In many German cities and towns, the allocation of available nursery school places is largely uncoordinated. This leads to great uncertainty for working parents and considerable administrative work on the part of nursery school staff. Due to an acute shortage of childcare places, parents have to compete for nursery school places, which is why it is necessary to develop a more efficient allocation procedure. This policy brief summarises different aspects which should be considered when implementing a decentralised allocation system for nursery school places and presents well-established solutions. The focus is thereby on an allocation procedure that will allow nursery schools to coordinate which provider can offer which family a place and when. In practice, uncoordinated allocation procedures can lead to some parents holding several offers at the same time. This means that these places are unavailable to other parents, which leads to long waiting times and uncertainty for working parents. On the other hand, even if parents are offered a nursery school place, they cannot be sure whether they still receive a better offer at a later point in time. Faced with these uncertainties, they accept early unattractive offers that might, for instance, force them into long commutes. In order to meet these challenges, a number of cities have already implemented measures that aim to coordinate the allocation of nursery school places. In the first stage of the admissions process, nurseries can only offer places to parents who listed this school as their first preference. This way, every child receives only one offer. In this first stage, between 50 and 70 per cent of the places are allocated (Herzog and Klein, 2017). Furthermore, parents know that they will not receive a better offer at a later time. This policy brief presents another, more comprehensive coordination procedure, in which all available childcare places are allocated in a single stage. This procedure has proven effective in practice in a number of similar contexts (Roth, 2017). Another argument in favour of this allocation procedure is that parents do not have to make strategic decisions during the application process and that, in contrast to the current allocation system, poorly informed parents are not at a disadvantage.
Fugger, Nicolas, Thilo Klein and Tobias Riehm (2017), Dezentrale Kitaplatzvergabe ohne Warteschlange: Ein Leitfaden, ZEW policy brief No. 17-04, Mannheim. Download