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Do I have to enroll my child in school when in Poland?

Yes. Every child between the ages of 7 and 18 living in Poland is subject to compulsory education or compulsory schooling, i.e. he must attend school under pain of penalty against the parents. This obligation also applies to children who do not possess Polish citizenship, regardless of the migration status of their parents in Poland. 

Compulsory education starts in the year in which the child turns 7 years old. In that year the child  must begin education in the first grade of primary school, even if on the first day of the school year - 1 September -  they have not yet turned 7.
Failure to fulfill this obligation may result in the parents being placed under investigation, the imposition of a fine or - in extreme cases – deprivation of their parental rights.
From school year 2014/2015, compulsory education will apply to children from the age of 6 years old.

As I am not a Polish citizen, do I have to pay for the education of my child during our stay in Poland?

No. Education is free of charge for foreign children in public elementary schools, gymnasiums and secondary schools until the child turns 18 or completes the school he was enrolled in before turning 18 (e.g. in comprehensive high school). Exceptions are listed below: 

  • post-secondary schools
  • post-secondary schools for adults
  • artistic schools
  • teacher training schools. 

Foreigners learning in a public post-secondary school, post-secondary school for adult education or teacher training school pay the equivalent of 1,500 euros for each year of study. In public arts and music schools the fee is the equivalent of 3,000 euros, and in ballet schools, circus art schools and post-secondary colleges for librarians and organizers of cultural activities it is 4,500 euros per year of study. For the first year of study all of the above fees are increased by 200 euro. For a period of study shorter than a school year, the fee shall be paid in proportion to the planned duration of the studies.

In justified cases, the school authorities may agree for the fee to be paid at a later date than the day before classes begin, or to payment in installments. In the case of a foreigner in financial difficulty the school authorities may - at the request of a parent or guardian of a minor foreigner or at the request an adult foreigner himself - exempt the student from all or part of the tuition fees.

In every case the fee is paid into a current account – the sub-account for the school authority in PLN, as calculated using the average exchange rate of EUR to PLN of the  Polish National Bank announced for the day of the bank transfer.

Attendance in public kindergartens for children who are not Polish citizens is payable on the same basis as for Polish children - more information about kindergartens is available here -> 


What other costs should I expect when enrolling a child in school in Poland?

Although education in most schools for children who are not Polish citizens is free of charge, parents must expect to incur other costs related to the fact that the child attends school. The most significant are: 

  • costs of school books - in Poland children own the textbooks that they use, for which their parents must pay. The list of mandatory textbooks is set by the school headmaster. Their purchase is a one-off cost of about 200-600 PLN for the school year, depending on form and school. Sometimes it is possible to buy much cheaper used textbooks, but this is not always possible.
  • costs of school supplies - such as notebooks, writing and art supplies, rulers and other geometric tools, etc. The full list of required school supplies can be received from the teacher / form master. The cost is around 50 PLN.
  • school uniform costs - in most schools, children must have appropriate soft shoes for when they are at school (such as slippers or sneakers), which are left at the school overnight, and special sports attire (for physical education), as set out in the school regulations. In some schools a school uniform or a vest with school emblem is also required. The cost is around 50 PLN.
  • charges for school lunches - most schools offer lunches served to children in the school cafeteria, usually at an expense of between 80 – 110 PLN per month. In addition, it is expected that a child will bring a breakfast to school consisting of a small snack and something to drink (e.g. a sandwich and a small bottle of mineral water).
  • fee for insurance - every child attending school must be insured against accidents. Schools buy package insurance, insuring all students of a given institution. The insurance covers  all students of the school, the cost of which generally does not exceed 50 PLN per year. Keep in mind that the child is guaranteed insurance coverage not only while in school, but 24 hours a day. 

Attention!: this is not the same as health insurance entitling the child to receive free health care. This insurance provides the right to receive a certain amount of compensation if the child has an accident at school or elsewhere. 

