One more moving to Brussels :)

(463 Posts)
ShutterNutter Mon 13-Dec-10 21:51:14

Hi everyone! Found this site a few days ago and I see that some of you live in Belgium :-)

My husband has been transferred to Brussels for 3 years, which is great and we are looking to move early next year. We have 2 little girls 5 & 6 .
We have been in Brussels for 8 days now school & house hunting. I tell you it has not been easy. We just can't decide were to live. After looking at quite a few houses we have come down to two.

The first house we are deciding on is in Ixelles near all the shops, it has no garden (not even a little patch) and no parking which is a bit of a pain driving round and round trying to find one after a long day of work. On the plus side the house is near Tenbosch Park and another big play ground that I can easily walk the girls to, also all the restaurants and shops.

House number 2 is in Watermal-Boitsfort, it is bigger and newly renovated, plenty of parking but the nearest shop (which is 2 supermarkets) is 1.5km away. Not crazy far, but far enough not to make the area very exciting or have anything fun to walk to.
One of the things that appeal to me coming to Europe is the fact that you don't have to get into your car just to get milk. I really enjoy walking and was looking forward to be able to walk to the corner store to get milk or whatever. Also living in a quaint, pretty european style street is very appealing.
DH understandably wants it to be an easy commute to work (Auderghem) and back and to the girl's school (we are deciding between BEPS and ISB) and the Watermal house would certainly provide that. It also has a garden for the girls. The downside is that this house is just surrounded by big offices and buildings and some embassies.

So, after all that rambling ... having lived in Brussels for a while, would you go for the more lively location and walkable locations, but smaller house and no garden, or the bigger house with a garden but not very exciting surroundings but closer to work and schools?

I probably won't have car for the first 6 moths or so but will probably get one later. DH will have car and will be traveling quite a bit with his job. I'll be a stay-at-home mom.

Thanks for any input!!

Signed, indecisive Crazy Rambler ;-)

I don't live in Brussels, we are in Antwerp. Personally I'd go for the house with the garden. Our DD spent hours in our tiny back garden either on her trampoline or in her paddling pool. Tis great to just throw her out there when the weather is kind enough. Doesn't happen that often TBH, I bought a hosepipe and it is the most redundant bit of kit I've ever paid money for.
Enjoy Brussels, Belgium is certainly one of the better places we have lived in.

natation Tue 14-Dec-10 08:51:07

Hi there

welcome to Brussels. It's a great place for families.

It's just my opinion, but although the Tenbosch area of Ixelles is nice and popular with international families, they tend to put their children there in the local school or in the other international schools in that area, not ISB or BEPS. I do know an ex-member of staff from BEPS, she says be wary, but I don't know why.

Watermael is not quite as nice as the more southern Boitsfort area, so it would depend exactly where the Boitsfort house is, I'd want to be on the 94 tram route if I lived down there.

Personally I would go and look in Etterbeek, some parts of Schaerbeek, Woluwe St Lambert and Woluwe St Pierre, or even Wezembeek-Oppem and Kraainem, these are areas which are easily accessible to international schools AND also have some fantastic local schools. A 3 bed house would cost between 800 and 1500 in these areas, if looking yourself and not being led or DECEIVED even by a relocation agent.

But have you not considered local schools? Your children are very young, at BEPS or ISB, they will not learn much more than "ca va" and "bonjour" unless they do a heck of a lot of activities in French too, they will make friends with children who are also likely to leave after 2 or 3 years, they are very unlikely to make Belgian friends or long term Belgian residents as very few Belgians go to these schools. Our own school contains now around 30 English speakers who are from all over the English speaking world, the school has over 30 nationalities. our other consideration with international schools is that most children there never make use of the local activities, due to the language barrier. For example, our children are in a swim club, yearly fees are 225 euro for 400+ hours training, compared to a single hour lesson in English at 7,50euro . A local gym club charges 95 euro for the whole year, contrast this with Little Gym which is frequented by children at international schools, I think it is over 20euro for one hour there.

Portofino Tue 14-Dec-10 08:58:35

Hmmm, difficult one! I know we lived 2 years in an apartment when we first moved. It had a little park and playground right out back. It drove me mad not to have a garden in the end. When it's a nice day you have to get ready and GO OUT! I personally prefer to have the garden and drive to the park/for milk.

Do you have to choose between one or the other now, or can you do a bit more searching. Oh and if you are still here at the weekend - it is MN Xmas Meet Up Night grin

Portofino Tue 14-Dec-10 09:28:55

How about Here?

natation Tue 14-Dec-10 09:47:25

That house is ideally situated for ISB, not for BEPS, but also ideally situated for BJAB, British Junior Academy of Brussels. There are also 2 schools nearby, highly regarded St Hubert, Blackedelle-something, or further awaya a smaller school in Watermael-Boitsfort called la Sainte Famille which is really really friendly, I know one of the teachers there, quite a few international families there. I'd personally prefer that Auderghem house to the ones you describe - it is near a large Carrefour, the metro, 2 sports centres, a swimming pool not too far away, the forest, Rouge Cloitre playground, there are even 2 indoor play centres in that area.

natation Tue 14-Dec-10 10:06:14

OR how about this house in Woluwe St Pierre Chant d'oiseau area, close to Petillon metro, convenient for BJAB school or BISB British International School of Brussels, or for local there is Notre Dame des Graces, Chant d'Oiseau or Paradis des Enfants withing walking distance. This area is close to the city but also quite leafy at the same time, very very popular with expats around here.

Portofino Tue 14-Dec-10 11:19:58

Gosh it's scary how much the rents are now within Brussels!

think The Chant d'Oiseau house is on a busy road (well busy for that area) though. We live in Auderghem so could help provide info for there (or some parts of Woluwe St Pierre and Etterbeek as my dd goes to school on the border of those two).

We live right next to a metro stop which is wonderful. We also have plenty of shops nearby. However, we are also overlooked by big office blocks. The properties in nicer areas tend to be further away from the metro though actually there are some nice properties in quiet streets near Pétillon.

Think I'll try and send you a message to your inbox...

(Don't know where that rogue "think" came from at the beginning!)

Romanholiday Fri 17-Dec-10 14:17:51

I live in Brussels. I really like the Tenbosch area but parking there is really complicated. It's a really good area for restaurants and bars, and I've extensive experience of driving around and around looking for somewhere to park. It's relatively expensive rent wise, but v.central, Tenbosch park is very nice, and you're close to Bois de la Cambre too. On the other hand, I like having a garden. If I were you I'd keep looking for something in Ixelles or the top of Uccle, but with a garden.

I agree with the point on local schools - what greater gift to give your children than bilingualism? Most people seem pretty unimpressed with the international schools here, but I don't have experience as ours are at French school.

ShutterNutter Mon 20-Dec-10 19:10:04

Gosh gals, thanks SO much for all your input! Really appreciate it.

I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner, but the internet in our hotel broke down or something and I couldn't log on anymore. Then once we got back to the US it was a line full of activities with the kids for school Christmas parties and such.

Anyway, we left without making a decision on which house to choose. I'm still really drawn to living in the Ixelles area and we did actually find a house that has a garden and parking but it's a bit older inside (which I don't mind so much) but DH likes it modern and clean lined. I really don't dwell on that too much since we are only going to be there for 3 years and it's not like we are buying the house. It is close to the Uccle border and there are trams nearby.

We are hoping to make a decision sometime today (hahaha - we say that everyday!), if not then maybe keep looking, but time is running out. We were hoping to be there early February (another good laugh!).

Apart from the stress of house hunting, I really enjoyed the days we spent in Brussels and look forward to the move.

If it helps I can post some of the listings we are considering.

Thanks again for all your replies!

natation Mon 20-Dec-10 19:21:00

Glad you liked Brussels.

If commuting time is important,do consider that driving at rush hour in the centre of Brussels or on major routes is really really not recommended(Ixelles to Auderghem might be included in that, it depends exactly where in Ixelles and Auderghem you are talking about), so the viable option for a commute is public transport. Check the transport route AND typical time before committing. If you say roughly where in Ixelles and Auderghem, I could tell you the best public transport route and give you a typical travel time.

Have sent e-mails!!

rushingrachel Tue 28-Dec-10 14:47:06

Hey shutter,

Just seen your post and thought I'd add my thoughts in case you haven't made up your mind. I actually am not crazy about being in Brussels after 4 years. But I LOVE my house, and the fact the city is easy to get around (and out of) so that's the angle my views come from.

Personally, no parking and Ixelles would be an absolute no no for me. That's because I'm not very good at parking and you need to be able to park on a postage stamp with 2 or 3 beeping idiots up your backside in Ixelles. I'd also find it kind of stressful knowing that every time I moved the car I was going to have to park when I got back. Also I think it could make DH grouchy, if he has to drive around the area for 30 minutes to find a parking spot before he can come in the door!

On the other hand I really really like the Tenbosch area (I have a couple of friends with apartments out that way), love the architecture and I sometimes feel when I visit my friends that I am kind of missing out on the authentic art deco Brussels experience being out in my suburban house.

Parking aside I think no garden would be a shame with the kids when there are so many houses with outdoor space in Brussels. I have a sense that Ixelles can be very claustrophobic and hot in summer, with the narrow streets and the high buildings so being dependent on the park wouldn't suit me (and BTW the playground at Tenbosch gets really full in summer).

Having said all that I'm not sure I'd live in Watermael either. Nothing wrong with it ... just there are nicer places to be and it's a bit of a wasteland where facilities are concerned and feels VERY suburban.

