Early childhood education and Childcare
The Childcare Act (Wko) regulates the quality, accessibility and supervision of childcare. The quality requirements of childcare are part of the Innovation and Quality Childcare Act (wet IKK). In 2018, the Childcare Innovation and Quality Act (Wet IKK) amended a number of requirements in the Wko and underlying regulations and added new requirements. To this end, the Innovation and Quality of Childcare Act (IKK) came into effect on 1 January 2018. As of 1 January 2019, new measures have been implemented as part of this law. Holders of childcare facilities and the government jointly contribute to the quality of childcare.
The responsibility for the quality of childcare in The Netherlands lies with the municipalities. All child care centres and child care facilities are obliged to meet the requirements of the childcare act (wet kinderopvang). Municipalities are responsible for this and have outsourced the supervision to the Municipal Health Services (GGD). The GGD checks whether childcare organizations meet the legal quality requirements on the basis of the assessment quality day care model report (modelrapportage dagopvang). Municipalities must take enforcement action if organizations do not meet these requirements, for example, by issuing a warning or imposing a fine.
The Education Inspectorate examines whether municipalities are performing their statutory childcare duties. This is done annually. The Inspectorate of Education also supervises early childhood education (ECE). In the Netherlands this is called voor- en vroegschoolse educatie (VVE).
Primary, secondary and special education
Primary and secondary schools, including those that provide special education, bear primary responsibility for the quality of teaching and describe their system of quality assurance in their prospectus and school plan.
External school evaluations are carried out by the Education Inspectorate, a semi-autonomous body falling under the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. The Inspectorate’s senior management is made up of the Inspector-General;
- a chief inspector for primary education and the expertise centres (which are responsible for special education);
- a chief inspector for secondary education, adult and vocational education and higher education.
Education inspectors’ statutory tasks and the parameters for quality and supervision are laid down in the Education Inspection Act (WOT). Within these statutory parameters, it is up to the schools themselves to set their own quality targets and standards and to decide how quality is measured and evaluated. Taking the results of schools’ self-evaluation as a guideline wherever possible, the Inspectorate assesses whether the teaching provided is up to standard, based on data such as exam results, annual reports and information they receive directly or via the media. The Inspectorate supervises government-funded institutions as well as non-government-funded institutions that award a recognised qualification.
The Inspectorate conducts a full inspection of every school at least once every four years, the results of which are laid down in an inspection report. It also issues a school inspection card that indicates the inspection status of the school in question. The card includes a link to the inspection report. See: school inspection card and report (only in Dutch available).
Approaches and Methods for Quality Assurance
Internal and external evaluation of early childhood education
The establishment of a Parents’ Committee is mandatory under the Childcare Act (Wko). The committee has statutory advisory authority in relation to the quality of the care, food and education,opening hours, safety and health, play and development activities, education policy and adjustments in the price of the daycare. The goal of a parent committee is to maintain and improve the quality of childcare. This in collaboration with the childcare organization. The parents' committee is in contact with the parents, the organization and GGD. The parents' committee also discusses every inspection report from the GGD with the holder of the childcare location.
Rights and duties of the parent committee
The parents' committee has the right to provide (un)solicited advice on:
- the implementation of the quality policy, in particular the pedagogical policy;
- general policy in the field of nutrition, education, safety and health;
- the opening hours;
- the policy on pre-school education;
- adoption and amendment of the complaints procedure;
- the price of childcare.
These advisory rights are set out in the Childcare Act.
Pedagogical policy plan
The pedagogical policy plan contains the pedagogical vision of the childcare organization. The following points need to be described in a pedagogical policy plan:
- how to provide responsible daycare;
- how to monitor and stimulate the child's development;
- how development proceeds when the child goes to primary school and after-school care;
- how to pass on the information about the child to primary school and out-of-school care with parental consent;
- how to refer parents to other organizations for help if there are any problems in the development of the child;
- how and how often the mentor discusses the child's development with the parents;
- how to let the parents and the child know who the child's mentor is;
- the way of working in the group;
- Group size;
- the age structure of the group;
- how children can get used to a new group.
The pedagogical policy officer ensures that work is carried out according to the pedagogical policy plan.
Early childhood education
Organisations or schools providing early childhood education,voorschoolse educatie (VE) must regularly check whether their programme satisfies current quality standards and is in line with their own and the municipality’s policies. Organisations bear primary responsibility for evaluating the quality of their VE-programmes. They are generally expected to do this once a year and to report on the results. The evaluation should in any case address the following:
- parents’ participation;
- quality of the programme offered and the extent to which it is in line with existing agreements;
- staff members’ knowledge and skills (education theory and practice);
- the physical learning environment;
- individual needs provision, including the use of an observation system;
- continuous progression of learning from preschool to primary school programmes
Two inspection frameworks have been established for early childhood education (only in Dutch available): one is used to draw up an overview of the quality of early childhood education provided in all municipalities in the Netherlands, and the other is for signal-driven inspections, i.e. when the Inspectorate has received signals of possible shortcomings in early childhood education in a particular municipality.