  • fees for the Parents’ Council - in most schools, parents voluntarily pay contributions they themselves agree upon for a variety of additional spending for children when at school. These contributions fund such things as school competition prizes, health care at school, school holidays and celebrations. These fees are voluntary.
  • fees for class expenses - in most schools, parents of students of each class agree between themselves a certain amount to be spent per month for additional costs related to the school life of a class, such as the purchase of additional teaching aids, arts supplies, sports equipment, etc. These are usually small amounts each month. These fees are voluntary.
  • fees for school trips - in Polish schools it is accepted that several times a year the students – along with their teacher/s - go to the theater, cinema, museum, and at least once a year they leave on a trip for so-called 'green school' (a few days spent outside the city, where children have lessons in the outdoors, such as sports activities, nature classes, and can explore attractions in the area, etc.). The costs of participation in these activities are borne by the parents. They can vary from several to several hundred PLN, or even over a thousand PLN in the event of trips abroad. Participation in school trips is not mandatory - if parents do not have the means to pay for their child’s participation, or just do not want him or her to go on a trip, the child does not have to sign up to participate in the trip. In such a situation during the school trip the child can spend the time in the school club-room. 

Can I apply for a grant or waiver of fees if I can not afford all the expenses of my child's education?

Depending on your status as a foreigner in Poland, your child may or may not be eligible for social assistance. For persons entitled to such assistance, the Polish social welfare system provides for financing of the purchase of school books for children and free lunches in the school cafeteria.

Many schools also administer some kind of aid fund for children from the poorest families - most often a part of the contribution to the Parents’ Council is spent for this purpose. Thus it is possible to apply to the school's Parents’ Council or a given form's Council (representation of parents of students in a given class) for an exemption or reduction of fees, funding for a child's participation in class trips, etc. Such benefits are also available to Polish parents in difficult circumstances, so it is nothing unusual to make such a request.

You should also familiarize yourself with the current offer of assistance programs for migrants made available by Polish NGOs.

Can my child receive in-school support for learning the Polish language?

Yes. Every child that is not a Polish citizen is entitled to additional free classes of instruction in the Polish language held in the school he attends for the first 12 months, not less than 2 lessons per week (in Poland a lesson hour is 45 minutes). The weekly schedule and  number of hours is set by the school headmaster in consultation with the entity organising the classes.

These classes may take the form of individual or group lessons, depending on the situation in the school.

The total amount of additional free lessons in  Polish and remedial courses in other subjects can not be greater than five hours per week per student.

Can my child receive in-school support in learning other subjects that he has not studied before, or for which the curriculum was different from the one in force in Polish schools?

Yes. Each child that is not a Polish citizen is entitled to additional free classes of the Polish language held in the school he or she attends for the first 12 months, in the amount not less than 2 lessons per week (in Poland a lesson hour is 45 minutes). Total size of additional free lessons of  the Polish language and remedial courses in other subjects can not be higher than five hours per week per student. 

These activities may take the form of individual or group lessons, depending on the situation in the school. The necessity of organizing such remedial courses for a given child is determined by the teacher teaching the relevant subject in the class which the child attends.

The weekly schedule is determined by the school headmaster in consultation with the entity organizing the classes.

Is religious education conducted in Polish schools? If so, is it mandatory?

In Poland, religious education can be conducted in school, but it is organized by a church or a religious community of a given faith, not by public education authorities. Participation in religious instruction is not mandatory. However, if your child participates in these lessons, the grade for the class is listed on the school certificate.

In practice, in all Polish schools lessons in the Catholic religion are available, as it is the most common religion in Poland. Children participate in these classes with parental consent. For children who do not participate in religion classes, the school is obliged to organize another pastime - in practice this is often time spent in the school club-room.
Representatives of other religions may also conduct lessons for pupils who follow them. This happens in areas where it is justified by the number of children of a given faith attending the school. Most often, however,  churches other than the Catholic church organize instruction in their faith outside the school, in order to gather all the children of a given faith in one class despite their attending different schools in the area.

Information about religion lessons organized outside the school should be available from the school headmaster, if a given religious community has provided this information to local education authorities with a request for its distribution in schools.

How is the school year in Poland organised?

