Primary education: Which school do you choose?

With the birth of your child you are at the top an invisible list of choices that you will make in the future. Before you were born, assuming that you had made the most important choice by determining a given name, then you are wrong. Choosing the right primary education is of course not the first thing that comes to mind, but early research into a suitable primary school can work to your advantage.

Hard choice

If you already have a child at school, the choice is made quickly. Other parents may think that such a choice can not be so difficult: "The school that is so close to the neighborhood is a very good one, I always hear good stories about it! If my child is 3.5 years old, I will register it. ' Distance is indeed an important criterion, but choosing a school is also very personal. What the neighbors think is a suitable school for their child does not have to be the best school for your child. For example, do you choose a public school, or a school with a certain religious belief? Is the Montessori school better or does Free School seem to be the best choice? Do you want a structured environment for your child, or do you find it important that the emphasis is on the development of his or her creative talents and social skills? Does this school have a waiting list? Read on and get answers to all these questions. Discover what Dutch primary education has to offer you and your child!

General education

Something for everyone, you could say if you compare the types of primary education that the Netherlands has to offer.

Public school

First of all, the public school: it does not work from a certain religion or belief: children of all beliefs and religions can register here. A third of all children in primary education are in a public school.

School with religious conviction

In addition to the public schools, there are schools based on religious convictions, such as Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic education. Faith runs like a thread through education: so important holidays are celebrated and there are religious lessons. The extent to which faith is further reflected in daily practice varies per school. Some schools have a week opening where a story from, for example, the Bible is told, other schools also have a day opening and a day end. You can best inform the school in question how it works.
Confession of faith is not an admission requirement, although it is nice to have an affinity with it.

Tip: Buy a children's Bible, then you can connect to the experience of your child when he or she comes out of school singing and ask questions about Samsom and Delilah, Noah with his Ark.

General special primary education

In addition to the 'frontal education', in other words, the classroom lessons in which the teacher explains and the students listen, there are schools that are based on the conviction that there are other possibilities. At the beginning of the last century, a group of educationalists felt that education and education should be closer together, based on the individual child. This resulted in the entrance of, among others, Montessori education, the Jenaplan schools and Dalton education.


The first Montessori kindergarten in the Netherlands dates from 1914. Maria Montessori, the founder of the type of education of the same name, was convinced that children could best develop themselves in a group with children of other ages. The education had to fit in with the child's experience.
The teachers are called supervisors.

Montessori in practice

Little to no classroom lessons: children have daily or weekly tasks that have to be finished at a specific time. The teacher is a supervisor.
There are groups with children of different ages, divided into three years, so that the child is once the youngest, the middle and the oldest.
Not the teacher, but the child corrects mistakes. On the basis of answer cards, children correct their assignments and thus learn for themselves what they have done wrong.
There is no rating assessment; no reports with numbers. The 'teacher' keeps a record in which it is recorded which activities the child has done and how this has been done.
We work with specially designed teaching materials, also called development material, where the child himself discovers how to use the different materials, for example the stacking of blocks.

In short, your child learns to work independently - in freedom - but is not completely released. Realize that your child hardly gets class lessons and the skills that he or she has at a certain age may differ from the skills of peers in a 'normal' school.


The German Peter Petersen from the town of Jena in Germany, is the founder of this and dates back to 1924. He felt that intellectual development and upbringing should be integrated into the education they are following.

Jenaplan in practice

No classes, but tribal groups with children with an age difference of three years. Each tribe has its own, homely space and the children bear responsibility for this, such as cleaning up the space.
Little classroom education: cooperation between children is important, also with children of other ages.
In addition to arithmetic, reading and writing, creative and socio-emotional skills are also developed.
There is a fixed weekly schedule with group discussions, working independently, working together on a theme and creative subjects.

In short, your child develops social-emotional skills and can be very creative at school, works together and develops a strong self-image. There is little to no classroom education. Less structure than at an 'ordinary' school, but it is security and homeliness. Here too, the things a child has to know at a normal school at a certain age are less tightly defined.

Dalton education

Helen Parkhurst founded the first school in 1919 in the town of Dalton in America. The child also plays a central role in this form, with the most important points being freedom in bondage, independence and cooperation.

Dalton in practice

Little classroom lessons: children have a number of tasks and share their own time, as long as the tasks are completed on time. These are weekly tasks, monthly tasks, individual or group tasks. The teacher is a supervisor.
Children learn to work together: this is how they arrive at a solution.
Sometimes the children work in different places, inside or outside the classroom.
In summary: Your child learns to plan and carry out his or her 'work'. No classroom education, but independence and learning to cooperate. Children have more freedom and are sometimes allowed to work outside the classroom.

Free school

Perhaps the Free School calls for associations of unrelated children who are free all day to do what they want. However, that is a misconception. In this case the term free means 'free from state interference'. In the Netherlands there is freedom of education and schools decide for themselves how they provide education. Obviously, however, limits are set here.
The Free School is based on anthroposophy (man and wisdom): the development of human capabilities is central to this. The feeling for the social and artistic aspect of life is emphasized. This type of education assumes that every child has his or her own 'assignment' in life, with education to offer support.

