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A kindergarten before nursery school

03/10/2009

Launched as a pilot experience in France in September 2009, the ‘jardins d’éveil’ (daycare centres) are positioned between the halte-garderie (creche) and école maternelle (nursery school) and are aimed at children aged between two and three years. The government will fund 8,000 places in these new structures by 2012, at a total cost of €25 million. A number of different actors will participate in developing these experiences, especially local officials.

Launched as a pilot experience in France in September 2009, the ‘jardins d’éveil’ (daycare centres) are positioned between the halte-garderie (creche) and école maternelle (nursery school) and are aimed at children aged between two and three years. The government will fund 8,000 places in these new structures by 2012, at a total cost of €25 million. A number of different actors will participate in developing these experiences, especially local officials.

Reception structures for children aged two to three

France is one of the few countries, together with Belgium, to accept children in nursery schools from the age of two. A recent Senate report (the Papon Report ), drawn up by an evaluation group on schooling for very young children, concludes that school offers “an environment ill-suited to children of two years of age” and is a “misconceived idea for success at school.” What is more, the percentage of very young children attending school fell from 35% to 21% between 2000 and 2008, with significant regional variations (60% attendance in Brittany and just 5% in the outer suburbs of Paris).

In light of this situation, the ‘jardins d’éveil’ pilot project is aimed at children aged 2-3 years. It is part of a broader policy to expand reception facilities for very young children. These centres must combine an educational project designed to prepare for nursery school with a social project to facilitate access for families in difficulty. Staff will be qualified to work with very young children and the supervision will be closer than in school, with three adults in charge of each group of between eight and 12 children aged under three years.

Budget breakdown

These experimental ‘jardins d’éveils’ will be allocated a budget of €25 million over four years, co-financed by the Caisse nationale d’allocations familiales (National Family Allowances Fund) (€8.8 million), the regional or local authorities, and contributions from families. The average financing will be €2, 900 per place per year.

Projects to set up such centres can be submitted by various parties (municipality, public establishment, association, company, etc.), provided the local authority has accepted the innovation in principle. The first ‘jardin d’éveil’ opened in Caussade (Tarn et Garonne). It offers 24 places, is open 200 days a year between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and will cost parents between €45 and €425 per month per child for full-time attendance.

A much discussed initiative

This experience has not been without its detractors. The main teachers’ unions see it as dictated by economic considerations and designed to reduce the number of nursery school teachers while claiming to be an educational project. Nadine Morano, the French minister responsible for the family, says it is not an initiative to replace school but to develop specific reception facilities for the very young.

In educational terms, opinions are divided. Some see it as a positive initiative for development and socialisation, in particular for children from less favoured backgrounds. Others believe that at the age of two a child still needs the special attention of a more family-like environment.

 

For further information

Contact : Ibrahim Moussouni
Tel. +33-140 568 632
Email : ibrahim.moussouni@sante.gouv.fr
Papon Report
Guide for the use of town hallspdf

 
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