The school year begins in Poland on 1 September and ends on the last Friday in June the following year. Specific dates are determined every year in a regulation of the Minister of Education, taking into account weekends, movable feasts and other events that may affect the calendar. September 1 (or another date specified in a given year as the first day of school, if September 1 falls on a weekend) is a day of a solemn welcome celebration and organizational meetings between the form master and his form students (in the younger classes the parents are also present). On this day there are no regular classes. 

Generally, classes are held in schools for five days a week, Monday through Friday. Weekends (Saturday and Sunday) are free for the children. Classes usually start at 8.00 am, although in some schools it may be a bit later. If a large number of children live in the catchment area of ​​a given school, it may happen that the school operates in two shifts (some children begin classes at 8:00, and some at, for example, 12.30). The shift division applies usually only to the first three years of primary school. Children starting lessons in the afternoon may be brought to school in the morning and spend the time before classes in the club-room. 

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first semester ends in January. The second term ends in June and this is also the end of the school year. Grades given out for the 2nd semester are also the final grades for the given year/form, and shall be entered on the school certificate - the document certifying that the child has completed education at a given form level and listing the grades obtained for the year in different subjects. 

Schools hold no classes on public holidays, or holiday days as decreed by law - the list is available below. Also, the school club-rooms are closed at those times.

In addition, children have a longer school break two times a year: the first break is usually during the Christmas and New Year season, while the second comes during the Easter season. Christmas break starts usually on 23 December and ends January 2, and the Easter break usually lasts from the Thursday before Easter to the following Tuesday (specific holiday dates are set out each year in a regulation of the Minister of Education).

Furthermore, children are out of school for two weeks of winter break, which - depending on the region – usually falls in January or February. In various provinces the winter holidays start every year at different times, as defined by a regulation of the Minister of Education. 

July and August, and sometimes the last days of June, make up the summer holiday period, a break between one school year and the next one.

Which days are recognized as public holidays in Poland?

Public holidays in Poland:

 

1 January - New Year
January 6 - Epiphany
Easter (the date is movable, but the holiday always falls on a Sunday in the second half of March or in April)
Easter Monday (second day of Easter holiday, just after Easter Sunday)
1 May - Labour Day
3 May - the first anniversary of the Polish Constitution, the so-called Constitution of May 3
Corpus Christi - the date is movable, but always falls on one of the Thursdays in June
August 15 - Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1 November - All Saints Day
11 November - Independence Day
25 December - Christmas Day
26 December – Boxing Day

On those dates all kindergartens and schools are closed, and parents themselves have to provide care for their children!

Is some form of care for children provided during school holidays?

School club-rooms and kindergartens are closed on all public holidays. On those days parents themselves have to provide care for their children. The rules governing care in kindergartens and schools during winter and summer break periods are different: 

Kindergartens

There are no breaks in the operation of kindergartens during Christmas and Easter, and winter breaks do not exist either. Kindergartens operate normally, except for the dates of recognised public holidays.

In July and August, on the other hand, taking into account summer holidays as a period of travel and vacationing, only the so-called on-duty kindergartens remain open. Each kindergarten is on duty for approximately two weeks, which means that in order to ensure child care for the whole two months, parents must use four different kindergartens. The list of kindergartens on duty for the area with contact details and dates of operation is made available in every kindergarten in the spring. You must remember that separate registration is required for the on-duty kindergartens, often several weeks in advance. The same payment system as in other kindergartens during the rest of the year applies in the on-duty kindergartens - more information about kindergartens is available here ->

 

Schools

Schools are closed during the holiday time for Christmas and Easter - at these times parents are required to organize care for their children themselves. However, during the winter and summer break many schools and other institutions (such as community centers, after-school care centers) hold free activities for children as part of the "Winter in the City" and "Summer in the City" initiatives. These are funded by local governments, and the number of establishments participating in an initiative and how many hours a day a child is provided with care depends on them. Activities for primary school children generally include care until late in the afternoon, with meals for which the parents must pay (for example, in school year 2011/2012 the cost of daily meals for a child enrolled in Warsaw was 7 PLN, or 35 PLN per week). For older students, activities are available free of charge at sports centers, such as free entry during certain hours to pools and skating rinks upon presentation of a student ID (see below).