The Free School in practice

Classes with multiple age groups.
Games and materials are offered in such a way that there is plenty of room for the child's own interpretation.
Activities that match the child will always come back on the same days as points of reference.
Creative activities such as drawing, baking, painting, crafts or working with beeswax.

In short: Rhythm and repetition, safety and an atmosphere of warmth and trust, that is the basis for the development of your child at the Free School. You often hear free schoolparents say: 'my child is seen here at school'.

Many common ground

What is striking about these forms of education is that they have a lot of common ground. They all emphasize a different aspect. Are you interested in this form or forms, then it is wise to visit the schools and get further information during a personal interview. This way you discover which type best fits your philosophy of life.
It is important to ask yourself whether this type of education suits your child. You can be free-spirited, but have a child that needs a clear structure. Is a school with special education than the most suitable for your child?

Wide school

Passed from Great Britain and Sweden is the school form that has the future in the Netherlands, the community school. This is a partnership between parties that deal with growing children. The goal of this partnership is to increase the development opportunities of the children. Thereby, matching care is offered. Childcare, welfare, playgroup, sports, culture, library and other institutions can also be part of the community school. This can be a solution for working parents. The idea that a school is best for the children by working with so many professional parties, is a pleasant idea for every parent.

The community school in practice

A place where school and pre-school and after-school care merge. This is nice for the children because this is one thing for them. Now the children in primary school are often on the go all day: from pre-school daycare to school, then remaining, then back to school and then to after-school care.
There are playgroups and crèches in some schools.
Cooperation with cultural and sports centers, but also with welfare organizations.
Broad schools can be found everywhere: in 337 municipalities of the 443 in the Netherlands there are broad primary schools or they are under development. That is, about 1000 primary schools.

What else is important?

After you have determined which type of primary school suits you and your child, there are a number of practical issues that you can take into account.

From what age is my child subject to compulsory education? From five years 'your child' has to, but he or she is already going to school when the fourth birthday is celebrated. The next school day starts the school career! It is possible to get used to it in the preceding period, the school will inform you about this.
Before your child is registered, a conversation takes place between parents / guardians and the school. In this information is given, you get a guided tour and questions can be answered. Schools have a school guide, it is useful to request them for the interview.


Do I have to pay? The government pays the education from tax money. The school will ask for a voluntary parental contribution. Activities are paid for this, such as school trips.


If the school you have chosen is not in the neighborhood where you live, inform if the school allows children from another neighborhood. It happens that school boards decide that only children who live in the neighborhood where the school is located are admitted. The board usually has several schools under its care and does this to get a good distribution of pupils, so that not one school is full and the other school has too few pupils.

Waiting lists?

Waiting lists: especially in large cities, waiting lists are becoming increasingly common. Parents increasingly have a preference for a school. If a school is good, many parents want to register their child there. There is of course a lot of information available and also the 'weak' schools are known and receive fewer registrations. This can be read on the site of the education inspectorate. It is therefore advisable to in any case inform the schools in the neighborhood whether they have a waiting list. In an intake interview, schools with waiting lists often feel the parents to some extent about their motives for choosing the school. A question can be, for example, what the parents value in the pedagogical policy of the school. It is important to enter the conversation well prepared!

How do they work?

Does the school have a pupil tracking system and is there a Cito test?
How big are the groups and is your child in a combined class, group 1 and 2?
What does the school expect from parents? Parents are very important for schools: they accompany children on school trips, assist with computer lessons, help with cleaning or make the photos during performances, or are copy mother or father.

Reception options

How is out-of-school care arranged? In school or through a professional childcare organization? Every primary school is obliged to offer out-of-school care to their pupils. Many schools outsource this to professional childcare organizations outside the school. Inform yourself on which location your child ultimately ends up. Is he or she being taken to the shelter with a van and how long does the journey take? Many childcare organizations face waiting lists and lack of space and therefore place the children further away from the neighborhood at locations. This has consequences for the place where you can pick up your child at the end of the day. After school, your child is very tired, especially in the beginning, and such a 'world trip' can have a significant impact on your child. Also inform whether there is a waiting list for out-of-school care and when your child can be placed.

Listen to your feelings

In addition to information, preparations and research, your feeling plays a crucial role in the choice of a primary school. A school can have such good papers, if the layout of the classrooms does not suit you, the school makes a messy impression or you just do not say anything, then it will not be a success. Go to see a number of schools, listen to the information that is given and keep the ears and eyes open!

Genuine interest?

Is there only talk about the quality of the school, or is there a genuine interest in your child? If it is only a 'sales conversation', without any interest in the personality who will soon take his or her first steps in the school, that can influence the choice: after all, it is your child who will spend a considerable amount of time there. ! Just to give an example: a father and mother visit three schools. The type of school has been carefully chosen: Montessori. One school would, if they could believe other parents at least, jump head and shoulders above them. However, this school makes absolutely no impression and the director keeps his chat and comes across as businesslike. They visit the other schools where the third school makes a pleasant and peaceful impression on them. The director of this school showed interest in their son and allowed the parents to speak freely about their child in order to get an impression of the new, future pupil. You will not be surprised that they have chosen this school!

Video: A Day in the Life of a Primary School Teacher

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