July 14, 2019
Kindergarten is part of compulsory education in Basel. In the new Harmos system, Kindergarten counts as school and therefore the entry into Kindergarten is considered as the beginning of school (‘Einschulung’). Kindergarten lasts two years. The Kindergarten your child attends will be close to your home, with a maximum of 22 children per class. The classes have two age groups and your child will stay in the same class for two years.
As Kindergarten is compulsory, you cannot just take your child out for family holidays outside the official school holidays. There are 5 official “family holiday days” per Kindergarten year and you can take them as you wish, all together or on separate occasions, over the 2 years. You need to let the teacher know at least 1 week before and fill in the ‚Familienurlaub‘ form. If you need extra days for an emergency, for example, or a special holiday (a two month road trip across Australia), you need to ask the school for permission by filling in the ‚Urlaubsgesuch‘ (holiday request).
The official school holidays are published here.
When will my child start Kindergarten?
If your child turns four by July 31st, s/he will start school that August. The academic year starts mid-August. Children must be able to dress and undress by themselves, go to the toilet by themselves, wash their hands and blow their nose.
There are information sessions organized by the city for all parents with children in age of starting Kindergarten. Your child will also be invited to visit their new school, in June. They will usually go one afternoon and meet the current first year kids, who will be there when they start in August.
Kindergarten is every morning from 8:00-8:30 until 12:00, Monday to Friday, with one afternoon a week from 14:00 to 16:00, usually Monday or Tuesday (or possibly Thursday in Riehen and Bettingen).
Which Kindergarten will my child attend?
You cannot choose which Kindergarten your child attends. S/he will attend a Kindergarten close to your home. You may indicate a preference or ask for your child to be with a close friend. The school administration will do its best to fulfill your requests, but it isn’t always possible.
If your child attends after-school care, you can ask for him/her to attend the Kindergarten closest to the childcare. If you need lunches and day care, do make sure you discuss this early with the school administration as not all schools offer the service.
You can request a change of Kindergarten after the initial assignment, but again, there is no guarantee this will work. Once school has started it is close to impossible to change.
How to register?
A form will be sent to you automatically by the administration. You are welcome to contact the administration and meet with them to learn more and discuss your specific needs.
Here is all the contact information;
Telephone: (41) 061 267 54 60
Address: Volksschulen Basel-Stadt, Kohlenberg 27, 4001 Basel.
Learning in Kindergarten is play-based. There is no academic curriculum such as reading or formal math, but that does not mean your child will not be learning. The focus is on social skills and getting ready for school, such as concentration, fine motor skills, problem solving, etc. Strong foundations are being built during these two years.
A Kindergarten day starts with the Schulweg, the walk to school. During the first year of Kindergarten, the police come to teach the children how to cross the roads safely, including practicing around the Kindergarten. After this, the children are expected to walk alone to school (although if you live far away or there are dangerous roads to be crossed, some parents do accompany their kids for the first year), the reflective triangle the children wear warns cars to be careful, and speed cameras are set up around schools at the beginning of each school year. The Schulweg is considered an important part of the school experience. As children all live in the same neighbourhood, they meet up on the way and discover their neighbourhood. It is fun to see them walking together, ringing at each other’s doors, waiting for their friends to come, chatting excitedly, or picking up conkers. It may take quite a long time to walk the few hundred meters, but that is planned for: there is a 30 minute window for kids to arrive at school, any time between 8:00 and 8:30 is fine. This walk to school is a great way to boost their self-confidence and learn how to behave in traffic. Exercise, fresh air and the social connections all belong to the school experience. Walking is encouraged, rather than scooters or bikes.
A typical day in Kindergarten might look like this (although each teacher is free to do as they think is best for their children):
8:00-8:30: arrive, take off coat and shoes, put on slippers. Shake hands with the teacher to say hello and engage in free play.
8:30 circle time with songs, a story, discussions about the current theme
9:00 project time – children work on an activity
9:45 break, play outside
10:15 free play in a variety of centres, such as a housekeeping, block or puzzle corner.
11:45 clear up, get ready to leave with a last song, shake hands with the teacher to say good-bye
When children have school in the afternoon, they are expected to be there at 14:00 (there is no flexible arrival time).
There are usually two Kindergarten teachers sharing one class. Once a week, both teachers will be in the classroom allowing for small group work or more individual attention. There is also one morning a week in which a support teacher is present to foster children with special needs (language, motor skills, high ability, etc.). See the Special Support section for more about the topic.
