With school leaving exams starting on Thursday, schools minister Dennis Wiersma has announced a package of measures to boost skills in language, maths, citizenship and digital skills.
‘Standards must improve,’ Wiersma told MPs in a briefing outlining his immediate plans. This will require input from ‘everyone involved in the school infrastructure, from researchers to the makers of school books, libraries, parents and carers’ as well as teaching staff, he said.
In April, school inspectors said urgent action was needed to help the decline in standards, which had been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and school closures.
As a first step, 500 schools most in need of help will get extra backing from outside experts and support staff who will focus on what the teachers need. ‘This could be someone who is specialized in dealing with bullying, a job that now falls to teachers,’ Wiersma said.
However, he said, more needs to be done to tackle the basics. ‘People simply cannot live without being able to read, calculate or know how the (online) world works,’ he said.
In the longer term, Wiersma is drawing up a ‘master plan’ to improve standards in primary and secondary schools, as well as in special education and at trade schools. The government has allocated an extra €1 billion a year to fund this.
Meanwhile, three weeks of school leaving exams start on Thursday and some pupils will have to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus closures for years to come, the secondary school council VO-raad told Nu.nl in an interview.
‘A group of pupils have really been hit hard,’ said VO-raad spokesman Stan Termeer. ‘Their education has been delayed, they miss basic skills and don’t know how they should learn or deal with a lack of motivation.’
To take some of this into account, the rules for the school and national exams have been relaxed slightly and pupils will get an extra opportunity for resits this summer.
The educational system should continue to monitor the ‘coronavirus generation’, Termeer said. ‘Coronavirus has had an impact and you need to keep an eye on it. The children themselves were powerless to do anything about it.’
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