Parents plan for kindergarten places

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Evidence increasingly suggests that parents are planning pregnancies in order to have children before September 1 to ensure that they receive legally guaranteed places in Norwegian kindergartens.

Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, one of many large, urban facilities reporting a summer baby boom. PHOTO: Aqwis / Wikipedia Commons

Children born before September 1 are legally guaranteed a place at a local kindergarten for the next year, whereas those born afterwards sometimes have to wait two years before finding a place. The country’s largest hospitals, particularly in Norway’s biggest towns and cities, have claimed that there has been a sharp increase in births in summer months since the law was introduced in 2009.

Population register figures showed that 9.1 percent of children were born in July in 2010, with the lowest percent for any month being 7 percent. The highest figures in 2000 were recorded for March and May (also around 9 percent). The head of the midwives’ union, Marit Heiberg, has noticed the trend, stating to newspaper Aftenposten that it used to be that “most were born around nine months after the summer holiday.” Heiberg fears that “the picture may be even more considerable in the large cities” where “the biggest pressure” is found for kindergarten places, leading parents in such areas to be more conscious of prior planning.

‘All-time summer highs’
Officials from a number of large, urban hospitals confirmed this pattern to Aftenposten, including several large hospitals in Oslo and Bergen that have had to send patients away to smaller hospitals in order to cope with demand. These include Bergen’s Haukeland University Hospital, which saw 550 births in August 2011 compared to 436 on average during August over the last seven years. One mother from Oslo, Elisabeth Breivik, told Aftenposten that they agreed that the problem was probably worse in the capital and other large cities. “Many mothers have busy jobs, and do not have the opportunity for more than one year’s maternity leave,” she said, adding that they might also be less likely to have “family in the vicinity, like many do in the country.”

The head of the women’s clinic at Trondheim’s St. Olav’s Hospital, Runa Heimstad, told Aftenposten that they had seen an “all-time high” for June this year with 367 births, with a similar pattern of high summer births being seen the year before when July 2010 witnessed 100 more births than the monthly average. Such a trend has been “absolutely clear” in recent times, Heimstad confirmed, stating that “we get the impression that parents try to plan when they will have children with a view to the kindergarten year.” This presents a “very unfortunate” problem for a number of maternity wards in Heimstad’s view, as many hospital staff wish to take summer holidays.

‘We don’t know what will happen’
Heimstad suggested that having two kindergarten admission points during the year would make it “easier for parents that have children in other months.”

Many of those whose children are born outside of the deadline do indeed face a difficult and worrying time as they try to find surplus kindergarten places after one year. 600 children in Oslo alone who were born beyond the September 1 deadline have applied for remaining places. Increasing demand has meant that private day-care providers are also stretched. One mother who spoke to Aftenposten, Gunnhild Berre Aasprang – whose son Niklas was born just 12 days after the deadline – has yet to be told if she will get a place despite the fact that she and her wife must return to work as teachers at the end of August. “The worst for us is that we don’t know anything about what is going to happen,” she said, adding that she and her wife “have so many unanswered questions.”

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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