+48 22 490 20 44 Help for foreigners living in Poland

Important information and practical advice

Do I have to send my child to school while in Poland?

Yes. Every child aged 7 to 18 residing in Poland is subject to compulsory education or the duty of studying. This means that it must go to school under the penalty of sanctions against their parents. This obligation also applies to children who do not have Polish citizenship, regardless of the legal status of their parents in Poland.

Compulsory education begins in the year in which the child reaches the age of 7. Then, it must start its education in the first year of primary school, even if it is not yet 7 on the start of the school year, September 1.

Failure to comply with this obligation may result in the implementation of an explanatory procedure against parents, imposing a fine on them or - in extreme cases - taking away their parental rights.

 

Do I have to pay for my child's education while staying in Poland, not being a Polish citizen?

No. Education is free for foreign children in public primary and secondary schools until they turn 18 or graduate from the school in which they started education before the age of 18 (e.g. in a general secondary school).

Public schools for adults, public second-cycle industry schools, public post-secondary schools, public art schools, public institutions and public colleges of social workers are free only for certain groups of foreigners, including:

- citizens of the other 27 Member States of the European Union, a member state of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - parties to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and the Swiss Confederation, as well as members of their families with the right of residence or the right of permanent residence

- foreigners with a permanent residence permit

- people of Polish origin

- people with the Pole's Card

- people who have been granted refugee status and their family members

- people with a tolerated stay permit

- people who have been granted permission to stay for humanitarian reasons and their family members

- persons granted temporary protection;

- people who have been granted supplementary protection and their family members,

- applicants for international protection and their families

- people who have a residence card with the annotation "access to the labour market", a Schengem visa or a national visa issued for the purpose of working in Poland

- foreigners with the so-called Blue Card

- foreigners who obtained temporary residence due to family reunification

- foreigners with long-term EU resident's residence permit

- scholarship holders receiving scholarships from the Minister of National Education, the school governing body or the school headmaster.

Stay in public kindergartens is paid for children who are not Polish citizens on the same terms as for Polish children - more information on kindergartens is available here.

 

What other costs should I take into account when enrolling my child in a school in Poland?

Despite the fact that education in most schools is free for children who are not Polish citizens, parents must take into account the need for bearing other costs related to the fact that the child attends a school. The most important of them are:

  • - costs of purchasing school textbooks - in Poland, children use textbooks owned by them, their parents have to pay for them. The list of compulsory textbooks is established by the school principal. The purchase is a one-off cost of about PLN 300– 600 per school year, depending on the grade and school. Sometimes it is possible to buy much cheaper used textbooks, but not always;
  • - costs of purchasing school supplies - such as notebooks, stationery and art supplies, rulers and other accessories, etc. a detailed list of required school supplies can be obtained at school from the subject teacher or the class teacher. It is an expense of several dozen PLN;
  • - costs of school clothes - in most schools, children must have appropriate soft footwear for walking around school (e.g. slippers or tennis shoes), left at school, and sports clothes (for physical education classes) specified in school regulations. Some schools also require school uniforms or vests with school emblems. It is an expense of several dozen PLN;
  • - fees for school lunches - in most schools it is possible to buy lunches in the school canteen. It is usually an expense in the range of PLN 200–300 per month. The child is also expected to bring a lunch to school, consisting of a small snack and something to drink (e.g. a sandwich and a small bottle of mineral water);
  • - insurance fee - each child at school must be insured against accidents. Schools buy entire packages, insuring all students of a given institution. Its cost per student is from PLN 50 to PLN 200 per year. It is worth remembering that the child is provided with insurance protection in this way not only during the stay at school, but 24 hours a day. 

Note: This is not a health insurance that entitles you to free health care. This insurance provides you with the right to a certain amount of compensation if your child has an accident inside or outside school.

  • - contributions for the parents’ council – in most schools, parents voluntarily pay self-determined contributions for various extra school expenses. The contributions are used to finance, for example, school competitions, nurse care, school holidays and celebrations. The fees are voluntary;
  • - fees for class expenses - in most schools, parents of students in each class agree on the amount that they allocate monthly for extra costs related to the functioning of the class, e.g. for the purchase of additional teaching aids, art supplies, sports equipment, etc. generally minor amounts. The fees are voluntary;
  • - fees for class trips/excursions - in Polish schools it is assumed that students go to the theater, cinema, museum with their teacher several times a year, and at least once a year they go on a trip or the so-called “green school” (a few-day stay outside the city, children have lessons in the open air there, e.g. sports, nature activities, visiting nearby monuments, etc.). Parents will pay for participation in such activities. Costs can be very different - from a few to several hundred PLN or even over a thousand PLN in the case of foreign trips. Participation in excursions it is not obligatory –if the child's parents do not have the means to cover the costs or simply do not want them to travel, the child may not be participating. In such a situation, they may stay in the school common room during the trip/excursion.

 

Can I apply for funding or exemption from part of the fees if I cannot afford all the expenses related to my child's education?

