into preschools in the coming months and that efforts are being made to increase the number of available spots. Speaking to reporters on Friday, however, Mayor Dagur B. Eggertson said the city couldn’t make any promises that the youngest children on the waitlist would be placed or that parents who want to place their children in a specific preschool will be able to be accommodated.