Unqualified teachers, 4-day school week in cities' emergency plans for teacher shortage

Primary school classroom
Primary school classroom Photo: racorn/DepositPhotos

Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague presented their emergency plans on how to handle the growing teacher shortage to Minster Arie Slob for Primary and Secondary Education. Their plans include using "professionals" who aren't qualified as teachers if no qualified teacher can be found, and shortening the school week if all else fails. The Minister said he will push another 9 million euros into training people from other professions to become teachers, AD and Het Parool reports.

Amsterdam wants to make it possible for schools to work on a four-day school week, in which pupils are taught on the fifth day by unqualified professionals. This can include lessons in arts and culture, sport, nature and science, or citizenship, according to Parool. This should only be possible if parents agreed. Schools can also opt for bigger classes, where a teacher will be aided by a teaching assistant. 

The Amsterdam schools also want more help from the municipality. They call on the city to create more homes suited for teachers, and to increase the travel allowance for teachers who have to come from outside Amsterdam. 

The Hague and Rotterdam came up with an "escalation ladder" - with more far-reaching measures the bigger the problems get, according to AD. For example, if a teacher needs to be replaced, another qualified teacher will be sought first. If that fails, a teacher-in-training can be put in front of the class, or subject teachers who normally give music or gym lessons. The next step would be for a school to divide the class into other classes. As a last resort, a "supervisor" can be deployed, who will not teach, but keep an eye on the children. 

If the problems persist, Rotterdam and The Hague plan to focus on the most important subjects like language and mathematics. The remaining hours will then be filled "in an alternative way". They are also looking into a four-day school week.

Amsterdam is currently facing a shortage of at least 360 teachers, affecting some 10 thousand pupils. The Hague has 373 open teaching vacancies, affecting some 8 thousand pupils a day. And Rotterdam has a shortage of 202 full-time teachers, affecting some 5 thousand pupils a day. 

The Hague and Rotterdam's plans are still a concept. The school boards in the two cities will discuss the plans with teachers during the nationwide strike on Thursday and Friday. The school boards in Amsterdam are already doing so. 

Utrecht and Almere have yet to come up with emergency plans. Utrecht made a start in December, but those plans still need to be worked out, Slob said, according to AD.