What is the NVvTO?
The “Nederlandse Vereniging voor Thuisonderwijs” (NVvTO) means the Netherlands Home Education Association. It is an organization of parents (and other adults acting as such) who home-educate their children, or have done so in the past, or plan to do so in the future.
Is the NVvTO based on a particular view of life?
Not at all. The NVvTO is meant for all parents who (plan to) home-educate, regardless of their religion, personal philosophy, country of origin, ethnic identity, occupation, educational method, and state of health and/or handicap of parent or child. The association aspires to preserve its pluralistic nature.
What does the NVvTO do?
The NVvTO is a forum where we can meet each other and share our ideas and experiences. We therefore can support each other in order to serve the needs and interests of our children in any way we think is best.
What else does the NVvTO do?
The NVvTO exists to serve home-educating parents according to their wishes. For instance, this may include events for our children and supporting a lending library for books and materials. Members inform each other about the laws concerning home education and their current interpretation. The NVvTO also aims to make home education more accessible in the Netherlands through dialogues with government, legislature and the press, on both local and national levels.
What is the NVvTO’s position on (public) schooling?
Home education is supposed to be an option, not an obligation. The NVvTO supports the right of all parents to have their children attend a school if and as long as they wish so.
Education law in The Netherlands
In principle, every child that resides in The Netherlands is subject to compulsory school attendance for his education from his fifth birthday on. This means that s/he must:
a. be enrolled at a government approved school;
b. attend this school whenever it is open, barring certain circumstances such as illness.
The Compulsory Education Law (Leerplichtwet) is enforced by a Compulsory Education Officer, (leerplichtambtenaar, hereafter CEO), who is employed by the municipality. The CEO regularly extracts a list of school-aged children from the municipality’s registry of residents and compares it to the lists of enrolled children provided by the local schools. When a discrepancy is found the CEO sends a letter to the child’s parents inquiring where the child is enrolled. This in itself is fairly common and does not have to be a cause for concern. As parents have a great deal of freedom of choice in schools, many children are enrolled in schools outside the municipality in which they live. When the CEO receives the information about the school in which the child is enrolled from the parents, s/he verifies it by checking with the school.
Children who do not appear in the registry, such as tourists and illegal residents, are not subject to this procedure. Although the police can legally pick up children from the streets during school hours and bring them to the school they are enrolled in, in practice no cases of this happening to home-educated children are known.
The tourist status is extended for a maximum of three months, after which the tourist is required to leave the country. It is not legal or even possible to avoid registering a child with resident status. A child born in the country must be registered within three days from birth.
Dutch law and home education
Although home education in itself is not literally recognized by law in the Netherlands, a growing number of families have qualified for an exemption from compulsory school registration. The ease with which such an exemption is attained depends largely on the personal disposition of your CEO and/or your municipality’s policy, on the wording of your exemption call, and a bit on your personal presentation.
Once such an exemption is acknowledged, the authorities have no more legal way to regularly supervise your child’s education. Reading article 5 of the Compulsory Education Law, one might think that in the case of a school exemption education would not be mandatory at all. However, article 1:247 Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek) states that parents must care for their children’s personality development and well-being. This means you are bound to provide your child some sort of a suitable education anyway, in accordance with your own principles.
The legality of voluntary home education is mostly based on article 5, clause b, of the Compulsory Education Law, which exempts parents from registering their child at a school if they object to the orientation (richting) of the education given by all schools located within a reasonable distance from their home (from around 6 km for primary schools to around 20 km for secondary schools, depending on the child’s age). Court precedents have made clear that richting stands for the religious or life-philosophical orientation on which the school has been founded. Parents may object to public schools as well as other schools with a neutral orientation. These schools mostly entertain the secular norms and values of the majority of the Dutch population. However, expressing objections against educational methods or the legal set-up of schools does not qualify for exemption.
See the sample letter that calls for the exemption based on article 5.b
In order to apply for the exemption you must submit a letter as mentioned above to the municipality of your residence before the first day of the month in which the child turns 5 years old, or immediately after the child is registered as a municipal resident, whichever comes first. The exemption is valid for (the remainder of) one school year, which runs from the first of August till the 31st of July. You’ll have to submit a new exemption letter each year before the end of June to prolong the exemption. Do not forget to adapt the letter date in concordance to the coming school year.
You better not try enroll your child at a school first, if you think of home-educating him/her based on the exemption of article 5, clause b, of the Compulsory Education Law, as article 8 of this law specifically rules out exemptions in case the child has attended a school during the previous year that propagates an orientation the parents have to object against in order to qualify. Currently, the only way to overcome this barrier is to move to an area in the country where no school of the previously accepted orientation is available, or to move to another country for more than a year.
A child’s special needs or the fact that he is unhappy or bullied in school does not easily qualify the child for exemption from compulsory school enrollment. In those cases the municipality officials will at first point you to another regular school or to one of the different special needs schools in the region. Only if an expert declares the child unfit to be admitted by any school at all, he/she qualifies for an exemption based on article 5 sub a of the Compulsory Education Law. The child’s condition then has to be assessed by a medical doctor, a psychologist or a pedagogue, assigned by the municipality to do this job. It may make a difference in the assessment if the assigned expert knows about the effectiveness of home education found by researchers
In a small but growing number of cases families have been able to negotiate an exemption for a child from regular school attendance, legally based on article 11, clauses d or g, of the Compulsory Education Law. In some of those cases the education is provided for by the parents, assisted by a correspondence school.
If you like to get into contact with other English speaking home educating parents in the Netherlands, you are welcome to join the English language mailinglist..
This information is of a general nature. While every effort has been made to ensure the appropriateness and accuracy of this page, the NVvTO accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage howsoever caused. For further information please contact us.
Version date: June, 2013.