Thousands of children have failed to secure a place at the country’s state kindergartens this year, as staff shortages mean the institutions are unable to take on more toddlers, it emerged yesterday. Aggravating the situation is the fact that hundreds more parents are opting for state rather than private kindergartens, as the household purse strings are drawn tighter due to the impact of the financial crisis. In Peristeri, western Athens, state kindergartens reported that the number of applications had increased by an average of 40 percent this year. A total of 1,300 applications were made in Peristeri, compared to 900 last year, meaning that 300 children failed to get a place. The City of Athens is having problems too, as applications exceeded 2,200 this year, up 10 percent from last year. The shortage of staff at city center kindergartens has been exacerbated by hundreds of teachers taking early retirement.