If you are looking on that side of town I would be sweeping my eyes towards Auderghem area but I am biased as that is where I live. I suspect I live very near to Longtime, as I am in Auderghem myself near Petillon metro and as a location I love it. There's a nice sense of community, metros and buses galore, lots of proximate shopping options (I would have a choice of 3 cornerish shops and 2 supermarkets within walking distance) and I just like it. In the recent snow I must have said "I'm soooooooo glad to live in the city" about a thousand times to DH, it means I am never stressed about not being able to get from A to B, as I am always within walking distance of the milk!

One last thing I would say is beware if you are being assisted by a relocation agency. We had Sirva relocation helping us when we moved here and they were USELESS. Like unbelievably useless. They showed us 4 houses in 2 days and none of them corresponded with our criteria. The fact they had shown us 4 things with walls and a roof seemed to them to discharge them from their duty. The property market in Brussels moves very quickly and there is always a lot of choice, so make full use of Immoweb and any contacts to check out what is on offer before you go for anything definite.

charltonchick Tue 28-Dec-10 20:51:07

Rushingrachel you must live really near me too! I'm 5 mins from Petillon metro towards Etterbeck. Do you (or longtime!)know of any ballet classes nearby I could send my DDs to (5 and 3)? Here's hoping our Jan get-together happens as I'd love to meet you all.

natation Tue 28-Dec-10 22:48:19

Susan Heron in English at the American gym, on "petite ceinture" not far from VUB, reasonably priced considering it's English



dessen Wed 29-Dec-10 11:05:42

shutternutter - my vkew is take the house with the garden outside of the city. After a few days, weeks of being in a citycentre house with no garden, lots of rain, pavements & parks full of dog shit you'll wish you had your own outside space.

rushingrachel Wed 29-Dec-10 11:35:49

Hadn't considered the dog shit issue, but very true. It's everywhere in Bxl. Get's on your stroller, on your tyres, on your shoes ... and owners have no qualms about letting their dogs foul right outside your front door without cleaning up. And they let dogs into lots of playgrounds (not Tenbosch) so they can do their shit in the play sand. Go for a garden.

dessen Wed 29-Dec-10 12:24:39

shit on the doorstep happens with every city street house. No easy parking, pavements hard work with a stroller, roads in bad repair. That stroll for the milk will be one of shit, rubbish & spit on the street avoidance.

The dogshit issue isn't nearly as bad as when I first came here 25 years ago. I can't tell you how awful it was then.

Charltonchick, my dh took my dd to Balletomania (really close to you)on an open day but said it was run like a military camp. Dd, who was only little at the time, couldn't get out the door fast enough!

natation Fri 31-Dec-10 10:14:25

I know another ballet school boot camp near us. But when my daughter went to look, she actually liked it!!! I did wonder about the similarity when the website is full of what the teachers have achieved, just like the one that I visited near us.

I do know a girl at Susan Heron in Ixelles and a few more who go to the Tervuren classes, they speak very highly of the school, but it is very strict on uniform.

If you were looking for very informal dancing, Vitamomes have classes from 3 years held in WSP's secondary school on Rue au Bois, but perhaps a bit of a treck from Pétillon.

ALeo Fri 31-Dec-10 14:31:42

Wow! Only just found this forum and I didn't realise there were so many expats here. We live in WSP, easy walking distance to many shops, post office, library etc. I would second looking for a place with a garden - my two spend a lot of time outside. I would also second sending the children to a local school. My two started at ages 6 and 4 and are both bilingual - what a gift! I have taken many many lessons and still struggle to make myself understood sometimes.

There are some local websites which you could ask questions on, eg., Sometimes the answers are useful, sometimes not.

Hope you get everything settled and the move goes well! I'm sure you know all about the differences in voltage and measurements etc, but would just like to share a house moving trauma - we moved from TX to Brussels with an agency. When we got here the screws for the beds had gone missing and of course, finding replacements was really hard because they were metric screws and the holes weren't!! (So get the movers to put the screws in baggies and watch them tape the baggies to the furniture!) Good luck!

natation Fri 31-Dec-10 14:51:20

Ooh where do you live ALeo? I'm as far east in WSP as you can get. Have 3 children at local schools, mainly positive, certainly better than the school they were at in the UK.

ALeo Fri 31-Dec-10 20:08:26

I'm near the 'centre' of WSP. Also mainly positive about the schools - just wish I could chat more easily with the teachers. I can communicate in French but with no regard for subtlety or nuance!

natation Fri 31-Dec-10 20:53:43

Aleo, I can speak French relatively well but there are some teachers I'd still not want talk to smile who are thankfully in the minority at our local school. But some of the teachers I am good friends with, they come over for breakfast usually once a week and I spoil them with cakes to eat for lunch, very naughty of me but as they are paid peanuts, I always like to spoil them. I wouldn't have dreamed inviting any teachers at our old UK school. Belgians are very reserved and seemingly unfriendly (ok great generalisation but too often true), it takes quite while to get to know them and they make very loyal friends.

Bushwacker Thu 06-Jan-11 12:23:00

We moved to Brussels last year February from Denham Green in the UK.

It has been an quite a move> We moved to Hoeilaart which is a Flemish area but only 15 kilometers from Brussels and a 15 minute car ride to Delta metro station which in turn is 15 mins from Brussles centre. We looked at the international schools but they were too expensive and even the French private schools at 500 Euros a month did not impress us - very cramped not well kept and other alarming signs. We decided to look at the local Flemish schools in Hoeilaart. The one was very strict catholic and the other a normal christian based school but accepting all faiths and languages. After investigation, we found that the catholic school was not flexible in many aspects and decided on the Flemish school for our three year old where the teacher could help as she knew english very well.

Some quick pros and cons.


Cheaper rent and more value for your money a little out of brussels> we have a five bedroom house compared to a two bedroom flat in UK at more or less the same rent - careful though although the council tax is much lower they off set it with expensive rubbish bags - mandatory, and the heating cost for the house was not expected to be so large!! We are close to the forest and enjoyed many beautiful rides and walks this past summer> We have a lovely public swimming pool and a loical sports club focusing on Tennis and Hockey. The town centre has everything we have ever needed but we have a massive Carrefour near Hermann de broex which is fifteen mins drive. Driving into Brussles at 9am is not advisable but I drop my husband at Delta and the traffic is heavy but not alarming as it is a short journey. The biggest plus is that the schools take care of the kids from the age of two and a half at a very low cost 20 euro per term> The Flemish educational system is number three in the world and far surpasses the French system in the same burrows. I am told this is because of the amount of resources that the different communities put into these systems.


So far most shops are closed on a Sunday unless you head into Brussels.

There is a parculiar driving rule that allows for cars to drive onto a road from a stopstreet and the car with right of way - in the UK system will have to give way IE stop!!! Noone tells you about this little rule and it only applies to roads that dont show a yellow diamond sign. I may not have this correct but please check this out before being scared half to death when the cars start turning in front of you!!

All in all, we love Brussels and the people are full of culture and very accomodating even the French!! well some of them ;)

natation Thu 06-Jan-11 19:15:17

PISA study December 2009 places Belgians' 11 year olds at 11th in this world survey, 3rd in Europe.

If you break down the Belgian stats, it's true that OVERALL the Flemish and German speaking Belgians scored higher than their French speaking counterparts, BUT the PISA results also yet again highlighted that in Belgium, particularly in Flemish Belgium, that the PISA marks reflected far too well the socio-economic status of the 15 year olds eg those 15 year olds from well-off families scored very well, those 15 year olds from poor backgrounds scored badly. The socio-economic gap in Belgium is more profound than in other developed countries... and particulary in Flemish Belgium.. and here you have the explanation as to why the French students in Belgium fare ON AVERAGE worse than their Flemish counterparts, because ON AVERAGE the French students are from poorer backgrounds than Flemish ones. So don't believe the hype about Flemish schools being better.....yes they get better resourced, but the biggest factor in predicting performance is SOCIAL STATUS of their children. So if you compare a French, German or French school in Belgium with the same type of children eg rich or poor, you will find little if any difference in performance according to language. In Belgium, ALWAYS judge a school on individual performance. Rejecting a whole school network on grounds of language, French, German or Dutch, is very very unwise.

But it's not only due to that natation. The Dutch-speakers have always (well as long as I've known) had a queueing system for their secondary schools. The better schools have longer queues but this usually means getting up really early on the day. The French-speakers had a system where you just pitched up to school with your report from primary and they decided whether or not they'd give you a place or not. (I think this was more the case in the Catholic schools but as there are many of them...) When they decided this was leading (or rather had led) to there being a few "good" (read highly academic) schools and the rest less well looked upon, they decided to introduce a queueing scheme too. However, the damage was already done and this led to people queueing for days (and nights!) to get into their preferred school. This was abandoned after two years and now there a rather more complicated form-filling/points allocated system.

If I could go back 19 years to when my eldest ds started in the Belgian system I would choose the Dutch-speaking system in a heartbeat. Better languages for a start.

ShutterNutter Sun 09-Jan-11 04:51:38

Hi again! Happy New Year to you all and thanks again for all the replies!

We still haven't found a house yet. Dh will be going back to Brussels on Wednesday to look at some more houses. There are a few in Ixelles that we found with garden and parking (one got rented already though).

He will also look in Auderghem again. What area there has shops close by, like a little plaza or bakery, etc? All the houses we saw in December were in quite neighborhoods quite a walking distance from any shop. I will have him look near Petillon Station as some of you suggested.

We haven't decided on the girls schooling yet ... I didn't think it would be this hard :-). We should be there in just 6 weeks, Yikes!

ALeo what is the center of WSP? Any landmark or restaurant name you can give me so I can google it's location?

natation Sun 09-Jan-11 08:23:29

WSP is made up of several neighbourhoods.

