childcare in Germany

(28 Posts)
tourdefrance Tue 11-Dec-12 12:57:17

Hi, can you please share your experiences of being a working parent (with no SAHP) in Germany. Looking at various websites the childcare provision seems quite patchy, some areas have all day Kindergarten (Kitas?) or Ganztagsschule. Some have Horts but by no mean all schools and opening times seem to vary enormously and there is no information on actual availability and waiting lists. I posted briefly on Netmoms.de outlining what I have here(UK) (wraparound care 7.45 - 5.30 every day except Friday) and asking how comparable that is, and was basically told I am very lucky and not to expect that in Germany.

What about nannys / au-pairs / after-school nannys? Is there lots of 'unofficial' provision available if you are prepared to advertise and pay for it?

My DC are 2 and 5 so would be at school and Kindergarten within a year or so.

NulliusInBlurba Fri 14-Dec-12 18:42:04

ooh, Augsburg is really quite nice, though. And isn't it, by Bavarian terms at least, comparatively Protestant. And in a city you're much more likely to find a school that offers at least half-day schooling, and for you to find work too.

You might be realistic that finding professional work will initially be difficult - although since you speak German, not impossible - but something you could always consider is English teaching at the local Volkshochschule or in Kitas, at least as a way of starting off. A friend of mine used to have a fairly high-up IT project management role in Australia but moved to Germany to be with her now husband. She spent a year or so teaching English, and then a few years later, when her youngest child was around 3, started working again in a very responsible full-time IT job. She's always valued that year when she taught English because it gave her a different perspective and allowed her to settle into the country.

tourdefrance Thu 13-Dec-12 20:35:39

Thanks for all your helpful replies. We both speak German but are English and I expect we would speak English at home if we lived in Germany so the dc had that as a home language. We currently speak a lot of German at home.
I work part time at the moment but I know it would be difficult to get part time professional work here in the UK at a new company so don't expect to be able to do that in Germany either.
I completely agree that starting school at 4 probably doesn't make English kids any more advanced and would like to avoid that for my youngest.
I've no idea if sharing pick and drop offs will be feasible or not as its not currently in the UK but that will depend on location of work etc.
I think we would be looking to live in a largish town, eg Augsburg as we would both rather walk, cycle, bus to work rather than drive.

digerd Thu 13-Dec-12 12:19:14

Forgot to mention that they do start work earlier than us, and Bakers were open at 5.30am . Many office workers start at 7am and have 2 hours for lunch. And many finished at 2pm on Fridays, depending on their job.

Ploom Thu 13-Dec-12 12:14:27

I am the only SAHM out of all the mothers in my wee village in the back end of nowhere in Bavaria. But no-one works full time - they all work mornings or shifts but are helped out by Grandparents.

I agree with grinch - I'm perfectly happy with the education system & apart from the supermarkets not being open on a Sunday, they are all open at least 8 - 8. What more do you need? The butchers and bakers where I lived in the UK also shut early on a Saturday & were closed on a sunday so it doesnt feel so different.

ZZZenAgain Thu 13-Dec-12 11:53:02

I hope we are not giving the impression that it is very difficult to be a working mother in Germany. When my dd was at kiga and in the 1. Klasse, almost all the mums I knew were SAHMs, 1 worked full-time, 3 worked part-time; however now that my dd is 12, almost none of the mums I knew back then are still SAHMs unless they have had another baby in the meantime. They are almost all back in the workforce. It might be more common for mothers to work part-time rather than full-time but it should be possible for you to arrange things in Germany so you can work there if you get a job.

Bavaria has the reputation of being a little more traditional than other parts of Germany and I believe childcare and school times are geared towards this more traditional mother as housewife and home tutor role. If you were to live in a small village in Bavaria, you might be the odd one out but presumably you would work in a town and things will be a bit different.

When Germany reunified, things changed quite a bit for mothers too. In the East, most mothers went back to full-time work when their children were small and the childcare system was geared to support that. Now there is more of a mixture of the two systems.

digerd Thu 13-Dec-12 10:25:10

Same in the north of Germany, no Sunday trading, but some large stores were open for viewing but no sales allowed.
Interesting to hear that nothing has changed much since 1998. I was told that a mum could be at home until child was 7, and her previous employer was required by law to re-employ her is she wished to return within 7 years. She would not be paid during the 7 years, of course ,after maternity leave.

TheUKGrinchImGluhweinkeller Wed 12-Dec-12 21:08:30

NulliusInBlurba in Bavaria Sunday trading is still illegal, with an exception about 4 times a year for some reason, and for bakeries for limited hours and garages; even the biggest supermarkets shut at 8pm Monday to Saturday (locally to us the 8pm opening is a recent thing - it was 6pm when we moved here 5 years ago and our most local supermarket still shuts at 2pm on Saturday.

I don't really find the school system primitive though - its half day school, they do test for readiness (which given how school is I think is right, I asked the tester to "fail" my young for his year middle child to give him an extra year's grace as he is shy and not especially emotionally mature, and she agreed). I'm not sure shoving all kids into school at age 4 as happens in the UK is more "advanced" personally - my daughter has only been at school a year and a quarter but seems on about the same level in most things as her UK year 2 peers who have been at school full days to her 3-4 hour days, for a year longer... The Bavarian school system consistently comes top of league tables and is highly regarded - but it is very unforgiving to any children who don't/ can't fit the standard mold, and that is its failing IMO. I don't think school not being a form of childcare makes it primitive, but there are very old fashioned things in the school system that do need to change.

Having an Au-pair is a common way to bridge the chilcare gap for those who live in cities (harder to attract Au-pairs rurally I believe) and who are without handy relatives - most people in the countryside rely heavily on a grandparent or aunt who lives in the same "2 family house" or right next door, which obviously most ex-pats/ migrants don't bring with them! Where we live there are Tagesmutters and some people use teenage babysitters, but it is nowhere near as common as in the UK for both parents to work full time - in fact I cannot think of a single family with children under about 8 in which both parents work full time and don't have a grandma living in the same village and doing a very significant amount of childcare on a daily basis. Having an Au-pair can be complicated if neither of you are German speakers, though I think the only formal problem is if you want an Au-pair from a non EU country, as there are visa implications. For an EU aU-pair it is just that if their aim is to learn German an English speaking household is not very attractive.

NulliusInBlurba Wed 12-Dec-12 19:40:56

Sorry, OP, I've just seen this question of yours:
"What about nannys / au-pairs / after-school nannys? Is there lots of 'unofficial' provision available if you are prepared to advertise and pay for it?"

Short answer, it's not as common as in the UK, because so much provision is covered by the subsidised nurseries, and because so many parents don't work full time. But two friends of ours both work full time and employed a 'nanny' to pick up the children from school three days a week and stay with them for two hours. That meant both of them could work a full 8 hours on those days. Then they each left work one day a week a bit earlier to pick up the DC on the other 2 days. They employed the 'nanny' (who had experience of looking after children but no official qualifications) as a Minijob (also called 400-Euro Job), which meant that the woman earned less than 400 euros per month and they didn't have to pay tax on the earnings. It suited their nanny fine as she fitted the pick-ups in after her studies. They had that arrangement until the younger child turned 10 and they actually became really good friends with the nanny.

NulliusInBlurba Wed 12-Dec-12 19:34:34

"another difficulty when both parents work is that school hours are not it seems binding for the school."

I think this is the case for some of the more traditional of the alte Bundesländer, but in Berlin, for instance, ALL junior schools now provide compulsory Betreuung until 13.30, even if lessons are cancelled (in other words, there are only Halbtags- and Ganztagsschulen). Berlin is very different to other states, though.

"When I lived in Germany, all schools finished about at 1pm or earlier. Mothers never worked more than 2 hours a day, most were full-time SAHMs. Shops still close at 1pm on Saturdays. In the 90s they tried Thurday late shopping till 8pm, but there was not much custom. Children start school 6 and are tested beforehand to determine if ready."
Germany has really changed a lot over the last 15 or 20 years. Admittedly here in Berlin we're at the forefront (ha ha!) of the developments, but is it really that much more primitive elsewhere?
Our local branch of Kaiser's (Tengelmann) is open until midnight 6 days a week, and all the big shops are open until 8pm every Saturday and there's plenty of trade in the city centres (although the small independent traders tend to close at 2 or 3 pm).
Most of the mothers at DD2's school work in fairly good jobs (lawyers, doctors, managers, journalists, computer programmers etc) and it's normal for fathers to be involved in childcare arrangements (dropping off etc). I admit that's probably not typical of the country as a whole.

One word of warning: education is decided at a state level, so can differ considerably between different federal states (children in Berlin start school earlier than elsewhere, for instance, and are no longer tested at 5 to see if they are 'ready'). And things are changing rapidly, so anyone's experience form the 1990s might or might not still be valid.

trockodile Wed 12-Dec-12 19:25:33

BTW certainly in our area all big shops/supermarkets are open 7/8- late. Still closed most Sundays.

trockodile Wed 12-Dec-12 19:22:03

Yes, ganztagschule keeps children regardless-and is also open on teacher training days where they usually do a trip to Tierpark or similar. I have no idea how people manage otherwise-we regularly get letters saying school is finishing early/starting late/only some kids are to come in for Förder Gruppe etc. DS loves it as he just gets to play!

