If you’re considering remaining in the Netherlands for (part of) your child’s secondary school education, it may be helpful to start thinking about what this entails as early as Group 6. This is when school exam results (CITOs) become relevant for later education streams.
However, it’s towards the end of Group 7 that children and parents usually begin seriously thinking about secondary school placement. Here are a few tips to consider when looking forthe right school. (Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive list and there are exceptions, special education needs, etc which may make your process different from the norm).
1. Have an idea of the stream of education your child will receive.
There are 3 main streams* of education that most children will fall into:
VMBO (4-year programme)
HAVO (5-year programme)
VWO (6-year programme)
In Group 7 your child’s teacher will provide an Indicative Recommendation (Voorlopig Advies). This recommendation will be based upon LVS scores (such as CITO), observations and test results from this year and from group 6. The final recommendation will be will be provided in Group 8 and will be formalised for Secondary School applications. Not all schools offer all the streams so, depending on the stream of education you expect your child to receive, you can start checking out schools that offer that stream in your area.
*Expatica have a great description of the education streams and explanation of the abbreviations used: https://www.expatica.com/nl/education/Education-in-the-Netherlands_100816.html
2. Choosing the right fit
There is a strong focus in the Netherlands on matching the child’s needs and wishes to the type of school available. For example, some schools focus on sports more than others (Kennemer Lyceum and Schoter are examples of sporty schools), others are very academically driven (Stedelijk Gymnasium) or focus more on arts and culture (Rudolf Steiner).
Detailed information on the various secondary schools in the Haarlem area is available on a website called Brugweb (https://www.brugweb.nl/).
In addition, following trial lessons at a few schools is a great way to get a feel for how lessons are given, what the teachers are like and the culture of the school.
3. (Biking) distance from home
Most Dutch kids bike to school in all weathers so, if you can, pick a school that they can safely travel to within about 30 minutes. This also means that their friends will probably live close enough to hang out with after school (not unimportant). It’s no fun being the only kid that lives an hour away by bus.
Again Brugweb provides an overview of the locations of the available schools: https://www.brugweb.nl/locatie
4. The Haarlem Lottery
It’s important to know schools in Haarlemmermeer will run a ‘lottery’ if they are oversubscribed. In Group 8, children, together with their parents, select five schools and rank them in order of preference. This ranking is listed on the child’s application and submitted for placement. If the number of applicants exceeds available places, schools will run a lottery to randomly select which children are offered a place. This means that your child may not be placed in his/her first choice of school. In the worst case scenario, they may be placed in their fifth choice.
Check out the school fairs that take place in November. Most schools are represented there and you can talk to students about their school. One is held annually in Groenendaal for schools in the Haarlem South/Heemstede area and the other in Het Polderhuis (Velserbroek) for the North Haarlem area.
Keep an eye on the Brugweb site for next dates: https://www.brugweb.nl/open_dagen
Join the Dutch Education Group on Facebook. Search for topics that have come up in the past to glean valuable information from both locals and expats (in English). Topics can be very broad, but a heap of experience is shared that can be very helpful