Childcare and Schools in Amsterdam
An Insider’s Guide to Living in Amsterdam
This Amsterdam relocation guide has been designed with the explicit intention to provide expats and travellers with all they need to know about moving to Amsterdam.
This exciting chapter covers Childcare and Schools.
There’s a huge choice when it comes to childcare and schools in Amsterdam. From Preschool all the way through to secondary schools, your kids are going to get the best education they can get. Your choices of schools may well have an affect on their path to Higher Education.
To make this easier for you, we’ve put together this chapter which will highlight the school options that you can take advantage of while you’re in Amsterdam.
Be advised that some schools (especially preschools) may have long waiting lists so it is best to register your child as early as possible.
5.1 Preschool Childcare
Preschools in Amsterdam take the form of playgroups and daycare centres. For children aged two and a half to four years old they can experience specialised educational programmes that focus on language as well as social, physical and creative development. They all sing, play and listen to stories as they begin their learning journey. Preschool is not compulsory though it is most certainly recommended.
Preschools always work in conjunction with a primary school in order to make the transition easier on the child as they progress to group 1 and 2.
Day Centres and creches provide special areas for babies and toddlers where they can be looked after throughout the day. Employers should help towards childcare payments with vouchers or something of the sort but they are not legally obliged to. Some will be free whether other will change depending on your income. The children will be kept to a strict timetable for eating, playing and sleeping, so you don’t have to worry about them not getting into a routine. Most daycare facilities are open from 08:00 to 18:00, giving working parents like yourselves the ability to schedule your day.
A good idea is you want your children to be looked after on an intermittent basis. Costs will obviously vary on the childminder but something sensible can be arranged with amicable negotiation. The childminder can either look after your children in their house or your house. The choice is yours.
In the Netherlands, childminders must satisfy the requirements set by the Dutch Childcare Provisions Act. These are:
- A correct diploma or certificate.
- A registered and valid first aid certificate that focuses on children.
- Must be 18 or older.
- Must have a certificate of good conduct (VOG).
- Must have valid proof of identity.
- Be registered with a childminding agency that is registered in the Dutch National Childcare and Playgroup Register).
- Be familiar with the pedagogical policy plan, the health and safety risk inventory and the child abuse protocol of the childminding agency.
- Must speak Dutch or a language that is relevant for the family.
If you choose to hire a childminder, ensure they satisfy those requirements before accepting.
Nannies and Au Pairs
Some parents choose to hire a nanny or Au Pair to help raise their children. If this is your preferred method then this section will be really handy as there are some things you should consider before hiring an Au Pair.
There are restrictions on bringing an au pair to the Netherlands. The IND website has information about the restrictions and requirements. Some of these are listed below:
- Must be over 18 and under 31.
- Can only do light domestic duties to assist you in exchange for bed and living space.
- Can only work a maximum 8 hours per day, 30 hours per week.
- Must have two days off per week.
- Can't have had any previous Dutch residence permit for exchange purposes.
- Cannot have previously worked for your family abroad.
- Only a recognised au pair agency can submit a permit application on their behalf.
- They can only stay in the Netherlands for one year for the purpose of cultural exchange and are not allowed to work outside the agreed au pair duties.
You must have sufficient income to support the family and an au pair and must be registered at the same address, and agree to a daily schedule.
The costs vary depending on where you send your child and what method you choose (from the options above). As mentioned before, some childcare centres as well as preschools are free so you don’t need to worry. Costs are reportedly increasing in Netherlands, however, you may be able to get an allowance if both you and your partner are working.
In short, the costs will differ compared to how much you earn and your location. Most enquiry sites come with calculation tools to help you get the exact price.
School attendance is compulsory from ages 5 to 16. This covers primary through to secondary education. These are the most informative years of a child’s life and, as we all know from the stresses and disappointments of adult life, also the most fun. The Dutch education system gives a balanced approach to education and provides all your child need to lead the beginnings of a good life and career.
The education system is characterised by division, with education being geared towards the needs and background of the pupil. This is sometimes confusing and controversial but we’ll do our best to make as simple as we can.
As such, there are a variety of choices for you to choose for your child depending on income and preference.
Private vs State Education
In Amsterdam the vast majority of schools are funded by the state. There are a few private schools but not as many as what you would find in other western parts of the world. International schools can be private and independent, but if this is not your thing, then state education will be your best bet. Depending on the needs of your child will determine whether you choose private or state schools.
Most parents in Amsterdam, as well as the Netherlands in general, will send their child to a public school. This is hardly surprising given the quality of the public schools and the great amenities and curriculum they offer.
While the primary schools offer the general education standards and lessons that you’d come to expect from ages 4 to 12, the secondary schools differ. This is where the division takes place.
The primary school will send a report to the secondary school telling them which of the branches the child is best suited to. The children will also take a test in group 8 to assess their abilities, which will also determine which branch they will fall into. These are:
- VMBO - This branch focuses on practical knowledge, which leads to vocational training (MBO). It takes four years to complete and has two qualification levels, taking the students to the age of 16 to finish.
- HAVO - This five-year middle branch prepares students to study higher professional education at universities of applied sciences to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Most students will complete the branch at the age of 17.
- VWO - This six-year branch focuses on theoretical knowledge to prepare students for taking a bachelor’s degree at a research university. Students study the VWO until the age of 18.
These are often known as Special Schools and are administered by an independent board but still receive funding from the government. These have a set religion that plays a key role within the curriculum but doesn't diminish the role of key lessons like Maths and Science. If you have a tie to the Catholic faith or any other faith, then these schools are the right choice for your children.
Taking your children from one school to another can be hard but taking them to another country is even harder. To get them more confident and comfortable in the city of Amsterdam, international schools are a great option as they provide the language and culture lessons they need whilst keeping with their own mother tongue.
Some of these schools are run independently and will cost a fee for your child to attend. However, a fair few are run by the municipalities and government funding. The city and nation are renown for having a host of options for international schooling and your child won’t be left out.
5.3 Family Fun
Amsterdam is more than just an attractions for adults; families can have fun too. Museums, theatres, shows, zoos children’s stores and more are all available for the young ones and will keep them entertained as they explore a city full culture and fun.
Little ones will be more than catered for in the big city. From the Vondelpark - full of greenery, fun and quite often compared to New York’s own Central Park - to all the petting zoos, Amsterdam Dungeon, Amsterdam Forest, Ondekhoek (Discovery Corner) and canal cruises, there’s much for all the family (regardless of age) to take pleasure in.
This 19tyh century urban park is fully of the wonderous greenery and open space that kids and parents need to kick back, have fun and engage in. A series of ponds, playgrounds and an open air theatre makes this a great attractions. You’ll see why it’s often compared to Central Park in New York.
Another great addition, this features a labyrinth, a café, a restaurant, two galleries, an orangery, a petting zoo and a mini-golf course. With all this to see and do you’ll definitely want to bring the kids here. Over 1 million visitors come here every year and you’ll be one of them.
That concludes today’s lesson
This guide to schooling and child care is certainly not definitive, but it gives you helpful pointers that will prove extremely useful should you visit for an extended period of time. Remember; Amsterdam is packed with multiculturalism and creative influences that will please, entertain and educate people of all ages.