A work group for the Ministry of Education is exploring the logistics of making play schools in Iceland open to younger children, to bridge the gap between the end of parental leave and the start of school.
Vísir reports that a parliamentary proposal from the Left-Greens which introduced the idea last autumn was approved, with some changes. A work group within the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland, is now tasked with exploring the idea more practically.
If put into law, it would allow children as young as a year old to be admitted to play school. As it is now, the youngest admissions to play school are rarely younger than 18 months.
The change is designed to shorten the time between the end of parental leave – three months for the mother, three months for the father, and an additional three months to be shared between them – and the start of school. Often, this gap is filled with hiring “day mothers” – a kind of neighbourhood nanny who cares for young children, usually in a private home – recruiting family members for help, or taking more time off work.
The change would not only require additional funding for play schools; some municipalities would also need to construct more school space, and new hires would need to be made as well.
The city of Reykjavík released a report about a year ago which estimated that if such a plan were made into law, the city would need an additional 1.2 billion ISK in funding to admit all the children born in the first seven months of 2011. Play school staff would also need to be increased, with additional related jobs created. At the same time, 400 fewer children would go to day mothers, and the number of day mothers themselves would decrease by half.