Private schools in Germany are divided into so-called „Ersatzschulen“ (substitute schools) and „Ergänzungsschulen“ (supplementary schools).
Supplementary schools offer teaching content that public schools and substitute schools do not offer (e.g. language schools, alternative practitioner schools or cosmetic schools). State-recognised qualifications cannot be obtained at supplementary schools. This requires the participation of the pupils in the external state examinations.
Substitute schools have to correspond to the school types of the public school system. In principle, they offer the same teaching content as public schools and are entitled to work according to their own teaching and educational methods, which are equivalent to public schools. They may have a special pedagogical, religious or ideological character. Those who attend a substitute school fulfil the compulsory schooling requirement.
When founding a private school, both the pedagogical and the economic side have to be taken into consideration. Good planning and calculation of the lead time, gathering of information, timely contact with the competent public authority, and analysis of the legal and factual feasibility are also very important. Basically, everything must be solved when the school starts operating. For the approval procedures of „Ersatzschulen“, but also for the approval or recognition of „Ergänzungsschulen“ and other schools, the criteria must be fulfilled before the public authority reaches a decision – at the latest at the time when the school starts operations. The public authority must come to the conclusion that the planned school meets the legal requirements.
How to found a private school in Germany: 6-pillar model in the approval process
In the application procedure, the school foundation initiative must present the school board, which is usually a legal entity but can also be a natural person. Various documents must be submitted, such as the articles of association of the legal entity, the commercial register extract and the list of legal representatives. The school authorities also focus on the personal reliability of this persons.
With regard to their teaching objectives, „Ersatzschulen“ shall not fall short of the public schools. This is traditionally referred to as the right of freedom of equivalence, as opposed to the obligation of equivalence. At this point, the founding initiative must specify, among other things, the type of school, form of school and the school level, that means the pedagogical content of the planned school. Here, it should be considered whether the planned school would like to adopt the guidelines and curricula for the planned school type or course of education of the respective federal state in their entirety or whether it would like to deviate from the requirements of the respective federal state in an „equivalent manner“ from a pedagogical point of view. The private school must abide by the state’s educational objectives, but not by the curricula and timetables issued by the school administration. When a primary school is established, the special educational interest must be outlined.
Composition of Teaching staff
Pursuant to Article 7 (4) of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), the academic training of teaching staff shall not fall short of public schools. To this extent, the school authorities check whether the necessary personnel are available for the planned timetable at the planned school level. In the case of an „Ersatzschule“ it is a requirement that the academic background of the teachers is equivalent. Equivalent achievements must also be taken into account. Furthermore, it must be proven that the technical, pedagogical and teaching qualifications as well as the taking of examinations are equivalent to the qualifications and examinations of the teachers at public schools. According to Article 7 (4) sentence 3 of the Basic Law, the criterion for this equivalence is the public school system and the mandatory teacher education. A teaching permit needs to be applied for teachers. In this respect, there are differences between federal states. In addition, the economic and legal position of teachers must be secured in accordance with Article 7 (4) of the Basic Law.
The equivalence of the facilities refers to the interior design and equipment of the school (rooms, equipment, musical instruments, etc.) The school building must be suitable for the intended school activities. This means that the certificate of safety from the building authorities (building permit) and from the fire protection authorities must be available. There must be sufficient space for the planned size of the school. Usually the federal states provide a catalogue with a list of legal documents that must be available for the approval procedure. Also in this case the competent school authority must provide a forecast as to whether sufficient suitable space is available at the time of the full expansion of the school. A positive proof of equivalence is not required.
Economic Efficiency/ Economic Reliability
The applicant must also be economically able to maintain the school. Depending on the legal situation in the respective federal state where the school is located, initiatives wishing to establish a school must prove the economic viability in a suitable manner. In many cases this is done by a security deposit for a certain period of time, which can also last up to approx. 3 years or longer (waiting period). In some federal states the first class of pupils must have reached the final grade by the time the subsidies are paid. There is no waiting period in NRW; state subsidies are paid from the first day of operation in accordance with §§ 105, 106 ff SchulG NW.
Prohibition of Segregation /Topic: School Fees
According to Article 7 (4) sentence 3 of the Basic Law, the permission for an „Ersatzschule“ must be granted if, among other things, a segregation of the pupils according to the means of their parents is not allowed. This also follows from § 101 (1) SchulG NW, cf. also Art. 92 (2) No. 3 BayEUG and comparable regulations in other federal states. In terms of prohibition of segregation, however, a distinction must be made between school fees and the personal contributions. These benefits provided voluntarily are not subject to the prohibition of segregation. The levying of school fees is permitted to a certain extent in Bavaria and many other federal states.
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