Anyone can set up a new school

Anyone in the Netherlands may found a school based on their personal convictions or beliefs. This is known as freedom of education. The government not only funds public education but private education too, provided that the statutory requirements are met by the school.

A school set up by parents may be eligible for government funding, providing it meets the statutory requirements.

Public-authority and private schools

Private schools have a religious or ideological character and/or base their teaching on a specific educational ethos. These schools are set up by private individuals, often parents. To obtain government funding, the school must prove, among other things, that it will have a sufficient number of pupils. More information is available from the municipal authorities.

Public-authority schools are open to everyone and teaching is not based on a particular religion or belief. They are set up by the local authorities.

Greater scope for parents to found a school

The current State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) wants to make it possible for parents to establish a school on the basis of a sound and workable educational concept. This would offer greater scope for alternatives that go beyond the traditional lines of religion or ideology. He also proposes that parents have a greater say in changing the ethos or character of an existing school.

These new developments require changes in the law. In other words, these proposals still have to be approved by parliament.

Requirements for government funding

Minimum pupil numbers

New schools must have a minimum number of pupils in accordance with the establishment norm. For primary schools, the norm is determined by population density per square kilometre. This means that a small school in a sparsely populated area may qualify for funding whereas a school of the same size in a densely populated city may not.

Statutory nationwide norms apply for the establishment of new secondary schools.

Attainment targets

Schools are free to organise their teaching as they wish. However, the government lays down attainment targets indicating the knowledge and skills pupils are expected to have by the end of their school career. Subjects that have attainment targets are mandatory. In primary education there are attainment targets for Dutch, maths, history, geography, music and gym. There are also attainment targets for the lower years of secondary education.

Compulsory classroom hours

Pupils are legally entitled to a minimum number of good-quality classroom hours, which varies according to the type of education provided by the school.

School accountability

All schools that receive government funding are accountable to central government. They must account for their policy, including their educational ethos, teaching methods and complaints procedure. They are also accountable for the quality of their teaching and for their financial policy.

Privately funded education

Anyone may set up a privately funded school. Such schools do not receive government funding, but depend on contributions from parents or the private sector.

Privately funded primary and secondary schools must first prove to the Education Inspectorate that the education they provide meets certain quality criteria. Only then are they allowed to teach pupils of compulsory school age. The government then continues to monitor whether the education provided meets the statutory requirements.