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Netherlands:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

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Netherlands:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:National Reforms in School Education

Netherlands:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Netherlands:National Reforms in Higher Education

Netherlands:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

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There are no reforms yet.


Better and safer day nurseries

News item, December 2016

Both the quality and safety of day nurseries have improved in the past five years. That is the main conclusion of an evaluation conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment to establish whether the recommendations issued by the Gunning Commission in its report on the childcare sector had been followed up.
According to the Education Inspectorate, practically all day nurseries have undergone annual inspections, and three-quarters are operating fully in compliance with the rules.

The evaluation concludes that the many measures taken in the past five to years to make day nurseries safer have been successful.

  • New childcare staff may only start work if they have a certificate of conduct. All staff are then screened regularly for criminal offences. Once the Register of Persons has been introduced, this will also apply to staff on temporary contracts.
  • The ‘two pairs of eyes’ principle has also been introduced at day nurseries. This means that another adult must always be able to see or hear what a childcare worker is doing. There is also a mandatory reporting code for suspected cases of violence or abuse.
  • Better training of childcare staff has raised the quality of day nurseries. An agreement (only available in Dutch) has now been signed with the childcare sector with the aim of taking further steps to improve the quality of both nurseries and playgroups. Extra quality requirements will be introduced, with a greater focus on children’s development. In future, playgroups will have to meet the same, stricter requirements as day nurseries.
  • For parents wanting to know whether a day nursery is up to standard, the existing Inspectorate report will soon be supplemented by a publicly accessible, independent quality assessment. This will be developed by the municipal health services (GGD) in collaboration with parents and representatives of the childcare sector.

Quality Childcare rises

News item, October 2016

Children deserve the best possible start of their live. Therefore, the quality of the childcare and the playgrounds will rise and one funding system will emerge for working parents for both childcare as playground work.

This is stated in the two bills that minister Asscher of Social Affairs and Employment has sent to the Lower House of Parliament: the bill innovation and quality childcare harmonisation childcare and playground work.

The main goal is that in the future everyone can end up for qualitative top quality childcare and playgrounds. The quality of the childcare and the playgrounds will rise. The same quality standards will apply for both. As a result, it doesn’t matter anymore where they will go to.

Goal of the extra quality standards is that there should be greater focus for the development of children. All employees in the childcare and at playgrounds should master the Dutch language. Minimal language requirements will emerge. The employees will also receive coaching from pedagogues.

The care facilities for baby’s will be improved. There will be more teachers/leaders per baby.

The bills can count on a broad support base. Therefore, administrative agreements have been made earlier this year with the branch organisation Kinderopvang, Sociaal Werk Nederland and BMK, parent organisation Boink, the FNV, the CNV and the VNG (all websites are only available in Dutch).
In April it is agreed with the municipalities that toddlers of non-working parents should go to childcare. In this way, it doesn’t matter whether parents work or not and all toddlers get the chance for the best possible start of their live.
The expectation is that both bills will come into force per January 1th 2018.

State Secretary wants better transition to group 3 for preschoolers

News item, September 2016

The number of children who remain preschoolers for one extra year is too high. This year, over 18.000 children restarted group 2 of primary education. Research has shown that children do not continue to benefit from a third year kindergarten. Therefore, state secretary Sander Dekker (education) called on primary schools to take action.

‘’On many schools, group 2 is very playful and group 3 is very scholarly. Therefore, parents and teachers think the transition for preschoolers is often too big’’, notes state secretary Dekker. But schools can organize their education more flexible so that children can connect easier in group 3. ‘’Schools often think that it’s not possible or allowed, while there is lots of room for it’’.

According to Dekker, pupils are disserved if they are chosen for an extra year in preschool. ‘’Preschoolers develop in leaps. For example they are sometimes in December ready to switch to group 3. Then it is a pity to let them restart a year and not offer them the challenge that they need, says Dekker. ‘’Group 3 should adjust itself to the child instead of the child to group 3’’.