Most convenient for Auderghem is "Chant d'oiseau" which is other side of Petillon and Boileau metro stations. It has it's own shops, supermarket, 2 2 1/2 to 12 schools, biggest landmark is the church there.

There's "Centre" which has the town hall as the biggest landmark, more built-up, has the 39/44 tram and just a bit north has eastern Brussels' bigget shipping centre Woluwe Shopping and also the metro line, borders WSL there.

Then there is "Parmentier/Kelle", surrounded by parks, not sure what you'd call most obvisous landmark there.

Then there is "Ste Alix or Stockel au Bois", the Ste Alix chruch and sqaure is biggest landmark, it's the location of the husge Sportcity sports complex and 50m pool, very very popular with families, not convenient if you reallys still want ISB as a school, but local schools are excellent, can walk to 44 tram line or 39 tram line which will link with tram line going through Auderghem.

Finally there is "Stockel" and arguably most popular area, Place Dumon is biggest landmark, metro stop and 39 tram which will link to Auderghem, excellent local schools again. ISB bus goes up Ave Orban, my friends' children take it. But BJAB and BISB also easy to reach from there, so is BSB.

Auderghem stretches along the autoroute from the ring to VUB/ULB universities, there's a huge Carrefour , metro lign, tram line intersecting 90% with the metro line. Big sports centre, the forest. Everything you would need is there. Think you need a map showing communes.

Here's one.

We're in Auderghem and although we have lots of little shops and the big Carrefour here, there's no centre or "place" to this bit which is a bit of a shame and I think something you'd like. I like the area around Chant d'Oiseau. However Boitsfort does have a nice village sort of feel to it.

Let us know when he's coming. Maybe we can help?

HELS75 Mon 10-Jan-11 13:40:53


I've never looked on this website before but am so pleased to have done so! We are moving to Brussels next month from London (we're being relocated due to my husband's work) We have a 3yr old and 10month old so reading through all your posts has been really useful.
We're arriving this week to look at houses and schools, hoping this will not be too stressful - May well be back on here with lots of questions once I've actually visited.

Pfaffingabout Mon 10-Jan-11 16:21:59

Hi - ALeo here after name change to something that seemed to describe me a bit better!

As natation said, the centre is the bit around the Maison de la Commune. Another major landmark is Rob's Gourmet Supermarket. I wouldn't bother shopping there - too expensive and the stock doesn't turn over terribly quickly, but it's visible from Boulevard de Woluwe.

Just to add to natation's comments; there are a lot of expats living in the Saint Alix area. At least it seems that way to me - I know quite a few. Place Dumon is probably the most expensive. The shops around Place Dumon are quite nice but not worth the extra expense iMO.

Have fun this week. If you're in need of a coffee, look out for Pain Quotidien or Exki. Both quite reliable and pleasant. Of course, so are some independent places, but can be a bit more hit and miss.

rushingrachel Tue 11-Jan-11 11:58:47

Hope all goes well with your DHs visit Shutter. I sense you'd probably like Ixelles just stick to getting something with parking and a garden.

I am really worried about schooling options for my DS and whilst I hear lots of information about it I still don't know what to do.

First issue is school age. DS is now 2.5 and I think that's too young for school. I didn't like going at 5! Belgians think 2.5 is "school age" and I was pretty much told by the local school I tried to enlist him for that if he doesn't show up by September when he's 3 the classes will be full.

Then there is the language issue. I've been reading a lot around bilingualism and whilst I'm convinced it's a "good thing" I'm not convinced about educating my DS in a language DH and I can speak fluently but not precisely. You can find research to prove that it makes no difference, and you can find research to prove that it induces dyslexia and slows the brain. What research do you believe?! And I am not sure, living in an anglophone home, whether they would develop the linguistic skills they would need to function at the highest level educationally. Maybe I am being over aspirational as it's way too early to tell whether DS would be a drop out or be able to function at the highest level anyway (!) but I did and my DH did so if he were able I'd like him to have the chance.

Then there's the "system". I just don't know the system, curriculum, or anything else here. All the chat about points and queueing and reports. Arggggh.

Then there's my involvement. This might sound self indulgent but I worry I would not be able to help my child with his work at more than a functional level. I had a huge amount of support from my mum to keep me on track and I would like to be able to offer that to my children. Particularly as they got older I think they would lose me.

All that said the international schools are hugely and horribly expensive and of mixed quality and I feel a little aggrieved to contemplate paying for education of a similar quality (ie mixed) that I received free in the UK (my comprehensive was pretty good if you tried hard).

It's a very very vexing subject I think. How do you make a decision?

Sorry that's completely off track Shutter from your move but since this is an active Brussels thread I thought some people might have considered the same issues and have some light to shed on them!

Portofino Tue 11-Jan-11 13:07:39

Now I am a big fan of the local school system. My dd started at 2.5 - I was/am working full time. She had been at a nursery in the UK before that. I was really worried that she wouldn't be able to communicate - hungry / need the loo etc but she was happy from the outset and we never had any problems. She didn't say much for the first 6 months, then suddenly it all kicked in.

They cover such a lot of ground in Maternelle - not formal learning, but by studying themes and working in arts and crafts, books and pictures and trips. They did things like "bread" - so they went to a farm, they went to a mill, bakers etc Then they baked things themselves. They did all sorts of topics like this. At the same time they get used to the social aspect of school. Getting on with the other children, lunchtime, toiletting etc. As they got bigger, everyone had a little job to do - putting up today's weather, feeding the fish etc

The 3rd Maternelle gets a bit more formal - they learn how to write their name, exercises for pen control, simple maths. Apparently 99% of Belgian parents put their kids through the system. It is great preparation for REAL school. Dd is 7 in March and in 1st Primary. The amount of ground they covered in the first term is amazing. She does maths work sheets for fun, and has gone from practically zilch in reading, to being able to read Horrid Henry.

My reading about bilingualism is that it actually has a positive effect on learning ability - and I also read that it is countries where children are taught to read earlier - eg UK - that have the highest rates of Dyslexia. A lot of brains just aren't ready at 4. I am not a fluent French speaker, but can manage sufficiently to help with homework/understand parent's evening. I don't know how things will pan out in the long term.

The vocabulary issue is something that I have thought about - the big downside of living in a solely Anglophone household. We try to encourage dd to watch French speaking TV and videos and read to her in French as well as English. Of course as she has got older, she is spending all day with her peers, so the vocab just comes.... At Xmas she was 2nd in her class (small Mummy gloat) so obviously the fact that she is English mother tongue is NOT holding her back at the moment. In fact she has taken to calling DH "Papa" recently - after 6 years of Daddy. It is very sweet. Unfortunately, I remain "MUUUUUMMMMMM"

Portofino Tue 11-Jan-11 13:12:46

PS - I couldn't afford an International school so that decision was effectively made for me. I do have some regrets that I didn't enter dd into the Dutch speaking system though. At the time, she went to the nearest local school, and we could speak French and no Dutch, so it seemed simple.

We're currently living outside Brussels in Vlaams Brabant. It might make things trickier when we get to Secondary - we would probably have to move to guarantee a place at a decent school. But I have a few years yet - anything could happen....

Pfaffingabout Tue 11-Jan-11 14:56:49

Hi RushingRachel,

I think bilingualism can only be a good thing and it is actually the norm for more people than monolingualism. Even though my daughter has language learning difficulties (dyslexia etc), this is the same in her mother tongue as in her second language. She goes to a very good specialist school in the French Belgian system and is bilingual.

Check out this website: It doesn't directly relate to our situation, more to people who choose to bring up their children bilingual. It does have some good links though and interesting articles.

Are you worried about your children not developing enough of a second language or not enough of their maternal language? At first, we did extra curricular things in French and encouraged them to have playdates with French speaking friends. Now, 4 years on they are fluent in French and we try to find activities in English to reinforce their spoken English, eg. Beavers / Cubs at BSB in Tervuren, guitar lessons etc. My son transferred his reading skills from French to English and basically taught himself to read in English. For a while, I sent them to an English teacher for extra reading / writing lessons and apparently ds is reading at grade level in English. (Writing is a whole different ballgame!)

You always have the option to transfer from a local school to a private English school at a later date. It would be much more difficult to transfer the other way.

Good luck!

Pfaffingabout Tue 11-Jan-11 15:05:01

Sorry - realise I wasn't very clear with 'choose to bring up their children bilingual'. I find that the website / people posting on it tend to be trying to bring up a child in a minority language and struggling against an overpowering majority language (OPOL etc). That's not really the case for English or French!

I stopped worrying so much when I realised how many people here are bilingual or are bringing up bi / multilingual kids. For example, my neighbours kids speak French with their mother and grandmother, Spanish with their father and go to a flemish speaking school. Being monolingual is a disadvantage! Learning your second language in the same way as your mother tongue, ie. absorbing it through immersion at a young age, is the best way to do it.

natation Tue 11-Jan-11 17:28:39

Hey there Rushingrachel,

Portofino has described maternelle pretty much how I have experienced it in how the day is, how the curriculum is organised. Your experience of school at 5 years old is going to be way different to what a 2/3 year old experiences at school here. It's not like primary school, it's maternelle where children play and socialise and basically enjoy themselves.

There is no formal work you would need to help your children with at maternelle level, there are no queues to stand in, no points to collect, just usually a fwe easy forms to complete plus proof of address and ID. You normally only get a report at the end of 3e maternelle, it's not "marks" out of 10.

What the school told you is generally but not universally true, that if you don't enrol by 3 years old, it makes it difficult to find a place at the more popular schools at age 4, 5 or 6 when school becomes compulsory.

