Applying for primary schools in Amsterdam
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In November 2014 the local government (gemeente) installed a new central application procedure for primary schools in Amsterdam. When a child reaches the age of about 2 and half years, their parents get a letter from the gemeente in which they explain the procedure step by step.
Deadlines for school applications
The letter outlines the different deadlines for applications depending on your child’s age.
If your child was born between:
› September 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012 - your application deadline is: February 22, 2016
› January 1, 2013 and April 30, 2013 - application deadline is: June 1, 2016
› May 1 and August 31, 2013 - your application deadline is: November 1, 2016
Together with the letter, parents receive the official primary school application form on which they must list at least five schools in order of preference.
Priority schools in your neighbourhood
There are eight schools in your neighbourhood where your child will have priority (voorrang). You can find out which schools by visiting the Schoolwijzer website (in Dutch) and typing in your postcode and house number.
Your child’s eight priority schools are marked as voorrangsschool (in blue). Parents are also allowed to list some schools outside of their area, however be aware that your chances will be lower for these than at other schools.
The application process
Parents must personally hand in the application form at their first primary school of choice.
Your first choice school will enter your details into the central system. Soon after the application deadline there will be a central lottery.
If your first choice school is full, the computer will automatically try your second choice, then your third, and so on. You will be automatically contacted by the school where your child receives place.
Siblings and pre-schoolers
Younger siblings have a guaranteed place at the same school where their older brother/sister already attends.
Sometimes pre-schoolers also have priority, but this is only the case for children who have a VVE-indication, and have attended preschool for at least eight months, four times per week before their fourth birthday, and live within the catchment area of the connected primary school.
The same is valid if your child attends an integrated preschool /daycare /primary school (IKC), although parents will need to bring proof of registration.
It is important to know that when a child attends a preschool without a VVE-indication, he or she won’t receive priority at the connected primary school.
VVE-indications are issued by the Consultatiebureau (GGD) based on a lower educational background of the parents, a language delay in their native language, or because multiple languages are spoken at home. Since April 2014 these rules have become more strictly enforced.
The enrolment system
The gemeente aims to place 75 per cent of all children at their first choice, and 90 per cent at a school in their neighbourhood. You must cross your fingers that your child will be among them!
Figuring out which schools to put on top of your list requires some strategy. At some primary schools, for example, Group One may already be full with siblings and preschoolers who have priority.
In such cases it makes no sense to list these schools as first choice for your child, as there won’t be a lottery at all!
In case your older child already attends the same school you have in mind for your younger child, you must still hand in the application form in time. In this case you only need to list the name of the school your older child already attends.
You can find more information about the new application policy on the Schoolwijzer website and on the gemeente's webpage on primary education (in Dutch).
Outcome of first lottery in new system
There have been three lottery rounds since the new system was introduced in early 2015; in March, June, and November.
The percentages of the children in each round who received a place at one of their top three schools are:
› March: 96 percent
› June: 97 percent
› November: 98 percent
Also, since the start of the new system there are fewer children didn't get a place at all: 84 children were not placed in the first round, dropping to 15 by the third round.
The Gemeente helps the parents of these children to find a suitable school. In the meantime they stay on the list of their first choice school as they still might get in when a child moves, or their parents choose another school instead.
When they have "won" a place, parents have two weeks to secure it. They must return the registration form, preferably in person or by registered mail. This is very important because if you are too late, your spot will go to another child.
These children’s parents have received a list with schools where there are still available places, where they must sign up as soon as possible.
In the meantime they will remain in the system of the first school of their preference, so that in case a child from this school moves, they will still have a chance to get in.
Schools outside the application system
One thing the gemeente did not mention in the application letter is that some of Amsterdam’s primary schools have pulled out of the central system.
These are schools that have their own board and only one or two member schools (called éénpitters - roughly translated as "independent").
Fortunately there is a complete list of eenpitter schools online (in Dutch), numbering 11 in total. Ten of these are located in Amsterdam Zuid and one is in Centrum (ASVO). These schools have made their own rules.
How to apply for the independent schools
These 11 schools also have their own application forms, which you can find on their websites.
Deadlines for independent schools
The eenpitter schools have different application submission dates to the central system.
If your child was born between:
› September 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012 - your application deadline is: January 22, 2016
› January 1, 2013 and April 30, 2013 - your application deadline is: May 9, 2016
› May 1, 2013 and August 31, 2013 - your application deadline is: September 26, 2016
Independent schools catchment areas
The eenpitter schools have also established their own catchment areas. You can find them on their websites.
The catchment areas of eenpitter schools in Amsterdam Zuid are roughly the same as what they earlier agreed with the local government of Zuid.
Because of the algorithm that the new lottery system has been based on, it means that the catchment area of some eenpitter schools would become smaller, with which the schools didn’t agree. Other schools wanted to make their selection process even more restrictive. Check the websites of the individual schools to make sure you live in the right area.
Multiple school options
Many families who live in Zuid or close to ASVO and apply in both the central and independent systems will receive two first choices. You should hear about your child’s possible placement at an eenpitter school some time before the central lottery occurs. Currently it isn't clear yet how much time the schools will give you to accept the place.
Extra info on specific schools
ASVO has also switched to three lottery rounds per year. If your child was born between:
› August 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012 - your application deadline is: February 2, 2016
› January 1, 2013 and April 30, 2013 - your application deadline is: April 19, 2016
› May 1, 2013 and August 1, 2013 - your application deadline is: October 4, 2016
Cornelis Vrij in Amsterdam Zuid has only one lottery per year. The lottery for children who turn four between June 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018 will take place in September 2016. More info will follow in July next year.
At ASVO and Cornelis Vrij the children who live closest to the school have a better chance of getting in. ASVO also has separate lotteries for their Montessori and Regular departments.
The deadline for the Geert Groote schools is always one day after the deadline of the other eenpitter schools.
I hope this helps to make the new procedure less confusing. Good luck and best wishes with finding the right primary school for your child!
Annebet van Mameren runs New2nl, a network of experts providing services for international families in the Netherlands.