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.

36 Pools Closed Due to Strikes

Pools across Iceland are being forced to close in the wake of strikes by BSRB. On May 15, BSRB, Iceland’s largest federation of public sector unions, comprising 19 labour unions with some 23,000 members, began strike action as part of its ongoing negotiations with the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SNS).

In total, 37 pools are affected. 36 pools are closing, with one Westman Island pool continuing operation with limited hours.

Read More: Preschool Staff on Strike in 11 Municipalities

In addition, some 70 preschools throughout Iceland are also affected by the public sector strike. Since the parties to the most recent contract negotiation have not been able to come to an understanding, the strike has affected 29 municipalities.

Freyja Steingrímsdóttir, communications director for BSRB, stated to Morgunblaðið: “to my knowledge, they are essentially all closed. It’s a safety measure that all working staff are trained, so when this happens, the swimming pools need to be closed.”

Read More: Strikes Likely to Force Closure of Swimming Pools

The strike could also have an impact on the June 17th (Iceland’s National Day) celebrations throughout the nation, Freyja stated. “This is a temporary strike,” she streed. “There is no activity, no practices, or anything while this continues unchanged,” she stated.

In addition to pools and preschools, municipal offices and nursing homes throughout Iceland are also seeing reduced operations as BSRB continue their negotiations with SNS.

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.”

 

Hafnarfjörður to Pay Childcare Stipends to Parents, Increase Wages for Childminders

A woman walking two young children through the snow

Parents of children a year and older in the town of Hafnarfjörður may now apply to receive a monthly childcare stipend from the local government, mbl.is reports. These payments are equal to those made to professional childminders, or “day parents,” and are intended to allow parents stay at home with their children longer, therefore bridging the gap between when their parental leave ends, and preschool begins. The town has also approved higher hourly rates for day parents, as well as the establishment of a special fund that will provide grants for day parents who have been municipally employed for at least a year. The Hafnarfjörður town council approved the measures, effective retroactive to January 1, at its recent meeting.

In Focus: The Preschool System

Day parents are self-employed professionals who are licensed by, and receive work permits from, municipal authorities. These individuals care for children who are either too young to enter preschool, children who are still on the waitlist for a place in the overcrowded pre-k system, and/or children who simply need a smaller, more personalized environment. Licensed day parents generally look after small groups of young children in at-home settings.

In its announcement about the new measures, the Hafnarfjörður town council said it believes that new parents need a wider variety of practical solutions for childcare and is looking into such options as extending parental leave and creating more choice within the pre-k and day parent systems. The town, which has a population of just over 29,700 people, currently has just 26 licensed day parents.

Day parents ‘an important pillar of childcare system’

Hafnarfjörður appreciates that “day parents are an important pillar of the daycare system,” and the town hopes to recruit more qualified individuals to the profession. Day parents who have worked for Hafnarfjörður for a minimum of 12 months can now apply for a grant of ISK 300,000 [$2,105; €1,944]. Hourly wages for day parents will also increase from ISK 8,433 [$59; €55] to ISK 12,800 [$90; €83] an hour.

The council also seeks to better support low-income families and families with multiple young children. Low-income parents can apply for additional subsidies, for one, and ‘sibling discounts’ are available for siblings who go to the same day parent, preschool, or after-school program. The second child receives a 75% discount on fees and the third 100%.

New Year, New Fees: Important Changes in 2023

hallgrímskirkja reykjavík

With the new year, several new regulations, taxes, and fees are coming into effect. Here, we break down the most significant changes for the nation and capital region in 2023.

New Fees on Fuel, Alcohol

In line with the 2023 budget, the alcohol tariff is set to rise some 7.7.%. The price hike will also disproportionately affect alcohol sold in Duty Free, which was taxed at 10% last year, but will now be taxed at 25%.

Fuel is likewise increasing in price. In order to fund infrastructure, the general cost of car ownership is rising significantly. A litre of petrol is set to increase by ISK 16 (0.11 USD, 0.11 EUR), and import duties on electric vehicles are also increasing.

Schools and Pools

In line with the expected 4.9% cost of living increase throughout Reykjavík, the price for admission to the city’s pools will also be increasing, from ISK 1,150 (8.10 USD, 7.58 EUR) to ISK 1,1210 (8.52 USD, 7.98 EUR). Children’s prices are increasing by similar amounts, although residents can still save significantly with pool passes.

The cost of preschool registration will also be rising on average from ISK 33,570 (236 USD, 221 EUR) to ISK 35,215 (248 USD, 232 EUR).

Changes in Recycling

Changes are also coming to waste management and recycling in the capital area.

Icelanders will now need to sort their trash into four bins, and recyclables will no longer be tolerated in the black bin (for trash). Bins will now be sorted into paper, plastic, organic waste, and mixed waste.

Alongside these changes come increases in cost, with garbage removal fees in Reykjavík increasing by 20%.

Read more about coming changes in the 2023 budget here.

 

In Focus: The Preschool System

iceland preschools

A rocky startAn announcement on the City of Reykjavík website advertises employment at the city’s many preschools. In addition to the rewarding work of childcare, benefits such as free lunch, a shortened work week, a swim pass, and prioritised placement for one’s own children on preschool waitlists are all enumerated. On paper, this sounds like […]

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Reykjavík Preschool Staffing Shortage Leaves 90 Positions Unfilled

reykjavík leikskóli preschool

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.

