Education & childcare

Utrecht Region offers an extensive range of learning opportunities, from primary and secondary schools to universities, summer schools and language courses. In addition, there are various international schools in the Netherlands to suit your needs. If you have children, or plan to have any, there are also plenty of childcare options in Utrecht Region, including day care and pre-school. This section provides information on the national education system and the various educational options available in Utrecht Region, as well as the different childcare options and financial support in the form of child allowances.


The Dutch education system is unique. For some people, it can seem quite confusing, so let us help you understand. Children in the Netherlands are required to go to school until they turn 18 or graduate with a degree. Until the age of five, infants can attend a variety of non-compulsory day care educational facilities, such as a playgroup, preschool or kindergarten. At the age of four, children attend primary school for eight years. They then continue to one of three types of secondary education – vmbo, havo or vwo – depending on their level. After that, students advance to secondary vocational education (mbo), higher professional education (hbo) or university (wo). You can find more information below on the different forms of education and the options available in Utrecht Region.

To fully understand the Dutch education system, we recommend this video by Nuffic which explains everything, from primary school to higher education and academic research. For more information, visit the Nuffic website.


The options

Day care
Dutch day care centres (kinderdagverblijf) cater for children between the ages of six weeks and four years. Qualified childcare professionals take care of the children, feed them and ensure they have ample opportunities for napping. Most day care centres are open from 8.00 am to 6.30 pm. As waiting lists for places in day care are long, we recommend registering with multiple day care centres.

All official day care facilities in Utrecht Region can be found in the Landelijk Register Kinderopvang en Peuterspeelzalen (website is in Dutch).

Preschool (peuterspeelzalen) can help your children develop skills they need before they start primary school at the age of four. It is a form of early childhood education where children play and develop social, physical, communication and cognitive skills. Sending your child to daycare is not compulsory but can give them a better start at primary school. Children up to four years old can be looked after full-time in a day care (kinderdagverblijf in Dutch) center, or part-time in a playgroup - for children aged 2 to 4.  

The professionals of the Youth Health Care (Jeugdgezondheidszorg) can provide advice and support regarding your child’s health, growth, and development. As parents you will receive an invitation to come to the health center to examine your child’s development. When necessary, they can advise you to enroll your child in preschool (a preschool advice or voorschooladvies).

Please note:

  • Preschools can have waiting lists.
  • Preschool is not intended to learn Dutch. You can discuss with your youth doctor or nurse what is recommended, including the development of your child’s native language.

Fees in Utrecht
All Utrecht children between the ages of 2,5 and 4 are entitled to two half days a week of preschool. The youth doctor or nurse can advise your child to go to preschool for 16 hours per week. You are required to pay an income-dependent contribution. You can apply for childcare benefit (kinderopvangtoeslag). Depending on your income you will receive compensation for the hourly preschool rate. Find more information and apply at If you are not entitled to childcare allowance, the municipality of Utrecht will pay the compensation next to your income-dependent contribution. If you have preschool advice for 16 hours and a U-pas, preschool is free of charge. 

How to enroll in Utrecht
To register your child in preschool, you will need to contact the preschool program of your choice. For an overview of all recognized preschools, please visit the website of the municipality. If you have questions about how you can register for preschool, you can contact the Utrecht Youth Health Care at +31 (0)30 - 286 33 00  and 

After school care
Many children attend after school care. After schoolcare is often offered in collaboration with primary schools, visit the site of the primary school to see the options


Child allowances

Certain child allowances are available from the government.

  • Children's allowance (kinderbijslag)
    This allowance helps cover initial costs when raising children. The amount depends on your situation, such as how many children you have, their ages, whether they live at home, etc.
  • Child benefit (kindgebonden budget)
    Child benefit is in addition to the children’s allowance. This benefit, for children up to the age of 18, helps cover costs for clothing, food, school expenses etc. Conditions apply.
  • Childcare benefit (kinderopvangtoeslag)
    Childcare costs may be subsidised by the Dutch tax authorities when both parents are working. This benefit (kinderopvangtoeslag) can be applied for via the Tax and Customs Administration. Conditions apply.

Other settling-in topics