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Preamble - Netherlands

Elementary education in the Netherlands caters for pupils aged 4 to 11 divided over 8 age groups. The education system generally allows children only to continue to the next group (or class) when they pass in their current year. As a result, pupils who develop differently are quickly identified as ‘at risk-children’. Despite a policy of integrated education and mainstreaming (see II, 1.2 & 1.3), many regular schools still regard referral to special education as the obvious answer for pupils with special needs. Sometimes the school doubts its ability to give the child a proper education and assumes that a special school has more to offer.
We generally identify five steps in adapting education to a pupil’s special needs in the Netherlands:

  • Step 1. Adaptive education: the teacher adapts the teaching to the abilities of all individual pupils. He or she believes the problem can be addressed and sets to work.
  • Step 2. Nevertheless, the problem with a particular pupil persists: it is reported to the school’s special needs co-ordinator, and together with the teacher he or she discusses the pupil’s capacities and the teacher’s interventions.
  • Step 3. Nevertheless, the problem persists: in a school-level meeting the pupil is discussed, in accordance with a set plan.
  • Step 4. Nevertheless, the problem persists: it is referred to a regional committee (PCL, see II, 1.2) with a request for needs-based assessment and recommendations.
  • Step 5. Nevertheless, the problem still persists: the pupil is referred to a committee (CvI, see II, 1.3) that decides whether the child needs special education. For pupils with obvious special needs the first four steps can be omitted.

The following section describes the legal system for assessment. It is organised in line with two major reforms in Dutch special needs education, the Together to school again policy and the back-pack policy.
The final section of this report presents a relevant example of ‘best practice’ in special needs assessment in the Netherlands. It describes in detail new ways of working as assessment teams.

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