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Netherlands:Organisation of Primary Education

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Overview Netherlands

Contents

Netherlands:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Netherlands:Historical Development

Netherlands:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Netherlands:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Netherlands:Political and Economic Situation

Netherlands:Organisation and Governance

Netherlands:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Netherlands:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Netherlands:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Netherlands:Organisation of Private Education

Netherlands:National Qualifications Framework

Netherlands:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Netherlands:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Netherlands:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Netherlands:Funding in Education

Netherlands:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Netherlands:Higher Education Funding

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training Funding

Netherlands:Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Organisation of Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Assessment in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Netherlands:Primary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of Primary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in Primary Education

Netherlands:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Netherlands:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Netherlands:Organisation of Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Assessment in Vocational Secondary Education (MBO)

Netherlands:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Netherlands:Higher Education

Netherlands:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Netherlands:First Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Bachelor

Netherlands:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Netherlands:Second Cycle Programmes

Netherlands:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Netherlands:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Netherlands:Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Distribution of Responsibilities

Netherlands:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Netherlands:Main Providers

Netherlands:Main Types of Provision

Netherlands:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Netherlands:Teachers and Education Staff

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Management and Other Education Staff

Netherlands:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Netherlands:Management Staff for Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Netherlands:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Quality Assurance

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Netherlands:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Educational Support and Guidance

Netherlands:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Netherlands:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Netherlands:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Netherlands:Mobility and Internationalisation

Netherlands:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Higher Education

Netherlands:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Netherlands:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Netherlands:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Netherlands:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

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

Netherlands:European Perspective

Netherlands:Legislation

Netherlands:Institutions

Netherlands:Bibliography

Netherlands:Glossary

Geographical Accessibility

On average there is one primary school per 5.9 km2 in the Netherlands. The geographical spread is such that 59% of children live within 500 metres of a school, and 89% within one kilometre. More than half a million children (30% of all primary school pupils) live between 500 metres and one kilometre from school and only 11% live more than one kilometre away. Only 1% of all children have to travel more than 3 km to the nearest primary school. This is most often the case in rural parts of Flevoland and Gelderland.

Key statistics for primary school pupils

2008 2010 2012
Number op pupils (x 1000)
Primary education overall  1,663.8  1,647.0  1,608.9
Total BAO + SBAO + (V)SO  1,663.4  1,646.6  1,608.5
BAO + SBAO + SO 1,631.5  1,611.9  1,571.4
Mainstream primary education  1,553.0  1,534.9  1,497.9
Special primary education       44.1       42.8       39.9
Special education       34.4       34.2       33.6
Secondary special education       31.9       34.6       37.1
Proportion in percentages
Mainstream primary education   95.2   95.2 95.3
Special primary education     2.7     2.7 2.5
Special education     2.1     2.1 2.1

BAO: mainstream primary schools; SBAO: special schools for primary education; (V)SO: special schools (primary and secondary level); SO: special schools (primary level); VSO: special schools (secondary level)

See for more information: Key figures 2008-2012.

In the 2011/2012 school year there were 7,436 schools providing primary education in the Netherlands: 6,808 mainstream primary schools, 304 special schools for primary education and 324 special schools (primary and secondary level).

Parents can claim back their child’s travel costs if these costs are regarded as necessary and reasonable under the rules drawn up by the municipal authorities (this applies when there is no school within a ‘reasonable distance’, i.e. within a radius of 6 km, along a route considered safe and accessible to children). These rules may differ from one municipality to another.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

Admission requirements

Children cannot officially be admitted to primary school until their fourth birthday. Most schools allow children who have not yet turned four to attend school for a number of days or half-days in the 2-month period preceding their fourth birthday in order to help them get used to the school environment. Over 98% of children are introduced to school in this way.

Full-time schooling is compulsory from the first school day of the month following a child’s fifth birthday. Children may not remain at primary school beyond the end of the school year in which they reach the age of fourteen. The same applies at special primary schools.

Freedom of education is enshrined in article 23 of the Constitution, which also distinguishes between public and private schools.

Public-authority schools are open to all children. However, a municipality can define catchment areas, and assign pupils to a school within a particular area (though schools can apply for exemption). Private schools can set admission requirements according to the denominational or ideological character of the school. The school board decides whether a pupil will be admitted. They may refuse to do so if the school has reached a maximum number of pupils. Schools may also have a waiting list. If a public-authority school refuses to admit a pupil, the municipality ensures that the child in question is admitted to another public-authority school. If a private school refuses to admit a pupil, the school board must refer the child to another school falling under the same board. The board of a private school may refuse a pupil if parents/carers do not endorse the denominational or ideological character of the school.

Choice of school

In the Netherlands parents are free to send their children to the school of their choice. This may be a public-authority school or a private school. Parents have access to various sources of information on which to base their choice of school. Many schools hold information evenings for parents of potential pupils and/or others allow parents to sit in on lessons. Moreover, all schools are statutorily obliged to publish a prospectus for parents, setting out the school’s objectives and the results achieved. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science also publishes a national education guide containing information that is helpful when choosing schools (see ‘Basisonderwijs 2013-2014. Gids voor ouders, verzorgers en leerlingen’ only in Dutch available). Finally, the Education Inspectorate draws up and publishes reports on the quality of individual schools. These reports can be found in a public database on the Inspectorate’s website (see toezichtkaart; only in Dutch available)

Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils

 Primary schools, including special schools for primary education, are free to decide on their own internal organisation and the grouping of pupils. At most primary schools the pupils are grouped by age. Others have mixed-age groups or group children according to their level of development or ability. There are eight year groups in all and each child begins in year 1 and, in most cases, goes up a class each year until they reach the top class. Years 1 to 4 (4 to 8-year-olds) are known jointly as the juniors and years 5 to 8 (9 to 12-year-olds) as the seniors. Alternatively, the school may be divided into junior, middle and senior sections (years 1 to 3, 4 to 6 and 7 and 8 respectively).

Primary school teachers and teachers at special schools for primary education are qualified to teach all subjects across the entire age range. Schools may also have additional specialist teachers to teach specific subjects such as sport and movement, religious education, art, music, handicrafts, English or Frisian.

The government does not set any requirements regarding minimum or maximum numbers of pupils to a class, but there are rules on the size of the building in relation to the number of children. In mainstream primary education, the minimum floor space per child is 3.5 m2.

Organisation of the School Year

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science determines the dates of the school year and the length and dates of a number of holidays. In primary schools, the administrative school year runs from 1 October to 30 September of the following year. The starting date of 1 October is due to the fact that summer holidays – and some of the shorter holidays – are staggered by region (northern, central and southern), so that schools do not all open at the same time after the summer holiday.

The aim of staggering the school holidays across the three regions is to control peaks in holiday traffic. In primary education, the summer holidays last six weeks. The dates of the summer, Christmas and May holidays are prescribed by the Minister. Schools wishing to deviate from these dates – for exceptional reasons – must apply to the Minister for consent. The dates of the autumn and spring holidays are decided by the competent authority of the school (school board), although the Ministry does publish advisory dates. The school holidays for the 2013/2014 school year can be found here (in Dutch only).

Teaching hours
Schools are free, within the framework set by central government, to decide how much time is spent on the various subjects and areas of the curriculum. They also have some flexibility regarding the length of the school day so that timetables can reflect the specific needs and wishes of the school and the community. The Primary Education Act requires schools to provide at least 7,520 teaching hours over the eight years that children attend school.


Organisation of the school day and week

Primary schools are free to organise the school day as they wish. The government does lay down rules on the minimum number of teaching hours that schools must provide (see above), but they decide their own daily timetable. The Primary Education Act (WPO) states that educational activities must be spread evenly over the school day, unless a different distribution is necessary in order to accommodate activities aimed at preventing or reducing educational disadvantage.

It is up to the competent authority of the school (school board) to decide when the school day starts and ends and how long the lessons last. Schools are allowed to timetable in a maximum of seven 4-day weeks a year for years 3 to 8 (not counting weeks in which the school is closed for a day anyway, due to a public holiday). The school prospectus must inform parents when these are before the start of the school year. Most primary school pupils also have Wednesday afternoons off, but this is not required by law. Schools may, if they wish, schedule a free afternoon on another day of the week. The Education Inspectorate oversees school timetables and ensures that schools keep to the times stated in their prospectus. It must be evident from the school’s records that it has delivered the required number of teaching hours. The Inspectorate reports schools that fail to provide the required number of teaching hours to the Ministry, which may demand repayment of funding.

Lunchtime supervision
Under the WPO, school authorities are obliged to arrange for out-of-school care at parents’ request. This includes facilities for pupils who wish to stay at school during the lunch break and facilities for after-school care. The costs involved are borne by the parents of children who make use of these facilities.

Lunchtime supervision is often carried out by parents. The arrangements are made jointly by the school board, teachers and the parents’ committee. From 1 August 2011, at least half of all lunchtime supervisors at a school must have followed a training course.