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The Court of Audit strongly criticizes education subsidies

The Court of Audit is very critical of the way in which the outgoing ministers of education provide subsidies to schools in order to eliminate educational disadvantages. It is unclear whether the money will reach vulnerable students. Insight is of great importance, the Court of Audit believes. Especially considering the announced 8,5 billion euros from the National Education Program.

'Due to the way in which the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science grants the subsidies and demands accountability, it is not possible to investigate the effects afterwards,' the Court of Audit concludes in the report. Accountability survey 2020. A report in which the calculators take stock every year and examine whether the public money of the government has been well spent. The Court of Audit points to the risk of continuing to spend money on something, of which you do not know whether the investments will yield anything.

'Due to the way in which the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science grants the subsidies and demands accountability, it is also not possible to investigate the effects afterwards'

Millions

Last year, schools were closed several times due to the corona pandemic. Education ministers Ingrid van Engelshoven and Arie Slob then decided in May 2020 to allocate 244 million euros so that pupils and students can make up for arrears. For example, by scheduling extra lessons outside of regular teaching hours. This amount was increased by EUR 2020 million in October 38. The Court of Audit conducted additional research into these subsidies, the Catch-up and Support Programs for Education 2020-2021. They have been provided to schools in primary, secondary and secondary vocational education

Unclear

The Court of Audit concludes that the ministry does not really know at all what choices schools have made and whether the money has actually gone to vulnerable pupils. This makes it difficult to evaluate the subsidy scheme.

For example, the subsidy scheme states under the heading target group that the money must go to 'vulnerable students' who have fallen behind during the school closure. It is not defined what exactly vulnerable means. 'The ministers currently have no information about the choices that schools have made in the target group and content of their catch-up programs. Without insight into these choices, the ministers cannot determine whether schools are now reaching the intended pupils', the Accountability Report states.

'The ministers currently have no information about the choices that schools have made'

Learn

Schools also don't know what other schools are doing. They do not share knowledge and cannot learn from each other about which programs help to quickly clear up backlogs. This also does not allow you to check whether the subsidy has achieved its goal. And that is important, especially since EUR 8,5 billion was made available in February for the elimination of educational disadvantages. 'Without insight into reach and effectiveness, the ministers run the risk of continuing to spend money without knowing whether their investment has the desired effect.'

'Without insight into reach and effectiveness, the ministers run the risk that they will continue to spend money without knowing whether their investment has the desired effect'

The Court of Auditors makes four recommendations. For example, the ministers must consider for which group of pupils and students the subsidy is intended. This must be clearly written down, so that schools no longer have to think about it themselves. Sufficient time and realistic expectations of schools to set up good catch-up programs is also important. Sharing knowledge is a third recommendation. This is useful for schools that have yet to start their catch-up programs and ensures that schools can make adjustments in between. Finally, the Court proposes to determine in advance what information schools must provide in order to show the results of the catch-up program. Schools must report on the basis of the agreed criteria. This way you can assess whether it was actually spent according to their intention. That helps for another subsidy for arrears.

Freedom and autonomy

In a reaction let the ministers know that the division of roles has been established and that schools have a lot of freedom in this. 'Autonomy of schools and the professional space of teachers and other education professionals are essential starting points of Dutch education policy,' they write. The ministers do believe that they can give direction and that they have done the same with the NPO funds, because they have made an overview of interventions that have proven to be effective. Schools have to choose from these in order to make up for their arrears.

Would you like to know more about the National Education Program? Check out our special page. 

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