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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in school education


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.2National reforms in school education

Last update: 30 November 2023


No mobile phones in the classroom

News item | 04-07-2023

Mobile phones and, for example, tablets or smartwatches will no longer be allowed in the classroom from January 1 next year. These devices cause children to be distracted which has a bad influence on their performance in school.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science has agreed to this measure with the Secondary Education Council, SPV, PO Council, AOb, CNV Education, FvOV, Parents and Education and the LAKS. Phone may only be used when they are necessary for the content of a course. It is up to the schools themselves to agree on rules with teachers, parents and students. Schools can also choose to ban mobile phones altogether. Students who need their phone for medical reasons or a disability are allowed to use it. Adjusted agreements will be made for special education.

The organizations involved will further develop the agreement in the coming period.

Pass rates for final exams are back to normal after Corona

News item | 08-09-2023

In the past school year, 90% of all secondary education students obtained their diploma. This percentage is almost as high as before the pandemic (92%).

Last May, students took their exams for the first time without special measures. Special measures have been in force over the past three years, such as extra resits.

National Education Program

With money from the National Education Program, schools have been tackling the delays that students have suffered due to the corona pandemic since 2021. Schools can choose from a range of effective methods. This way they can tailor their approach to what is most suitable for their pupils. Primary and secondary schools can use the national education program money until the 2024/2025 school year.

Free meals for children in primary and secondary education

News item | 19-09-2023

The free meal program started last March. In this program free breakfast or lunch is offered at primary and secondary schools. It has now been decided that this program will continue for the participating schools in 2024. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is investing €102.5 million, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment €52.5 million, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport €10 million. € 1 million from the general resources will go to the Caribbean Netherlands for this purpose.

Schools have the freedom to organize this in a way that is most suitable for their students. Schools can choose to offer a meal at school or a meal at home. Opportunities include working with volunteers who prepare the food. They will then receive a volunteer allowance for this or can choose to use caterers. Another option is providing grocery cards.  Families can use these cards to buy food themselves at the supermarket.

This initiative focuses on schools where at least 30% or more of the students come from low income families. More than 1,600 schools participate in this program, thanks to the efforts of the Youth Education Fund and the Red Cross. These parties will also be responsible for implementation next year. This initiatieve will also be continued in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2024.


Introduction of a Strategic Personnel Policy to increase the share of permanent contracts in primary, secondary education and lower VET

News item | 10-05-2023 

To increase the attractiveness of employment in the education sector, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science aims to introduce a new law that increases the likelihood of teachers and instructors receiving permanent employment contracts.  

With the enforcement of the new Strategic Personnel Policy (Strategisch personeelbeleid) in 2024, employees in primary schools and secondary education can receive a permanent contact after one year of good performance in the role. Through the introduction of this new law, the Netherlands aims to tackle teacher shortages by attracting new teachers to the sector and encouraging teachers to stay in their positions

The Strategic Personnel Policy additionally encourages school boards to provide better guidance to (starting) teachers and to dedicate more resources to providing career and reducing workloads. School boards furthermore will be required to ensure that at least 80% of their staff are permanent employees. A school will additionally only be allowed to dedicate 5% of its budget to freelancers and temporary employees.


Pupils will get more equal opportunities in the transition from primary to secondary education.


The final test in the last year of primary school, will be changed to a transfer test, to emphasize that schools check how students are doing on several occasions. To combat inequality, the transfer test will be taken earlier in the year as of school year 2023-2024. All pupils will then register for secondary school at the same time (in the week before 1 April). As a result, all pupils will have an equal chance of being placed at their preferred school at the level that best suits them.


National Education Agreement: €1.5 billion for good-quality education

News item | 22-04-2022 | 16:00

Every school-leaver should be able to read, write, do arithmetic and be familiar with their civic rights and responsibilities. This requires schools to have sufficient, qualified and competent teachers, school leaders and support staff. However, education is struggling to cope with serious staff shortages. To tackle this problem, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, teachers’ unions and the Primary and Secondary Education Councils are jointly implementing a multi-year National Education Agreement. The government is investing €1.5 billion in teachers, school leaders and other staff to safeguard the quality of education.