Depending on the status of a foreigner in Poland, they may or may not be entitled to social aid. In the case of people with such rights, Polish social aid provides for the possibility of co-financing the purchase of textbooks for children and free lunches in the school canteen.

In many schools, there is also some kind of aid fund for children from the poorest families - most often some part of the contribution to the parents' council is allocated for this purpose. So it is possible to apply to the parents' council or the so-called “class three” (representatives of parents of students of a given class) for exemption from part of the fees or reduction in their amount, subsidizing the child's participation in class trips, etc. Polish parents in a difficult financial situation also take advantage of such opportunities, so it should not be surprising.

It is also worth getting acquainted with the current offer of assistance programs for migrants run by Polish non-governmental organizations.

 

Will my child get help in learning Polish at school?

Yes. Each child who is not a Polish citizen has the right to additional free Polish language lessons organized at the school attended by them, for the first 12 months, for at least two lessons per week (in Poland, 45 minutes are considered to be a lesson). The weekly timetable and the number of classes are determined by the school principal in consultation with the governing body.

The classes can be individual or group depending on the situation in a given school.

The total number of extra  free Polish language classes and compensatory classes in other subjects may not exceed five lessons per week per student.

 

Will my child get help at school in learning other subjects that they did not study before or whose curriculum differed from that of the Polish school?

Yes. A foreign child is entitled to extra free compensatory classes organized at the school they attend, for the first 12 months, in the amount of one lesson a week for one subject (in Poland, 45 minutes are considered a lesson). The total number of extra  free Polish language classes and compensatory classes in other subjects may not exceed five lessons per week per student.

The classes can be individual or group depending on the situation in a given school. The teacher who conducts classes in a given subject in the class to which the child is enrolled decides whether such compensatory classes are necessary for a given child.

Schools can also organize preparatory departments for foreign children. If there is no such department in your child's school, check whether another school does not run one, because at the request of the parent and with the consent of the principal of the school and other schools, they can attend a preparatory department.

 

Is religion taught at schools in Poland? If so, is it mandatory?

In Poland, teaching religion can take place at school, but it is organized by the Church or a religious group of a given religion, and not by the educational authorities. Participation in religion lessons is not compulsory. However, if a child attends the lessons, the grade for religion is there on the school report.

In practice, all Polish schools organize Catholic religion lessons, as it is the most popular religion in Poland. Children participate in the lessons with parental consent. For children who do not participate in religion lessons, the school is obliged to organize other activities during this time - in practice, it is usually care in school common room.

Representatives of other religions can also organize lessons for children of their faith in schools. This is the case in areas where it is justified by the number of children of one religion. Most often, however, churches other than the Catholic organize the education of their religion outside the school, so that all children of a given faith attending different schools in a given area are gathered for catechesis.

Information on such out-of-school catecheses should be available from the school principal, if a given religious association has provided this information to the local educational authorities with a request for distribution in schools.

 

How is the school year organized in Poland?

The school year in Poland begins on September 1 and ends on the last Friday of June of the following year. Detailed dates are defined each year by the ordinance of the Minister of National Education, taking into account weekends, movable holidays and other events that may affect the time of study. September 1 (or another day indicated in a given year as the first day of school, if September 1 falls at the weekend) is the day of a solemn assembly and an organizational meeting of a class teacher with students (in younger classes, parents also participate). There are no classes on this day.

As a general rule, lessons are held in schools five days a week, Monday through Friday. At weekends (Saturday and Sunday) children are free. Lessons usually start at 8:00 am, although in some schools it may be a little later. If a lot of children live in the area of a given school, it happens that the school works in two shifts (some children start lessons at 8:00 am, and some at 12:30 am, for example).

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first semester ends in January or February. Children are then given semester grades in all subjects. The second semester ends in June and it is also the end of the school year. The grades issued then are the final grades in a given school year and are entered onto the school certificate - a document confirming that the child has completed education in the given grade and presenting the results achieved by them.

There are no lessons in schools on public holidays, i.e. public holidays - the list of them is presented below. School common rooms do not operate at that time.

Children also have Christmas holidays twice a year: the first time during Christmas and New Year, and the second time - during the Easter season.

Children have two weeks of winter holidays free from school, which - depending on the province - fall in January or February. In different voivodships, winter holidays are held every year on different dates, as determined by the ordinance of the Minister of National Education.

July and August, and sometimes the last days of June are the months of summer holidays, a break between one and another school year.

 

Which days are public holidays in Poland?

List of public holidays in Poland:

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

 

Are children cared for during school holidays?

School common rooms and kindergartens are closed on public holidays. On the days, parents themselves have to provide care for their children. The rules of care in kindergartens and schools during the winter and summer holidays differ:

Kindergardens

There are no Christmas and Easter breaks in kindergartens, nor winter breaks. Kindergartens operate normally, except for public holidays.

