Livia Hirsch and Emma Wendt
One in seven primary schools across the Netherlands has too few students, according to a new pupil norm introduced this year. This means, over 900 schools face the threat of closure.
Wilma de Vries, a mother of two living in Epe, says “Luckily it seems like our town will be able to keep its primary school open. However, what will happen to schools in smaller villages? As a mother, I would be very stressed not knowing where my children would go to school.”
The quota will vary as it is based on the number of children in each municipality. However, many schools with less than fifty students are at risk. If a school has too little pupils for three years in a row, it will no longer receive subsidies from the government and will therefore have to close its doors. There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if the same board also has a larger school then the number of students of individual schools will not be considered, instead it will be decided based on an average.
De Vries also expresses her concern for the school teachers as they will have a bigger work load, “small schools will probably have to combine classes together. This means classrooms will lose the personal touch and it will be harder for students to get individual attention. The work load will be much bigger for teachers as they will have to prepare work for multiple grade levels.”
Many parents are also worried about the increase distance their children will travel and how that will impact them. The average distance from home to primary school used to be under one kilometer but has now stretched to 3.4 kilometers. This means young children can no longer cycle on their own. “I know many parents who are worried about if this will impact their job, as they will now have to drive their kids to school,” comments De Vries.
However, small schools which remain open, will receive extra financial aid. In addition to the standard amount, the government will give them an extra 145,000 euros per year. Also, the grand coalition has agreed to dedicate an extra twenty million euros per year to education. “Small schools have a crucial function in small communities,” education minister Arie Slob said when he outlined the measure.