The number of children exempt from compulsory education has risen sharply since the introduction of appropriate education
The number of children exempt from compulsory education has risen sharply since the introduction of appropriate education

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System pushes home sitters into the corner

More than 15 thousand children are at home and that number is still growing. D66 wants to guarantee the right to education for these children by amending the law, but not everyone is convinced of the usefulness of this solution.

The impact on children who get stuck in education is enormous. “They are touched to their core”, says teacher Marjon Velsink of the Mondriaan College in Oss. She wrote the book together with colleague Melanie Philips The back of education in which they mainly let home-sitters speak for themselves. “They feel rejected, they become lonely and get depressed, that's what makes every story so intense. All the young people we interviewed had a moment when they wanted to get out.”

Escape route

Despite all the measures, the number of people sitting at home has not decreased, although the figures vary. The ministry estimates that there are about 5 thousand children sitting at home, while the Balans parent association comes to more than 15 thousand, of which more than 6 thousand children have an exemption under Article 5a of the Compulsory Education Act. Only children who, according to a doctor, are not psychologically or physically suitable for education, are eligible for this.

It is striking that since the introduction of appropriate education, this number of exemptions has risen sharply, by 35 percent. Balans calls it an 'escape route': if a school cannot offer appropriate education, exemption from compulsory education offers a way out. It relieves schools of their duty of care, and it gives parents room for alternative solutions. With the personal budget from the municipality, they can purchase the necessary care and support for their child.

'It is of course idiotic that parents should apply for an exemption from compulsory education in order to receive appropriate education'

There are many facilities where children who cannot go to school can develop. “But it is of course idiotic that parents have to apply for an exemption from compulsory education in order to receive appropriate education,” says Esther de Bruijn, director of the Liz Foundation, which includes four 'Together to school' classes in Nijmegen. The Netherlands has 35 of these special classes that offer children with multiple disabilities a place in a regular school.


Last year, the House of Representatives approved a motion to immediately start recognizing the Together to school class as an official education program. Good news, according to De Bruijn, but it is still not settled. In fact, according to the ministry, new pilots are needed first.

De Bruijn: “Very disappointing, because we remain dependent on the goodwill of a partnership. In our case we get nothing and that means that parents have to use the care budget. We employ remedial educationalists and work with learning pathways and child tracking systems. What we do is all education, but because we are not officially an educational institution, no education money is allowed."

'Because we are not officially an educational institution, no education money is allowed to go to it'

Compulsory education is now compulsory, but education at a school is not suitable for every child, says Jolan Rohde Luchtmeijer of the Education Affair, an interest group of parents who, like the parents in the allowance affair, have had the feeling for years that they are trapped in the system, with financial and psychological damage. The interest group fights for a legally guaranteed right to education for every child and compensation for the damage suffered.

Rohde Luchtmeijer herself has two children for whom the traditional education system does not fit. “The worst thing I think is that children are traumatized because they are not taken seriously. It wasn't until my oldest early grade 7 made a suicide attempt that he was tested. He is gifted and has been underperforming for years.”

Right to study

In order to guarantee the right to education, D66 wants to amend the law. In short, the private member's bill states that in the event of an imminent drop-out of children who are 'capable of developing', a youth doctor must ensure that they receive the education that suits them. Exemptions are no longer allowed for these children. During the internet consultation, those involved expressed serious objections.

For example, according to participants, the proposal raises the threshold for exemption, while it is unclear how children can receive tailor-made education in a location that is suitable for them. The responsibility will lie more with schools, while they already often lack the possibilities to offer appropriate education. “I can see the good intentions, but the proposal is still far too vague,” concludes Jolan Rohde Luchtmeijer. “Because where do schools get the information and resources to come to a solution?”

She believes that appropriate education is possible if parents, children and professionals are given an equal voice. “From a legal point of view, quite a lot is already possible, but everything comes to a standstill when a school does not dare. If we stop pushing every child through the same mold, exemptions will no longer be necessary.”

'If we stop pushing every child through the same mold, exemptions will no longer be necessary'

With the tips and alternative solutions in their book, teachers Marjon Velsink and Melanie Philips hope to offer all those involved a handle. “As a mentor, you try to do everything to keep a student at school, but you quickly run into limits. I am convinced that it can be done differently.”

Co-author Melanie Philips: “At school the train rumbles on. If a student is stuck at home, we may be able to brush up on him and help if the problem is not too bad, but otherwise we can't do much. That makes it very frustrating now.”

'The train rumbles at school'

“A lot is possible, but as long as education and care remain separate worlds, nothing fundamental changes,” says Carry Roozemond, director of Ingrado, the trade association for compulsory education and early school leaving.

She had hoped to see it before her retirement next year: a law that guarantees every child's right to education and development. “But we won't be there with an amendment to the old Compulsory Education Act. The number of exemptions will decrease, because an escape route will be closed, but that does not yet give children the offer they need.”

Pure profit

According to Roozemond, a new law in which education and care are combined is only possible if it succeeds in convincing the House of Representatives. “Customized education does not have to cost more money. A child that does not get the chance to develop will cost society at least 20.000 euros per year in benefits and guidance. So if you dare to invest in a future perspective, that is pure profit for everyone.”

If we want to amend the constitution, we will be ten years later, responds Paul van Meenen of D66. “We have therefore consciously chosen this path, so that we can offer children the right to education and development as soon as possible. This development must also be able to take place in a different place than at school. There should be no misunderstanding about that.”

When all reactions to the bill have been processed, the final version will go to the Council of State. “Exemption under 5a should no longer be an escape route,” emphasizes Van Meenen. “By amending the law, we will remain jointly responsible for all children who are capable of development.”


This is an abbreviated version of the article of the same name from the Education magazine of July. As a member of the AOb you will receive the Education magazine every month. Want to become a member? Sign up here .


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