I simply cannot believe bilingualism induces dyslexia. I can also echo Pfaffinabout's experiences of her child teaching themselves to read in English. Our 9 year old has had no formal English teaching in 3 years, she reads as well as I would expect for at least a 9 year old, if not older. Our 5 year old is currently teaching herself to read in English, whilst being taught early reading in French from school. I am NOT encouraging the English at home for her as I do know it can make it difficult to learn to read in 2 languages at once, but what can I do, tell her off for teaching herself to read English??? Her French school teaches reading using phonics, so at least she is learning the relationship of sounds to letters in French, the same sounds which are in Engish she is learning the different letter combinations in English too.

Have you visited schools with high populations of non Francophones? Maybe that will set your mind at ease. At our children's schools, must be around 40% non francophones on entry, less by primaire, but among the Francophones, there are loads of children who are bilingual too, the monolingual French children in the school are a minority.

Bilingualism is the norm in Belgium.

Portofino Tue 11-Jan-11 18:07:36

Dd's school also has a large number of non- mother tongue French speaking children - in her class there are Poles, Czechs, Indians, Mother tongue Dutch speakers etc. I think this is another advantage to using the Maternelle system. By the time these children are 6, they can all speak French more or less fluently.

rushingrachel Wed 12-Jan-11 09:37:44

The schools which I have visited close to my house are Paradis des Enfants, which is MASSIVE and scares me although apparently it has a good reputation, and Notre Dame des Graces de Chant d'Oiseau, which I quite liked, although that was the one where they said enrol by 3 or bye bye. I did fill in the forms there when DS was much smaller (about a year) but guess if I actually want to enrol him by 3 (he's 3 in July) I will need to get back onto them soon, which is why I am thinking about this a lot at the moment. It's not that I am against some formalisation from 3, I went to playgroup mornings and liked it, and my niece was in nursery in the UK but again only for mornings. 4.5 days a week for a small one strikes as s a lot. Maybe I'm just struggling with the idea that my baby such a short while ago is apparently school age today!

I actually read about the research on dyslexia in a book called "Pour une education bilingue" which was lent to me by a friend who grew up in the Belgian school system in Liege despite neither of her parents being Belgian. It covered the research both ways in a very measured way. My friend who I quizzed at length was not wholly positive or negative, she said there were advantages and disadvantages and some of the disadvantages are the ones that worry me and the bilingualism, which is of course the big advantage, attracts me.

I know that bilingualism is the norm in Belgium, I've lived and worked here for 4 years (before that I was in Paris for 3 years where it certainly isn't the norm)! I guess the key difference between a Belgian and a foreigner is that the Belgian becomes bilingual whilst their education is anchored in their native tongue. So the questions about vocabulary etc do not arise.

I guess the answer is to get back onto the school and see if we could still enroll DS then go and have another look around.

natation Wed 12-Jan-11 12:09:55

How far from the Chant d'Oiseau area are you? There is Bémel which is maternelle only and has only 4 classes, probably couldn't get much different size wise than Paradis des Enfants.

Chant d'Oiseau is very popular with non Belgians and would normally have space, communal schools were built for extra capacity, but with the rising birth rate, I know they are running out of space there, it used to be 2 classes per year but some now have 3 classes. Heard mainly positive about Chant d'Oiseau.

Notre Dame des Graces is the "sought after" school by Belgian parents, conveniently not far from SC de Lindthout and St Michel secondaires where I imagine the majority of children move on to. It's also a growing school, expanding from 2 to 3 classes per year and has recently completely an extension. But because of popularity with Belgian parents, there is little movement out of the school, once the children start, so the number of non Belgians is going to be mush smaller there. I had a friend who used to have her children there until she moved abroad, she didn't say anything bad about it.

Or Auderghem way, St Julien-Parnasse, know nothing about other than each section is not too big but with secondaire, primaire and maternelle it is a big school, it depends on how the sections are separated physically and on a day-to-day basis. My friend's son goes to a maternelle with primaire and secondaire, I was horrified at first at the thought of little ones in a school of almost 1500 from 2 to 18, but in fact in the maternelle part, it is so enclosed you do not notice the rest of the school.

Then there's an Auderghem communal not too far from St Julien, can't remember the name of it sorry.

I fully understand not wanting to send children to school early, all of my children went only 2 half days per week to a private nursery, only the youngest has been to school at 3 here, the others started at 4 in the UK. I've not really had personal experience of my own children going at 2 1/2, only watched others. IF we were still in the UK, wouldn't dream of putting the children into a school at 2 1/2, but we're here where it's the norm and for non French / Dutch speakers, school has the advantage of acquiring another language without too much effort.

IF you do ever put your child into school at 2 or 3 , Rachel, just be sure it's what you want and are happy for your child to attend *every*** day, whether part time or full time. It's not a drop-in creche, the teachers do not appreciate children who attend infrequently who take extra time to adjust every time they arrive, make it hard to plan for activities etc. If you are comfortable, your child could start tomorrow, if you are not, I'd enrol and wait till September. Missing classe d'acceuil is not a big deal at all, the only downside is that by not having a place already, it reduces chances of getting a 1ere maternelle place, reduced even more if you wait till 2e maternelle.

Maybe you could look into Farandoline type groups before starting school? Nearest you get to a UK mums and tots group but in French.

rushingrachel Wed 12-Jan-11 13:58:18

Natation I really appreciate your views. I'm right on the border between Auderghem and WSP, nearest is definitely Paradis des Enfants. My Belgian nanny had her son there some 15 years ago and took him away because she says its living on past glories and classes were too big and supervision non existent at times.

Had no idea Notre Dame des Graces was sought after, I just saw it near the playground then a client of DH told him she had her kids there (her husband is Belgian) and it was a good school so I went down to fill in the papers so we had the option if we wanted it.

I couldn't send DS until 3 I don't think, as he's not sufficiently good with the potty (another long story)! And even then I'm not sure I'm going to be happy about it exactly. I come from a family of teachers (my sister even taught at BSB for a while before I was here) though so I would not be the type to mess them around taking the child in and out. If I decide it's the thing to do then I'll do it properly.

natation Wed 12-Jan-11 21:17:43

I would completely ignore the opinion of someone who had a child in a school 15 years ago. Belgians, or in fact anyone, can come up with all sorts of reasons for changing schools, I haven't been here that long, but from short experience of primaire, the biggest REAL reason children move schools is because they have failed a year and do not like the decision and if they can find another school which will accept their child without holding back a year, they move school.

Class sizes are a no win situation in Brussels. The most popular school have the fullest classes and 25 is the norm for a full class in the French system, yes even with little ones, but usually the first class "acceuil" has an assistant. In our school, the smallest class is our daughters at 18, the biggest is 35.... yes 35 .. because the French Community forced the school to reduce 2 classes into 1, yes unacceptable but the French Community are not over-generous with budgets and staffing. The average number in a primaire class at our school is about 23, in maternelle it is 22 but the largest has 26 and smallest has 18 (daughter's class). The average will rise until about May, as acceuil's numbers builds up as children turn 2 1/2. So to avoid such large classes, you have to find a school in your area that is not popular with parents.

As for potty training, not all schools require children to be completely potty trained, some do accept in nappies, with a willingness to co-operate with potty training. For sleep time, a nappy is not going to be a problem at all. So you have to ask the acceuil teacher personally what her policy is on having a child arriving with nappies. I asked our acceuil teacher just before Christmas how many she had still in nappies, out of 20 she had 4!!!! I told her she is mad accepting that many.

Oh and the communal school in Auderghem, it's les Marroniers on chaussee de Wavre. There's also institut Ste Anne probably the same distance from you as St Julien-Parnasse, known as one of the better Etterbeek schools but like NDG, it's oversubscribed.

If you are interested in enrolling for next September or any time in that year, you'll have to get your skates on. Several schools I konw of completed enrolments back in October 2010 for September 2011, one school near me, Mater Dei, had its enrolment for 1ere maternelle just his Monday and for sure all the places will already be gone. Good luck

Portofino Wed 12-Jan-11 21:45:28

DD's premiere primaire class has 27. They split up a lot for activities though. The class sizes were similar in Maternelle. I know this only because of the number of party bags I had to supply.

I often wondered how they got anything done at all with 27 3 or 4 yos. Surely they must spend all their time in the toilet! wink But no, they seem remarkably well organised.

rushingrachel Thu 13-Jan-11 13:56:10

Hi both, you are really kind bothering to answer all this stuff, and you have actually made me feel very much more positive about the local schooling option, particularly when DS is very small. I do see your logic that with these very over subscribed schools it is easier to change away from them than to change into them and given the price of the international schools getting places won't be so much of an issue here.

My nanny is a very forthright person and if she didn't like something for sure she would change. I doubt her son ever failed a year though, he's very clever and has just qualified as an accountant. I would certainly not ask her if that were the case though! When she took him out of PdE she put him into Mater Dei which if I understand correctly is not a safe harbour for drop outs.

I know where les Maronniers is - opposite Delhaize. I've seen some foul behaviour coming out of there ... maybe that's just kids though!

Anyway, I have made some progress as we DID enrol DS in NDG when he was just under 1. Enthused by your help I called them this afternoon to say I hadn't heard "where are things" and they said "have you had a letter from us"? So said "no", they looked DS up and said he was next on the list and although they couldn't confirm he would get a place, they were pretty positive. Anyways they then said would we like to go meet the principal. So I guess that is positive too and have made an appointment to do so. I think they are checking us out actually!

Asked about class sizes .... they said 25. I am not certain but got the impression if they liked us given where we were on the list they would make room. OBviously that's a lot compared to the international schools but compared to my school in the UK it isn't, and my mother who is one of the finest educators I have ever met and taught at primary level for nearly 40 years, often faced class sizes of over 35 without classroom assistants in some tough schools. So by UK standards I think it is probably not bad.

