Over 5,500 Dutch kids with disabilities don't attend school
An increasing number of children with complex psychological or physical problems can't find a school that will accept them. The number of exemptions from education increased from 3,107 in the 2010/11 school year to 5,537 in the 2015/16 school year, according to research by the Ministry of Education, AD reports.
The Ministry found that there is a striking increase in exemptions for 16- and 17-year-olds with autism, anxiety disorders, ADHD, depression or trauma.
Former Children's Ombudsman and current head of the so-called "Truancy pact" Mark Dullaert is very concerned about the increase in exemptions from education. "Too many exemptions are issued lightly in my opinion", he said to the newspaper.
An exemption from education is intended for children who are unable to learn because they are, for example, severely epileptic or have several severe disabilities. This applies to 60 percent of exempted students. The other 40 percent are students who are able to learn, but have complex problems.
"These students are difficult and expensive for schools, because they don't have the necessary medical expertise in house, such as special educators, school doctors and social workers." Dullaert said. That is why some schools close the doors to these students. And parents finally give up and apply for exemption, other wise they'd face criminal charges for neglecting to educate their child, he said.
Dullaert believes that expensive care or complex needs should not be reason to exclude children from school. Over 1 billion euros was made available for appropriate education. And municipalities handle the care costs. "Care and education should work together." There is evidence that this is possible, he said. In Ede there were only 6 children exempted from education last year.
Dullaert made agreements with Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht to reduce the number of exemptions by 10 percent per year for the next four years. He is now demanding similar agreements from the 32 medium sized municipalities. He acknowledges that the number can not be reduced to zero, but "exemption must not become a drain for children who are complex or expensive."