Early Childhood Education and Care
Early childhood education (ECE) is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, while childcare falls under the purview of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Due to this division of responsibilities different funding streams come together when early childhood education programmes are offered at day care centres. Moreover, there are two quality frameworks that apply and supervision is provided by both the Inspectorate of Education for ECE and the Public Health Services (GGD) for childcare.
Early childhood education in the Netherlands is a measure for combating language disadvantage in children. For children between the ages of two and a half and four, programmes are offered at pre-school day care centres (voorschoolse educatie). Children over four, can participate in programmes in groups 1 and group 2 of primary school (vroegschoolse educatie). These programme offer additional support to young children and are aimed to ensure they start primary school education without facing any disadvantages.Municipalities are responsible for early childhood education for preschoolers, while primary schools are responsible for providing early childhood education to children aged four to six.
Municipalities and schools receive funding from the Dutch government to combat educational disparities. This funding is then used to finance early childhood education. Up to and including the 2018/2019 school year, this was done according to the 'weighting scheme’ (gewichtenregeling). In this scheme the education level of the parents or guardians determined whether the school received extra money for a child. A different method has been used as of 1 August 2019. This method prevents mistakes made by schools and less administration is required. The new regulation takes into account more characteristics of the child's environment, including:
- the education level of both parents;
- the country of origin of the mother;
- the length of stay of the mother in the Netherlands;
- the average educational level of all mothers at the school;
- whether the parents are receiving support for debt repayments.
On the basis of these indicators the Central Bureau of Statistics annually calculates the risk of a toddler and a pupil falling behind in education. This is called the ‘education score’. Based on these anonymous scores, an estimated ‘deprivation score’ for a municipality is calculated and the respective budget is determined. Schools and municipalities receive a higher amount for children with a higher risk of educational disadvantages.
The costs of childcare are paid by parents, employers and the national government (Childcare Act). Parents provide a (income-related) personal contribution, while employers pay their share through social insurance contributions. The government provides a childcare allowance per child (kinderopvangtoeslag).
How much childcare allowance parents receive depends on:
- the hourly rate of the childcare provider;
- the proportion reimbursed by the government (maximum hourly rate);
- the income of the parents.
Parents can receive childcare allowance for a maximum of 230 hours per month, per child. Parents are always required to pay a contribution. The costs that remain after deduction of the childcare allowance is the amount of this contribution. In some cases, the municipality pays (part of) the costs of childcare for parents.
New funding system in development
In 2022, the Dutch government strove to simplify the childcare as well as making it more affordable for parents. In the new system the government allowance (96%) is paid directly to childcare organisations instead of the parents. The remaining 4% and any additional costs are paid by parents as a personal contribution. The new system for financing childcare is still being developed and will be ready in 2025 at the earliest.
Funding Primary Education and Special Education
The funding of primary education (including special schools for primary education) is governed by the Primary Education Act.
Primary schools receive one budget for providing good education via a lump sum funding model.The lump sum is intended to finance staff, housing and material costs for teaching. Within the legal frameworks of the Netherlands, school boards can spend the available resources as they see fit for the realization of their educational goals.
In January 2023, the funding of primary education has been simplified. Schools now receive one sum per pupil and per school. How much funding a school receives depends on the number of students attending that school on February 1st of the previous year. The budget fpr primary education is approximately EUR 14 billion.
The Inspectorate of Edcuation monitors how schools spend their financing.The financial management of a school board is examined in more detail by the Inspectorate during the four-yearly inspection.The financial supervision focuses on the following questions:
- Is the financial position sufficient to continue to provide good education? (continuity of education) - Do institutions receive the educational resources to which they are entitled and do they spend those resources on the right things? (the lawfulness of the acquisition and expenditure of educational resources)
- Is the expenditure sufficiently targeted and cost-conscious? (the efficiency of the expenditure).
