Apply to a Secondary Education School in the Netherlands

| New2NL

Do you have a child in group 8 of a Dutch primary school? Then the big task of selecting a suitable secondary school is awaiting you. The Dutch secondary school system is rather complicated, and all the acronyms you come across when trying to understand your school options do not make it any easier!

Leiden hosts 15 schools for secondary education, and four schools for special needs secondary education. You can find them all on the Scholenopdekaart website.

Since this year, the national secondary school application period is  25 - 31 March, 2024. It doesn't matter when you apply, as long as you do so before the deadline.

Before this period, the schools will organize open days (for parents and children), and trial classes (lesjesmiddagen) for children. On the OpenDagenPlanner you can find the open days of the Leiden schools. Also check the individual websites of the schools of your interest. 

You have a lot of choice: Some schools offer multiple levels, while others are specialized in one level only. Most schools have one building, whereas others are spread out over multiple locations. Some schools have a stronger focus on, for example, sports, dance, languages, or gifted students. Like primary schools, some secondary schools are based on an educational philosophy or a religion.

You will also find some schools that combine different levels during the first 1-3 years (mixed brugklas). The streaming then takes place after the brugklas. This could be ideal for children who received a so-called ‘double advice’; VMBO B/K, VMBO-T/HAVO, or HAVO/VWO. They then have some more time to develop and show what they are capable of. Also children who started to learn Dutch at a later stage, often profit from this extra time to solidify their Dutch. 

It is also good to know that with a diploma of one level it is possible to move up to the next level. So, you are currently taking decisions about the door through which your child enters the school, and not about the final door through which they will leave.


More info you can find on the website of Leiden International Centre.

In this article we wrote for Expatica you can learn more about the Dutch secondary schools

You could also watch the recording of New2NL's webinar. Here we talk about the secondary school system in general, and explain what all those abbreviations stand for.

Do you need personal support? Book a video call via


Good luck with your school choice!