How can I enrol my child in a school?
The first day of school is significant in every child's life. School is not just somewhere children learn to read, write and do mathematics; it is also where they get to make new friends. Therefore, many schools and families celebrate the first day of school with a special festival. But before planning the celebration, there are a few things to take care of. Here you can learn when your child can start school and what they need for their first school day.
Before starting school, there is a so-called school entry health check. You can learn more about these tests in our chapter "School entry health checks".
What is "Einschulung"?
The word "Einschulung" refers to a child's first school day. In some federal states, children celebrate this day in a small festival that might even take place on a Saturday rather than an actual school day. In other federal states, the first school day is celebrated as a special event but on a regular school day. The specific date first-graders start school differs from state to state - it is often a few days before or after the first day of each new school year, which (in all federal states) begins after the summer holidays. You can find the exact dates at schulferien.org.
Every school independently plans the start of school for first-graders. Therefore, the procedures often differ from school to school. It usually includes a welcome speech from the school administration and your child's teacher. In some schools, there are also joint services. You can inquire from the school management whether your child is required to attend. Such a service is often a voluntary offer to the students and their parents. After the service, children go to their new classroom to meet their classmates and teacher. Then, the teacher talks to the children about their first days at school and shows them the school building. Schools usually strive to make the first school day fun and memorable for children.
In Germany, every child is required to attend school once they reach the age of 6. That means that all children older than 6 must attend school. However, the federal states regulate the school system independently. Therefore, there are various rules in Germany as to when a child can start school.
That means the age your child can start school depends on the federal state where you live. There are so-called "Stichtage" or deadlines in each federal state- if your child is 6 years old by a specific date, they can usually start school. Before that, all children must go through school entry health tests. You can learn more about these tests in our chapter "School Entry Health Checks".
These are the current "Stichtage" or deadlines you need to consider, depending on your federal state of residence (as of 2023):
- June 30: Baden-Württemberg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein
- July 1: Hamburg, Hesse
- August 1: Thuringia
- August 31: Rhineland-Palatinate
- September 30: Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia
School registration procedure differs from state to state. You can read more about registration procedures in your federal state in our chapters on school systems in different federal states listed below. In the section "Where and how can I send my child to school?", you will find the regulations applying to your federal state.
Each federal state decides independently whether a child can start school with little or no knowledge of the German language. Therefore, regulations can differ from state to state. In some federal states, there are support programmes available in daycare centres for children who cannot understand and speak German very well. In other federal states, students who speak little or no German take German courses at school, which could be special classes or additional lessons.
It is best to seek advice as early as possible. If your child goes to a daycare centre, the staff can help you. You can also seek advice from the Youth Migration Service or the Parent's Hotline (Elternhotline). Their employees speak many languages, and the service is free.
To find out how you can support your child in learning German, read our chapter "School Entry Health Checks".
Your child does not have to wait a whole year to start school if you have arrived in Germany or moved within the country during the school year - they can also begin to attend school during the school year. In Germany, the school year starts and ends in the summer months. The exact date varies from state to state. On schhulferien.org, you will find the exact dates for each federal state.
Whether your child should start school during the school year is a topic best discussed with your child's prospective school - you can also ask the school how to register your child and whether your child has to undergo school entry health checks. The school your child attends depends on the federal state in which you live - in some federal states, your child will be assigned to a specific school nearby. In other states, you can choose a school yourself. You will usually receive a letter notifying you about your options. You can learn more about the school registration procedure in the section "How can I register my child at school?".
Yes, your child can start school sooner or later.
You can register your child at a school from the age of 5 - but children younger than 5 are not allowed to go to school. The exact regulations concerning starting school at the age of 5 differ from state to state. It is best to ask the prospective school about the details. You often have to first apply to the school in question and then make more inquiries.
If you think your child is not ready for school, they may also start school at the age of 7. If that is the case, you are expected to submit an application. The regulations concerning the application for later school enrolment differ from state to state. You often have to fill out a form. You can usually find the form at the school where your child is to be enrolled. Ask the school staff what exactly you need to do. Keep in mind to inquire at least six months before the new school year begins -this gives you enough time to take care of all the required documents. If you need help filling out the form, contact a counselling centre. You can find contact information of relevant counselling centres in the section "Where can I seek help and support?".
Yes, every child can go to school in Germany, as required by the UN Convention on the Children's Rights. All children who are in Germany are also allowed to attend school. However, the exact regulations are different in each federal state.
You can learn more about the regulations in your federal state in our chapters on school systems in different federal states listed below. In the section "When do refugee children have to go to school?" you will find the regulations concerning your federal state.
Before the school year starts, there are a few things you need to do - you can usually learn the details from your child's school. You often get a list of everything the child needs. For example, your child needs a school bag, a school pencil case with crayons and pencils, a water paint box and exercise books. You must buy these items before the first day of school. Your child should also have gym clothes. You can get help if you cannot afford to buy all these items - for more information, check out the section "I can't afford to buy all the school supplies. Where can I find help?".
In Germany, each child also gets a "school cone" ("Schultüte") on the first school day. You can buy the school cone or make it yourself. In some daycare centres, the parents meet before the first school day and make the school cones together. Ask your child's daycare centre whether the staff there make school cones together with the parents. However, you can also find corresponding instructions on the Internet, for example, on Basteln und Gestalten or YouTube (under the search term "school cone" or "Schultüte basteln").
Children need several items and various supplies when they start school - for many families, such costs are not easy to afford. If you receive financial support from the Social Welfare Office or Jobcentre, for instance, “Bürgergeld”, you can seek help from the state to cover the expenses. Such aid is part of the "educational package" - you can learn more about it in our chapter "Educational Package".
In some municipalities, there are also local support offers. It is best to ask at a counselling centre in your area or at your child's school. You can find counselling centres nearby in the section "Where can I find advice and support?".
You can also find other counselling centres in your area on the website of the Federal Association for Educational Issues (Bundesverbandes für Erziehungsfragen e.V.) in German. On their website, you can also search for counselling offers in your language.
For questions about specific issues related to family and children, you can find specialised counselling centres at Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Jugend- und Eheberatung e.V. (in German). You need to enter the name of your place of residence or your postal code in the middle field and select the topic in the left drop-down menu. You will then receive a list of available counselling centres in your area.
Whether you live in the countryside or the city, there are a few things to consider when your child reaches school age. The state traffic police of North Rhine-Westphalia has put together some tips and exercises you can use to teach your child about traffic rules and safety.