Gov't boosts education spending by €216 million; Won’t solve everything, educators say
Schools can again submit grant applications to improve their students’ basic skills. Education Minister Dennis Wiersma will distribute 332 million euros for each of the next two school years. That is 108 million more per year. The education sector is pleased with the extra money, but that does not solve many of the problems education is facing, organizations from the sector emphasized.
Over 224 million euros was earmarked for distribution this year. This time, the subsidies will not be distributed by drawing lots, which unnerved school leaders last time.
Schools will receive help anyway even if they do not perform very well according to the Education Inspectorate. They will receive 500 euros per pupil to improve basic skills, which can include extra lessons for smaller groups of children, and by providing more training for teachers. In addition, they can get a team to help students with critical foundation skills like reading, writing and other basic skills.
All schools may submit an application for a grant or team even if the subsidy earmark runs out. The Ministry of Education will then make a selection based on data from multiple sources, including Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
Wiersma said he expects the subsidy to to help approximately 2,200 primary and secondary schools and their 650,000 students over the next two school years. The money is being allocated from funding that was already made available in the coalition agreement. This year, about a third of the schools are making use of this scheme.
Thijs Roovers, director of the AOb labor union, wants to temper expectations. “Extra money is very nice in itself, and it is good that attention is being paid to basic skills. You should not look a gift horse in the mouth. But we hope that it is accompanied by a plan for the longer term. Schools need staff; they have a teacher shortage, sometimes there are unauthorized people in front of the class. This money is temporary, and if there are no people you can’t do much with it.”
Teaching children takes place in the classroom, emphasized Roovers. “Children need a stable foundation, which must be in order. The foundation is a school with walls and bricks, a classroom with a teacher who understands how to prepare lessons, who creates a situation in which a child can learn. You can’t get rid of that up with a book or a fun activity.”
The association of primary schools, the PO Raad, agreed. “There are now many different schemes and subsidies. You cannot give a teacher a permanent contract with this, because you do not know how long you have that subsidy. If you want to invest in basic skills, you should not go from subsidy to subsidy.”
The organization for secondary schools, the VO-raad, also wants enough money to go to schools on a structural basis to improve basic skills, “instead of incidental funding for part of the schools.”
The PO Raad said it was pleased that schools do not have to draw lots, and that the schools will be evaluated based on their plan. It means a better chance that schools which need the money will get the money, instead of just winning out with dumb luck, the group said.
Roovers said he was worried about where the subsidy money will go. “Who benefits most from this? If you run a school and have money, but have no teachers to arrange tutoring, I understand that you resort to commercial agencies. They know how to offer that, there is a profit motive behind it. That’s a concern.”