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Primary and secondary school

Children can start school in the Netherlands from age 4. By law, they are required to attend school between the ages of 5 and 16. As an international parent, you may want to send your child to an international school or to a Dutch school, depending on how long you plan to stay in the Netherlands.

Dutch education system

In the Netherlands, it is mandatory for children to attend school when they are 5 years old. They first go to a primary school (group 1-8) and then continue their education at a secondary school. Compulsory schooling ends at the end of the school year in which the child turns 16.

Because school attendance is required by law (the leerplicht in Dutch), schools will not give you permission to take your children on holidays outside of the official school holiday periods.

More on schools and education in Amsterdam

Primary schools in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has more than 190 primary schools but many have long waiting lists. Start looking for a school soon after arriving in the Netherlands. View the city's online list of primary schools in Amsterdam or request a school guide (scholengids) from your city district office (stadsdeel).

Secondary schools in Amsterdam

After group 8, which is the final year of primary school, pupils start secondary school. There are four branches of secondary education in the Netherlands:

  • practical education (learning a trade)
  • preparatory secondary vocational education (VMBO)
  • senior general secondary education (HAVO)
  • pre-university education (VWO).

You child's primary school will give advice about branch they think best suits your child. Children take a test in group 8 to assess their aptitude. This is called the CITO test (CITO-toets). The school's recommendation will be based in part on your child's CITO test results.

Finding the right secondary school

Once you know which branch of secondary education your child will attend, you can visit different schools in that branch to find one you like. During school open days you can visit schools and talk to teachers. Because many schools receive more applications than there are places available, it is important to apply on time and consider alternatives. You can only register with one school at a time.

THere are over 30 secondary schools in Amsterdam. You can read about them online or request a school guide (scholengids) from any city district office.

International schools

If you prefer an international education for your child, there are several options in and around Amsterdam. For an overview of international schools in the Amsterdam region, you can visit the website of the municipality of Amsterdam.