Better coverage of after school care in Zurich
The authorities in Zürich have introduced a plan to extend their after school care program and to make day-schools or Tagesschulen available for all students throughout the canton by 2025. While for many of you this will seem long over-due, others may be wondering what it entails and what is new about Tagesschule after-school programs in Zurich.
Extended daycare services
Municipalities in Zurich are now required by the Zürich Volksschulgesetz to provide extended after school care, also called ‘Tagesstrukturen’. Depending on demand, this can include early morning care, lunch club and after-school care. It is up to the municipality to decide how to implement these services. This means that depending on your Gemeinde, you could find a variety of extended school services, ranging from ‘Mittagstisch’ (lunch-club), ‘Hort’ (after-school care), ‘Tagesstrukturen’ (modular extended school care) to ‘Hausaufgabenhilfe’ (homework assistance) und ‘Freizeitangebote’ (leisure activities). The difference between these different services and the so-called Tagesschule ( all-day school) is not always clear-cut.
Hort or Tagesstrukturen
Traditional after school care (‘Hort’ or ‘Tagesstrukturen’) usually takes place outside school and refers to the supervision of children. This implies that children, whose parents work or are not available during the day, have a place where they can eat lunch, stay and be supervised. Most after-school care services do not offer much in the way of structured leisure activities and clubs, although children enjoy free playtime. Depending on where you live, you might be subject to a waiting list. In Zürich Stadt, children are now entitled to a place in Hort, but in practice, there might simply not be available spaces. In other areas, parents might have to wait for up to 12 months to secure a place.
Unlike Hort, all children have a guaranteed place in Tagesschule. Tagesschule students do not have to leave school to walk to lunch and after-school care but spend all day in school. In addition to lunch, they usually receive homework support, are able to have rest and playtime, or to enjoy after-school activities or projects, e.g. sports, music, arts or programming clubs. In a Tagesschule, teachers and caregivers are working as a team. Also, in contrast to after-school care, children and their parents do not have to register but are automatically enrolled for certain days (see graph). These days are ‚fixed‘ but parents can book additional days. Parents who do not wish for their children to stay at school for lunch are able to opt out. This might sound strange but some parents actually prefer their children to come home for lunch and come home straight after school. In Switzerland, generations of children have been accustomed to walking often several miles to go home for lunch and lunch clubs have only been around for a decade or so. If you are living in a more rural municipalities, after-school care is still frowned upon by the more conservative parents!
In a country that still largely relies on mothers working around the short school hours and lunch breaks of their offspring, this is quite a novel concept. It remains to be seen if other parts of Switzerland will follow the example of Zürich and establish Tagesschulen.
Fixed and flexible days at Kindergarten and school
The graph below shows fixed (gebunden) and flexible (ungebundene) days from Kindergarten to upper primary. Times in dark blue show flexible times that parents can book and the fixed days at school lunch and the afternoon appear in light blue.
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