Language disadvantage and pre-school children aged 2,5 to 4

Over 15% of children in the Netherlands are at risk of developing language disadvantage. The government wants to tackle language disadvantage among young children and to this end is making extra funding available to the 37 largest municipalities.

Early childhood education

Municipal authorities provide early childhood education through special programmes at playgroups and childcare centres. These programmes are designed to teach pre-school children Dutch through play activities. Municipalities can choose the programme they prefer. They are responsible for identifying children at risk of incurring language disadvantage, using a system that weighs factors such as the parents’ level of education.

Quality of early childhood education

To safeguard the quality of early childhood education, there must be at least two qualified professionals to every group of children. The maximum group size is 16. The Municipal Health Services (GGD) and the Dutch Inspectorate of Education are responsible for monitoring the quality of early childhood education.

Extra funding for eliminating language disadvantage among preschool children

Most municipal authorities have facilities for tackling language disadvantage. In addition, the government is making extra funding available for eliminating language disadvantage among preschool children. The aim is to improve the quality and supply of early childhood education and to expand the provision of bridging classes and summer schools. The extra funding is made available to the 37 largest municipalities. Central government has made agreements with local authorities on how they spend the funding, which totalled €95 million per year in 2013.

The funding is additional to the annual budget of €261 million to cover early childhood education, bridging classes and summer schools. The money can be used by municipal authorities to boost the language skills of playgroup assistants, for example, or to recruit more staff with a higher professional education (HBO) qualification.

National trial programme for preschool children

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science wants to enable young children at risk of language disadvantage to get off to a good start at primary school. To this end, a trial programme was launched in the 2011/2012 school year to prepare children better for primary education.

The children taking part are assigned to a so-called 'starter group', where a primary school teams up with local playgroups or childcare centres to enrich the learning environment. The primary school is responsible for overseeing the continuity of learning and the child’s overall development from the start of early childhood education to the end of their primary school career.

Every starter group has a playgroup assistant and an HBO-trained professional. Children develop their language and communication skills in Dutch through 12½ hours of guided play per week. Some 30 schools are participating in this nationwide trial. Each starter group consists of a maximum of 16 children aged two to three. The results of the trial are expected in 2015.