In the end although I will consider sending him to a local school if it seems really nice, and although I would prefer NOT to pay, I will find the money if I can't find anywhere nice that will take him.

natation Thu 13-Jan-11 16:05:46

Hi again.

I really really would advise you to see around as many schools as possible, including going back to NDdG. It may seem a pointless exercise, but it may reassure you that NDdG is the school where you want your child to go to or it may mean you find another school you are more comfortable with. We saw half a dozen local schools, plus another half a dozn of the international ones, since our children are eligible to have fees paid. In the end, we went back to the very first local school we saw, saw it one more time, knew it was right for us, thankfully out gut feeling proved us right. We actually tried to enrol on first visit but the then directeur told us to go and see the other schools in the area first, I think he knew why, because he knew we'd come back more comfortable with our decision. The best views are always your own, not anyone else's.

Oh one last thing, local French schools are not entirely free - I reckon I will pay close to 1500 euro for the 3 of our kids this year for books, photocopies, lunch time supervision etc. You can't get a grant until secondary to help pay with school supplies, but in your August? child benefit, you get a few hundred euro extra to help out with extra school expenses.

Portofino Thu 13-Jan-11 19:50:21

From what I have seen, the good schools like "nice" parents. Sad fact, but being a bit middle class professional DOES make a difference at certain establishments.

dessen Thu 13-Jan-11 23:27:36

Be prepared though for buildings in bad repair, outside loos with no taps working or loo paper, things happening that would be banned by health & safety regulations in other places, no school library... One interesting aspect is that the locals don't send their kids to private schools as these are 'international' so in all this mess you have the very wealthy alongside the poorest so good for social mixing.

natation Fri 14-Jan-11 07:12:40

No outside loos at our school, all taps working, in fact our school's toilets for the children are fine, whereas I don't like the teacher's toilet at all. Our school has a library, all the schools around here do too and nicer than ours, the building is not too bad except for one floor which is going to be completely refurbished. It's true that some schools are in an appalling state of repair, Jean 23 Parmentier is the worst I've seen around our parts but I would send our children there without any hesitation, it's a lovely small school which excels in other ways, it's full because parents know there is more to a school than buildings. NDdG and Chant d'Oiseau have good accommodation so I don't think Rachel needs to worry. She might get a shock at hygiene standards though, Belgian parents are just as bothered as us international parents, it's a standing joke at our parents' association meeting that we always talk about the cleanliness of the school.

Social mixing depends on where you live. Where we live, there is a minority of social housing but most children from the estate go to the other local school, our school is essentially a middle class school because the area is middle class. A bit more social mixing occurs at secondary level, but looking on our child's secondary class list and where the children live, it's pretty middle class in intake.

There are indeed private schools in Belgium which cater for Belgians. There's maybe a handful like this, but they do exist.

In Brussels you have BICS and Acacia which have some international families attending but are essentially Belgian private schools.

Hi rushingrachel, I've been going to Paradis des Enfants for 19 years now with one child or another so if you want any information about it then please feel free either to ask me or to send me a message into my inbox. They have had to change their teaching methods somewhat in recent years because of the compulsory CEB though change is coming rather slowly. We were going to change our dd to Chant d'Oiseau (the non-Catholic one)2 years ago but didn't in the end because of the changes promised. I won't go in to more details now. Just ask if you would like them.

Funny that you thought Paradis was MASSIVE. I also visited St Julien and found that ENORMOUS compared to Paradis. I didn't like the fact that it went up to 18 either as there were all sorts hanging around outside smoking etc. It doesn't have a particularly good reputation though I soon learnt that my idea of a good school is not what the Belgians' idea of a good school is.

Porto, the good schools might like "nice" parents but in theory if you get in early enough with your application they can't pick and choose - in the commune school in any case. I think they can more in the Catholic schools.

There's also l'ARA in Auderghem (on the edge of Woluwe park) though that goes from maternelle to 18 so is pretty big.

Mine all started at the age of 3 and only went mornings for the first year of maternelle (they took them for a nap in the afternoon and as mine had long given up theirs I had no desire for them to start having one again and then not sleeping at night!). The only reason I sent them that early was to start hearing French on a regular basis.

Oooh, if you want a different sort of approach to the rather old-fashioned way of learning on offer here, there are the Decroly schools and in Auderghem, l'Autre Ecole. More info can be found on the internet.

rushingrachel Sun 16-Jan-11 11:35:30

You girls are very very helpful.

I rang Chant d'Oiseau too and they said they doubted there would be a place there for September. Not sure if something would free up for 2eme Maternelle if 1st Maternelle is full?? Very vexing. Natation as you say likely the only way to find out is to go visit places and have left it a bit late. Also am rather pregnant at the moment which makes all these types of visits quite hard work!

As to costs, I know there are some. DH and I are both lawyers so we don't need a grant to cover costs like that. Costs of international schools are freaky though. As I say we're expecting second DS in February and whilst we could afford one lot of 20k a year for school fees, if you look at paying for 2 of them them you are looking at finding 40k pa net, 80k gross? Hmmmmmmm. I find those sorts of charges iniquitous. And having been state educated myself and a believer in good rigorous education I have no problem with the Belgian system being quite rigid and like the idea that the Belgians are all able to access the best education regardless of cost.

I looked at BICS too but they seemed to celebrate pre Vatican 2 rights. Arrrrrgh. Religious conservatism makes me want to run for the hills!

Going to see NdG and BJAB next week for a comparison and will let you know how I get on.

Thanks again for so much help. Very much appreciated.

The British School's fee schedule is here. It is quite a bit cheaper for younger children. Still very expensive but not as much as you had quoted. Thought you might be interested.

Re Chant d'Oiseau, they may well have a place in 2nd year. You could always put your name down and see. If they do offer you something and you've decided against it there will for sure be someone else waiting for the place next on the list.

natation Sun 16-Jan-11 12:53:50

Rachel, if your daughter is 2 1/2, she is born in 2008. That's classe d'acceuil this school year 2010-11 and 1ere maternelle in September 2011-2012. Your child would not be 2e maternelle until September 2012-13. Are you sure Chant d'Oiseau checked the right school year? This school has historically run just one classe d'acceuil which goes up to 2 * 1ere/2e/3e maternelle classes, but I do know lately they have added a 2nd classe d'acceuil during the year and also opened 3r classes for the other maternelle years. NDdG has one classe d'acceuil and 3 classes for the other maternelle years. So maybe you should phone again and at least ask for a tour. I know 2 mums with kids in maternelle here.

I know a mum with a child who has done nursery class and Reception class at BJAB. I saw the school before it has its early years extension built, looked lovely. I liked BISB too. Nursery at BJAB for 3 year olds is just over 13k per year, similar for BISB.

Have you though about Ecole Acacia? It is in an old school which closed and only opened up about 5 years ago. It's bilingual either French/English or French/Dutch, one classe of each at maternelle level, except acceuil who are all in together. In the Fr/Eng section lots of nationalities, in Fr/Dutch I imagine nearly all Belgian. Costs are less than 5k per year. I've heard lots of positive things about this school. Teaching time is split 50/50 French or /English, not mixed languages.

BSB has half days or full days for its nursery class for 3 year olds, either just under 7k for half days or just under 14k for full days, pretty much comparable to BJAB and BISB in cost.

Or there is also Montessori House at Mongomery roundabout? They have a varying fee structure, but on a 5 mornings/4 afternoons comparison with BJAB, BISB and BSB, it costs 8.6k per year. French and English are mixed in the same classroom, 2 teachers speaking French or English.

dessen Sun 16-Jan-11 13:08:20

It's a lot of money to go an international school! lol (nicely so) at your use of 'cheaper' longtime!" Also imagine paying so much for the school bus!!

I have heard of a bilingual fr/en school outside of the city called Le Verseau (it's not rc I think or opus dei) in Bierge which isn't as expensive as the bsb and has the advantage of doing the belgian school qualifications. imho the belgian system teaches more. Le Verseau starts in 3rd maternelle.

There might well be a place in the year for your little one to go to the school. One thing is that there are lots of expats at the schools in wsp so some will move on & the locals there will get transfered abroad by their companies. wsp is the sort of area to have affluent employees who will be travelling for their jobs.

dessen Sun 16-Jan-11 13:18:15

Just read through what I wrote & meant a place in the wsp school you want!

dessen, rushingrachel said they could afford one lot of 20K school fees but not two so thought I'd put the fee schedule in anyway!

Le Verseau is very popular and hence I would be surprised if it had a place. Still a phone call wouldn't harm if you're interested: 010 23 17 17. It is also pretty full of the sort of people you describe in wsp dessen! (I know loads of people who have put their children there just in case you think I'm being nasty!)

rushingrachel, the school mentioned by natation, Ecole Acacia, is Opus Dei. Thought you might like to know as from your last post I think I already see you running for the hills!

natation Sun 16-Jan-11 18:30:09

Le Verseau is not exactly a bilingual school, it's a "free" and "non religious" and within the French Community system, but with a bit more freedom to modify the standard French curriculum. For example, in all years, there are English lessons, either mother tongue or second language, the nubmer of hours differs according to age. Instead of Dutch starting in 3e primaire like a regular French school, it does not start until 5e primaire, I am presuming it's because of the number of hours are instead dedicated to English lessons. According to their website and mums with children there, it covers 9 standard Belgian years, in maternelle from 1ere to 3e, then 1ere to 6e primaire. I have been told fees are around 5k per year, covering teacher's salaries which are only part French community funded. According to the school website, 40% of school population is anglophone mother tongue and from parents I know with children there, they tell me it is about that too. It has all the regular things you expect with a Belgian school eg garderie, extra-curricular activities in the lunch hour and after school. The biggest downside I can see to the school is it's a long way (for me) from home, a minimum 30 minute drive. I do know it's really popular too, because it's unique in Belgium in having a French school with English lessons, yes there are immersion English schools in the French and Dutch sector, but theoretically the places in these schools are for native speakers of French or Dutch. Only le Verseau does English lessons within the curriculum for native speakers as well as second language for (theoretically) French speakers.

