Moving to Germany with Children

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Moving to Germany with Children - An image of two young boys waving goodbye to their mother
An Overview of Living in Germany - An image of a cheerful woman outside of a large building near Bun
An Overview of Living in Germany

Schooling Structure

The education system in Germany is maintained by the state authorities and so there are some regional variations. In most areas, primary and secondary school education is compulsory and children must attend from the ages of around 6 to 18. Unlike in many countries, state education in Germany is often considered to be of a higher standard than private education, so the majority of children attend publicly-funded schools. Although the entire German education system is accessible to expats, many choose a private school for their children on the basis of language or qualification choice.

The academic year in Germany runs from September to July. Most states have a summer holiday of around six weeks, as well as Easter, spring, autumn and Christmas breaks. If you are working in Germany, be aware that many schools only run classes in the mornings, so you may need to arrange afternoon childcare.

Preschool Primary and Secondary education

The main preschool options in Germany are Kinderkrippen (for children of less than three years old) and Kindergarten (ages three to six). Attendance at these ages is voluntary, but waiting lists tend to be quite long. Depending on whether the preschool is state-run, privately-run or operated by a church or charity, parents may have to pay fees

Primary school in Germany is called Grundschule, and covers the first four years of school life. The first day of Grundschule is a major rite of passage for youngsters, and schools traditionally welcome them with a bag of sweets called the Schultüte.

After primary education is complete, there are four main types of secondary school:

  • Gymnasium – a type of grammar school where students take academic subjects in preparation for university
  • Realschule – a secondary school with more focus on preparing students to qualify for vocational professions
  • Hauptschule – a school that is designed to give students practical working skills
  • Gesamtschule – a comprehensive school which combines elements of Realschule and Hauptschule and offers a choice of qualifications at the end

Germany is a proudly family-oriented country with an excellent education system and support structure for working parents.

The German education system

Education is free to all children from the ages of six to 18 and the state education system is well organised and delivers high quality teaching. Children attend primary school (Grundschule) from the age of six to 11 before continuing to secondary school, which are divided according to academic or vocational subjects. Lessons are in German, although other languages are also widely taught, especially English. There are plenty of private international schools offering a number of curricula for expat academics who feel their children would benefit from learning in English or other languages. However, bear in mind that international school fees start from around €12,500 but can be as much as €21,500 per year. For more information about international schools in Germany consult the Association of German International Schools website.

Nurseries and Kindergarten

Although pre-school education is not compulsory in Germany, most children between 3 and 6 attend kindergarten until they are ready to go to school.

Types of nursery and kindergarten care include:

  • Kinderkrippe (nurseries): for babies and children up to the age of three. These are privately run and costs vary according to type of nursery.
  • Kindergarten (preschool): for children aged between three and six. Fees are normally based on parental income.
  • Kitas (day care centres): These institutions offer after-school or pre-school care to children aged three to 12.

Most children attend kindergarten for a few hours every morning. However, working parents can enrol their child for up to nine hours per day. Parents are expected to bear some of the cost of childcare: how much depends on parental income and how many hours per week the child is in attendance. If you wish to enrol your children in a kindergarten, you will need to acquire a childcare voucher (Betreuungsgutschein) available from the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendant). Kindergarten places are allocated in the spring before the child begins (in September) and waiting lists can be long, so it’s a good idea to start the process as soon as you know you are transferring to Germany. Find out more information about childcare, plus a list of kindergartens.