In order to help schools to reduce an extra year of pre-schooling, a guidance is drawn up together with the PO-council (primary education).  That guidance will be awarded on the Willem Alexanderschool in Culemborg, where children can pass 2 times per year from group 2 to group 3.

In the guidance, the research on the effect of one extra year pre-schooling is included. In addition, the guidance also explains what schools can undertake to guide preschoolers as flexible as possible to group 3. Moreover, it mentions some good examples.

Dekker: ‘’You can see that a large number of schools are taking steps. Some schools choose to pass pupils not to the next class not only in the summer but also through the year. Others give a very playful lesson in group 3. In addition, there are combined groups 2/3. Wherever schools make it work, you can see the number of repeaters decline.

New research shows that pre-primary education helps children with deficiencies

News item June 2016

Young children from 2, 5 to 4 years old make up their language deficiency significantly when they participate in pre-primary education. This is the result of 3 studies which Mr. Dekker, undersecretary of education, has sent to the Lower House in June. This is the first time that researchers investigate Dutch children for a significant length of time to determine the effects of pre-primary education.

Children at risk of developing a (speech and language) deficiency appear to develop faster during pre-primary education than children without this risk. Pre-primary education works better putting more disadvantaged children in the same group, instead of placing a few disadvantaged children in a large group. A large group with more disadvantaged children succeeds better because it delivers good quality, supports children’s language development en offers a wider choice of literacy and numeracy activities. 

Commitment for disadvantaged children

The undersecretary insists simultaneously to commit pre-primary education only for those children who really need it.  Therefore, he calls up municipal authorities to mobilize arrears funds where it is intended: combating (educational) deficiencies.

Quality improvement

According to the researchers, the quality of pre-primary educational institutions with an educational program is higher than the quality of regular nursery or playgroup, but then the quality of pre-primary education should progress. In this regard, pedagogical employees should have a higher level in language- and reading skills from august 2017 onward.


State secretary Dekker will also reinforce the requirements for further training and instruction, just like the conditions for obtaining a certificate for professionals in pre-primary education. In addition, he will also define that employees should pass their vve-module (early childhood education and care) during their training sufficiently. 

Childcare allowance rises, quality further improved

News item May 2016

More attention for each child at the childcare facility for baby’s, higher childcare benefits and opportunities for coaching for all employees of childcare facilities. Those are the main measures that the government, on a proposal of the Dutch Minister Asscher of Social Affairs and Employment, has taken. The measures are agreed with childcare facilities, kindergartens, parents and the trade unions FNV and CNV (both sites only in Dutch available).

It is now required that at least one professional is available for 4 baby’s. Later on this will be one in three. In addition, baby’s will see less different faces; there will be two fixed faces for the group. Professionals will have more opportunities for schooling. These measures will cost 20 million euro per year.

From 2017 onwards, there will be yearly 200 million euro extra available for childcare facilities. The childcare benefit for parents will  increase with a total of 136 million euro. In this way, all parents will have a minimum of one third of the costs of the child benefit to compensate. In addition, the maximum price per hour for childcare facilities will rise. In most cases, parents will be better off in 2017, depending on their income, number of days of care and the hourly rate. The piece of fortune will be between some tens to over 900 euro. The total costs of these measures are180 million euro per year.

The quality of pre-school facilities will continue to be improved for all employees by giving them the right to coaching by hbo-schooled pedagogical staff (higher professional education/university of applied sciences). Also, each child will have a mentor and the development of children will be monitored structurally. Finally, the experienced administrative burden will be reduced and experience is gained from new forms of supervision.

These measures are taken in good cooperation with the branch association for childcare institutions, the interest group/association for parents (Boink only in Dutch available) and trade unions. At many childcare institutions, the quality is high. By devising and fixing the measures with the interested parties, the quality will continue to improve. In this way, same requirements will apply for kindergartens and childcare facilities. In this way, parents will be able to rely on good care for their children.