Enrollment of a child in "Winter in the City" and "Summer in the City" activities must be done in advance, often several weeks prior. Enrollment cards are issued to those interested in schools, even if a particular school is not organizing such activities in a given year. The school that a given child attends also provides parents with information about which schools in the area are organizing such day-care activities and the specific dates and times.

What is a school ID card?

A school ID card is a document certifying that a child attends school. It contains the child’s personal data (name, surname, date of birth), and data of the school he attends (name, address). The school ID card is a mandatory document, and is issued the school in which a child learns. The card is valid from 30 September of the year in which it was issued to September 30 the next year, when it should be re-stamped by the school as confirmation that the child continues to attend the same school.

The school ID card - provided a child has it with him - entitles the child to benefit from many discounts for students, such as for public transport tickets, train tickets, tickets for some movies in the cinema and tickets to museums, zoos and other attractions. It is also the primary identity document for a child during examinations, competitions and other interschool events.

The card is inextricably linked with the school that has issued it. If a child changes school, the new school should provide the child with a new card (after the parents supply an appropriate photo of the child for that purpose).

How can I find out which school is the district school for my child?

Information on school districts and catchment areas is easiest to obtain at the school itself, at the education department of the Municipal Office competent for the child's place of residence, or at the schools superintendent office competent for a given area.

What is the schools superintendent office?

The schools superintendent office constitutes part of government administration, and is overseen by the Voivode (the provincial governor). Thus, every Polish voivodeship has its own superintendent. At the head of each schools superintendent office is the voivodeship schools superintendent. Superintendent offices mainly exercise supervision over schools, monitor the way they implement the curriculum and their educational functions. They also control the organisation of the break period for children and youth in the voivodeship during the winter and summer long holidays.

Financial oversight of schools is exercised by local governments.

How will I have to prove that my child belongs to the school catchment area?

Every Polish citizen is registered in the census office at a particular address. This address is entered into official documents. Persons renting apartments can have their residence in them registered as temporary, or - sometimes – not be registered at all - what is registration of a place of residence ? ->

The headmaster of a primary school or gymnasium receives a list of children registered in the school district from the local census office. If foreigners are not registered at the address of their residence by the landlord, they must – just like Polish citizens in similar situations - turn to the headmaster of the district school and ask for their child to be added to the list of children living in the area. The school headmaster is obliged to agree to such a request. The headmaster may be satisfied with a written statement of the parents on the matter, or may ask them submit documents proving this fact, e.g. a tenancy agreement.

Although the school headmaster is obliged to accept enrollment of all children from the catchment area, the sooner you notify the school of the need for your child to be added to the list of potential pupils in the catchment area, the better.

Who can I contact if my child has learning problems in school, or emotional or other issues or is - in my opinion - being discriminated against?

If your child has problems at school, you should first seek help at the school. The first person you should talk to is the form master and / or teacher of the subject which the child has difficulties with. The teacher or form master may try to solve the problem themselves, or - depending on the nature of the problem - can direct you to a person or institution where you should seek further help as a parent (e.g. school psychologist, psychological and educational counseling clinic, etc.). If such a conversation fails to produce results, then parents should turn to the school headmaster to ask for assistance. It may be that the form master or teacher will state that the school principal is the competent person in a given case.

If parents are not happy with how the school functions or how it has tried to resolve their problem, they may contact the relevant department of the local government authorities competent for a given school (e.g. office of education, department of education, municipal school service office, etc.) or the appropriate schools superintendent.


Also other questions and requests for information concerning the education of children in Polish schools can be directed to the above institutions.

If, after discussion with the schools superintendent office and / or an office or department of education, the parents are still not satisfied, they may turn to the relevant department of  the Ministry of Education competent for a given case.

Also, the Ombudsman for Children's Rights and the Ombudsman's Office that exist in Poland may intervene in case of suspicion that a violation of the rights of a child or parent has taken place. Cases of discrimination, however, should be addressed to the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, operating within the Chancellery of the Prime Minister - contact details of these institutions are available here ->

Counseling and legal services for migrants are also provided by non-governmental organizations that can advise parents on how best to resolve the issue.

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