Netherlands could lose highly-skilled expats over long int’l school wait lists

Long waiting lists at international schools in the Netherlands are discouraging highly skilled expats from settling in the country. No matter how attractive a job offer is, if their kids can't go to school, expats will choose against moving to the Netherlands, Financieele Dagblad reports.

Waiting lists pose a risk to the Dutch business climate, international schools, umbrella organizations and politicians said to the newspaper. The number of students at the 41 international schools in the Netherlands increased by 47 percent in five years to 18,427 in 2016, research agency Regioplan said in October. Half of the international schools have a waiting list, containing over 1 thousand prospective students. 

When talking to foreign companies about settling in The Hague, the topic of schools always comes up, Wim Rutgers said to FD. He is an adviser at the WestHolland Foreign Investment Agency, which helps foreign companies expand to The Hague region. "Waiting lists are detrimental to the business climate of the region. It makes The Hague unattractive for expats, and therefor for companies", he said. 

A school with a waiting list also poses a threats to business growth, Julia True, the director of registrations at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA), said to FD. According to her, conversations with companies showed that some couldn't get a key figure to the Netherlands, because there was no space for their kids in the schools. "The expats postponed their arrival or opted for another country over the Netherlands", she said to FD. The ISA increased their capacity by 250 places three years ago, but already reached the maximum limit of students again. "While we thought we would be able to prevent waiting lists until 2020", True said. 

Amsterdam Economic Affairs alderman Kasja Ollongren confirms that waiting lists can cause problem's for the city's business climate. "Amsterdam is very attractive to international companies. But even if you're performing well, if the children of a skilled worker can't go to school, they'll stay away." The municipality of Amsterdam is therefore working hard to tackle waiting lists. "We are going to expand existing schools, open new schools and do more to connect international and national education", Ollongren said to FD.

The topic of waiting lists at international schools was also moved higher on the national political agenda early this year, according to the newspaper. Minister Henk Kamp of Economic Affairs and State Secretary Sander Dekker of Education launched the International Education Task Force. Next week the task force will present 16 points on how to reduce waiting lists. In March the government, Amsterdam and The Hague also made 10.7 million euros available to tackle waiting lists.