Improvement quality of child-minders in childcare

News item December 2015

The government wants to improve the quality of child-minder in early childhood education and care by ongoing professional development. In the autumn of 2016 the government will present an comprehensive plan in which this proposal is developed further. This is mentioned in the  government's response to the policy review ‘Early childhood education and care’ of Minister Asscher of Social Affairs and Employment.
Besides improving the quality of the  child-minders the governments also looks at the employment status of these child-minders. The government wants to explore whether care provided by family  members must be excluded from the Childcare act  and the childcare allowance. It is expected that an amount of € 75 million is involved structurally with the care provided by grandparents. These resources could be used then for enhancing the quality of professional child-minding.

By changes in regulation and supervision, since 2010, the quality of child-minders is guaranteed (at a minimum level). However, internationally the Netherlands has an average quality and guidance of child-minders. The Netherlands lags behind regarding the supervision of child-minders. That is why the government comes, in consultation with field parties, with additional measures to improve this.

The policy review ‘Early childhood education and care’  (only available in Dutch) mentions that the childcare allowance is quite efficient and quite effectively stimulates employment. People with a low-income make relatively less use of childcare. The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment considers it important that everyone can make use of childcare so that both partners(/parents) can work. Therefore, the Ministry will investigate what exactly is going on.

Double child allowance for parents of students in VMBO (Rhine-, inland- and coastal shipping)

News item December 2015

Parents of students in VMBO (pre-vocational secondary education) for the Rhine-, inland- and coastal shipping can now also qualify for the double child allowance.

An annex is attached to the regulation on ‘Double child allowance for educational reasons’, that  designates this specific kind of education. This means that parents of pupils who attend this kind of education and live further away than 25 kilometers, may also qualify for the double child allowance. The parents of course also have to fulfil the other conditions for obtaining the child allowance. The requirement on the distance does not count if a student is obligated to stay internally ( in the schools identified in the regulation). The regulation on double child allowance was already available for  relatively uncommon trainings and for secondary schools for top(-class) sportsman and top talents in the field of dance or music.

Cautious introduction of new childcare funding system

News item November 2015

The new system for childcare payments will not be introduced on 1 January 2018, but at a later date. The extra time is needed in order to ensure that the transition will cause minimum inconvenience for parents and day nurseries. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Education Executive Agency (DUO) and the Tax and Customs Administration are currently debating whether the new payment system should be phased in gradually during 2018 or in one go on 1 January 2019. This is the substance of a letter describing progress on the new childcare funding system sent by social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher to parliament today.

The new payment system is intended to help parents combine their jobs with caring for their children. However the idea is also to create scope for providing high-quality care at an affordable price. The payment system is based on two key principles: central government provides funding directly to day nurseries and parents pay the parental contribution according to their assessed income. The new system will replace childcare benefit and will be implemented by DUO.

The childcare payments bill is expected to be sent to the House of Representatives by mid-2016.

The starting date for harmonising the regulations on playgroups and day nurseries is still 1 January 2018. Further delay would not be in the interests of harmonisation. Many playgroups have already been restructured in anticipation of the new legislation and meet the childcare quality standards.

Safer childcare through registration of staff

News item November 2015

On 17 November the Senate approved amendments to the Childcare and Quality Standards for Playgroups Act (WKO), proposed by social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher. One of the amendments will tighten up the screening of childcare staff and play workers. The government will introduce a mandatory register for all childcare workers, enabling ongoing, full screening of staff in jobs requiring a Certificate of Conduct (VOG). This should enhance the safety of young children and babies in childcare.

At the same time, the rules governing the VOG will change, with a view to reducing the burden on the childcare sector. Under the new rules, an employee will no longer have to apply for a new certificate every time they change jobs and the employer will no longer have to include the VOG of every staff member in their administrative records.

Bilingual out-of-school care
Bilingual out-of-school care will also be allowed. This should ensure greater continuity between out-of-school care and primary education. A growing number of parents want their children to be exposed to a foreign language, particularly English, from an early age.

