Learn for your own biorhythm and enjoy the outdoors – these new schools want more than language and math

The students at Buitenwijs primary school in Zwolle will first go outside with their class every morning. All, always, rain or shine. Rianne Spin sees it all for herself. “They can go for a walk, do yoga or have math classes in the grass. Because children spend too much time indoors. They need outside. Two playing time is not enough. “The school must therefore be built on the outskirts of Zwolle, in a green environment.

On Tuesday, dozens of new school boards heard they could open a school in August next year. Fully refunded by state and municipalities. Under the new law, more space for new schools, anyone can now set up a school. Provided that the founders can recruit enough parents of young children in the postcode area (and six kilometers around it) and have a healthy education plan that is pre-approved by the Danish Education Authority.

Monopolies broken

With the new law, the monopoly of the major ideological denominations – such as Reformed, Catholics, revelation – is broken. Everyone could, in principle, set up a school, but it was not immediately reimbursed by the government. The founders themselves had to shift the money, often hundreds of thousands of euros.

Only when the school was up and running and the supervisor approved the education were there grants. This is how many Islamic schools have been established in recent decades, and this is also how the new schools in the Forum for Democracy, which want to open after the summer, start.

A total of 51 schools (14 high schools and 37 primary schools) want to start in August 2023. This will not work in all cases, according to the letter sent by Minister Dennis Wiersma (Education, Culture and Science, VVD) on Tuesday afternoon. Twelve colleges have been rejected. Reason: the plans for ‘citizenship education’ were the sub-objective according to the supervision. Of the 37 applications for new primary and lower secondary schools, 32 were given the green light.

Prefers no keys at all

The two women who came with the Buitenwijs primary school in Zwolle received positive advice and are eager. From August 2023, their school will intensively guide each student with a coach. They want to read a lot, learn to reason critically and not be tested every time, says initiator Rianne Spin: “We would rather not have any tests at all, but the supervision told us that every child had to be tested at least twice a year in order to monitor progress. measuring. So we do. The results are then only intended for the teacher, not for the child or the parents. ”

They say the new schools meet the needs of today with their plans. Take IKC Cadan’s primary school in Weesp. Here, children will soon be able to walk from 7.30 in the morning to half past six in the evening. No time for breakfast? can go to school. Swimming lessons? During school. Ideal for children and parents, but also for teachers, says director Marian Feenstra.

Also read: A couple of Ukrainian children are playing war in the first break at their Dutch primary school

By ‘fully integrating’ childcare and primary school, the school wants to alternate ‘effort and relaxation’ ‘adapted to children’s biorhythm’. This means, for example, that the students at Weesp take the cognitive subjects between ten and twelve and after the homemade lunch ‘chill out on their own pillow to recharge their brains’. Teachers can prepare lessons when colleagues cook with the children, play sports or give project instruction.

There is great enthusiasm for this concept in Weesp, Feenstra notes. The school needed 102 signatures but got 125 in no time. “And we already have 285 pre-registrations for August next year.”

Final test required

Each new primary school is given eight years to bring in a minimum number of students and prove themselves. The future schools were thoroughly questioned in advance by the Danish Education Authority, especially with regard to basic skills such as citizenship, mathematics and language. Playing and having fun outside is nice, but the idea is that students understand fractions, can summarize texts and know how democracy works.

The central final exam, in group eight, is also compulsory for each primary school. It will be the IEP test at the new Buitenwijs school in Zwolle, not Cito, says Spin. “We do not want children to be constantly compared with the national average. It is only about their own development. ”

Of course, she says, language and math are important. And from group 6 onwards, students at Buitenwijs must also meet national ‘reference levels’. They also get dance lessons, painting and drama. And a lot outside.

Starting a school is not easy. Marieke Hamburg, director of the WillemsPoort children’s center in Tilburg, went through all the steps, but stumbled at the last minute over the number of digital signatures. Too bad, because her initiative is needed, she thinks. Many children in the new residential area where the school was supposed to be located now go to school outside Tilburg because there is no space in Brabant municipality.

Her initiative, ‘ordinary Catholic project-based education in a modern children’s center’, based on the child-centered education principle Reggio Emilia (developed in the Italian city of the same name), fills a gap, says Hamburg. The plan was positively assessed by the supervision, and Tilburg municipality was also enthusiastic. “But just look at collecting enough digital parenting statements in the corona era and in an unfinished new neighborhood.” Hamburg needed 136 parental declarations, the counter stuck at 79. “So we fish behind the net.”

A new primary school to be built in Brielle in South Holland has arisen from dissatisfaction with the current offer. It is quite sparse, says Wouter Maagdenberg. His two daughters aged five and eight go to school there. “Everything is geared towards efficiency,” says Maagdenberg. The schedules are short: from 8.30 to 14.00. The teachers have too little time and attention for the children. ”

No choice in Brielle

And worst of all, he says: there is no choice. Since an administrative merger, all thirty primary schools in the region have come under one board. “There is a different sign above each door – Montessori or whatever – but the offer is the same everywhere. Skinkelt. “

Last year, he and five other parents began writing the plan for the De Verwondering elementary school. It was on forty pages – about subject content, student follow-up systems, personnel policy, time distribution – and a budget. The board has more than a hundred signatures from parents and the plan has been approved by the supervisor.

What does De Verwondering offer that is different from other primary schools? “Attention to every child. We want longer school days with more space for the child and for extra subjects, such as geography, biology, culture. Of course, the basics – language and math – are important, but school is more than that.”

De Verwondering is not only intended for children of ambitious parents who have already signed up, Maagdenberg emphasizes. “We also want children who, for example, never go on trips with their parents.”

Tricky point: where do the new schools get teachers? The shortage of teachers is serious and will only grow in the near future. Many newcomers also want small classes and therefore need relatively more teachers. Weesper Elementary School IKC Cadans will soon have a maximum of twenty students in a group; ‘coaching groups’ of eighteen children in Zwolle.

Director Marian Feenstra still comes to teachers, she says. They are already submitting open applications. “Our concept appeals.”

Islamic schools
Nine new primary schools with Islamic identity


This is reflected in the plans compiled on the DUO’s website. For example, future students at Al Amana Primary School in Veenendaal, Gelderland, are “challenged to think about what it means to be a Muslim in the Netherlands”.

The three new primary schools in Ababil (in Vlaardingen, Schiedam and Maassluis) will soon form “a mini-community where children experience, experience and can internalize the Islamic norms and values, our human image and expression”.

extended opening hours
Open from 7:30 to 18:00


Children can eat breakfast, lunch and if necessary dinner there. In the so-called ‘integrated child centers’ – at least ten of the 32 initiatives advertise themselves as such – childcare, outdoor school and the ‘normal’ primary school are closely linked. Children from 0 to 12 are welcome here and alternate between learning and relaxing. They do their homework in school and sports and culture are also part of the school day.

Learning and living schools
For those who prefer not to send children to a traditional school


There is also something to choose from for those who do not prefer a traditional school class with peers. A number of new schools are going to do things completely differently. For example, writes De Gelukstuin in Waalre in Brabant, “a child can not start early enough to live a happy life”.

Like other new schools, the school abandons the traditional division into separate subjects and year groups. Children are given their ‘own learning path with appropriate goals’.

At Leef primary school, in Hoef and The Hague by Vianen, children receive “life lessons” from learning coaches. The school believes it is important “that children are happy and know how to stay that way for the rest of their lives.”

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