ZZZenAgain Wed 12-Dec-12 18:15:16

another difficulty when both parents work is that school hours are not it seems binding for the school. I have heard from other parents, although I did not experience this myself, that their dc have come home at 10 or 11am if a teacher was sick for instance or lessons cancelled. It could be that this is more of an issue with Halbtagsschulen and that Ganztagsschulen generally have more fixed hours, so will keep your dc at school from 8-4 guaranteed even if lessons are cancelled. Perhaps someone else on the thread knows more about this than I do. I believe it is not uncommon and so you would need a strategy in place for that.

It seems your best bet will be to try to find a Ganztagsschule but if you work full-time, you may still need someone on top of that to look after your dc until you are back from work.

digerd Wed 12-Dec-12 17:38:06

When I lived in Germany, all schools finished about at 1pm or earlier. Mothers never worked more than 2 hours a day, most were full-time SAHMs. Shops still close at 1pm on Saturdays. In the 90s they tried Thurday late shopping till 8pm, but there was not much custom. Children start school 6 and are tested beforehand to determine if ready. Then they start with just a few hours a week, and each year increase. No school uniform, but all seemed to wear the same, jeans and a t -shirt in summer, jeans and jumper in winter.
We lived in villages in north Niedersachsen and also in South Schleswig-holstein

NulliusInBlurba Wed 12-Dec-12 17:01:49

Some of what I would want to say has been said already. Childcare provision for under-3s is much much better in Berlin and in what used to be East Germany. I once read that 50% of children between 1 and 3 go to childcare of some sort in Berlin, but in Bavaria the figure is more like 5%. Very few children go to nursery under a year old, partly because the maternity (and paternity) provisions are so good in the first year.

We ended up trying out a range of Kita/childcare options, due to moving districts within Berlin. DD1 went to an under-3 nursery (Krippe run by the Protestant Church/Evangelische Kirche) and then a large state-run nursery until she started Vorschule. DD2 went to a Tagesmutter (childminder) who had 5 2-yr-olds in her own home, then moved to a largeish bilingual Montessori nursery.

"As I understand it you apply through the Jungendamt, and they pretty much assign you - you don't get much choice, though you can turn down one and wait to be assigned another." Not in Berlin - we answered an advert on the wall of the Jugendamt, went for a visit, liked what we saw, and then registered. I think the system depends on where you are.

We found that it was VERY unusual to get provision for longer than 8 to 9 hours per day. Our childminder shut at 3 pm each day (started at 7.30), and even in the larger nurseries they shut by 5pm. Some nurseries stayed open later, but they weren't necessarily the nicest places. Oh, and it's almost impossible to get provision just for two or three days a week in state nurseries - they operate on the principle that you want the same (limited) number of hours each day, so if you work full days twice a week, you're stuffed, essentially.

We found that nurseries shut for 3 weeks in summer - either the first or second half of the school holidays. Luckily that always fitted in with us, but for some people it must be a huge strain finding alternative care.

However, the plus side of childcare here is that it is so heavily subsidised. We never paid more than 150 euros monthly for full-time care (9 hours daily).

Now our kids are older and in school, we've worked out that the majority of working parents arrange their working hours so one parent drops off and goes to work, then works later, while the other one starts work early and then does the pick up. It seems to be quite unusual for both parents to work full-time, though - often at least one parent is on 30 hours. Our school is a Ganztagsschule from 8 to 4, with extra provision (paid for by parents) until 6 pm if necessary. However, out of a school of 350 pupils, on an average day 10 will stay after 4 pm.

DH has quite unreliable and irregular working hours, so I ended up changing my career totally so I could work freelance from an office at home, meaning that I am always there for the DC, both after school and during the holidays.

TheUKGrinchImGluhweinkeller Wed 12-Dec-12 16:38:38

The school finish times are OK actually, I thought I'd never remember zzz but it sticks quite quickly, and life works around it - variety and all that...

TheUKGrinchImGluhweinkeller Wed 12-Dec-12 16:37:49

Tagesmutter (childminders) do have to go on quite a lot of ongoing training courses and are inspected - they can have quite a lot of children at once, but that matters less for older ones. They probably are the best bet for full day care actually - but as well as, not instead of KiGa esp for a 5 year old. They do seem to look after mainly under 3s but I am sure lots do after school/ Kiga care too. As I understand it you apply through the Jungendampt, and they pretty much assign you - you don't get much choice, though you can turn down one and wait to be assigned another.