On 1 August 2012 a performance budget was introduced in primary and secondary education and secondary vocational education. In addition to the block grant, schools receive funding to spend on specific activities such as teaching of language and numeracy skills, science and technology, supporting the development of gifted students and the professional development of staff. The aim of the performance budget is to boost the performance of pupils, teachers and school leaders.
Other forms of funding Besides these government grants, primary and secondary schools also receive other forms of funding. One is the parental contribution, which parents/carers make voluntarily to the child’s school. The school board sets the level of the contribution and decides how it is to be spent, subject to the approval of the school's participation council (MR). Schools usually spend the parental contributions on extracurricular activities such as excursions and cultural activities.
In addition, schools may receive money, goods or services from sponsors, parents and businesses. Shops and businesses may sponsor schools with materials such as books or leaflets in return for some kind of service, such as a mention in the school newspaper or school prospectus. If nothing is expected in return, the arrangement counts as a donation, not as a form of sponsorship.
The code of conduct for sponsorship is set out in the voluntary agreement on sponsorship in primary and secondary education (only in Dutch available).
Funding special education
Special education caters for children with a disability, chronic illness or disorder. The government wants pupils in special education to be able to participate in mainstream education as far as possible, or to progress to mainstream education or further training later on in their school careers. The funding of special education at both primary and secondary level is governed by the Expertise Centres Act (WEC).
As of 1 August 2014 schools must provide appropriate education for pupils who need extra support. Under this new system, the government will no longer allocate personal budgets to special needs pupils. Instead, the resources will be pooled and channelled to regional consortia of schools, which will then decide on the most effective way to deploy the resources in the classroom.
Funding Secondary Education
The funding of secondary schools is governed by the Secondary Education Act (WVO). Schools receive a block grant consisting of a staff component and a component for running costs. Block grant funding gives the competent authority greater freedom in deciding how resources are spent and also in negotiating the pay and conditions of staff. (Negotiations on pay and conditions in secondary education are partly decentralised.)
The staff component comprises a fixed part – the total of the average staff costs (GPL) calculated based on standard rates for establishment posts in three staff categories: management (DIR), teaching staff (OP) and support staff (OOP) – and a variable part based on the number of pupils. The fixed part varies according to the composition of the school and the type(s) of education it provides.
The component for running costs (e.g. cleaning, teaching materials, electricity, heating) is calculated on the basis of the amounts specified in the Indexation and Funding of Running Costs (Secondary Education) Order. Schools receive a fixed amount per category of pupil together with a fixed amount per school.
Since 1997 responsibility for the funding of accommodation has been delegated to the municipal authorities and payments are now made from the Municipalities Fund.
School boards responsible for more than one school are free to make their own decisions about how funding is allocated and deployed among the various schools. In secondary education, annual funding from 1 January in any given year is based on the number of pupils registered at the school on 1 October in the previous year.
Secondary schools have also been eligible for a performance budget since the beginning of 2012.
Funding Secondary Vocational Education
Institutions for both vocational and adult education receive a fixed grant from the government to cover their personnel and running costs. Central government also funds 16 centres of expertise on vocational education, training and the labour market (KBB), which act as links between education and training and the world of work. They monitor the latest developments in the labour market and feed this information back to the institutions.
The board of each vocational education institution is free to decide how funds are spent. For instance, schools may wish to tailor their policy and teaching more effectively to the needs of the school population. The funding of secondary vocational education institutions is governed by the Adult and Vocational Education Act Implementation Decree.
Schools that provide secondary vocational education have also been eligible for a performance budget since the beginning of 2012.
Financial Autonomy and Control
Autonomy Early Childhood Education
Municipalities receive funding for early childhood education from the Municipalities Fund and are responsible for choosing the most suitable programme for delivering it in their area. In addition, municipalities award grants to playgroups in order to boost the educational level of their staff.
Autonomy Primary Education and Special Education
Primary schools have financial autonomy and are free to decide how they spend the government funding they receive, within the provisions of the law:
- Article 148 of the Primary Education Act describes what funding for personnel and running costs may be spent on.
