Schools can themselves determine how exactly they measure pupils’ development. Methods may include tests or observations. Since the 2014/2015 school year it has been mandatory for schools to conduct a primary school leavers attainment test and use a pupil monitoring system (LVS).
Most primary schools describe each pupil's progress in various subject areas in a report compiled once each term. Some schools report on pupils’ progress using scores, while others use descriptive indicators.
The mandatory use of a pupil monitoring system (LVS) enables schools to properly follow and assess pupils’ development, and to tailor learning to individual needs. There is no statutory minimum number of tests.
Pupil monitoring system
Since the 2014/2015 school year it has been mandatory for primary schools to use a pupil monitoring system (LVS) to follow the development of pupils from year 3 upwards. Sometimes referred to as the pupil and education monitoring system (LOVS), it allows schools to monitor progress and results, in any case in Dutch language and arithmetic/maths.
Schools can decide themselves which of the various monitoring systems and assessment tools on the market they use. LVS assessment tools must however be approved by the expert group on assessment tools in primary education (Expertgroep toetsen PO), an independent committee that advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.
Mandatory primary school leavers attainment test
All year 8 pupils (i.e. pupils in their last year of primary education) must take a primary school leavers attainment test. This applies to pupils in mainstream schools, special education and special schools for primary education. Primary schools must administer the test between 15 April and 15 May.
The school leavers attainment test measures pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills in language and arithmetic in relation to the benchmark levels. This has two objectives:
- It indicates what type of secondary education would be most suitable for the individual pupil, supplementing the primary school’s advice. The primary school leavers attainment test is not an exam; pupils cannot pass or fail it.
- The primary school leavers attainment test gives insight into primary schools’ teaching outcomes. The Inspectorate of Education uses this information in its school assessments. This does not apply to special schools and special schools for primary education. Based on the results, schools can if necessary adapt their teaching.
Requirements for primary school leavers attainment tests
Language and arithmetic are mandatory components of all primary school leavers attainment tests (see also the section on benchmark levels for language and arithmetic).
Tests must meet certain standards for quality and reliability. This is safeguarded by the Primary Education Assessment Decree, which lays down requirements about what is tested and the way tests are administered. In addition to the Primary Education Assessment Decree, there is also a Primary School Leavers Attainment Test Manual that describes in detail the requirements that each primary school leavers attainment test must meet in terms of content and form.
The general section of the Primary School Leavers Attainment Test Manual specifies general quality standards for the compulsory subjects, which all primary school leavers attainment tests must meet, such as the statutory requirements set out in the Language and arithmetic benchmark framework (Referentiekader taal en rekenen). The general section also defines quality standards for optional subjects.
Pupils at the same school all take the same test. This means the school chooses one test provider, opting for either the government’s central primary school leavers attainment test or another test approved by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.
- Schools can choose from the following tests:
- the Central Primary School Leavers Attainment Test provided by the Examination Board (CvTE), an autonomous administrative authority;
- ROUTE 8;
- the IEP primary school leavers attainment test;
- the Dia primary school leavers attainment test;
- the AMN primary school leavers attainment test.
Exemptions from taking the primary school leavers attainment test
In exceptional cases a pupil can be exempted from taking the primary school leavers attainment test. This decision can only be made by the school board in consultation with the child’s parents. The following categories of pupils can be exempted from the test:
- pupils who are set to follow the labour market activities pathway or daily activity pathway in special secondary education;
- pupils whose IQ is lower than 75;
- children with severe learning difficulties;
- pupils with multiple disabilities and learning difficulties;
- pupils who have lived in the Netherlands for less than four years and who have insufficient command of Dutch.
Benchmark levels for language and arithmetic
Benchmark levels for language and number skills describe what pupils must know and be able to do. The benchmark levels apply to primary education, special education, secondary education and secondary vocational education (MBO).
All benchmark levels together form the benchmark framework for language and arithmetic, which underpins all teaching in Dutch language and arithmetic.
Benchmark levels help schools to improve their teaching in language and arithmetic. Advantages of benchmarks levels are:
- They describe clearly which skills pupils need to have attained at certain stages in their school career. This allows schools to better define their objectives and fine-tune teaching accordingly.
- Schools can better measure their pupils’ educational attainment and take remedial action where necessary.
- The education offered by different types of schools is better aligned.
- If a pupil transfers to another school, it is clear what level they are at and whether, for example, they require extra help.
Benchmark levels for Dutch language
The benchmark levels for language cover 4 main subjects (domains):
- Spoken language skills (holding a conversation, listening and speaking).
- Reading comprehension (including informative and literary texts).
- Writing skills (e.g. an essay or job application letter).
- Grammar (e.g. familiarity with terms such as vowel, noun or proverb), spelling and punctuation (i.e. using language correctly).
Benchmark levels for arithmetic
The benchmark levels for arithmetic cover 4 main subjects (domains):
- Ratios and proportions
- Measure and geometry
- Tables, charts and graphs.
Progression of pupils
Progression to the next year
Schools decide themselves whether a pupil will progress to the next year or class. There are no statutory rules for this.
In their school plan/school prospectus, each school sets out its own norms for promotion. If the pupil’s learning progression and development do not yet meet the required level, they may need to repeat a year.
In making this decision, the school will also look at the level of the child’s classmates. The school must inform the parents/carers about this decision. If they disagree with the decision, they can submit an objection via the school’s complaints procedure.
At the end of their eight years of primary schooling, pupils do not receive a certificate or diploma, but a report describing their level of attainment and educational potential, and advice on the type of secondary education most suited to them.
Before 1 March each year, primary schools must issue each pupil with an official recommendation on the type of secondary education most suited to them. The primary school leavers attainment test is then taken between 15 April and 15 May. Secondary schools mainly use the primary school’s advice in deciding whether to admit a pupil. The primary school leavers attainment test score supplements this advice, functioning as an independent, secondary indicator.
A school is obliged to reconsider its advice if a pupil’s score on the primary school leavers attainment test suggests they would be more suited to a more academically challenging type of secondary education than advised. This may result in the advice being adjusted (upwards), even if it is only by ‘half’ a level. For example, advice that a pupil would be suited to senior general secondary education (HAVO) could be changed to senior general secondary education/pre-university education (HAVO/VWO), if that is what the primary school leavers attainment test suggests a pupil is capable of. If this is the final advice, the pupil will be able to apply to schools offering that type of education.
If a pupil scores lower than expected on the primary school leavers attainment test, the school cannot change its advice to a less academically challenging type of secondary education. The school's advice will at this point automatically become definite.
If parents wish to object to this advice, they can contact the school. Schools are required to have a complaints procedure in place. This is often set out in the school prospectus.
An educational report is a statutory report comprising information about the pupil, which is sent to the pupil’s new school, whether that is because they are moving to another primary school or making the transition to secondary school.
All schools in primary education and special education (primary and secondary) must draw up an educational report when a pupil goes to another school. This is to ensure that pupils are placed in the right year or type of education or receive the special assistance they need following their transfer.
While the law does not set out in detail what should be in the report, there are some statutory requirements. If the educational report is being drawn up in the context of the transition from primary to secondary education, the report must include the primary school’s advice as to the type of secondary education most suited to the pupil.
The educational report usually includes:
- information on the pupil’s social and emotional development;
- information about their attitude to work;
- results and progress made;
- information about additional support the pupil has received;
- the pupil’s results in the primary school leavers attainment test.
The legal requirement for primary schools to draw up an educational report is laid down in section 42 of the Primary Education Act (WPO). For schools providing special education (primary and secondary) section 43 of the Primary Education Act (WEC) applies.