The agreement was signed today by primary and secondary education minister Dennis Wiersma, representatives of teachers’ unions (AOB, CNV Onderwijs, FNV O&O, FVOV), the General Association of School Leaders (AVS) and the Primary and Secondary Education Councils. The National Education Agreement means better salaries for primary teachers and a lighter workload for secondary teachers. It is also the starting point for a broader work agenda to address staff shortages and improve the quality of education.

Primary and secondary education minister Dennis Wiersma commented, ‘We want every pupil to have excellent teachers who encourage them to read books, explain arithmetic clearly and teach children to always treat others with respect. For this we need to have enough qualified teachers. We’re spending €1.5 billion in order to give teachers, school leaders and other teaching staff higher salaries, a lighter workload and more time for personal and professional development. We know that making education better for teachers and pupils is going to be a long and demanding process. So there is no time to lose.’

Higher salary

From now on, teachers and other staff in primary education will earn the same salaries as their secondary-school counterparts in equivalent jobs. The government has earmarked €919 million for this purpose. In the coming years, primary teachers’ salaries will increase by an average of 10%, which is equal to around €5,300 per year for a fulltime teacher. Of course, there will be major individual differences, but this year’s salary scales will increase incomes by at least 4% for all teachers. This should make teaching more attractive both for those entering the profession and for experienced teachers. School leaders also deserve greater appreciation, since they play a crucial part in getting their teams to provide good-quality education. This year the salary for primary school leaders will go up by at least 5%, with a total increase of 11% on average over several years.

Lightening the workload

In primary and secondary schools alike, the pressure of work is high and teachers face major challenges. This school year the government is earmarking another €300 million to tackle the heavy pressure of work in secondary education, as it already did for primary education. The trade unions and Secondary Education Council are making agreements about the allocation of the money, to ensure that it is spent where it is really needed. Funds could, for instance, be used to hire extra support staff (as already happens in primary schools).

Extra time

Teachers need to have time for continuing professional development, to regularly update their skills. Starting this school year, the government is providing a structural budget of €118 million for teachers’ professional development. Additional funding is also available for school leaders to engage in professional development. The national curriculum – which prescribes the knowledge and skills pupils are required to learn – will also benefit from a clearer mandate. As soon as possible, it will be adapted to focus more strongly on basic skills in language, arithmetic and citizenship education.

Extra supplement

All children need good teachers and school leaders, but individual requirements vary. Some children are vulnerable because, for instance, they have problems at home or need extra help with language. It is essential for the school to have enough teachers, school leaders and support staff to give every child a fair chance to build a foundation for a secure future. To attract teachers to schools with a large number of vulnerable pupils, they receive a market-related allowance over and above their salary. The government provided a budget for this scheme for two years but is now proposing to continue it after 2023. This will be laid down in a collective labour agreement with teachers’ unions and education councils. 

Extra pupil support extended for two years

News item | 25-02-2022 | 15:45

Every child must learn to read, write and do arithmetic to an acceptable standard. To strengthen these basic skills in all children, the National Education Programme is being extended for another two years. The government has also decided to shift a portion of the funding to schools that need it most.

‘I want every child to achieve their full potential, despite the coronavirus pandemic,’ primary and secondary education minister Dennis Wiersma said. ‘It starts with a solid foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic, but also with monitoring pupil welfare. Schools are working very hard at this, but they have recently been held back by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. So we’re giving them extra time to further strengthen the basics of good education with measures that have proved effective in the past.’

More time

If necessary, programme funding can also be used in the 2023/2024 and 2024/2025 school years. This will give schools greater scope to spend it on appropriate measures. The amount of time and space needed for this will vary from one school to another. Schools will be informed well before the start of the school year exactly how much they will be getting so that they can make targeted plans.

Different allocation of funding

It has become evident that secondary schools now need more funding per pupil to strengthen basic skills in literacy and numeracy. During the pandemic, secondary schools were closed for longer than primary schools so they have more to catch up. For the coming school year, the standard amount per pupil is therefore being increased to approximately €820 in secondary education, compared to €500 in primary education. Schools were already receiving extra funding for pupils in special education, practical training and the upper classes of prevocational secondary education (VMBO) and will continue to do so. Funding will no longer specifically target schools in deprived areas. Instead, a broader approach will be taken to determine where extra funding for teaching basic skills is needed. Studies show that pupils from middle-class families also need better support.

