Childcare centres are in principle open to all children between 0 and 4 years of age. Parents can decide if they use childcare services and are free to choose the childcare organization they prefer.
Early childhood education programs (VVE) are intended primarily for children aged 2,5 – 4 with a risk of educational disadvantages.The municipal authorities are responsible for identifying children at risk of incurring language disadvantage, using a system that weighs factors such as the parents’ level of education. The complete criteria of a VVE indication differs per municipality.
Group size and child/staff ratio
The child/staff ratio for children aged 4 to 6 is 1 in 10. A ratio of 1 to 11 applies to vertical groups with childred aged 4 to 13. In day care there is a distinction between horizontal groups (children of the same age) and a vertical group (children with different ages). Groups with children aged 0 - 4 have a maximum of sixteen children.
The number of children per childcare worker:
- Children from 0-1 years: maximum 3 children per childcare worker
- Children aged 1-2 years: maximum 5 children per childcare worker
- Children from 2-3 years old: maximum 6 children per childcare worker
- Children from 3-4 years: maximum 8 children per childcare worker
- Children from 4-7 years old: maximum 10 children per childcare worker.
As of January 2018, babies up to one year of age are cared for by at least two of the same childcare workers. This is called vaste-gezichtencriterium. This offers stability and social-emotional safety to a baby.
Minimum qualification requirements for childcare staff:
- Vocational training in the field of pedagogy/childcare at mbo 3 level (ISCED 3) is the minium requirement to become a childcare worker or something equivalent to this level (as regulated in the collective labor agreement for childcare). Examples of such vocational upper secondary education programs in The Netherlands are:Pedagogisch Medewerker Kinderopvang (mbo level 3) and Gespecialiseerd Pedagogisch Medewerker (mbo level 4).
- From January 1, 2019, all childcare organizations are obliged to deploy a pedagogical policy officer. The training for pedagogical policy staff must be at least hbo level (ISCED 6) with a focus on pedagogy.
- As of 1 January 2025, all staff working with 0-year-olds must have proof that specific training for baby care has been followed.
- From 1 January 2025, a minimum language level (Dutch language requirement) will apply to all childcare practitioners.
- Additional requirements apply for early childhood education staff at daycare/childcare centers. This is called voorschoolse educatie (VE) in Dutch. Childcare workers need specific VE-training in addition to the language requirement and general childcare practioner training. Additonal education is required for pedagogical staff that did not obtain a VE qualification in their vocational training in order to work with children with a VE indication. These are children with (possible) educational disadvantages who need extra support.
The collective labour agreement for Childcare contains all qualification requirements that are set for being allowed to work in childcare.
Annual, weekly & daily organisation
There are no regulations on the annual timetable in childcare. There are no regulations on the daily or weekly organisation of childcare. A childcare organization follows its own timetable.
With regard to early childhood education (VVE), however, municipalities are required by law to provide an adequate number of programmes. Outside of school holidays, children participating in VVE-programme must attend at least four half-days, of 2½ hours each, a week, or ten hours of activities aimed at stimulating their development (linguistic, arithmetic, motor skills and social-emotional development).