Each year there are also lots of special events. Depending on the teachers, there may be a lantern parade for St Martin day, Herbstmesse (autumn fair) in Kindergarten, visit by or to Santiglaus in the forest on December 6th, Fasnacht (carnival) parade, gardening, Waldtag (outings to the forest), school play, doctor and dentist visits, and lots more.
Nearly everything is supplied by the school: pens, pencils, paint, paper, etc.
You will be expected to provide indoor shoes (Finken), sports clothes and shoes, and a healthy snack. On Forest Day, make sure the clothes and shoes are weather appropriate. Unless there is a storm, the outing will go ahead, rain or shine. As the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes”.
You are welcome to visit the school and classroom. Just make an appointment with the teacher beforehand.
What about German?
In Kindergarten the teachers speak both Swiss German and High German, and children can choose to speak what they prefer.
Non-German speaking children are required to attend a play-group twice a week in the year before they start Kindergarten. This is paid for by the city and it is a great way to get to know other children in the neighbourhood (and for parents to get a little child-free time). The administration will send you a questionnaire about your child’s level of German and if needed, you will be signed up for the program. You are free to choose the play-group of your choice within an official list. There is no formal German instruction; children play with Swiss-German speaking children and carers, which facilitates the transition to Kindergarten.
During parent-teacher meetings, you can ask for a translator to be present. Basel offers support in most languages, so do not hesitate to ask if you do not understand German or Swiss-German.
The education department also offers German lessons for parents. The courses take place in certain Kindergartens and schools across the city, they are taught by the schools’ teachers and you can attend them alone or with your child. It is a great way to learn German to better communicate with the teachers, but also learn more about the school your child is attending. You get to know the teachers and school administration, you can ask questions about the school (what is expected, why things are done as they are, etc.). And you will get to know other new parents in the neighbourhood. The courses are subsidised by Basel City and cost CHF 150.00 for 6 months for an adult and CHF 50.00 per child (as of Jan 2019).
Ask the Kindergarten teacher or Contact: Svea Fankhauser, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 061 267 17 62
Lunch and After School
All families needing after school programmes should find a suitable solution in Basel. The number of schools and private institutions offering such programs is increasing rapidly, so do check the Basel education website, or go and discuss your needs with the school or education department.
There are three types of after school programs: programs within the school (rare for Kindergartens), public programs and private institutions that have a contract with the education department of Basel. The after-school program is divided into 4 modules: early morning (7:00 to 8:00, including a healthy breakfast), lunch (12:00 to 14:00) and two afternoon modules (14:00 to 16:00 and 16:00 to 18:00).
Attendance is flexible, but children must be signed up for a minimum of four modules in the public system. Some of the private institutions are more flexible. Schools are completely free, but lunch and afterschool programs need to be paid for. The cost depends on parents’ income.
All information can be found here.
There are special programs offered during the holidays.
There is support for children with learning difficulties, ranging from assistance for language acquisition difficulties, behavioural problems (school psychologist), dyslexia, etc. The school psychological service is there to assess children and decide on what support is needed.
The first level of support is given within the classroom on a weekly basis, with special needs teachers coming into the classroom. If a child needs more help, he or she may have extra support outside the classroom. Finally, children with special needs that cannot be met in normal classrooms can attend specialised classes that offer small group work or individual support. There are many options and the school administration will work with you to find the best solution for your child.
It is important to contact the administration and the school psychological services as soon as possible if you know your child needs special support. Do be open, the teachers and school authorities are there to help you.
The contact information for the Schulpsychologischer Dienst (School Psychological Service):
Address: Austrasse 67; 4051 Basel
Tel: 061 267 69 00
Learning Objectives and Methods
In Kindergarten children learn through play, exploration and experience. The boys and girls are supported in their individual development. They learn to be independent, to develop their cognitive and verbal skills, and to increase their ability to concentrate. The children manipulate objects such as toys, tools and instruments as well as develop their speech. They also gain experience functioning within a large group and improving their social skills as part of a community. In a secure atmosphere the children develop self-confidence.
The teaching plans are all available on www.ed-bs.ch (in German).
Each year, at the end of the year for first year students and between January and March for second year students, you will receive a school report and there will be a parent-teacher conference to discuss how your child is doing.
After two years in Kindergarten, children go on to primary school. If there is any reason for your child to skip a year, or stay back a year, this will be discussed with you, but it is unusual.
The transition is made to be as easy as possible. Your child will usually visit his new school during the last weeks of Kindergarten. S/he will be in a class with children she knows.