School is compulsory in the Netherlands between the ages of five and 16. All schools in the country, including private ones, are overseen by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education, and the standards are closely monitored.
Expats moving to Utrecht will be pleased by the schooling options on offer and find that the education system in the Netherlands is of a high standard.
Public schools in Utrecht
Expat children can attend public schools in the Netherlands along with Dutch children. While the teaching style may differ from what expat students are accustomed to, the quality and reputation of public schools across the Netherlands are good.
However, the language of instruction is Dutch. So, public schools in Utrecht are only really a viable option for very young children whose parents plan on settling down in the Netherlands. Expat parents can also contact the municipality and schools directly to find out if any bilingual programmes are offered.
Attendance is optional in the first year of primary school and only becomes compulsory on a child’s fifth birthday.
Government-funded schools are free to all children aged between four and 16, with subsidised fees being applicable for the last two years of school.
There are three types of public secondary education and recommendations made by primary school teachers aim to ensure each child is matched with the option that best suits their character and abilities. Each of these schools starts with a generic curriculum and then specialise in different areas. VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) schools offer a practical and vocational programme, while HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) are more academically focused.
Private and international schools in Utrecht
Private and international schools in the Netherlands have a little more flexibility when it comes to teaching methods, language and curricula. Expats may therefore find that these are a better option for their children.
That said, there is only one international school in Utrecht and it follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Naturally, it is oversubscribed so expats who want to pursue this option should be sure to apply well ahead of time.
Additionally, fees are high and add to the cost of living in Utrecht. Parents are also advised to budget for expenses such as the cost of uniforms, textbooks and school excursions.
Nurseries in Utrecht
Families moving to Utrecht with young children will find no shortage of preschools and nurseries. Daycares in Utrecht care for children as young as three months old, while infants aged two to four attend preschools.
Partou is the country's biggest childcare organisation and offers centres in Utrecht.
Special-needs education in Utrecht
The Netherlands values inclusive education and both public and private schools in Utrecht offer services to support students with disabilities, impairments and disorders. We recommend that new arrivals in Utrecht enquire at their local municipality about the exact services available.
Aside from mainstream classes, expats will also find speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. These centres are dedicated to special education needs. Speciaal onderwijs schools are divided into clusters depending on the type of impairment or disorder, including visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities, and behavioural or social problems.
Homeschooling in Utrecht
The Dutch legal system only recognises homeschooling in highly specific situations. Expat parents typically send their children to a public or private school, and few see the need to homeschool their kids. That said, distance learning is fast becoming a new reality. Parents are encouraged to ask at the local municipality and the schools themselves for information on programmes and resources available.
Tutors in Utrecht
Expat children may need some additional support integrating into the new education system while the whole family can benefit from Dutch language lessons. Hiring a tutor can be the answer to this. New arrivals will encounter a host of tutoring companies in Utrecht. Tutors can also be found via online platforms, and sessions can be conducted in person or online.