Make advance agreements on the additional €8.5 billion released for education

In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and the Minister for Primary and Secondary Education of 31 March 2021, the Netherlands Court of Audit recommends that the €8.5 billion provided in additional funding for education on account of the corona crisis be spent on the right objectives. The National Education Programme must include concrete and clear social goals and give due consideration to how the €8.5 billion is financed, audited and accounted for. Agreements should be made in advance regarding the information that is needed regarding the results and use of these additional funds.

The government announced the National Education Programme in mid-February. Its goal is to eliminate the educational backlog that has arisen since schools were closed and lessons went online during the corona crisis. The Court of Audit stresses in its letter the importance of clarity regarding the target groups and the social goals that educational institutions must reach with the additional funds. This would improve the implementation and monitoring of the programme and the institutions could learn from what works well and what does not.

The Court of Audit also refers to the importance of taking a well-considered decision on the way in which the ministers provide the additional funding (via which instrument). This decision will have consequences for the audit of public funds and accountability for their use. The right balance must be struck between limiting the administrative burden on the institutions and collecting relevant information to determine whether the funds are spent on the right goals and achieve the required social results. By definition, education boards and ministers need information that provides an insight into the quality of education. This does not represent an unnecessary increase in red tape. It is therefore important that the ministers, working with the educational institutions and in consultation with the House of Representatives, decide in advance what policy information is needed to measure the results of the National Education Programme. Otherwise there is a realistic risk that it cannot be said whether the funds were spent on the social goals or what results this financial injection achieved. The Court of Audit has pointed out this risk in previous audits, such as the audit of the additional €1.2 billion released to fund an improvement in the quality of teachers and the resources provided to reduce their workload.

The letter is only available in Dutch.