Childcare and schools

Living in Europe | Day care, schooling & family related issues | Germany



If you are bringing your children with you to Germany you should look into the question of childcare at the earliest opportunity and probably take steps to find a place for your children while you are still at home.

For children from three to six there are kindergartens. These are voluntary and usually only open in the mornings from about 8 am to midday. As a rule, they do not serve a midday meal.

If you are looking for daycare for your child, you need to enquire about a “Tagesstättenplatz” (daycare place) which would either be at a "Kindertagesstätte" (daycare centre - Kita) or a "Ganztagskindergarten" (full-day kindergarten). They both provide daycare including a midday meal, usually for pre-school children from three onwards. In some towns there is a serious lack of childcare places, especially in daycare centres, and you may have to join a waiting list.

Children under three are cared for at nurseries which often also offer daycare including a midday meal. However, in many towns there is a severe shortage of places. So, once again: try to organise childcare at the earliest opportunity.

The costs of childcare vary according to the services provided (midday meal, children under three etc.). Furthermore, in state facilities they are income-related.

Childminders, in German "Tagesmütter" or "Tagesväter" (day mothers or day fathers), provide individualised care and have more flexible hours. They usually look after several children at a time in their own homes. Childminders are trained and must have an official “Pflegeerlaubnis” (licence) from the local "Jugendamt" (child and youth welfare services). You can find the names of childminders in small ads in the newspaper or ask the child and youth welfare services. The best way of finding babysitters to look after your children for a few hours during the day or in the evenings, is to ask colleagues or neighbours.


Further information


All children living in Germany are required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 15. The first stage of school is called “Grundschule” (Years 1-4). After this, there is a choice between three different types of school: “Hauptschule”, which continues until Year 9 or 10 and leads to a general school leaving certificate, called “Hauptschulabschluss”; “Realschule”, which continues until Year 10 and culminates in an intermediate school leaving certificate, known as “Realschulabschluss”; “Gymnasium”, which continues until Year 13 or 12 and leads to the senior school leaving certificate, or “Abitur”, which is also the entrance qualification for higher education. Apart from these, there is also the “Gesamtschule”, a comprehensive school combining the three types of school under one roof where pupils are divided into groups according to their performance.

Attendance at state-run schools in Germany is free of charge. You do, however, have to pay for some of the books and teaching material as well as for excursions. There are only very few private or international fee-paying schools. The local “Schulamt” (education authority) can provide information on the situation in your area. You usually decide which school to choose after a visit and an interview with the headteacher. Depending on the Federal State, the school year normally begins after the summer holidays between July and September. At most schools in Germany lessons only take place in the morning.

At present, however, many Federal States are reorganising and turning schools into day schools. There are various different day school models and different focus areas. In some schools it is compulsory to attend all day, in others, known as “Offene Ganztagsschulen” (open day schools), afternoon school is voluntary. All day schools provide a midday meal on the days they are open all day. Parents are expected to pay income-related contributions for full-day options. An additional charge is made for midday meals.


Further information

  • Information portal on the German education system
    An information portal run by the Federation and the 16 Federal States in the Federal Republic of Germany on the German federal education system.
    German Education Server
  • Schools in Germany
    Information on Germany’s school system and practical tipps on “how to recognise a good school”
    School system
  • International Schools in Germany
    Overview of international schools in Germany that offer International Baccalaureate programmes
    International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO)