Tallinn intends to introduce free meals in private preschools and to address school bullying

The Tallinn City Government is preparing the budget for 2020 and has envisaged, among other items, allocations to compensate meal costs of the local children attending private preschools and to step up support for school bullying prevention and intervention programs.

Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart commented that the free meals program for children in Tallinn municipal preschools was launched two years ago and the city now intends to extend this measure to the local children attending private preschools. “This enables us to support comprehensive preschool education and provide children with development opportunities based on their needs or individual characteristics, as well as with a suitable environment,” Kõlvart explained. “It will definitely also help reduce the burden on parents raising small children, as the monthly preschool fee alone makes up a significant portion of the parents’ total expenses.”

The precise rules for compensating the cost of meals for children at nursery school and preschool levels in private preschools will be prepared by the Tallinn Education Department in cooperation with private preschools. According to preliminary plans, the meal subsidy for children attending private preschools is to take effect from the new school year, i.e., 1 September. Based on the current number of children in private preschools and a projected slight increase, the city has set aside almost €100,000 for this purpose in the next year’s budget.

“We have already taken into account the possibility that the number of Tallinn children attending private preschools may increase somewhat, requiring allocation of additional subsidies to private preschools,” Kõlvart said.

The envisaged funding for the launch of bullying prevention and intervention programs in all municipal schools is €60,000.

According to the Mayor, school bullying has become a serious social problem that needs to be addressed at the roots and with determination. “Depending on age, every fifth child in Estonia – and even every fourth child in some schools and study stages – has suffered from bullying. We must go beyond mere monitoring of statistical figures. As a caring society, we must intervene and make every effort to prevent the next instance of bullying,” Kõlvart asserted. “Greater awareness of the problem and the situation, as well as prompt response can go a long way towards improving the school environment and providing all young people with an opportunity to enjoy their school days and focus on learning.”

Tallinn offers several prevention and intervention programs to reduce bullying. These include, for instance, the Good Behaviour Game (VEPA) for grades 1–3, the Bullying-free School (KiVa) for grades 1–6, and the Free of Bullying program managed by the Estonian Union for Child Welfare.

There are still 13 schools in Tallinn that have no bullying prevention or intervention programs, but the city’s goal is for all municipal schools to join one of such programs and for the schools with existing programs to expand them to higher study stages.