Schools in Amsterdam
Children from about three months up to four years of age can be looked after in a daycare center (called KDV or crèche). Some daycare centers have separate groups for babies and toddlers (horizontal groups); others combine children aged 0-4 in a single group (vertical groups). There is typically a strict timetable for playing (both indoors and outdoors), eating and sleeping. Usually they follow the home schedule of young babies in terms of feeding and sleeping.
Most daycare facilities are open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and offer all-day care. Some locations offer the possibility of half-day care, and others even 24-hour care. All childcare centers must comply with a strict quality standard in accordance with Dutch law. This also applies to the child-teacher ratio. You can find the inspection reports (in Dutch) on the following government website:
If both parents work (or if a single parent works), they may be able to get a tax rebate for daycare costs. The extent of the rebate depends on household income. You can find more info (in English) on the website of the tax office (Belastingdienst): here
From the age of two, children may also attend preschool. Preschools are run by daycare centers and usually only offer half days. The municipality subsidizes preschool for parents who are not entitled to a tax rebate.
You can find all daycares and preschools in Amsterdam on the municipality's website: here
Elementary school (“basisschool” literally, “basic school”):
Most children start elementary school the day after their 4th birthday. From age five, children are obliged to go to school.
Elementary school has eight grades, called groep 1 (group 1) through groep 8 (age 12). Most schools combine groups 1 and 2 in the same class.
In group 1-2 they focus on learning through play, social skills, gross and fine motor skills, structure, independence, and gradual preparation for reading and writing. ‘Real’ academic work starts at the age of six, in group 3. Most elementary schools don’t give much homework - if any.
Some schools are based on religion (like Catholic, Protestant or Islamic schools) or an educational philosophy like Montessori, Waldorf or Dalton.
The government monitors all schools, and funds about 99% of them. The average number of students in a government-funded school class is 28. In the handful of private, fee-paying schools, class sizes are smaller.
How to find an elementary school in Amsterdam:
In Amsterdam, places at elementary school are assigned through a lottery. You get priority for at least eight schools closest to your house. You’ll have to rank at least five schools in order of your preference and submit your form -in person- before the application deadline. The deadline is around 3 years and 2 months of age.
You can find info about all government-funded elementary schools in Amsterdam, as well as about the application procedure, on the municipality's website: here
Schools may decide on their own school hours; most choose from 8:30-9:00 a.m. to 2:45-3:15 p.m. Many schools are closed on Wednesday afternoons.
If parents work, their children can go to after-school care (BSO), which is run by a daycare organization. In some cases the after-school care takes place at the same school, but more commonly the BSO picks up the children from the school, and takes them to nearby facilities. You’ll have to arrange and pay for BSO separately. Many BSOs have a waiting list.
Other options are a gastouder (childminder), or arranging fixed days of playdates with other parents.
The Dutch summer vacation lasts six weeks, and after every 6 or 7 weeks of school, the pupils have 1 or 2 weeks off to relax and recharge their batteries. The school year starts late August/beginning of September and lasts 40 weeks in total.
The Dutch school attendance law is very strict, and the same for all. Your children may only take off from school if you have a specific reason, like for example a family wedding, or funeral, or when you can prove you cannot go on vacation during the summer because of your job.
Starting Dutch school from age 6:
Is your child 6 or older and you want to send him/her to a Dutch school, yet s/he doesn’t speak Dutch yet? Then s/he will most likely be referred to a newcomer class first. Here they will learn the language in small classes from specialized teachers. The newcomer class takes on average one year. Usually the pupils are promoted to the next grade after that. There are a few schools that have an internal newcomer class, and a couple of separate schools for newcomers.
Regular schools can cater for children who have special needs, up to a certain extent. If the needs are too complicated or severe, the child will be referred to a specialized special needs school.
High school – Dutch Secondary Education:
After attending elementary education, the pupils, when they are around 12 years old, go directly to high school (“voortgezet onderwijs”: literally, “continued education”). Based on the advice of the group 8 teacher, and the results of the obligatory end-of-elementary-school test (Cito or other), a choice is made for the VMBO, HAVO, or VWO stream. VMBO is vocational education, and takes 4 years. HAVO is more generic education and takes 5 years. VWO, which takes 6 years, is pre-university education.
After completing one level, you may move up to the penultimate year of the next level. Many schools combine multiple levels in the first year (called brugklas).
Children who have lived less than four years in the Netherlands, are not obliged to take the end-of-elementary-school test. In this case, their teachers will determine which stream of high school will be most suitable for them.
Like elementary school, some high schools are religious, or based on an educational philosophy.
You can find more info about all government-funded high schools in Amsterdam, as well as about the application procedure, on the municipality's website: here
International education is well established in and around the big cities in the Netherlands. There are both private and subsidized international schools. In general, private schools are more expensive, but have shorter waiting lists and offer more facilities.
The subsidized schools are intended for children who live temporarily (2-3 years) in the Netherlands because of their parents’ jobs, although they won’t kick them out if you end up staying longer. You can find more information about Dutch State-Supported International Schools: here
You can find a full list of international schools, including the private ones: here