|Editor||A. Ross, Learning for Democratic Europe|
Pre-school traditions in Iceland can be traced back to 1924, when most Icelanders lived in rural areas. The roots of the pre-schools lie in Froebe's theories of pedagogy and the kindergarten, built upon the work of Rousseau and Pestalozzi, together with influences from the work of Dewey. The concept of play-school has been used since 1991 (Act 48/1991) for all kinds of pre-school, nursery school and early childhood programme. Iceland provides financial support through the tax system for families with young children. Both parents are entitled to 3 months' maternity leave, and they can then decide which of them will stay at home with the child for a further 3 months. An allowance covers the major part of the income lost during parental leave, and it is usual for one parent to be at home with the child for a full year, albeit with half the salary. A large part of the early childhood educational system is both financed and managed by the municipality, and the few schools that are privately owned are also partly financed by the municipality. Parents pay for pre-school on a sliding scale according to their income, paying somewhere between 20% to 50% of the cost of running the schools. Most children aged between 3 to 6 years old spend 6 hours or more in the pre-school. The biggest threats to the pre-school system have been low wages and the high proportion of unskilled people in the work force. Educated pre-school teachers (B.Ed. degree) make up about 40% of the pre-school work force; the others are untrained. The child-adult ratio is from 4:1 for the youngest children, rising to 10:1 for the oldest children (Regulation 225/1995). Persons who work with children with special needs are not excluded from this ratio (the National Curriculum requires they are taught inclusively).