- School boards must also comply with the rules on investing and lending by education and research institutions, laid down in 2010. Under these rules, they may only make low-risk investments.
Special schools (including special secondary schools) have the same degree of autonomy. However, as of 1 August 2014, the available funding for extra pupil support will go directly to the regional consortia. Each consortium will divide the funds over the schools that provide extra support. The aim is to tailor provision more effectively and deploy the bulk of the resources in the classroom as far as possible. Some of the funding will go to special schools, based on the number of children referred there by the consortium. For more information, see Appropriate education (site only in Dutch available).
Autonomy Secondary Education
In secondary education, too, schools are free to decide how they spend the government funding they receive, within the provisions of the law:
- This is stipulated in article 99 of the Secondary Education Act.
- School boards must also comply with the rules on investing and lending by education and research institutions. Under these rules they may only make low-risk investments.
The bulk (85%) of the budget received by the boards of secondary schools is designed to meet personnel costs, while 15% is allocated for running costs. The amounts spent by the board on management, teaching and support staff and non-staff resources will vary from school to school.
Personnel costs in secondary education The amount allocated for personnel costs consists of a fixed part and a variable part based on the number of pupils at the school. The fixed part varies according to the composition of the school and the type(s) of education it provides.
Running costs in secondary education The amount allocated for running costs consists of a flat rate per school and an amount per pupil. The amount per school is the same for all schools but the amount per pupil varies depending on the type of school, department and year of study. The grant for running costs covers cleaning, maintenance and upkeep of school buildings and other running costs (e.g. teaching materials, administration, energy and water).
Once every five years, the level of funding undergoes statutory evaluation by an external agency. The evaluation report for the years 2006 to 2010 was delivered at the end of 2011. It shows that the budget provided for running costs is sufficient for the majority of schools.
The standard amounts for the various items in the running costs budget are published annually in the Indexation and Funding of Running Costs (Secondary Education) Order (site only available in Dutch).
Autonomy Secondary Vocational Education
The boards of secondary vocational education institutions receive block grants, which they are free to spend at their own discretion, giving them more scope to tailor policy and teaching to the needs of the individual school.
Monitoring and Control
Every educational institution that receives government funding is required to draw up an annual report accounting for its financial and other policy and informing the government about their educational performance. Instructions on drawing up the annual reports are set out in the Ministry’s guidelines.
The Education Inspectorate checks the work of schools’ accountants. It also draws up an annual Education Report, which includes information about the financial situation of the various education sectors.
The Municipal Health Services (GGD) and the Education Inspectorate jointly monitor the quality of early childhood education.
Fees within Public Education
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is designed for children at risk of lagging behind in their language development. The government finances support to children in the target group. It is up to the municipal authorities to decide which children are eligible, usually on the basis of referral by the local baby and toddler clinic. In some cases, parents/carers may receive an allowance from the municipality covering all or part of the cost of early childhood education.
Primary Education and Special Education
Primary and special education are provided free of charge. However, primary schools may charge a parental contribution for extracurricular activities such as school trips, camps or excursions. Such contributions are voluntary. The school must consult with the participation council on how much the contribution will be and how it is to be spent.
Parents do not have to pay school fees for children attending secondary school. The school provides most textbooks and learning materials free of charge. Parents do have to pay for other items specified by the school, such as dictionaries, atlases, gym clothes and calculators.
Secondary schools may charge a parental contribution for extracurricular activities such as school trips, camps or excursions. It is up to parents to decide whether to take advantage of these activities and to pay accordingly.
Secondary Vocational Education
The fees for secondary vocational education courses have to be met by students and their families. The school supplies basic equipment such as computers, photocopiers and occupational tools. Students are expected to provide the materials needed for lessons, such as books, readers, notebooks and ring binders, and more personal items such as work clothing or special shoes, if required by the course.
Voluntary contribution The school may charge students and parents a voluntary contribution for extra services and activities, such as excursions. These activities are not essential to the course of study or to obtaining the qualification it leads to.
