Special needs education
Families with children that have special needs are very well cared for in the Netherlands. If you think that your child has special needs, and would like to access help, the best places to begin is at your family doctor (GP/Huisarts) or at the Centre for Youth and Family (Centrum Jeugd en Gezin/CJG).
Fitting educational environment requirement
Under Dutch law, all schools must provide a ‘fitting educational environment’ for their students. This includes students with physical and/or mental impairments, and children with sensory impairments. However, in practice, not all schools will be able to provide the correct learning environment for every child. This means that you may have to speak to multiple local schools to find the best Special Educational Needs (SEN) department or offering for your child.
Speciaal Onderwijs Schools
Your child may benefit from attending a dedicated special needs school, if a mainstream school cannot provide the right learning environment. Speciaal Onderwijs schools have four clusters for children with different needs:
Cluster 1: Children with visual impairments
Cluster 2: Children with hearing impairment
Cluster 3: Children with physical impairment, long-term health problems, or cognitive impairments
Cluster 4: Children with mental or behavioural conditions
Children may attend these schools from the ages of 3 through 20.
To apply for a place at a Speciaal Onderwijs school, your child will need a referral. This is called a toelaatbaarheidsverklaring, and is issued by the regional alliance of special and mainstream schools in your area. The process for obtaining one of these referrals can be long and multi-stage.
It is intended that once a child has attended a Speciaal Onderwijs school, they will be able to (re-)join a mainstream school.
International Special Needs education
In the Netherlands, there is only one international special needs school: Lighthouse Special Education, located in The Hague. It offers individualised education to children aged 3-13 who are unable to cope in international mainstream education. They specialise in complex behavioural and/or developmental problems.
Van Heutszstraat 12
2593 BE The Hague
Telephone: (070) 335 56 98
Age range: 4-12 years
If your child has special needs, you may wish to speak to one of our service providers that specialise in education and special educational cases.
You may also be interested in our information on the Dutch schooling system, international schools, or childcare.