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Elementary school

In Germany, all children go to school from the age of 6. First, they go to elementary school. After that they choose a secondary school. This can be different schools. For example, a Gymnasium, a Realschule or a Hauptschule. Depending on the school, you get a different certificate. School in Germany is free of charge. Parents only pay for materials, books and excursions or class trips.

Elementary school (grade 1 - 4) *

Gymnasium (grade 5 - 12/13)

Gesamtschule (grade 5 - 12/13)

Realschule (grade 5 - 10)

Hauptschule (grade 5 - 9/10)

Special schools for children with disabilities (grade 1 – 10)

*In Berlin and Brandenburg, elementary school ends in the 6th grade. Secondary school starts in the 7th grade.

In Germany school attendance is compulsory. All children must attend school for at least 12 years, or until they are 18 years old. Compulsory schooling starts from the age of 6. Parents are responsible for sending their child to school every day. This is a duty. If the duty is not met, there may be fines.

  • Please bring your child to school daily and on time (Monday -Friday).
  • Provide your child with all necessary materials (textbooks, notebooks and pencils).
  • Please provide your child with lunch and water for the break.
  • Your child should always do the homework.
  • If your child is sick, please inform the school.

Generally speaking, children start school at age 6. The 1st grade always starts in the summer (August or September). Different rules apply in the federal states. Whether a child is enrolled in school depends on his or her birthday. This is the cut-off date rule (Stichtagsregelung).


All children who turn 6 by September 30 start schooln this year.


All children who turn 6 by June 30 start school in this year.

You will usually receive a letter when your child turns to school age. It states that your child is to be enrolled in school. The letter will also tell you which school is responsible for your child.

Do you want your child to stay at the daycare center for another year? Then you must submit an application to the school that is responsible for your child (Antrag auf Rückstellung).

It is important to note that you cannot enroll your child at every elementary school. There is one responsible school (Einzugsschule) for each child. This is the school near you. Did you receive an enrollment letter? Your responsible school is also named there.

You must always register your child at the school responsible.

For special reasons, you can also change the school. You must still register your child at the responsible school in your area.

There are deadlines for the registration. The deadlines are written in the letter. The deadline is usually six months before school starts.

Documents for registration:

  • Your identity card
  • Birth certificate of the child
  • Personal papers of the child
  • Letter from the school office

Take your child with you to registration. So he/she can already get to know the school.

Yes, this is possible. However, you must justify the change of school. You have to register your child at the responsible school first. Then, you can submit an application for a change there.

Reasons for a change can be the following:

  • The siblings are attending another school
  • The other school has a certain program
  • The other school is closer to your workplace
  • - The other school facilitates childcare

Admission to another school is only possible if that school has free capacities.

Children with special needs (physical, mental or learning disability) can decide: Do they want to go to a regular school or a special school? In a special school, the needs of children with handicaps are especially addressed. The individual needs of a child are also an important factor for the decision. The school authority can help you find out which school will provide your child with the best possible support. They also explain what support your child may need and what support he or she can receive at school.

The „Einschulung“ is the first day of school and is a special event in Germany. The school is welcoming all  children with a small celebration. You will be informed about the date (Einschulungstag) when you enroll your child for school. For the first day of school, your child will need a school bag and materials. For example, pencils, books and notebooks. You will receive a list with the needed materials from your school. In Germany, it is also traditional for parents to give their children a so called „Schultüte“. This is a nice paper cone filled with sweets and small gifts.

All parents of a school class are invited to a so called parents' evening (Elternabend) at school. A parents' evening takes place regularly (3 times a yaer). The class teacher or the parents' representative organizes the parents' evening. The parents' evening is used to discuss important issues with all the other parents. For example, the curriculum or upcoming school trips. At the parents' evening, there is also an election of the parents' representatives. The parents' representatives represent the interests of the parents and are engaged in school activities.

At a parents' evening, all parents are sitting  together in a classroom. It is not a one-on-one meeting.

Do you want to talk urgently about your child's performance? Then make an appointment with the teacher. For this purpose, there is also the parent-teacher meeting (Elernsprechtag). Once a year you can talk to the teachers about your child's performance.

After elementary school, all children go to a secondary school. The school gives you a recommendation which is based on your child's performance. The recommendation tells you which school type is suitable for your child. You do not always have to follow the recommendation. Talk to the teachers. Talk to your child. What does your child want?

The school your child will attend is very important for the future. There are different types of schools. You can get different certificates depending on the school type. The schools are called Gymnasium, Gesamtschule, Realschule or Hauptschule. At Gymnasium and at Gesamtschule you can graduate with A-Level (Abitur). With the Abitur you can study at the university. At all schools you can also get the Realschulabschluss. This allows for vocational training.

At a later stage, it is also possible to catch up on a school-leaving certificate. 
You can find more information under Secondary schools.

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