The amendments will enter into force on 1 May 2016.

Increase in childcare benefit for all parents

News item September 2015

As of 1 January 2016, working parents will receive a higher monthly childcare benefit for every child in childcare. For parents on low incomes, the government will pay up to 94% of childcare costs. This was announced in a letter to parliament by social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher in early September 2015.

This means, for example, that a full-time police officer and a nurse working three days a week with two children at day nursery for three full days a week will receive €100 more childcare benefit per month, compared to their benefit in 2015. If the children went to day nursery two days per week, the parents would receive €70 more benefit per month. The same family making use of out-of-school care only, for three days a week, would receive €50 more per month.

Having young children is the busiest time in parents’ lives. The government believes it is important for the parents of young children to have a healthy work-life balance. Good-quality, affordable childcare can help to achieve this.

The increase in childcare benefit will cost €290 million extra per year. The measure is included in the budget presented by the minister on Budget Day 2015. Mr Asscher has submitted the measure to the House of Representatives for approval so that it can enter into force in 2016.

Quality improvement in childcare, with special focus on baby care

News item July 2015

From 2017, stricter quality standards will be introduced for day nurseries and playgroups. Both types of organisation will be required to focus more on the development of the children in their care, and will also be assessed on this.

Under the new requirements, childcare staff and playworkers must take more account of children’s needs at different stages of their development. Individual progress will be monitored and discussed with the child’s parents and the school to which the child transfers at the age of four. This should prevent children lagging behind and having to face the difficult task of catching up later on. In addition, social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher wants staff to receive specific training in caring for babies and for there to be fewer staff changes in baby rooms. The minister outlined the new childcare plans in a letter to the House of Representatives in July 2015.

The minister sets great store by good communication between childcare staff and parents. That is why, in the future, the statutory staff ratio must be complied with throughout the day, except during staff breaks. Currently, a higher children-to-staff ratio is allowed at the beginning and end of the day. However, this can be an obstacle to good handover between parents and childcare staff.

The minister has emphasised that he wants to move away from ‘ticking boxes’ and focus more strongly on quality. ‘Every child deserves a good start, and high-quality childcare helps to achieve this,’ he said. ‘That’s why the government is investing an extra €250 million in childcare. The quality of childcare will be improved at the same time.’

Mr Asscher is yet to finalise the details of his plans. He first needs to discuss them with BOINK, the organisation representing the interests of parents using childcare and the trade association for childcare organisations.

Better nationwide provision for toddlers with language delay

News item June 2015

The education system is getting better at identifying toddlers at risk of language delay. The quality of early childhood education (ECE) programmes, which help tackle language delay, are steadily improving but there are still major differences between municipalities in regard to their quality and accessibility. This is due largely to the amount of available funding, which varies considerably from one municipality to another. The State Secretary for Education, Sander Dekker, is leading parliamentary efforts to tackle the issue. Changes will be introduced in 2017 at the earliest.

Mr Dekker said, ‘Preschool can make a great difference in a child’s life. In my opinion, a child’s opportunities should not depend on where they live, but unfortunately that’s still the case. For instance, the current budget for early childhood education in the city of Leiden is twice as high as in the nearby town of Katwijk, although the number of children who are eligible for ECE is the same. Together with the House of Representatives, I want to make it possible for every child at risk of language delay to get the help they need, so they can make a good start at primary school.’

Uneven distribution of funding
Large municipalities get more funding for ECE than smaller ones, in both absolute and relative terms. The budget allocation formula is based on the school weighting system and has not been updated for some time. Consequently, for every child at risk of developmental delay, a large municipality often gets between two and three times as much as a smaller municipality. This has a negative effect on the quality and availability of ECE in small municipalities.

Quality boost
Research shows that only good-quality ECE programmes are effective. In recent years, the government has invested substantially in the quality of playworkers and day nursery staff, starting in large municipalities, and this is already starting to have effect. Municipalities are also getting better at early identification of children at risk of language delay and offering them a place in an ECE programme.

