Child care services in Switzerland
Child care centres are managed by the Youth and Integration Department of Neuchâtel (called the Jeunesse et integration in French). Since 2012 a new section of the department, the service de l'accueil de l'enfance, has been fully dedicated to the topic of childcare. This section regrouped the pre-school (crèche) structure as well as the para-scholastic structure (para-scolaire) and is addressed to children up to 12 years old.
Neuchâtel has 420 subsidised preschools/crèches which are divided into 13 nursery centres. Five of these are municipal whilst the rest are private. For more information visit the Accueil Enfance website (FR).
The "réseau d'accueil communal pour l'enfance" is a new centralised system that regroups all the crèches in the Canton of Neuchâtel. It aims to standardise educational methods, nutrition, activities and hygiene standards. Children from three months to four years of age are admitted to crèches in Neuchâtel. There are five communal nursery centres, each in a different district. On the Neuchâtel website (FR) parents can read about the crèche structure and the cost brackets for the whole canton.
Fees for public day care centres are charged on a sliding scale according to income. Private child care centres have fixed fees and are generally more expensive. However, waiting lists for public centres are frequently longer. It is advisable to apply for child care as soon as you know where you will be living or even before the final accommodation is found. Open the inscription document on the Neuchâtel cantonal website (FR) for information on subsidised crèches.
When searching for a crèche, contact each one directly. If the centre has no vacancy your child will be placed on a centralised waiting list. Check regularly with different centres about vacancies. Different attendance rates are available with the minimum attendance being 30%. Opening hours are defined by individual centres but most are open between 06:30 and 18:40. Inscriptions are accepted from the fourth month of the pregnancy and children are admitted to crèches from four months until the age of mandatory schooling (four years old by 31 July).
The para-scholastic structure is designed for children age four to 12 whose parents are working professionals. It provides extra care during lunch and outside of school hours. It includes such activities as accompaniment on the way to school for the younger children, nutritious meals over the lunch period, and entertainment activities (such as crafts, games, sports and arts). There are seven para-scholastic centres in the area of Neuchâtel. To contact para-scholastic, sign up your child, calculate the cost of care, or simply get more information, visit their website (French).
Further types of child care in Neuchâtel:
- Accueil familial du jour (FR) is a cantonal association of family care options. In this system your child is cared for by another parent according to your need. This type of a child care is also known as "maman du jour".
- The Swiss Red Cross in Neuchâtel (FR) offers child care certification and connects parents with qualified individuals to watch their children.
- Neuchâtel's Centres de Loisirs (FR) or Maisons de Quartier runs workshops and activities to complement school schedules. This is a non-profit aimed at integrating students who are low-income or struggling socially. Activities range from theatre performance to arts and crafts.
- Anibis (DE/FR/IT) is a popular free website for the French section of Switzerland where private individuals post and respond to ads on all different topics. Use it to find anything from babysitters, to cleaners, to products, to much more.
Starting primary school in Neuchâtel
The concordat HarmoS is the inter-cantonal agreement on the harmonisation of compulsory education in Switzerland. Major integrated changes include mandatory education from the age of four (before 31 July) for 11 years (divided into three academic cycles). Children from age of four and five attend pre-school for two years before starting primary school at age six. Curriculum in schools includes languages, science, mathematics, art, music and sport.
Public schools in Switzerland often close for the lunch period and children go home to eat. Check with your school to see if they offer a para-scholastic structure with for the students and before and after school care. Nannies or "mamman jours" can assist with care during lunch and after school. Find them through Anibis or your local commune. Parents from the school often share care responsibilities so it is always a good idea to speak with other parents at your child's school.
Attending public school can help children learn the local language and make new friends. Public schools offer good language support and tutoring for students at no extra cost. Instruction in English is available at private schools.
Below are a couple of bilingual and international schools in the area. Also browse through the Hello Switzerland Directory.
- The International School of Switzerland offers bilingual education in French and English
- International School Neuchâtel is for children ages three to 12 years old and utilises the "Montessori" method.
Learn more in these two articles: