The role of school-based contacts in the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 is incompletely understood. We used an age-structured transmission model fitted to age-specific seroprevalence and hospital admission data to assess the effects of school-based measures at different time points during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands. Our analyses suggest that the impact of measures reducing school-based contacts depends on the remaining opportunities to reduce non-school-based contacts. If opportunities to reduce the effective reproduction number (Re) with non-school-based measures are exhausted or undesired and Re is still close to 1, the additional benefit of school-based measures may be considerable, particularly among older school children. As two examples, we demonstrate that keeping schools closed after the summer holidays in 2020, in the absence of other measures, would not have prevented the second pandemic wave in autumn 2020 but closing schools in November 2020 could have reduced Re below 1, with unchanged non-school-based contacts.