In the Netherlands school is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16. It is optional for children who are 4 years old. Education in the Netherlands can roughly be divided into two different categories: public (openbare) and special (bijzondere) schools.
Public schools offer a general education, whilst special schools distinguish themselves by having either a religious or specific pedagogic orientation. Examples of special schools with a religious orientation are Catholic or Protestant schools. Special schools can also have pedagogical orientation such as Montessori or Jenaplan.
The Netherlands also has some private schools, though it is highly uncommon to send your children to one. Education at both public and special schools is free up to the pupil’s 17th birthday, though most schools charge additional fees for special educational activities. Private schools do charge tuition fees.
Children aged 4-12 attend primary school, secondary schools are for children aged 12-18. For very young children (starting at 2.5 years old), there are play groups (peuterspeelzaal). Play groups are not free.
The Dutch school year starts between mid-August and the first week of September. The exact date depends on the summer holidays. School holidays vary from region to region in the Netherlands. Please ask at your local town hall for the exact dates of your school's holidays.