I know 3 families with children in Acacia, none of them are Opus Dei sort of people, 2 not even Catholic I believe, no pressure according to them towards any sort of Catholicism, their children are all in maternelle. As for BICS, well I don't like to say too much negative..... so I will not open my mouth, BICS is anyway not Opus Dei but run by the order of Christ the King.

Le Verseau is a member of a subgroup of Belgian French schools which are a bit alternative to the regular curriculum. Here is their website.

finally, 3 year olds are not allowed on BSB's school buses anyway, so Rachel wouldn't have to worry about the extra cost. As you can see, a part-time place at BSB's nursery class is not too bad a price at just under 7k per annum, it's at the top end of BSB's pricing schedule that it gets just a bit expensive!!!

rushingrachel Mon 17-Jan-11 18:56:47

Yes he was born in 2008 (July). So in September he would be 3. So maybe I got the wrong end of the stick ... easily done, but I shall find out what the status is when we visit next week!

I looked at the baby house at BSB some time ago and saw the fees then. After reception it's already in the 20k region and I don't want the sadness of having to remove DS from a school where he is happy at 7 because we can't afford it any more! And no way I'd want to trail out to Tervuren before work. Also my sister taught there and doesn't exactly promote the idea of going there if you are paying your own fees... before it sounds like I am giving bad press to my sister she is very clever, Oxford educated as far as I know a good teacher. She just didn't think the school made everything of itself it could have given the level of the fees. That's why I elected to go to look at BJAB, especially as it is around the corner from chez moi.

I know BICS is not Opus Dei, but I found it to be conservative from a religious perspective (eg, if you attend Mass there, you will find the priest with his back to the congregation ... which is v pre Vatican 2). DH and I are both Catholic but not that sort of Catholic ...! Enough said. People either seem to love it or hate it.

Le Verseau I am aware of - but again too far away. And my boss' children go there - shouldn't put me off but .... it does!

natation Mon 17-Jan-11 21:17:16

Rachel, I'd do the same and not want to keep changing schools, very few pay BSB fees themselves past the nursery class. However, if you are not on a huge income, you can apply for a 30% reduction at BSB on fees which brings the fees down lower than the full fees at BJAB, reduced Reception class fees at BSB are considerably less than full fees at BJAB for reception class, for the other years the BSB's reduced fees are around 1k cheaper than BJAB. I have no idea if BJAB offers a reduction on their full fees, it's a much smaller school so it would be more difficult for them to do this, but if they didn't and BSB did, then BSB becomes cheaper. I think if you are even considering private here at one of the more expensive private schools, definitely worth asking about reductions, as most children are funded by parents' employers and a small minority by parents.

If you're near the 23/4/5 tram line, then BISB is also a very accessible school. Colleagues who used to live right next door to BJAB ended up sending their children to BISB as there were no places at BJAB, it's really not that far tram-time-wise between the 2 schools.

BICS..... from another Catholic..... I always thought Catholic meant "universal", funny how different it is to our local Catholic school.

Rosita Tue 25-Jan-11 18:11:31

I am moving to Belgium too! My husband has been posted to SHAPE (NATO base) near Casteau. We will be provided with housing but in terms of schools, most of the British people send their children to the British section of the SHAPE International School. It's meant to be lovely, small classes and has an Outstanding Ofsted. I'm in two minds though. The SHAPE School also has an International section which follows the Belgian curriculum and is taught in French. I'm not sure where to start about finding out what the school is really like. Are Belgian schools regulated and inspected in a similar way to Ofsted?
HAs anyone got any experience of SHAPE? I guess all the local schools are a possibility too but have NO idea where to start with that!
My husband thinks that the children will naturally go to the Brit school but I am keen for them to be really proficient in another language. He says though that my older son (Year 2) will be completely stumped and at a massive disadvantage academically if we throw him in at the deep end. My little one (will start reception in Sept) would just adapt I guess.
Any advice would be much appreciated!

Rosita, I' ve not idea (live on the other side of the country). What I would suggest is you start a whole new thread about it. This one will be lost unless people are nosy like me.

Hi Rosita, I think it depends on how long you're staying. If not very long then I think I'd put them in the English-speaking school so that they are not at any disadvantage when they go back (it will be difficult to keep their French up in a non-Francophone society). Otherwise you could try the Belgian system. Please be aware though that it is very different from the British system so I would advise you research the school thoroughly.

rushingrachel Wed 26-Jan-11 10:06:18

I am back from interview with the principal at Notre Dame des Graces. I was very impressed and many of my fears are allayed.

First thing that has pleased me is that she was very relaxed about DS doing mornings only at first (is normal in 1ere maternelle she said) and that there is no obligation to attend and if you want the child to spend a week with grandparents or something that's fine too. From what she mentioned about the curriculum, and as you too have mentioned, 1ere maternelle is a bit like playgroup from a content perspective ... lots of play and painting.

She was also very encouraging about the linguistic aspect. Interesting thing she said was that in her experience it was key for the child to make a distinction about whom he spoke each language to. If he understood that with mum and dad he speaks English and with nanny, at school and with Belgians he speaks French then he is less likely to have an issues. She said in her experience children that have more than one language at home and then an additional language at school can have more difficulties.

Atmosphere of the school seemed nice. It was very calm. No kids running all over the place shouting. The children were polite and said hello, all of the staff we met were pleasant and helpful. Also the school was extremely clean and tidy.

My only negative comment of any kind would be that the school is big by my standards (600 pupils between maternelle and primaire I think is vast ... my secondary school was that size ... but then again it wasn't in a big city) and that the grounds and premises are quite squashed for that many kids.

Final bit of good news, we have a place for September! So I think we will definitely send DS in September and see how it goes. On the positive side, he might even like it!!

He should be fine! Mine were fine in maternelle apart from the initial issues surrounding separation.

We went for an Open Day at Jean Absil for my dd starting secondary next year. Now that's a big school! Over a thousand pupils with 200 just in the first year. Mind you, I seem to remember they had 11 first year classes of 25 in St Michel. Anyway, I also went for a meeting with the head and his secretary for pre-enrolment (as dd's school has priority for Absil). They were both very friendly and happy to answer any questions I had. Hopefully it'll be a more positive experience than St Michel was.

natation Wed 26-Jan-11 17:58:32

Notre Dame des Graces, with 3+ classes per year, is the biggest single entity fondamentale in WSP commune, but is dwarfed by Paradis des Enfants and SC de Lindhtout nearby (that one is so big it has 2 heads). Small schools with only 1 class per year are rare in Brussels, yes small schools are very much a minority. It was recently in the news that Brussels required something like 70+ new fondamental schools built in the next 20 years to keep up with the birth rate, well it was something like that, it was certainly alot. Lack of space is a common problem in Brussels schools, it's not ideal, our own children's school has risen in numbers from just over 300 to just over 400 in only 2 years and the playground is now too small, the dining hall is too small, really no space left at all.

As for language confusion, last week I made a major error there!! I volunteer at school during lunch hours, a little boy aged 3 who is bilingual French-English was poorly and I looked after him until his parent came to collect him, 5 minutes into speaking English to him, he turns round to me and says "stp je veux te parler en francais, parce que les madames a notre école parlent francais et pas anglais" so there you go, he put me in my place.

I work with children who are nearly all bilingual/trilingual. I don't notice too much of a difference between the bilingual/trilingual ones, but I do notice that the less outgoing children can take a long time to speak English, even though they understand it as well as those who never stop talking, their speech catches up in the end. There are also a few parents whose English is their second language and is not completely fluent but choose to speak English to their children, I think they get confused as they have their parents' "incorrect" English and our English and this seems to cuase problems. I am myself also quite guilty in this respect in not keeping to the OPOL rule - but 3 of the children speak French in preference to English at home and it means I end up speaking French to them which I shouldn't do.

Rosita Wed 26-Jan-11 18:09:23

Good idea - I'll start a new thread! Thanks!

Natation, you make Paradis sound enormous!! There are 12 maternelle classes over the three years of no more than 25 children per class, four classes of 25 in the first three years of primaire and in the final three years there are three classes of well, in dd's class there are 28. That makes about 850 pupils. Whilst it's significantly more than the 600 at Notre Dame des Graces I wouldn't go as far as to say that NDG is dwarfed by Paradis.

Is your dp/dh mother-tongue French?

rushingrachel Tue 01-Feb-11 13:32:24

I also went to see BJAB. It was very nice and I'd consider it if getting fees paid. But when you're considering what you're getting for your money I don't think I'd be minded to pay the fees unless DS was very unhappy in local school. It was somehow not buzzing ... a lot of kids sitting in front of photocopied sheets looking bored. And only 30% come from anglophone homes ... hmmmm. As I say, very nice, but not nice enough to make me go home and cry to my husband that we had to find the cash come what may.

There is no likelihood of me landing up speaking French at home. I was enthused about my ability to speak decent enough French to communicate with teachers when both the head at NddG and the gynecologist at the antenatal clinic told me I had excellent French ... but I love the English language, it is a thing of beauty: a tool of precision. I shall guard it in the 4 walls of my home for as long as I am within it!!