Structural attention

The government regards broadening the programme as a logical step towards structurally improving the education system, as set out in the coalition agreement. This will continue to build on the National Education Programme, which was launched in February 2021 and provides a total of €5.8 billion for projects in primary and secondary education. Schools choose from a specially developed ‘menu’ of interventions that have proven effective. Extensive monitoring and accountability have been built into the programme. In April, a second progress report will be sent to the House of Representatives, with new data about how schools are implementing the programme and about pupils’ welfare.


Senate approves new act on citizenship education

News item | 22-06-2021 | 12:44

The Senate today approved the new act on citizenship education at primary and secondary schools. The aim of the legislation is that all schools should teach pupils about the basic values of democracy and the rule of law. The new legislation enters into force on 1 August.

Citizenship education is already a compulsory subject by law, but many schools are uncertain how to teach it. In view of this, primary and secondary education minister Arie Slob has given clarified the teaching objectives.

Respect for freedoms

Minister Slob said, ‘Citizenship education is about how we shape society together. It is vital that we act with respect for each other, for democracy and the rule of law, and for the universal freedoms. Like parents and guardians, schools have a key role to play in teaching children these values. Exactly how they do this is a matter for the schools themselves to decide, in line with the freedom of education. But the law does clearly prescribe a core component that all schools much teach.’

Democracy and the rule of law

Under the act children must learn about the basic values of a country governed by democracy and the rule of law – freedom, equality and solidarity. That includes, for example, equal treatment, the freedom of speech, and a ban on discrimination. A school’s culture and ethos must reflect these values.

Listening to each other

The law also says that school is a training ground where pupils should be able to practise the skills they will need later on in life in order to play their part in society. That includes listening to each other’s views and responding respectfully. After all, school is where pupils with different backgrounds come together. Finally, school boards have an obligation under the act to ensure pupils and staff feel safe and accepted at school.


Schools can already consult the Primary Education Council and Secondary Education Council and the School & Safety Foundation for support in teaching citizenship education. This support will be expanded in the coming years.

Primary schools and daycare to reopen

News item | 31-01-2021 | 17:42

Primary schools, daycare and special schools will reopen on Monday 8 February, the government decided today. 
The OMT says it is safe for primary schools, daycare and special schools for primary and secondary education to reopen to all children. Out-of-school care will remain closed, to avoid children mixing in different groups, leading to extra contact and potentially extra infections. 

‘It’s a relief that schools can reopen,’ said education minister Arie Slob. ‘For parents and teachers, and of course for the children too. Children learn best in school, including in terms of socialisation. But we will keep a close eye on the situation, as things remain serious in the Netherlands.’

‘Joint responsibility’
‘Daycare centres can reopen again, luckily,’ said Wouter Koolmees, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. ‘That means young children can play together again and develop, while their parents can focus on their work, assured that their children are in a safe environment. This will be a huge relief for many families. Juggling working from home and caring for young children is a great burden on many parents. The same goes for all the childcare staff who have kept providing emergency childcare under great pressure. But the reopening of primary schools and daycare does not change the responsibility we all share. Work from home if you can, and avoid contact with others, including when dropping off or picking up your children at school or daycare. This is the only way they can reopen safely.’

Minimise contacts
The OMT recommends that steps be taken to further reduce the risk of infection in schools and daycare centres, and RIVM has issued some proposals. The government will publish amendments to the guidelines as soon as possible, based on these proposals and consultation with partners in the education and childcare sectors. Any children who have symptoms will be sent home, and if a child tests positive the whole class or group will have to self-quarantine.

Rapid testing in primary schools
To enable infections to be detected quickly and reduce the need for entire classes to be sent home, education minister Arie Slob wants to launch trials very soon for rapid testing of primary school teachers. The possibility of including childcare staff in these trials is also being considered. 

Priority testing
Childcare staff will have soon have access to priority testing, as has already been the case for school staff for some time. 

Secondary schools
No decision has been made on when secondary schools will reopen. 

Primary schools and childcare will not reopen sooner

News item | 17-01-2021 | 16:00

Primary schools and childcare centres will remain closed, except for emergency childcare, until 8 February. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) says that it appears children are equally susceptible to and infectious with the new variant as with the original variant. This is yet to be confirmed, however. The government is also very concerned about the number of infections and the spread of new variants of the virus in the population. It is not therefore possible to open primary schools and childcare centres sooner. It is important to minimise contacts between adults. 