The Education Inspectorate provides an overview of the quality of all subsidised early childhood education programmes at playgroups and day nurseries.
The OKE provides that all reports must be publicly available. Inspection reports on ECE in all municipalities (only in Dutch available) since 1 August 2010 can be found on this website, as well as reports on the individual playgroups, day nurseries and schools that offer ECE programmes. In August 2013 the Inspectorate published its overall findings on the quality of early childhood education in the Netherlands, in which it called for a stronger effort to tackle disadvantage in young children (in Dutch only).
Internal and external evaluation of primary and secondary education
External evaluation of primary and secondary education
Evaluation at school/institutional level
The Education Inspectorate, for which the Minister of Education, Culture and Science is responsible, supervises the quality of education by:
- assessing the quality of teaching on the basis of checks on compliance with legislation;
- monitoring compliance with legislation;
- promoting the quality of teaching;
- reporting on the development of education;
- performing all other tasks and duties required by law.
These tasks are laid down in the WOT. The Inspectorate bases its assessments on the principle that institutions themselves bear primary responsibility for the quality of teaching.
Supervision and quality
In the first instance, schools evaluate themselves and learn lessons from the results of their evaluations. In addition, it is the Inspectorate’s task to assess the quality of teaching. Every year, the Inspectorate checks schools for any indications that the quality of education is below standard. In principle, it conducts a full inspection once every four years. The intensity of inspections is based on the outcome of a risk assessment and, if necessary, further inspection. In conducting the school inspection, the Inspectorate relies as much as possible on the results of the school’s self-evaluation. The inspection results in a report (only in Dutch available) which is posted on the internet.
The inspection framework 2012 (only in Dutch available) describes the Inspectorate’s methods, the specific indicators evaluated during inspections, and the standards that schools must meet. The framework thus offers guidance to schools and school boards.
The Inspectorate’s methods are based on the following principles:
- inspectors deal directly with the school board;
- inspections are customised and based on a risk assessment;
- inspections aim to prevent at-risk schools from (seriously) failing or reverting to this category;
- inspections are also aimed at programme-based enforcement.
Primary school leavers attainment test
The National Institute for Educational Measurement (CITO) has developed a primary school leavers attainment test, a relatively short but wide-ranging test, which gives a general indication of individual pupils’ level of attainment. The test consists of four sections on language, arithmetic, study skills and environmental studies. Schools may, if they wish, omit the section on environmental studies. Participation in the test is still optional, but will become compulsory in 2015 for all pupils in the final year of primary school.
Besides measuring the performance of individual pupils, the test also shows how well a particular school is performing. Every school that uses the test is sent two reports, one comparing its performance with all the other schools that used the test and the other comparing its performance with all the other schools with a similar pupil population. This gives the school in question an indication of the effectiveness of its curriculum. The Inspectorate also uses the test to assess and compare schools’ performance.
Schools must be able to account for their results. Many do this through the school leavers attainment test, but they are allowed to use alternative means such as a pupil monitoring system or pupil portfolios.
The Inspectorate also conducts investigations into general issues that are not specific to individual schools, such as language teaching at primary schools or the number of teaching hours in secondary education. The Inspectorate’s reports on these issues are published on its website (only in Dutch available). The Inspectorate announces its priority themes and focus areas in its annual work plan (only in Dutch available).
School inspectors are employees of the Education Inspectorate. They must hold a university degree and a certificate of conduct, and must be familiar with one or more educational sectors.
Internal evaluation in primary and secondary education
There are various instruments available for setting and monitoring standards within schools: the school plan, the school prospectus and the complaints procedure. These have been compulsory for primary and secondary schools since 1998. Schools themselves bear primary responsibility for the quality of teaching. They describe how they aim to guarantee quality in their prospectus and school plan.
The school plan, which must be updated by the school board every four years, describes the steps being taken to improve the quality of education. Every school must regularly assess its own performance. This information forms the basis for the school plan, which must be approved by the participation council. Through this document, the school renders account to the Inspectorate for its policies. The requirements to be met by the school plan are laid down in section 12 of the Primary Education Act and section 24 of the Secondary Education Act.
The school prospectus contains information for parents and pupils. It is updated every year on the basis of the school plan and describes in more detail what goes on in the school, its objectives and the results achieved. It thus serves as a basis for discussion between parents and the school about the school’s policy. The prospectus includes information on the parental contribution and the rights and obligations of parents and pupils. It also describes the provision made for pupils with learning difficulties or behavioural problems. The school sends a copy of its prospectus to the Inspectorate, to which it is accountable for its policy on quality. The Inspectorate may decide to verify whether the statements made in the prospectus accurately reflect the situation in practice. The requirements to be met by the school prospectus are laid down in section 13 of the Primary Education Act and section 24a of the Secondary Education Act.
The Inspectorate checks that schools have submitted these statutory documents, and that their contents satisfy the requirements. Based on these documents, it also checks whether schools meet the statutory requirements for teaching hours.