I feel (almost wink) the same as you do with regard to speaking English at home although I love speaking French. I never wanted my dcs to become French mother tongue (not given that they have two Anglophone parents - it would have no doubt been different if dh was Francophone). I'm not particulary attached to the UK anymore but I do think that English is such an important language world-wide that to give the gift of an English mother tongue to your dcs is priceless.

amIcrazyorwhat Wed 09-Feb-11 11:54:05

hi everyone

great to find this website .. just what I badly need! am planning to move to Brussels next September (2012) so that seems like loads of time away .. bey hey am I glad I've been reading up on schools given what some of you guys are saying about waiting lists!

My two boys are 11 (12 in April) and 10 (only just). The 11 year old is in 1st year secondary and the 2nd dude is in primary 6. So oldest will be going into 3rd year in secondary and youngest into 1st year. I am planning on staying permanently so am now thinking it would be much better to put them in a local school (than an international .. anyway, the fees shock). They are in a private catholic school right now (though I'm not a conservative catholic, not practising in fact, but the school is super and other family went there). They're both bright and I want them to go to good schools (like every other mum of course smile). They are both a year younger than the rest of their class so can afford some extra time to pick up the language. So, big questions are - how easy will they find it at that age? I am guessing the first year will be challenging. Then, I would prefer French to Flemish and am thinking of Ixelles or Uccles to live in, or somewhere central with a garden (to buy).
Any comments would be very much appreciated! smile

natation Wed 09-Feb-11 12:23:09

Hi there amIcrazyorwhat

if you are set on French, then your major difficulty is going to be a secondary school for the eldest. He would be in 2nd secondary (2e humanité / secondaire) in September 2012 and without French, you will have to find a school accepting someone in that situation. 2 schools where he will be accepted, if there are places 1) Brussels International Catholic School (BICS), 50/50 French/English, but once in this school, he is unlikely to make it back into the local system unless his French becomes extremely fluent. 2) Ecole le Verseau, 25km from the centre of Brussels, they WILL accept a child without French into 2e secondaire, it's a local school with English lessons in place of Dutch, fees of around 5k per year. Unfortunately, it's quite a hike from Brussels, also your younger child will NOT be accepted at this school without French, they do not accept non francophones in 5e and 6e primaire. Your younger son would be in 6e primaire, again quite a problematic time to start in a French primaire, only one year to learn French to a high enough standard to get through the primary school leaving certificate (CEB). Our 10 year old managed to become fluent enough in 2 years to pass the CEB, would not have passed after 10 months of French.

BTW Ixelles / Uccle is 90% French speaking, if you do decide to go Dutch language, the north and west of the city has a much higher percentage of Dutch first language speakers, better still the areas outside the city which are majority Dutch speaking.

I have friends selling their 6/7 bed townhouse in Ixelles near Police HQ with a walled garden, but you'd need a cool half million to buy it. Housing in the most desirable areas of Brussels is quite expensive.

amIcrazyorwhat Wed 09-Feb-11 14:07:34

Hi Natation

Thanks indeed for your valuable feedback - this is excellent, rich information and I appreciate the time and effort you took to reply to me.

I recognize that I will need to be flexible and maybe the first issue is the language - given what you're saying here, plus that Dutch will be much easier for them to grasp quickly. So maybe I need to let go of French as an ideal (no doubt they'll pick it up anyway, better than they would do here for sure). I wouldn't send them to BICS, it's not my kind of school and wouldn't suit my boys I believe.

Would it be easier for them to make the transition into a Dutch school? It would be important that both go to the same school. That would then mean looking at the north and west of the city for housing I guess, which would be fine, although I don't know where is nice around there but will have a look (I liked the look of Ixelles/Uccles).

Thanks again smile

natation Wed 09-Feb-11 14:44:58

Unfortunately you would have one child in primary and one in secondary to start with, you could choose a school with primary and secondary sections, but it does then roughly half your choices of schools.

Remember even in north and west Brussels, Dutch is a minority language, for the best immersion in Dutch, you'd be better still moving into Vlaams Brabant or Antwerp provinces, Tervuren, Hoeillart, Zaventem, Vilvoorde, Mechelen etc.

Generally speaking Dutch is easier to start with if an anglophone with no prior knowledge of French. Dutch has a grammar closer to English. But French shares a huge amount of vocabulary with English too, thanks to Latin / Norman French word borrowings. Some people are more comfortable in French, some in Dutch. Our family is a classic example, I'm definitely more comfortable in French, hubby in Dutch, given he is pretty fluent also in German, his French is pants. It's hard to judge which one your boys might take to better, without trying both languages out.

Pfaffingabout Wed 09-Feb-11 20:20:15

hi Amicrazy,

Could I just add another thought here? Since you aren't planning to move here until 2012, you have time for your children to start learning a language (although it will never be the same as going to school in the language). I don't know what after-school language classes are in the UK (if that's where you are currently) but if you could come here for a few weeks in the holidays, you could send them to intensive language classes here. I know that there are residential courses available as well as day camps. If the idea appeals, let me know and I'll find out more details. You could also let them try out both languages, although I have to think that it would be easier to follow up with French than Dutch whilst living elsewhere.

I agree with natation that some people suit some languages better than others. I took French and German to the same level at school but didn't retain any of the German at all.

Difficult one re which language would be easier. Like natation's family, French is my second language but Dutch is dh's second language. For that reason (as I knew it would be me following them) we chose French. I would chose Dutch given the chance again but I'm only basing that on my experience with the French system (and friends in the same school) versus hearsay from friends and family in the Dutch system. The Dutch schools have a better reputation than the French schools where language teaching is concerned (so you're right in thinking your dcs would pick French up anyway). I also think the Flemish mentality is slightly closer to that of the British mentality (going on my friends versus my sil's friends). A different experience may have led me to think differently.

I do have a friend who could no longer afford the fees of the British School so moved her ds to a Dutch school with a high standard. They were brilliant with him and although he didn't do wonderfully in his first year (third year primary), they didn't fail him and let him catch up at his own pace. He's doing much better this year. Because the intake year is the calendar year here and his birthday is November he's actually skipped a year! I know that he would have been made to repeat in my dd's school but that may be just the school rather than the system.

It's funny that Ixelles and Uccle are very popular for those relocating here. I lived in Ixelles when I first came here and wouldn't want to live there now. Parking is an absolute nightmare and it's so busy!! Both Uccle and Ixelles are expensive. I live in Audergham but would have no problem living in some of the Flemish communes. See if you can get a house in Portofino's road - it's great! Don't go to the west of Brussels, seriously! How about the communes à facilités of Kraainem or Wezembeek-Oppem? If not, there are Dutch speaking schools in certainly most, if not all, of the communes!

Here's a website for finding French-speaking schools here, a list of Flemish secondary schools here (and a list of Flemish primary schools here though these don't appear to include the Catholic ones which have more primary and secondary together I think).

It's true that your boys are not at the easiest ages to move but looking into language classes seems an excellent idea. Mind you I guess that would be easier in French.

If I think of anything else I'll pop back.

amIcrazyorwhat Thu 10-Feb-11 09:51:13

Thanks Natation, Pfaffingabout, LongtimeinBrussels

Indeed I have started to think more seriously about the language and schools issue. I speak conversational French, as well as Greek and Spanish. We also have a summer house in the South of France which the boys love - in fact, just this last week, we've decided to have a class together at home as they have French friends they want to be able to communicate better with on hols. So, our home environment has always been lingo-friendly. Good idea about a residential Pfaffingabout - I'll take you up on that, thanks - post the websites and I'll look into them. My new partner is Flemish but also French-fluent. Myself, I'm more attracted to French but I hear what you're saying about the potential benefits of the Dutch schools. It's a hard call; however, I have got time to explore it further.

Re Ixelles/Uccle, I just like the houses there! But I am beginning to get the picture - they sound a bit crammed, even noisy perhaps, and busy .. dirty??!! So, thanks a million for your other suggestions - there's nothing to beat suggestions from people who know the lie of the land.

I'm planning on coming over the beginning of April (4th -6th) if any of you were around for a coffee/drink (on me) that would be great.

Thanks again.

amIcrazyorwhat Thu 10-Feb-11 10:03:38

I was off to look for 'Portofino's road' thinking, that's odd, the spelling, then wondered if it was someone's name grin - so where does Portofino live then?

amIcrazyorwhat Thu 10-Feb-11 10:17:28

Another thought before I leave for work ..

My initial thinking was to put them into St. Johns in Waterloo IF I could negotiate a substantial reduction in the fees. I contacted the school and they said that usually a 25% discount was the max. Does anyone know any more about this? Since I would be paying privately, this seems crazy (hence the name grin).

However, I could just about manage (aargh).. would be living in an apartment instead! Now that I have started to explore other avenues, wouldn't rule this out either, especially given the language challenges for their age group. Also, I was educated myself by the FCJ's (though I know they don't run it any more) and my two would just LOVE the sports and performing arts .. would it be worth it for them I wonder? A more attractive option? Not looking for answers folks rather happy to hear all views, good bad or indifferent.


natation Thu 10-Feb-11 10:51:16

Berchem-St-Agathe is supposed to be a nice(er) place to live in west of Brussels, it's a small commune with a still Dutch speaking population. Never been there myself. The communes in west Brussels which are perhaps a tad less desirable are Molenbeek-St-Jean and Anderlecht, but in fact you get wonderful art-deco housing in this area, it still would not make me positive about living over there.

Ixelles and Uccle vary from very cramped rows of townhouses and cosmopolitan living(that's not in a negative way though) in the northern end of these communes where parking is a nightmare, to suburbia with chateaux and parks for gardens in the southern end.