Fees for secondary vocational education students under 18 Secondary vocational education students under 18 do not have to pay fees and are not entitled to a free student travel pass. Their parents/carers receive child benefit and may be eligible for an allowance to help cover educational expenses, which is means-tested and based on the parents’ joint income. The conditions for claiming an allowance are published DUO) (only available in Dutch). Fees for secondary vocational education students aged 18 and over Secondary vocational education students aged 18 or over who are in full-time vocational training (BOL) have to pay tuition fees. The level of the fees is adjusted every year. Students aged 18 or over attending a part-time course or a block or day release course (BBL) pay course fees. These are adjusted annually and vary according to the course. Full-time students aged 18 and over receive student finance and a student travel pass. The grant is non-repayable for courses at level 1 or 2, and performance-linked for levels 3 and 4. This means that the grant must be repaid if the student fails to complete the course. The size of the grant depends on parents’ income. DUO adjusts the grant levels every year.
Fees for full-time secondary vocational education courses Students attending full-time courses at publicly funded institutions pay statutory tuition fees if they are 18 or older on 1 August of the year in which their course starts. The statutory fees are:
- €1239 for the 2022/2023 academic year
Students aged under 18 on 1 August do not pay fees.
Students attending full-time courses at privately funded colleges pay non-statutory fees set by the individual institution.
Fees for part-time secondary vocational education courses Students attending part-time or block or day release courses (BBL) at publicly funded institutions pay statutory course fees if they are 18 or older on 1 August of the year in which their course starts.
Students aged under 18 on 1 August do not pay fees.
Financial Support for Learners’ Families
Financial support for Families of Pupils with Special Educational Needs
Parents can apply for a personal budget for their child. Personal budgets (LGF) are a form of funding received by schools for teaching special needs pupils.
Personal budgets are for pupils with a disability or disorder who are unable to attend mainstream education without extra facilities. This includes pupils with:
- an intellectual, sensory or physical disability;
- serious psychiatric problems;
- severe learning difficulties or behavioural problems;
- multiple disabilities;
- a chronic illness/condition.
The allocation of personal budgets will end when the new system for appropriate education comes into effect on 1 August 2014. These resources will then be allocated to the regional consortia, which will be responsible for deploying the funds to provide appropriate education. The new system will come into effect on 1 August 2014. For more information, see the section entitled New legislation in Chapter 12.2.
Parents of children with a disability may be able to claim back their child’s travel costs. Parents should contact the school or municipality for further information.
Financial support for Families of Pupils in Early Childhood Education and in Primary Education
Financial assistance for parents/carers of children in early childhood education is arranged by the municipal authority and the individual school.
Primary education is free of charge but parents may be asked to pay a voluntary parental contribution. Most schools have a discount or exemption scheme (although this is not compulsory) for parents who cannot afford to pay the contribution. At many schools, the contribution may be paid in instalments.
Types of financial support
Childcare benefit is designed to help parents/carers with childcare expenditure. Eligibility depends on several factors: the level of income and number of hours that parents work, the number of other children in the family going to day care, the number of hours involved, and the fee per hour. Day nurseries and playgroups alike are beneficial for children at risk of educational disadvantage. The provision of a means-tested allowance for eligible parents/carers helps to make early childhood education more affordable for children in the target group.
Parents are entitled to child benefit to help with the cost of bringing up children up to the age of 18. The amount of child benefit depends on the child’s age and where he or she lives. Parents receive child benefit if they:
- have one or more children under 18 (including adopted children, stepchildren and foster children);
- live and work in the Netherlands, or work abroad for an employer based in the Netherlands.
In certain cases, parents may be entitled to receive child benefit if the child lives abroad.
In addition, parents may receive a child budget. To be eligible for this in 2014, parents must meet the following requirements:
- They must have one or more children under 18.
- One of the parents must receive child benefit.