ZZZenAgain Wed 12-Dec-12 15:45:05

Those are awkward times for the school to finish, aren't they Grinch? (11.20am, 12.15 and 1.30pm). I am sure I would always be getting that muddled up!
I cannot remember when my dd's 'verbindliche Halbtagsschule' finished now. Might have been 1pm, might have been 1.30pm. I think actually it was 1.30pm. They all came out starving and by the time you got them home for lunch, they could be quite bad-tempered. I think I quite like the concept of the Halbtagsschule from 8-12 now I have grown accustomed to it. It seemed such a short day at first but if you are not in school for lunch and start an hour earlier than in the UK, it probably isn't too different in the end, yet you have the whole afternoon to spend with your dc and for them to do things.

Sorry, that doesn't help you OP. I think once you actually have a job offer lined up, you will be able to find a solution. There is also a set-up known as 'Tagesmutter', if you like the sound of that. You leave your dc with a carer in her home in a small group. She has to be registered with the authorities to do this officially. In Berlin this was organised by the same people who organised the Kindergartenberechtigung. I think it was something like 'Amt fuer Kindesbetreuung'. When in Bavaria you can check this at the local townhall (Rathaus) where you live. I presume in Bavaria it is similar. I don't know anyone who went through a Tagesmutter so I am not sure if you get help finding one or have to find one yourself and the Amt just gives you the paperwork for it. I also don't know what kind of checks they go through and if they are in any way qualified.

trockodile Wed 12-Dec-12 12:41:06

Reading through these makes me realise how lucky I have been!
When I originally applied for kindergarten where we live I was told they were not accepting applications for British Army children in our town at the state kgs-fair enough I suppose.
Friend at church had a neighbour who worked in an Eltern Initiativ KG-talked to her, they had a place and he started 2 weeks later -the month he was 3. I only asked for part time place as was unsure how DS would settle-spoke no German and had never been in any sort of childcare before.
He absolutely adored it, no tears ever and started begging to go full time. The kg were delighted and he started full time after Xmas (6 months later). Has always been happy and we had no problems.
When the time came for school, he had so many friends and was so happy that we wanted to send him to the school with his friends rather than our local-although most kids go to local school everyone was very helpful. I had to wait to see if I got a place but he not only got in but got full time OGS place even though I don't work.
Just to let you see that people can be helpful and after the initial stages never had a problem with the famed German Bureaucracy!
Eltern Initiativ just meant that parents formed a committee and helped in the running. It cost an extra 26euros a month and we took it in turns to gather leaves/garden etc(usually once or twice a year-not terribly arduous!) it was very professional, not like a parent run crèche or similar!

TheUKGrinchImGluhweinkeller Wed 12-Dec-12 12:10:17

Like Ploom we live in rural Bavaria, pretty similar provision - although I would add that only about 1/4 (maximum, probably less) of the children in our Kindergarten stay past about 1.30pm, and only one of the 3 groups/ classes stays open past 1pm. This means that if you want an "all day" place (which means until 4pm) you can have it if there are plenty of places, but at times when they are short of afternoon places you have to be working (though they take your word for it) to get an afternoon slot.

It seems to be harder to find Kindergarten places in Munich - lots of complaining about it from people who live there, who talk about papering their walls with Kindergarten rejections - but for a 5 year old you will be given very high priority and will get a place. You'd be lucky to get a place for a 2 year old and possibly even a 3 year old in Munich itself, from what I've heard. Most Kindergartens take from age 3, or sometimes 2.5, before that you need a Krippe, which can also be over subscribed, though the private ones may be more likely to have places (and cost a lot more).

My 7 year old (year 2) finishes school at 11.20am two days a week, 12.15 two days a week and 1.20pm once a week. Last year the 11.20 finishes were 3 days a week. Children are also sometimes sent home early if a teacher is ill unless they have a Mittagsbeatrum place. Mittagsbeatrum is just afternoon babysitting - there is the opportunity for the children to do their homework but they apparently very often come home with it unfinished. Hort is more structured with actual homework help. At our school there is only Mittagsbeatrum and it runs til 4pm Mon-Thursday but only til 2pm on Friday. It is fairly expensive.

I like the local Kindergarten a lot and am mostly fairly happy with the school, but I don't work aside from teaching a couple of evening classes - where we live there is no way both parents (or a single parent) could work genuine full time hours unless they had an Au Pair or other childcare to fill in the gaps.

Ploom Wed 12-Dec-12 11:37:08

I'm in Bavaria with 3 dc so have some idea what is available.

