Project page: The Netherlands

The Dutch project aims to study school inspections on a local network of 48 primary schools offering inclusive education, including two special needs schools. This network consists of the schools of two collaborating school boards in and around the municipality of Enschede. One school board, CONSENT (, runs 33 non-denominational (public) schools and the other, VCO (, runs 15 denominational (protestant) schools. With 160.000 residents, Enschede is the urban heart of the Eastern part of the Netherlands, close to the German border (

Both school boards have founded a support centre, called SPOE (Support Centre Inclusive Education Enschede), to assist the schools of the two boards in three areas:

  1. improving reading and math skills of their pupils;
  2. improving data use of teachers;
  3. delivering inclusive education to pupils who need some form of special education.

SPOE is run by a coordinator and has a small staff of special education specialists and consultants.

Inclusive education networks of schools in the Netherlands

SPOEUntil august 2014, primary schools collaborated in networks of schools, because of the policy called ‘Weer Samen Naar School’ (WSNS) [‘Going to School Together’]. This policy was created in 1992/1993 to stabilize or (if possible) even reduce the number of pupils going to special education. Only the most severe cases of pupils with learning problems could be referred to special need schools, pupils with less severe problems could be educated in mainstream schools.

The WSNS networks consisted of around 20 mainstream primary schools and at least one primary school for pupils with special educational needs. Together, those schools were responsible for the care of pupils with learning difficulties or other learning problems and were expected to provide such care within mainstream primary education. All schools in the Netherlands were obliged to participate in a WSNS network, based on the Primary Education Act.

However, schools and parents felt that the diagnosis and indication for extra support was too complicated and bureaucratic. This bureaucracy prevented timely support to pupils in need, and also prevented allocation of sufficient support in some cases, resulting in many children not attending school. For these reasons, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science decided to introduce a new legislation in august 2014 to regulate the education of pupils with special educational needs with a more effective approach: Inclusive Education Act.

This act arranged for new networks for inclusive education (‘samenwerkingsverbanden’) in which mainstream primary schools and primary schools for pupils with special educational needs cooperate under a new education authority responsible for the provision of inclusive education in a region. Under this new act, schools within networks for inclusive education have ‘a duty to care’, which means that the school is obliged to find the most suitable form of education for all pupils with special educational needs. Previously, parents were responsible for placement of their child in a school.

Currently there are 77 networks in the Netherlands for primary inclusive education. Each network is by law responsible for the cooperation between schools for ensuring effective cooperation between these schools in the provision of care and high quality of education to each individual pupil. The new networks for inclusive education are responsible for:

  1. Determining the basic assistance of all schools in the network;
  2. Ensuring that schools in their network take care of every pupil, so every pupil gets the educational support he or she needs;
  3. Arranging the allocation of extra educational support to the schools in their network;
  4. Determining whether a pupil will be educated in special primary education;
  5. Dividing the budget for extra support on schools within the network.

As some inclusive education networks comprise numerous school board and schools, the management of the network can decide to divide the network in two or three smaller groups of schools that are interdependent. One of these networks of schools is situated in the Eastern part of the Netherlands. This network consists of 179 primary (special education need) schools that have a total of about 36.000 pupils. This network of schools is divided into several departments. One of these departments is SPOE.

School Inspections of inclusive education

The establishment of these new networks for inclusive education have consequences for the role and responsibilities of the Dutch Inspectorate of Education. The Inspectorate of Education now also needs to inspect the quality and functioning of chains of schools, in addition to assessing the quality of individual schools. A new inspection framework for inclusive education networks, describing the quality of partnerships of schools and additional sanctions for educational authorities in charge of these networks has been developed for this purpose. This study will look at SPOE as an example of a network for inclusive education and will develop and test polycentric models of school inspections and specifically look at the mechanisms and context of their impact, to answer the following questions:

  1. What role can school inspectors have, and which working methods can they use in enabling/facilitating improvement/innovation and complex problem solving in networks of teachers and schools?
  2. What roles and working methods of Inspectorates of Education are effective in promoting improvement/innovation and complex problem-solving in schools?
  3. How are these roles and working methods related to the structure and context of the education system in which they function (e.g. degree of centralization); how can they be transferred to other contexts and systems?