- The joint income of the recipient and (if applicable) their partner must be below a certain threshold, which varies according to the number of children. Individuals can check whether they are entitled to a child budget using the tool on the Tax and Customs Administration website.
- The parent(s) must have Dutch nationality or a valid residence permit for the Netherlands.
- The joint assets (such as savings or investments) of the recipient and (if applicable) their partner must be below a certain threshold. Details can be found on the Tax and Customs Administration website.
Reimbursement of school travel costs Parents can claim back all or part of their child’s travel costs if the child has a disability, or if the distance to school is more than 6 kilometres and there is no school in the area or no school of the denomination or educational character preferred by the parents. The amount reimbursed varies from one municipality to another. Parents apply direct to the municipal authorities. Every municipality makes its own rules about school travel costs and may also decide not to earmark funds for this purpose.
Financial support for Families of Pupils in Secondary Education
Financial support for parents/carers of pupils in mainstream secondary education was abolished as of the 2010/2011 school year. Instead, the child budget was raised as per 1 January 2010.
Financial support for Families of Pupils in Secondary Vocational Education
Parents can apply for support if their child is attending secondary vocational education (MBO) and was under 18 on 1 July of the school year in question. A number of conditions apply, for instance regarding the age of the child, the type of school, and parents’ nationality and income. The support consists of two components:
- an allowance for educational expenses
- an allowance for tuition or course fees.
In principle, all parents are eligible for an educational expenses allowance. The allowance for tuition or course fees only applies if the child is in full-time education or being educated at a privately-funded institution.
Financial Support for Learners
Financial support for learners in Early Childhood Education, Primary and Special Education
Financial support for early childhood education and primary education goes to parents/carers, not to the pupils themselves. See Financial support for Families of Pupils in Early childhood Education and in Primary Education.
Financial support for learners in Secondary Education
Financial aid for students in secondary education is regulated in the Fees and Educational Expenses (Allowances) Act (WTOS). As far as fees are concerned, this Act applies to full-time students in mainstream and special secondary education aged 18 or over but under 30. As far as educational expenses are concerned, the Act applies to full-time students below the age of 18 in secondary education and secondary vocational education and full-time students between the ages of 18 and 30 in special secondary education.
Under certain conditions students may be awarded an allowance for educational expenses. This funding is designed to offset the cost of, for instance, books, bus or train fares and in some cases school fees. It does not include a student travel pass. The allowance is not a loan (i.e. it is not repayable). It consists of a basic allowance and a supplementary allowance. The basic allowance varies depending on whether the student lives with their parents or not. The supplementary allowance is intended to offset educational expenses and fees.
Parents no longer receive child benefit for children aged 18 and over. Students in secondary education aged 18 and older must therefore apply for financial support themselves.
Students in secondary education are eligible for this allowance if they are resident in the Netherlands and are enrolled in a full-time course in:
- secondary education (pre-university education (VWO), senior general secondary education (HAVO), the theoretical programme in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO-TL), learning support (LWOO) or practical training);
- adult general secondary education (one-year and two-year VMBO-TL, HAVO or VWO);
- special secondary education (VSO).
Students who fall under the Secondary Education and Adult and Vocational Education (Cooperation) Decree (VO-BVE) (also known as the ‘Rutte Scheme’) may also be entitled to an allowance. The aim of the decree is to provide tailor-made solutions for students at risk of leaving school without any qualifications, so that they can improve their prospects of getting a qualification or are better prepared for a course of further training or study. For more information, see the brochure (in Dutch only) on additional scope for cooperation under the Secondary Education and Adult and Vocational Education (Cooperation) Decree.
The allowance for students in secondary education is restricted to students aged between 18 and 30. In special secondary education (VSO), students are eligible for the allowance until their 20th birthday. Finally, students applying for the allowance must be Dutch nationals. In certain cases, a student who does not hold Dutch nationality but is resident in the Netherlands may qualify for the allowance. Applicants should do the nationality check on the website of the Education Executive Agency (DUO) (site only in Dutch available).