We live very rurally so the dc just go to their local kiga - we had no trouble getting a place but have heard its more difficult in the cities. They could have been there from 7.30 - 4pm and you would probably pay about 150€ a month for that but thats not including a hot lunch - we gave our dc a packed lunch.

Most of the Grundschulen are half day but there is the odd Ganztag one about. There is often a Hort attached to a school which runs till 4.

At high school level many of the schools are still half day but my dd goes to a Ganztagsgymnasium which is 8am - 4.10pm.

ZZZenAgain Wed 12-Dec-12 09:48:42

Bavaria might be difficult. I think most schools are still half-day (8-12) but tbh I don't really know. In Berlin, as far as I am aware, you need to prove that you work before you can get a full-time kita place. The reason being that kita places are state-subsidised, so it is on a needs only basis. I should think you would be able to get a part-time kita place initially and then when you actually have a job and provide them with proof of this, you would be able to leave your dd there for a full day. Same would apply to your ds at school. If it is a Halbtagsschule, you will only be able to get a Hort place for him once you have proof that you are employed.

it really does depend greatly on where you are. we were in lower saxony before, and the norm seemed to be just half day care (8-12, or maybe over lunch until 14.00). fees were income based.

we are now in Rheinland Pfalz where child care is free for children 2years+. the Kindertagesstätte where 2 of ours are does offer full time care (you can drop off from 7.15 onwards. not sure whats the latest pick up, but I think its past 5pm). I am currently a SAHM so ours are there until 2pm, and I do think usually you have to be working to get a full time place. however, other deciding factors get taken into consideration as well. For example one mum has her 2 year old in full time even though she is not working, because she wants to be able to focus on her daughter more in the afternoons who has learning difficulties.

For schools: where we are there is one Ganztagsschule, others have Übermittagsbetreuung. and most Kindertagesstätten have Horts. From what I have gathered there are buses that take children from school straight to the Hort.

overall I do think it has got a lot easier in GErmany to be a working mum as provisions are improving.
hth

trockodile Tue 11-Dec-12 20:52:51

Sorry, can't help on the working front although I spent some time doing language courses etc. DH is with British Army, when I was in hospital(been in and out a lot) or ill at home he has been able to be flexible about pick ups etc.
Even though I don't work I have had no problems. And have always been offered full time place for DS. I think in some places you can argue that DCs need care as they are not native German speakers.

tourdefrance Tue 11-Dec-12 20:28:47

Thanks ZZZ. I had heard that Berlin was especially good. We are just looking at jobs at the moment but I think Baden Wurtenberg or Bavaria are more likely. BW looks better than Bavaria in terms of provision but I'm worried about going out with a job for dp and not being able to work myself and not be entitled to a full time Kita place without a job.

ZZZenAgain Tue 11-Dec-12 13:24:37

I was not a working parent in Germany but to answer your question helpfully, we would need to know where in Germany you would be moving to. Provision for childcare varies enormously across the country.

I was in Berlin.You can get a Kindergarten (Kiga) or Tagesstaette (Kita) from 3 without any great difficulty. I think officially you are now entitled to this, although it can be tricky getting a place. I was told to arrange for an appointment and get my dd's name down on the waiting list at least 1 year before I needed it. I wanted a particular (church-run) Kindergarten though. For the state-run ones, you just go in and put your name on the list. If you get a place, they will notify you in writing. You can apply to more than one. Working parents are entitled to have their dc at Kindergarten for a longer day. Some people are given a morning only place, others till 3pm, others again till the Kindergarten closes, depending on your working situation. IME most dc are picked up at 3pm.

It is easier to get a place if you have been given the paperwork for a full-time place. There are plenty of privately run Kindergaerten as well, including various bilingual ones so you should be able to find something for the youngest. In Berlin they are striving to make most schools Ganztagsschulen so provision should be from 8-4 and if you are working full-time, you will be able to put your dc in the Hort which is before and after school care. I never did this so I don't know when this begins and ends usually but possibly from 7am-8 and then from 4-5 or 6pm. The Hort will be on or near the school grounds. However there are still Halbtagsschulen (8-12) and verbindliche Halbtagsschulen (8-1pm) which I think personally is a bad idea, they are starving by the time they get home. So you need to see what school the Schulamt provides you with, or research and apply to Ganztagsschulen to see if you can get a place for your dc there, if this is the school type you want to have.

You could if you have a Halbtagsschule, arrange for someone to pick your dc up, provide lunch at home and look after them till you get back from home. Some people do this for the first couple of years of school but it is more usual for a grandparent to do this. In Germany it is common for dc to make their own way home from school from about 3. Klasse on if the school is a local one.

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