Education International
Education International

Netherlands: heavy cuts in school staff

published 9 July 2012 updated 16 July 2012

The Algemene Onderwijsbond(AOb), one of EI’s national affiliates, has condemned the drastic cut in full-time positions in Dutch schools. The 2011-2012 school year witnessed a reduction of 9,000 full-time positions in Dutch schools as compared to the previous school year. This happened despite the decrease in education jobs being considerably faster than the decline in student numbers, as confirmed by official figures from the Dutch Ministry of Education.

Pupil numbers in primary education have decreased by 1.1 per cent, compared to a 4.3 per cent decline in education personnel. In total, 6,565 schools let go more than 4,500 full-time teachers.

Even more surprising is that despite an increase in student numbers in secondary education, the number of educators decreased by more than 1,800. In secondary vocational education, there are 0.8 per cent fewer students, but more than 1,200 jobs have disappeared, amounting to 3.2 per cent of the total number of jobs.

Need to balance budgets

The exact cause of the decline in teacher numbers is unknown. In primary education, the natural decrease in student numbers plays a role, but it does not justify the scale of job cuts. It is likely that some schools were slow to react to the demographic decrease in student numbers over the previous years. They are now dismissing teachers most likely to balance budgets. According to the employers’ organisation in primary education, schools have also had to make job cuts as a result of “hidden costs” in school maintenance and education materials that have increased beyond available budgets.

The cause of the decline in jobs in secondary education comes as a surprise, particularly where student numbers have increased. Were schools unable to find enough teachers in mathematics or German? Are schools attempting to reduce costs by increasing class sizes? The job loss combined with the increase in student numbers means that more work has to be done by fewer educators. The same is true in special education where the student population is also growing, with more than 800 teaching positions being cut.

EI: Quality education endangered

“EI believes that the Dutch Education Ministry is going in the wrong direction by allowing these cuts in educator numbers, especially in the secondary sector where, by its own statistics, student numbers are on the increase,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.

“We urge the responsible authorities to reverse this trend of cutting budgets in the education sector, which has a dramatic impact on the quality of education given to students. Educators’ salaries are not a tool to be used to balance the national budget, and we insist on educators receiving decent remuneration and enjoying good working conditions.”