Financial support for learners in Secondary Vocational Education
Financial aid for students in secondary vocational education (MBO) is regulated in the Fees and Educational Expenses (Allowances) Act (WTOS). As far as fees are concerned, this Act applies to full-time students in mainstream and special secondary education aged 18 or over but under 30. As far as educational expenses are concerned, the Act applies to full-time students below the age of 18 in secondary and secondary vocational education and full-time students between the ages of 18 and 30 in special secondary education. Students in secondary vocational education are eligible for student finance if:
- they are 18 or older and applied before the month in which they turn 30 (and are thus still eligible);
- they are attending a full-time vocational training course (BOL);
- they hold Dutch nationality. Non-Dutch nationals who hold type II, III or IV residence permits are also eligible for student finance. Students who hold a different nationality or are from another EU member state should do the nationality check on the website of the Education Executive Agency (DUO) to see whether they are eligible.
If the student is attending a level-1 or level-2 course, the loan is always non-repayable. If the student is attending a level-3 or level-4 course and obtains the relevant qualification within 10 years, the grant is performance-based and does not have to be repaid. However, if the student fails to obtain a qualification, everything must be repaid, with the exception of the supplementary grant for the first twelve months. Check the website of DUO for more information.
The figure below shows the number of students in vocational training courses (MBO-BOL) receiving student finance. The statistics distinguish between students in the ‘standard phase’ (eligible for the basic grant, student travel pass, a loan and, under certain conditions, a supplementary grant) and those in the ‘loan phase’ (eligible for only the student travel pass and a loan).
Fully private Early Childhood Education and Primary Education
Private primary education is not financed by government. In the Netherlands, anyone may establish a school based on their own religious or ideological beliefs or educational principles, in accordance with the freedom of education enshrined in article 23 of the Constitution (only in Dutch available). The source of funding may be public or private. To be allowed to teach pupils of compulsory school age, a private school must be recognised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Privately-funded primary schools have the same degree of financial autonomy as publicly-funded primary schools. They must also comply with certain statutory requirements, for instance regarding the professional competence of their teachers.
Private primary schools are also known as ‘B3 schools’ (a reference to section 1 (b) 3 of the 1969 Compulsory Education Act).
There are relatively few private primary schools In the Netherlands. A comprehensive list can be found on the website of the Education Inspectorate: B3-schools primary education (only in Dutch available).
Funding of private primary education Not being funded by government, private primary schools are completely dependent on third-party contributions, including from pupils’ families. This means fees are usually higher than the parental contribution at publicly-funded schools. However, fees vary from one institution to another.
Fully private Secondary Education
To be allowed to teach pupils of compulsory school age, a private secondary school must be recognised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Private secondary schools are financially autonomous and may therefore use their own discretion on how to spend their funding. They must also comply with certain statutory requirements, for instance regarding the professional competence of their teachers.
Funding of private secondary education Not being funded by government, private secondary schools are completely dependent on third-party contributions, including from pupils’ families. This means fees are usually higher than the parental contribution at publicly-funded schools. However, fees vary from one institution to another.
Educational institutions can also generate income from other sources, such sponsorship and donations in the form of money or goods. Private secondary schools also tend to rely a great deal on the input of volunteers and parents.
Parents of secondary school children may be eligible for a child budget, provided their child is under 18 on 1 July of the year in which they apply. The conditions are the same for pupils in both privately and publicly-funded secondary education.
Fully private Secondary Vocational Education
Private secondary vocational education (MBO) is not financed by government. Private institutions providing secondary vocational education do not have to be recognised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The school board is free to decide how funding is spent.
Funding of private secondary vocational education Not being funded by government, private institutions providing secondary vocational education are completely dependent on third-party contributions, including fees. This means these are usually higher than the parental contribution at publicly-funded institutions. However, fees vary from one institution to another.
Students in private secondary vocational education are only eligible for student finance if their course is recognised by the Ministry.