Mr Dekker’s proposal to improve the quality of ECE throughout the Netherlands builds on the evaluation of the Opportunities for Development through Quality and Education Act (OKE). The Act, which aims to boost the language development of young children and improve the quality of playgroups, entered into force in 2010.

Advance information on cost of childcare

News item June 2015

As of January 2018 it will be clear to parents straightaway how much they have to pay for childcare. Currently, they do not know exactly how much it costs them until they receive their final childcare benefit statement. The Education Executive Agency (DUO) will determine the parental contribution based on parents’ annual salary statement. This will rule out the need for retrospective calculations. The Cabinet has adopted a proposal to this end by social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher. The new system is designed to prevent childcare benefit fraud and errors in applications by parents.

Under the new system, the monthly childcare benefit prepayments to parents will be abolished. The government will pay the amount of childcare benefit to which parents are entitled directly to the childcare provider. Instead of paying the childcare provider’s entire bill up front, parents will only have to pay their own contribution. The new arrangement will be implemented by DUO.

DUO is based in the northern city of Groningen and its new responsibilities for administering the government’s contribution to childcare will boost local employment. Over the next few months, the proposal will be elaborated in greater detail and legislation will be drafted. Parents and childcare providers will be involved in this process.

Advantages for parents

  • From January 2018, parents can be certain they are paying the correct amount of own contribution each month. DUO will develop an electronic payment system, so that both the government’s contribution and parents’ own contribution are paid into a dedicated account. The childcare provider’s bill will be paid from the balance in the account.
  • Parents will no longer have to submit details about the hours of childcare used. The childcare provider will give this information directly to DUO.
  • The new system will be more flexible. This has certain advantages, particularly for self-employed parents and employees on flexible contracts. The government’s contribution is automatically adjusted when more or fewer hours of childcare are used.

Effects on income
DUO will base the government’s contribution towards childcare on parents’ income from two years previously. There will be a safety net for parents whose income has dropped sharply since the reference year and who would otherwise have to pay a much higher own contribution. If the parents’ own contribution increases by more than 2% relative to their current income, they will receive a higher government contribution. This will limit the measure’s effects on disposable income.

Finally, the government has decided to index-link the maximum hourly rates for childcare benefit for 2016.

Senate agrees to give parents more say in childcare

News item April 2015

The government is to strengthen the position of parents using day nurseries, childminding agencies and playgroups. As of 1 January 2016 all childcare organisations and playgroups must be affiliated with the Childcare Disputes Committee. Parents and parents’ committees will be able to apply to this body if they have been unable to resolve a disagreement with the childcare organisation through an internal complaints procedure. The Committee’s ruling is binding. At present the Childcare Disputes Committee only considers certain types of complaint, and only concerning organisations that are members of the trade association for childcare organisations.

To strengthen the role of parents in childcare, their right of opinion will be expanded. In the future, parents’ committees will not only have a say on the cost of childcare but also on the quality of care from a child development perspective. They will discuss this at least once a year with their childcare organisation.

The bill, which was submitted by Lodewijk Asscher, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, was approved by the Senate in April 2015. The present right of complaint will remain in force until the amended legislation comes into force.



Quality of early childhood education in G37 is improved

News item November, 2014

The quality of early childhood education (early childhood education) in the 37 largest municipalities (G37) has been improved. The language level of pedagogical staff is increased. Besides also the number of HBO graduates is increased, there are more early childhood and education places and more summer schools are raised. The state secretary of education mentions this in the parliament on the basis of reports from the Education Inspectorate and progress meetings with the 37 largest municipalities.

It is important to prepare children optimally for school.  It is important that the quality of early childhood education and care will be further improved. For example by having more HBO graduates in the institutions for early childhood education. It is also important to have enough places for early childhood education. Besides it is important that the pedagogical staff has a higher language level (3F, which refers to HAVO or MBO level 4). The focus for future early childhood education and care will be, inter alia, on these points.

