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Right to enrol in early childhood education and care services

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are the educational institutions taking care of children before the age of schooling. Where parents have the right to enrol children in early childhood education and care, a minimum age for such a right is usually set. In other countries, however, enrolment is not as a “right”, but it is compulsory.

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Key aspects

  • While fifteen Member States provide for the right to enrol children in early childhood education and care services (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom), ten Member States do not (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, CyprusCzechia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia). However, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Greece and Poland have established a compulsory age for enrollment of children in early childhood education. As regards Lithuania, Malta and Spain, relevant data are not available. Italy, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia neither have an obligation to enrol children in early childhood education nor grant parents an enforceable right to have their children enrolled.
  • Out of the fifteen Member States which provide for such a right, the majority (seven Member States) set 3 years as the minimum age (Belgium, France, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland, the United Kingdom).
  • Six countries have established lower age thresholds: 18 months in Estonia and Latvia, 12 months in Germany and Sweden, 11 months in Slovenia and 9 months in Finland.
  • In two Member States, on the contrary, the minimum age is higher: 4 years in the Netherlands and 5 years in Denmark.
  • In general, the minimum age of children whose parents have the right to enrol them in early childhood education is lower than the compulsory enrollment age. In Hungary, however, children shall start compulsory education at the age of 3, which is the age at which their parents have the right to enroll them in early childhood education, their enrolment being, therefore, a right and a duty for their parents.


Publication date: 19 October 2018

Minimum age requirements concerning children's rights in the EU - Specific data on social rights, employment, education, alternative care, LGBTI and mobility (406.5 KB)