Primary schools (including special schools) and childcare centres will continue to provide emergency childcare for the children of key workers, and for children in a vulnerable position. According to the OMT, this can be done safely, given the characteristics of these groups.

'Unfortunately, we have no choice but to keep schools closed to most pupils during this lockdown,’ said caretaker education minister Arie Slob. ‘I realise that this is a blow for parents, teachers and pupils. It’s incredibly difficult to help your children with their schooling and do your work at the same time. We are also very concerned about the fact that children will fall further behind. I am therefore working with the education sector to ascertain what extra measures are going to be needed, such as extended teaching hours. We will work out the details over the coming weeks, and the government will make funding available for this purpose over a number of years.’

‘Unfortunately, childcare will not be able to open sooner during this lockdown,’ said caretaker State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment Bas van ’t Wout. ‘I fully understand that this is a disappointment to parents, childcare staff and children. I know they are under great pressure, both the parents working at home and the staff providing emergency childcare. I have the greatest respect for all parents who are juggling working from home with caring for young children and supervising home schooling, but it would not be wise to open childcare centres fully at the moment, given the large numbers of infections. Childcare will remain available for vulnerable children and children with at least one parent who is a key worker, thanks in part to the amazing efforts of childcare staff. I will remain in discussion with the childcare sector in the run-up to the next review of all lockdown measures.’

Reopening of primary schools and childcare will be considered in the next comprehensive review of lockdown measures, which will remain in force until at least 8 February. Parents are requested to continue paying their childcare fees while the centres remain closed. The government will continue to provide support for these costs during the lockdown extension. 

Emergency childcare is extremely busy in some places, as many parents are sending their children to childcare. Providers are keen to help primary schools, and the specifics as to what form this will take will be agreed over the coming week. The government and social partners will also discuss the possibility of ‘coronavirus leave’ for parents forced to combine work and childcare. The government is prepared to contribute to the costs. 

The government previously made over €208 million available to fund programmes in primary and secondary schools to help children make up for lost learning during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 4,000 primary schools and almost 600 secondary schools have already received funding. All the available knowledge on how best to make up lost learning has been collated and published on


Changes in the education sector as of 1 January 2021 

News item | 30-12-2020 | 11:45

In 2021, a number of changes will take effect in the primary and secondary education sector. The main changes are listed below.

New Schools Act
The New Schools Act will come into force in primary education in February 2021. With this legislation, the government wants to ensure that types of school more closely match the wishes of parents and pupils. From 1 June 2021, the rules for setting up new schools have been amended. The main elements of the new legislation are the regional consultation on the need for a new school, new methods to measure demand for the new school, advance screening to assess quality and stricter requirements for board members. 

Secondary education performance budget for strategic personnel policy, supervision of new teachers and reducing school refusal
The secondary education performance budget will target new goals in 2021. Some of the goals set out in the sector agreement have been achieved, so the block grant will be reduced accordingly in 2021. However, a number of goals have not yet been achieved. These concern better strategic personnel policy, better supervision of new teachers and school leaders, and reducing school refusal. A separate, supplementary funding scheme will be introduced in 2021 to achieve these goals. Funds will be allocated to schools on the basis of pupil numbers. 

Administrative rule on licences for advanced dance and music education in primary schools
From March 2021, primary schools may apply for a DAMU licence to teach advanced dance and music, as secondary schools already can. This will contribute to a continuous learning pathway for children gifted in music and dance and enable them to develop their talents. Up to 12 primary schools may be awarded a licence. Each will have to partner with one of the 12 secondary schools already licensed to teach advanced dance and music and with an HBO institution for the performing arts. 

Travel allowance for primary school pupils gifted in dance and music 
From August 2021, primary school pupils gifted in dance and music who are attending a preparatory course at an HBO institution for the performing arts will be eligible for a travel allowance, under the same criteria already applicable to secondary school students. Pupils need to be enrolled at a primary school licensed to teach advanced dance and music and at the HBO institution where they are attending the preparatory course. Eligibility is subject to requirements regarding minimum travel distance and maximum parental income.