However, in July and August - due to summer holidays, the period of excursions and holidays - there are only the so-called kindergartens on duty. One kindergarten is on duty for about two weeks. This means that four different kindergartens must be used to ensure that your child is cared for for the full two months. The list of kindergartens on duty for a given area, along with contact details and dates of their duty, is posted in each kindergarten in spring. It must be remembered that individual early registration is required for kindergartens on duty, often several weeks in advance. In the kindergartens on duty there is the same payment system as in other kindergartens during normal periods of the year.

Schools

Schools are closed during the Christmas and Easter holidays - during this time we have to look after the children ourselves. On the other hand, during  winter and summer holidays, many schools and other institutions (e.g. community centres, after-school work centres) organize free activities for children as part of the "Winter in the city" and "Summer in the city" campaigns. The actions are financed by local governments and it depends on them how many institutions and for how many hours a day can look after a child. Classes for primary school children usually include late afternoon care with meals, for which parents have to pay day). For older youth, free activities are available in sports centres, e.g. free entry at certain times to swimming pools or ice rinks upon presentation of a school ID (see below).

You must enrol your child in good time for classes within the "Winters in the city" or "Summer in the city" campaigns, often several weeks in advance. Application forms are issued to people interested in schools, even if a given school does not organize such classes in a given year. At the school where the child attends, you can also receive information about which local schools and institutions organize classes and when.

 

What is a school ID?

A school ID is a document confirming that a child attends a school. It contains the child's data (name, surname, date of birth) and the school they attend (name, address). The school ID card is a mandatory document. It is made in the school where the child studies. It is valid from September 30 of the year it was issued until September 30 of the following year, when it should be re-stamped by the school to confirm that the child is still in education there.

The school ID card - provided it is with the child - entitles the child to take advantage of many student discounts, e.g. for public transport tickets, train tickets, tickets for some films to the cinema and tickets to many museums, zoos, etc. It is also the basic document of the child's identity during exams, competitions and other interschool events.

The ID card is inextricably linked with the school that issued it. If a child changes schools, they should get a new ID at the new school (after the parents provide a photo of the child).

 

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

The easiest way to obtain information about district schools is at the school itself, in the education department of the commune (city, district) office appropriate for the place of residence or in the relevant school board of education.

 

What is the school board of education?

The school board of education is an office that is part of the government administration and is subordinate to the voivode. Hence, each Polish voivodeship has its own school board of education. Each school board of education is headed by a provincial school superintendent. Most of all, school boards of education exercise substantive supervision over schools, i.e. they supervise the way the schools implement the curriculum and educational functions. They also control the organization of any rest for children and adolescents in the voivodship during winter and summer holidays.

Financial supervision over schools is exercised by local governments.

 

How will I have to prove that my child belongs to the given school district?

Each Polish citizen is registered in the population registration office at a specific address. This address is entered in their official documents. People who rent a flat may be registered temporarily or sometimes not at all – what is a residential registration?

The principal of a primary or lower secondary school receives a list of children registered in the area of a given school from the local population registration office. If foreigners are not registered at their place of residence by the owner of the apartment, they must - like Polish citizens in a similar situation - report to the principal of the district school with a request to add their child to the list of children residing in a given area and the school is obliged to accept them. The school principal may be satisfied with a written statement on this matter or ask for documents confirming this fact, e.g. a flat rental agreement.

Although the school principal is obliged to accept all children from the area, the sooner you inform them about the need for adding your child to the list of students covered by the area, the better.

 

Who can I contact if my child has an educational or emotional problem at school or is, in my opinion, discriminated against?

If a child has problems at school, first of all, parents should seek help at the school itself. The first person to talk to is the class teacher and / or the teacher of the subject with which the child may be having trouble. The teacher of the subject or the class teacher may try to solve the problem themselves or - depending on what it concerns - they may indicate a person or institution from whom parents should seek further help (e.g. A school psychologist, psychological and pedagogical counselling centre, etc.). Only if such a conversation does not bring results, parents should go to the school principal for an interview. It may be that the class teacher or the teacher of the subject will immediately indicate the principal as a person competent in a given matter.

If the parents are not satisfied with the way the school works or with the way their problem is solved, they may turn to the appropriate department of the local government institution to which the school is subject (e.g. education office, education and upbringing department, municipal educational institution service, etc.), or to the appropriate school board.

You can also go to the above institutions with questions and requests for information on the education of children in Polish schools.

If, after talking to a school board of education and / or the education office or department, you are still not satisfied, you can contact the department responsible for the matter at the Ministry of Education and Science.

In Poland, there is also the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and the Office of the Ombudsman, they can intervene in the event of suspicion that the rights of a child or parent have been violated. On the other hand, in matters related to discrimination, you can contact the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, operating within the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of the Council of Ministers - contact details of the institutions are available here.

Each school also has a school counsellor who can be contacted for help. There is also a network of Psychological and Pedagogical Counselling Centres in Poland (in each commune or district). There are professionals working there who can help a child in case of educational, developmental or emotional difficulties.

Counselling and legal assistance to migrants is also provided by non-governmental organizations, they can advise parents on how best solve a given problem.

 

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