Setting School holiday dates

Every year the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science sets the dates of the three main school holidays. Primary and secondary schools must keep to these dates. The Ministry also gives advisory dates for the other holidays through the year. In secondary vocational education (MBO) and higher education, institutions are free to set their own holiday dates.

Compulsory holiday dates

The school year has three compulsory holiday periods:

  • at Christmas (2 weeks)
  • in May (1 week) and
  • in the summer (6 weeks).

The dates are laid down for the whole country by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Primary and secondary schools must keep to these dates. They may only change them in special cases, and only with the Ministry’s consent.

Advisory holiday dates

The Ministry also issues advisory dates for the spring and autumn breaks. Schools may change these without the Ministry’s consent, but the alternative dates must be approved by the school’s participation council (MR).

Extra days off

Besides the regular holidays, schools are allowed to schedule a number of extra days off. For example, the May holiday may be extended to 2 weeks. Many schools are also closed on the Friday after Ascension Day (a public holiday which always falls on a Thursday). All days off are listed in the school’s prospectus.

School holiday dates: as inclusive as possible

When setting school holiday dates, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science tries to balance everyone’s interests. So it always consults the tourist industry, parents’ associations and the primary and secondary education councils.

Holidays spread through the school year

In the interests of pupils, holidays are spread evenly through the school year, at intervals of between 7 and 8 weeks. For instance, if the summer holiday ends late in your region (at the end of August or beginning of September), the autumn break in that region will usually start later too.

Regional summer holiday dates

The summer holiday dates are set by region. These dates vary from one year to another. In the region with the earliest starting-date, pupils usually begin their holiday in week 28. In the region with the latest starting-date, pupils usually end their summer holiday in week 35.

Each region has early or late summer holidays two years running. Switching after one year could make the changeover difficult for pupils, because the school year would be either too long or too short. This system ensures that the school year is the same length everywhere in the country.

There is a 4-week overlap between the summer holidays across the three regions. So, even if children from the same family attend school in different regions, they can still take their holidays together.

Dates of holidays, primary school leavers attainment test and secondary school leaving examinations

When planning holiday dates, the government takes account of the dates of the primary school leavers attainment test and the secondary school leaving examinations. Primary school pupils take the attainment test between 15 April and 15 May. A 10-week period is reserved for the secondary school leaving examinations, which usually begin in week 19.

No compulsory holiday dates in MBO schools and higher education

There are no compulsory or advisory holiday dates for students in secondary vocational education (MBO) and higher education. MBO schools, institutions for higher professional education (hogescholen) and universities are free to set their own holiday dates.