The School System in Hamburg

The German school system varies from one federal state to another. Here you can find a summary of education policies in Hamburg today...

School is compulsory in Hamburg for all children from the age of 5-6 years and lasts for nine years, after which vocational education (at least part time) is compulsory for two more years or until 18 years old. This law is binding for every resident of Hamburg, no matter what the nationality or residence status.

Children who turn six before 1 July are able to start school at the start of the academic year in August. Younger children can be enrolled on request.

Information about all aspects of school life in Hamburg can be found on the School Information Centre (Schulinformationszentrum) website (in German).

  • School Information Centre
    : Hamburger Straße 125 a, 22083 Hamburg
    : 040 428 992 211
    : 040 428 632 728

    : Monday and Tuesday 09:00-17:00, Wednesday 09:00-13:00, Thursday 10:00-18:00, Friday 09:00-13:00

The School Information Centre also has specialist consultants who can advise parents on enrolling pupils without German language knowledge in international preparation classes.


Pre-school (Vorschule) is not obligatory in Hamburg; children may spend the year before primary school enrolment in kindergarten or at home. Pre-school classes are courses within the primary schools, where children prepare for school, learning playfully and getting used to school routines. Children can be registered at any pre-school between the end of November and the middle of January.

Primary Consultation Visit

About 18 months before the child is due to start primary school the parents and child are invited to a consultation visit at the relevant regional primary school (Grundschule). Teachers assess the state of development of the child and consult about potential assistance, for example with the development of speech. The child can get a first impression of the school and of everyday school life. This visit is obligatory.

Primary School

Children in Hamburg should be registered with one of the schools in the area of residence. These are listed in the invitation letter for the primary consultation visit from the school authorities, and online at the School Information Centre.

The registration period is the second half of January. Parents are able to enter several schools of preference on the registration form. The regional school group makes the final decision as to which school each child enters.

There are three types of primary school in Hamburg, as follows:

  • Half-day schools with classes from 08:00 to 13:00
  • Open full-time schools where afternoon activities are not compulsory
  • Full-time schools with lessons and activities for all children throughout the day, 08:00-16:00
  • For more information about all day primary schools in Hamburg: Click here (in German)

Primary school in Hamburg consists of four grades. In the final term the school issues a recommendation as to the appropriate next school. This recommendation is not binding for the parents, but has to be presented when registering with the secondary school.

Secondary Schools

District schools (Stadtteilschule)

In 2010 the former middle and comprehensive schools in Hamburg were merged into district schools. These offer all graduation levels from the basic secondary graduation (Hauptschulabschluss) at the end of year 9 to middle school graduation (Realschulabschlus) at the end of year 10. They also offer the general qualification for university entrance (Abitur) at the end of year 13.

Some of these district schools are already full-time schools, while others are in the process of transformation from half-day schools.

  • For more information on district schools in Hamburg: Click here (in German)

Academic high school (Gymnasium)

There are about 60 academic high schools (Gymnasium) in Hamburg, mostly organised as half-day schools with some lessons in the afternoon, and which enable pupils to reach the general qualification for university entrance (Abitur) at the end of year 12.

  • For more information on gymnasium schools in Hamburg: Click here (in German)

Trade schools and vocational business schools

Vocational training and education in Hamburg is very complex and there are a variety of different types of vocational training available including trade schools, vocational academic high schools (Berufliche Gymnasien), technical and vocational colleges and the dual education systems for apprentices.

To find out more about vocational training an appointment should be made at the Information Centre of the Hamburg Institute for Vocational Education (Informationszentrum des Hamburger Instituts für berufliche Bildung HIBB)

  • HIBB-Informationszentrum
    : Hamburger Straße 125a, 22083 Hamburg
    : 040 428 631 933

    : Monday and Tuesday 09:00-17:00, Wednesday 09:00-13:00, Thursday 10:00-18:00, Friday 09:00-13:00

Private schools

State approved private schools are allowed to administer exams and issue certificates in the same way as public schools. They also receive public funds.

  • For a list of private schools in Hamburg and in the North of Germany from the Association of Private Schools in Northern Germany: Click here (in German)