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On-going assessment of learning in inclusive settings - Netherlands

There is limited specific information on the assessment procedures. Several research projects have focussed on the characteristics of the pupils referred for special needs education and established the nature of the criteria by which these children are defined (Doornbos 1971; Meijer, 1988; Pijl & Pijl, 1998: Pijl, Pijl & Bos, 1999, den Dulk, 2004). Teachers generally refer pupils who are behind in learning within the context of a class situation. There is generally no applied norm against which children are measured; it is much more a teacher related standard based on the degree to which the teacher is able to cope with differences in the classroom. Referral for PCL assessment generally generates more data, the outcomes focus primarily on pupil characteristics and are often interpreted as supporting the class teachers views.
The criteria used by the indication committees in deciding on the eligibility of pupils for special needs education are largely based on criteria used in practice (Hover & Harperink, 1998). The problem is that most of these criteria focus rather too much on impairments. In current practice, assessment teams also focus on the effects of impairments in terms of pupil’s limitations within education and the consequences for educational programmes and use these in their judgment. Especially in the case of decision-making on pupil bound budgets it has been argued that funds should be made available for meeting the educational consequences of a disability. In other words: having an impairment does not necessarily imply having special educational needs, let alone that the same type of impairment should lead to the same needs and corresponding budget. It is, however, extremely difficult to develop clear sets of criteria and relevant diagnostic devices on the educational consequences of a disability. The currently applied assessment procedures do focus on the limitations of an impairment experienced in education, but assessment teams are permitted to ignore these for the majority of impairments. The focus on the educational consequences of a disability is in practice only a minor part of the assessment.
A second remark addresses the way of working of assessment teams. The new procedures are partly based on implementing scientific research models into assessment. Assessment is then regarded as building a theory about the pupil involved. The assessment team is asked to formulate hypotheses about the pupils’ impairment, disabilities and the possible resulting handicaps. The hypotheses can be based on information available at the referral, while testing the hypotheses is based on careful data gathering. If needed, another cycle of formulating hypotheses, data gathering and testing can follow. Forms have been developed in which assessment teams are stimulated to work according to these principles. Research shows that the indication committees in practice do not work that way (Veneman, 2004). They generally do not formulate hypotheses about the pupils’ impairment, disabilities and the possible resulting handicaps, but gather a more or less prefixed set of data and the basis for their conclusions is not always clear (Veneman, 2004).
In the newly developed procedures for assessment for a pupil bound budget an escape has been included for pupils not really meeting the criteria, but judged by the indication committee as in serious need for additional funding. The indication committees were allowed to use this “argued deviation” from the procedure in special cases. First data however show that indication committees tend to use this “argued deviation” quite often (19%) (LCTI, 2004). That suggests that either the criteria are too strict or that groups of pupils officially not eligible for special needs funding do receive a pupil bound budget.


  • Den Dulk, H. (2004). WSNS beleid op basis van kengetallen PCL. Interne notitie.
  • Doornbos, K. (1971). Geboortemaand en schoolsucces. Groningen.
  • Hover, C. and Harperink, M. (1998) Toelaatbaarheid getoetst. Den Haag: Smets+Hover+.
  • LCTI (2004). Gebruik van de beredeneerde afwijking. Dsen Haag: LCTI.
  • Meijer, C.J.W. (1988) Verwijzing gewogen. Dissertatie RU Leiden. Groningen: RION.
  • Pijl, Y.J. & Pijl, S.J. (1998). Are Pupils in Special Education too ‘Special’ for Regular Education? International Review of Education, 44, 1, 5-20.
  • Pijl, Y.J., Pijl, S.J. & Bos, K.P. van den (1999). Teachers’ Motives for Referring Special Needs Students to Special Education. In: K. Ballard (Ed). Inclusive Education: International Voices on Disability and Justice (pp 10 - 27). London: Falmer Press.
  • Veneman, H. (2004). Het gewicht van de rugzak (dissertatie). Groningen: GION.


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