Fewer differences between playgroups and day nurseries

News item June 2014

From 1 January 2015 staff at day nurseries and playgroups will fall under the same rules, for instance on the children-to-staff ratio for groups of two- and three-year-olds and the ‘two pairs of eyes’ principle. This means that there must always be two members of staff who can see or hear what is going on in a room of children. Currently, this rule only applies to day nurseries.

Social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher and education state secretary Sander Dekker are earmarking €3 million to improve childcare provision, for instance by providing better training for staff. This was announced in their letter to parliament of 17 June 2014.

From 1 January 2015 there will be extra training for staff at day nurseries and playgroups. They will learn to be more alert to signs of developmental delay, particularly language delay.


More say for parents and index-linked hourly rates in childcare

News item May 2014

Parents using childcare will get more say about the care their children receive. As of 1 July 2015 all childcare organisations will have to be affiliated with the Childcare Disputes Committee. Parents may lodge a complaint with the committee if they have been unable to resolve an issue with their childcare organisation. The committee’s rulings are binding. In addition, in 2015 the government will raise the maximum hourly rate on which childcare benefit is based to reflect wage and price rises. The Cabinet agreed to these proposals by social affairs and employment minister Lodewijk Asscher.



Same quality requirements for childcare and playgroups

At the end of 2013 the government decided to bring the financing of playgroups within the scope of the Childcare Act. Accordingly, from 1 January 2016, playgroups and childcare providers will have to meet the same quality requirements. This should remove any existing differences in quality between the two types of facility.

From 1 January 2016 working parents will be eligible for childcare benefit not only if they use childcare facilities but also if they send their child to a playgroup.

Statutory quality requirements for childcare and playgroups (2012/2013)

The quality requirements for childcare and playgroups became enshrined in law on 6 June 2012. They specify, for instance, the maximum number of children in a group. The quality requirements are based on the joint agreements made by the organisation representing the interests of parents (BOinK) and the trade association for childcare organisations.

Childcare centres and playgroups must meet the statutory requirements regarding:

  • the safety and health of the children;
  • the training and expertise of the staff;
  • educational policy (view of education and child development);
  • involvement and influence of parents;
  • the language of communication (in principle, Dutch);
  • the complaints procedure.

The standards for playgroup facilities are determined by the municipalities, which may base them on the model spatial and facility requirements ordinance for playgroups issued by the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (in Dutch only).

The government wants to improve the safety and quality of childcare through the following measures.

  • Continuous screening

Since 1 March 2013 the Integrity and Screening Agency has been running daily criminal records checks to verify whether childcare workers have been recently convicted of an offence. This is known as continuous screening.

  • New Certificate of Conduct

As from 1 July 2013 childcare workers are legally obliged to reapply for a Certificate of Conduct. This is to ensure that a childcare worker who is convicted of an offence after obtaining a Certificate of Conduct does not remain undetected.

  • Statutory obligation to report abuse

As from 1 July 2013 childcare workers have had a statutory duty to report any indications of ill-treatment or abuse of children to their employer. If an employer has reason to suspect that an employee is guilty of sexual or other violence towards a child, they must immediately report it to the Education Inspectorate’s confidential inspector.

  • Greater responsibility for childminder agencies

Childminder agencies are also responsible for the quality of the childcare provided by the childminders they employ. They can also be held accountable for that care, as from 1 July 2013.

  • Ban on fees for amendments to the National Register for Childcare and Playgroups (LRKP)

As from 1 July 2013 municipalities may no longer charge fees for amendments (including deregistration) to the National Register for Childcare and Playgroups. The reason is that having to pay fees could deter childcare providers from passing on amendments and thus compromise the reliability of the register. In the event of a change of address, a childcare provider, childminder or playgroup is required to reregister in the LRKP. In this case, a fee may be charged by the municipality.

Source of all of the above articles: Site of the Government (site with these articles is only available in Dutch).