Continue reading: Almost 700 Children Waitlisted for Reykjavík Preschools

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.

Continue reading: City Council Introduces Proposals to Address Preschool Crisis

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.

Preschool Replaces Sex Shop

leikskóli reykjavík

A new preschool has opened in the Laugardalur neighborhood on Kleppsvegur 150-152.

However, the latest addition to the city’s preschool system is built on the former site of Adam & Eva, a sex shop. The city bought the structure in 2020 for ISK 642 million and has renovated the site extensively, with the new preschool even being nominated for the Green Shovel, an award for sustainable, environmentally-friendly design.

Architectural contractor Þarfaþing has been responsible for the renovations, which have cost around ISK 927 million.

The preschool, called Brákarborg KLÖPP, will add 120 new places to Reykjavík City’s preschool capacity at a time when waitlists, staff shortages, and inadequate facilities have caused something of a crisis in Iceland’s preschool system.

Earlier this August, parents protested at Rekjavík City Hall, with what they called a sit-in preschool. With many children still on wait lists, many parents have had to change their rate of employment to care for their children.

The completion of Brákarborg KLÖPP will partially bridge the gap between Reykjavík City’s needed capacity, and the children currently on waitlists.

 

City Council Introduces Proposals to Address Preschool Crisis

In the wake of parent-led protests, Reykjavík’s City Council has introduced proposals to expedite the admission of preschoolers. As reported last week, hundreds of children are currently waitlisted for preschools around Reykjavík.

A press conference at City Hall

Last Friday, parents of waitlisted children gathered at Reykjavík City Hall to protest; nearly 700 hundred children aged 12 months and older are waiting to be admitted to preschools around Reykjavík.

In response to the growing crisis, members of the council held a townhall meeting yesterday morning, introducing six proposals to expedite the admissions of waitlisted preschoolers. The proposals, approved of by City Council prior to the meeting, are as follows, RÚV reports:

  • Expediting the opening of Ævintýraborg

The Ævintýraborg preschool on Nauthólsvegur is to be opened ahead of schedule, or in early September. While the school’s playground and outdoor area are being finalised – expected to be complete in early October – Ævintýraborg will emphasise “diverse outdoor activities” in Öskjuhlíð, Nauthólsvík and near-lying areas. Once completed, Ævintýraborg will admit 100 children.

  • Utilising city-owned housing

Available housing owned by the city is to be utilised to meet preschool shortages this fall. Work has already begun to evaluate whether Korpuskóli school can serve as temporary facilities for preschoolers. Two additional departments are to be opened at the Bakki preschool, in the Staðarhverfi neighbourhood, in the hopes of accepting up to 160-200 additional preschoolers. Furthermore, community centres, along with other housing owned by the city and its collaborators, is to be utilised for preschoolers. This proposal is made on the condition of the parents’ interest in agreeing to these proposals and on the condition that these facilities can be staffed.

  • A new preschool in Fossvogur

Reykjavík will take advantage of an option-to-buy clause in order to purchase land in the Fossvogsdalur valley, adjacent to the city’s Cultivation Centre (Ræktunarstöð Reykjavíkur). The council will request the reclassification of the lot, and if said request is granted, an additional Ævintýraborg, capable of accommodating 100 preschoolers, will be opened next year.

  • Expansion of Steinahlíð

The Steinahlíð preschool is one of the city’s oldest preschools, currently accommodating 55 children. The council will enter into talks with Barnavinafélagið Sumargjöf, the school’s proprietor and landowner, with the aim of expanding the school, whether temporarily or for the foreseeable future. The will of the two parties to consider this expansion was addressed in an agreement regarding possible reclassification changes with regard to the Borgarlína transit system, which was approved June 18th.

  • Increased subsidies to daycare

Subsidies to daycare providers will be increased in order to strengthen their operational conditions, lower the cost of parents, and increase the number of daycare providers. Base subsidies will also be increased and further avenues to improvements, i.e. instructional or housing subsidies, will be explored.

  • Application protocols

Preschool admission protocols will be reviewed with a view to improve the dissemination of information to parents, simplify the application process, and work toward greater transparency. It is also necessary to review the possibility of integrating the application process between Reykjavík preschools and independently-operated preschools.

“Their disappointment has not escaped our notice”

Einar Þorsteinsson, City Council Chairman, and acting Mayor in the absence of Dagur B. Eggertsson, conducted the town-hall meeting, which was well attended by parents of waitlisted children.

According to Einar, the parents’ disappointment had “not escaped the council’s notice.” “I’m happy that there was a consensus among council members regarding the proposals … everyone’s doing their best to ensure adequate accommodation.”

Parents are not “systems enthusiasts”

Kristín Tómasdóttir, who has organised the protests at City Hall, took to the podium after the proposals had been introduced. Kristín stated that while she welcomed the meeting, and the fact that city council had finally introduced their proposals, she expressed the parents’ dismay that they’d been forced to expend energy  ensuring that city council do its job.

“You’re here to introduce proposals that you never intended to introduce,” she said, suggesting that if it weren’t for the protests, the proposals would never have seen the light of day.

“We were simply supposed to be understanding of the fact that you didn’t intend to keep your promises,” Kristín remarked.