The voluntary parental contribution is intended only for extras beyond the compulsory educational program, and the Education Inspectorate will ensure that schools adhere to this. This was stated on Tuesday by the outgoing Education Minister Mariëlle Paul in a letter to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament.
In the Netherlands, parents do not pay school fees for primary education, but schools may ask parents for a voluntary contribution towards the cost of extracurricular activities.
Schools were previously not allowed to ask parents for a voluntary contribution for items necessary to follow the educational curriculum, but enforcement was lacking until now. This includes costs such as renting a locker or using the bicycle storage. The minister mentioned in the letter that, according to the inspection, it has not always been clear to schools what they can request a voluntary parent contribution for.
A spokesperson for the minister noted that there is sometimes confusion about the voluntary nature of the contribution. Therefore, it is crucial that schools clearly state this in the school guide. The parent contribution is explicitly voluntary and is meant for activities such as outings and sports days.
In June, a group of education, student, and parent organizations presented a motion to the Tweede Kamer, advocating for the abolition of voluntary parental contribution in primary schools. They argued that this contribution fosters inequality.
Dennis Wiersma, the Education Minister at the time, acknowledged that this was worth considering. “There are schools that act as if this parental contribution is not voluntary,” he noted. He pointed out that some schools even use this contribution as a selection criterion for students, a practice that is already prohibited by law. “It’s a matter of enforcing that,” he added.
A recent research revealed that 28 percent of families cannot always afford the voluntary parent contribution to schools.