Evaluation of teachers
Evaluation of teachers in early childhood education
Staff must be trained specifically to teach early childhood education (ECE) programmes. They can, for instance, attend courses provided by commercial ECE programme developers, participate in further training under the ‘Vversterk’ project or take government-funded ECE courses taught at regional training centres or institutions for higher professional education. In any case the courses must have been taken recently (less than five years ago).
Organisations that offer preschool education are legally required to draw up an annual training plan to keep staff skills and knowledge up to standard. This requirement does not apply to ECE teachers at primary schools.
The Education Inspectorate publishes periodic overviews of the quality of subsidised early childhood education programmes at playgroups and day nurseries. Its assessments focus strongly on staff pedagogical skills, such as treating children with respect, setting limits to behaviour and/or helping children develop social and other skills. Preschool staff and teachers of ECE programmes at primary schools usually meet the necessary pedagogical standards. In fact 16% of playgroups or day nurseries with ECE programmes scored so well that they serve as an example to other such organisations. On the other hand, the Inspectorate found scope for improving the learning environment at 40% of locations offering preschool programmes. It usually advised creating a more language-rich environment, for instance by labelling objects in the room.
Evaluation of teachers in primary, secondary and special education
As of 1 January 2014 the Inspectorate also checks the qualifications and skills of teaching staff as a whole, during its routine evaluations of school quality. It does not assess individual teachers. It is important that pupils are taught by qualified teachers. This is also underscored by the National Education Agreement (only in Dutch available)m which includes provisions on creating a Register of Teachers. In assessing the quality of teaching at primary and secondary schools, inspectors observe a sample of lessons and fill out a standardised observation form. The form is also used to evaluate teachers in special schools.
Basic teaching skills
All but a small minority of teachers demonstrate the requisite basic teaching skills: they explain clearly, they create a task-oriented learning environment and invite pupils to participate actively during lessons. About a third of all teachers also show more advanced teaching skills, such as dealing with differences between pupils and adapting lessons to accommodate these differences. There are large differences within and between schools and institutions. These findings are similar to those for 2011/2012 and can be seen across all education sectors.
Teachers generally feel they have sufficient scope for further professional development and many also make use of the opportunities offered. Pressure of work is often cited as a reason for not engaging in professional development. A wide range of in-service training and professional development activities are available. They are not all strictly focused on improving teaching skills.
Teaching skills definitions
Basic teaching skills
- The teacher can explain things clearly.
- The teacher creates a task-oriented learning environment.
- Pupils participate actively in educational activities.
Advanced teaching skills
- The teacher adapts their instructions to pupils’ needs.
- The teacher adapts practical assignments to pupils’ needs.
- The teacher adapts the teaching time to pupils’ needs.
- The teacher systematically records and analyses pupils’ progress (primary education).
- Support for individual needs is provided in a structured way (primary education).
- The teacher checks whether pupils understand the lesson (secondary education).
- The teacher gives substantive feedback (secondary education).
Click here to read more about what makes a good teacher (only in Dutch available).
Quality of teaching staff - Teacher 2020 action plan
The government is taking steps to improve the quality of teaching staff, notably through the teacher development grant and the Register of Teachers. The National Education Agreement states that education policy will continue to focus on quality. An extra €75 million has been earmarked to boost the quality of teaching staff and school leaders.
The Teacher 2020 action plan (only in Dutch available) sets out the government’s measures. They include:
•the teacher development grant, which enables teachers to study for a bachelor’s or master’s degree;
•more job diversification by introducing a broader mix of posts and salary scales for teachers;
•the Register of Teachers. All qualified teachers in the Netherlands are eligible for enrolment in the Register of Teachers. They can also indicate the area of professional development in which they are engaged. Enrolment in the register is currently optional but the government wants to make it compulsory from 2017.
Teacher 2020 is not the only measure for improving teacher quality. The government is implementing several other strategies to enhance education quality:
•the action plan for school improvement, which has dramatically reduced the number of schools that are rated as ‘seriously failing’;
•the action plan for secondary education, which has served to tighten up examination requirements;
• the 2011-2015 Focus on Expertise action plan for secondary vocational education (MBO). Among other things, it seeks to improve examination quality and facilitate the transfer from pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) to vocational secondary education (MBO) to higher professional education (HBO).
Boosting the quality of school leaders
Education policy is geared to quality, so the standard of school leaders is a key issue. An extra €75 million has therefore been set aside to boost the quality of teaching staff and school leaders.
International studies show that school leadership has an impact on pupil outcomes. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has therefore earmarked an extra €29.5 million per year for training primary school leaders. This works out at around €2,000 per school leader per year.
Further professional development of primary and secondary school leaders and of middle management in secondary vocational education (MBO) will take place between 2012 and 2015. By 2016 all school leaders must comply with the statutory requirements. More information about the professional development of teachers can be found in the 2012 policy document on working in education (Werken in het onderwijs).