On the Flemish schools website, the Catholic schools are indeed all there, they are often listed not under their names "Saint XXX" but as "vrie school XXX". The communal ones are listed as "geementelijke school XXX" and the direct Flemish government funded ones are "XXX van het gemeenschaponderwijs".

If you really want your boys in the same school in Dutch, here's a few suggestions :

Rudolph Steiner School in Anderlecht - it's
on the edge of the commune on the CERIA campus, not the best location if you want to be in the city but at least on a metro line, they have just started secondary age there, as Steiner is an alternative educational approach, they might be very welcoming of newcomers

Koninklijk Atheneum in Etterbeek (known as KAE)

Koninklijk Athenuem in Tervuren (known as KAT)

Heilig Hart College in Wezembeek-Oppem (almost Tervuren and near the tram)

St Jozefs in Woluwe St Pierre (but many French speakers)

Mater Dei in Woluwe St Pierre (again many French speakers)

Some links to French language residential holidays are here ies-de-vacances-for-UK-based-child-Frakkinstein-Bo nsoir-AuldAlliance-et-Cie

natation Thu 10-Feb-11 10:56:20

St John's is only worth it if you have a spare 40K per year to spend - that's with the 25% reduction IF they give you the reduction, international schools often don't here for new students. They will not pick up much French there at all, not from the school anyway. St John's is not in Brussels either. ISB is in Brussels, BSB in Tervuren, International Montessori in St Stevens Woluwe just north of Brussels, WIS/BEPS in Braine l'Alleud near Waterloo. These are all the English medium schools in the greater Brussels areas with secondary sections.

natation Thu 10-Feb-11 13:01:47

Wee correction, WIS is in Rhode Sr Genese and not Braine l'Alleud, anyway, between Uccle and Waterloo on the main road.

Portofino Fri 11-Feb-11 10:34:57

amIcrazy, I live in Zaventem - on the border with Sterrebeek. It is just outside Brussels in the Dutch speaking bit grin Dd goes to a french speaking primary in Evere though.

Catalyst Fri 11-Feb-11 11:24:12

Hi Portofino, natation

First thing - changed my name from amIcrazyorwhat to something much more positive; reflects the progress I have made in the last week smile mainly thanks to your generous postings here. They have really helped me to get my head into some of this stuff. As a result, I emailed an inquiry to Le Verseau yesterday and had a great call with the Vice Principal this morning. Have looked at the school and like the approach. We discussed in detail how I would go about getting my two in and she recommended the younger guy doing a year in the British School so that he could then transition smoothly into LV. I think this is a strong option. Any thoughts?

natation Fri 11-Feb-11 17:04:55

Catalyst, the vice principal at Le Verseau is a great source of advice, make good use of her! I think she probably said that because le Veseau does not accept children into 5e or 6e primaire there without French, because of the difficulty in getting them up to fluency to take the CEB. However they DO accept into the secondary section without French IF you are coming from abroad or if coming from an a recognised international school in Belgium, that's why she would have recommended a year at an international school, if your youngest son does 6e primaire in a Belgian school (that's the year he'd be in September 2012, Belgian schools do a year more of primary) and does not pass the CEB, he cannot go to Le Verseau 1ere secondiare, but if he went for a year in 1st secondary at an international school, he can then transfer to 1ere secondaire at le Verseau.

Your cheapest international secondary if self-funding would be International Montessori in St Stevens Woluwe, it would set you back around 14k per year there for 1st secondary. The school is very small, currently 28 children aged between 11 and 16 years old. BSB in Tervuren, if you could get the school to give you the maximum 30% reduction if self-funding, would be around 19k per year.

With your younger one, you could go down the option of putting him back a year at a Belgian primaire, going into 5e primaire and giving him 2 years to get through the CEB. Le Verseau, as I said, would not accept him into 5e primaire, but most other local Belgian schools would, the communal and French directly funded schools would be obliged to accept your son, it's only the "free" schools like Le Verseau which are not obliged to accept children.

With your older one, he would be in 2e secondaire in a Belgian school, it would be hard but not impossilble to get a place at a French secondaire. It's maybe worth looking into Ecole Décroly, as it is a "method" school using a different pedagogy to mainstream local schools, it has both primaire and secondaire sections, including significantly as 1ere secondaire class for those children who fail or do not have the CEB from 6e primaire. It is however and immensely popular school. It is in Uccle. There are 4 other "method" schools in the area, Hamaide, Plein Air, Nos Enfants and En Couleurs. All are popular.

If you were serious about Le Verseau, I'd recommend looking at the route between Brussels and Wavre for somewhere to live. There's a school bus which meets the local buses at Wavre train station, that's the only way of getting to the school without driving there. Many of the parents car share to the school from the Brussels area. I personally wouldn't live in Uccle or Ixelles if planning to travel by car to Wavre every day, I'd live somewhere along the road E411? I think it is between Auderghem and Wavre, perhaps even as far out as La Hulpe or Rixensart. To me there is one MAJOR disadvantage of Le Verseau and that is its location. I'm a city dweller, or a a suburb dweller of a large city. Wavre is like the other side of the world to me. I HATE driving, I immediately discounted it when moving for that reason.

Portofino Fri 11-Feb-11 20:43:41

And the E411 is like a car park between Overijse and Brussels every day in the rush hour. If you want to live somewhere in that direction, move near to a train station! Rixensart is lovely.

The E411 runs along the bottom of my garden and when I go to catch the metro in the morning (the station is raised above the slip road) there are cars as far as the eye can see. A friend who lives near had her daughter in Le Verseau. It was okay dropping her off for the most part as you're going against the traffic but coming back it was a nightmare so I agree with Porto on that one. Genval's another possibility.

I would have suggested Decroly and similar schools (as I did further up this thread) but they are very difficult to get into. I would have said the same about Le Verseau though and what the vice principal has said sounds encouraging. In secondary they follow the Belgian system more closer than I think they do in primary so it might be a more rigid approach than you're used to but it's a very popular school with anglophones.

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 21:35:20

Catalyst - move to an area you like & send your kids to the local school. Ask the school if they have help in language - lots do as there are many families who don't have one of the three official languages spoken at home.

The ceb isn't so tough. The pass mark is 50%. Check out the past exams

Don't know why the Le Verseau school wont accept a child for 5/6th primary. If it's about learning french then why would they say go to an expat english speaking school? If it's on failing the ceb then I'd be asking the school how is it possible that they can't get a child ready for this exam after 1 or 2 school years there. Many kids in state local schools will be starting 5/6th primary in a language they don't know and they will be able to pass the end of primary exam.

All of the brussels ring is one huge traffic jam, as is the city centre, so you'd want to avoid any form of car travel in the morning rush hours which start at about 7am until 10am.

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 21:39:03

This looks interesting for greek language & culture

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 21:44:34

The system for those who don't know french language & are starting in state schools

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 22:00:20

Check out the list of schools who offer this

Wouldn't worry on getting into a school. The system at the moment is you list your schools by preference. I do think you'd need to be registered with a local commune when you can apply - but there might be a way round this. The few schools that are over sunscribed are so because historically they were the good schools. Now imho it's all sort of the same. For secondary see how much of the school is following the general course which is the academic path - if this is what you want. There are also technical options that can be chosen instead of latin/greek/additional maths/. Some schools do both general & technical and others just one of the two.

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 22:03:29

Time for a brew

Portofino Fri 11-Feb-11 22:04:29

I think frazzlenz put her older primary school age children into a french speaking school in WSP. I think they have got on OK.....

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 22:19:41

The link for non french speaking & starting in french language schools isn't the right one. It's still useful to know schools help those in need and could be good to contact these schools & ask about what they could offer you.

natation Fri 11-Feb-11 22:36:06

The Primo-arrivants classes are for asylum seekers, recognised refugees and nationals of developing worlf countries, I was rather making the assumption that Catalyst wasn't going to be in any of those categories, but I may be wrong.

You do not need to be registered in Belgium to apply for either primaire or secondaire, or even have address. I know someone applying currently for 1st secondaire from abroad. We enrolled our children into maternelle and primaire when still living abroad. They of course do need to be registered and have a Belgium address, by the time they actually start at school though. All secondaires, apart from Le Verseau, follow the same curriculum for 28 "hours" in in 1ere and 2e secondaire, with 4 "hours" at the choice of each individual school. It's in the last 4 years of secondaire that the academic / technical / professional split happens. Secondaries differ ENORMOUSLY, even with this common curriculum in the first 2 years. There's a central application system for entry into 1ere secondaire where you choose a 1st preference school and up to 9 other choices in order, but for the other 5 secondaire years, enrolments are handled by individual schools.

I have to disagree, for a 10/11 year old arriving as a monolingual English child in a French school, passing the CEB can be terribly tough, especially the history/geography/science papers which require alot of writing and comprehension, more so than the French papers. Our child managed to pass CEB and made me very proud to score 10% higher than national average in French and Maths, but it was a combination of his effort, the fact that I was able to help him with his homework and the BEST teacher I have ever come across. I still sometimes don't quite believe our child managed it, given the memories of a very honest conversation I had with the teacher 4 months into schooling in French. Sure for a child educated in French for primaire years, even one for whom French is a 2nd or 3rd language, the CEB should be easy peasy to pass. But for someone with less than 2 year of French starting in 5e primaire to the end of 6e primaire, it is possible but will take quite some determination.

My guess is that Le Verseau will not take a non French speaker in 5e/6e primaire because of the extra difficulty involved in getting through CEB and also perhaps because they want to keep a 100% or near 100% pass rate?? The only reason for the recommendation to go one year into an English school instead of 6e primaire at another Belgian school then transfer to Le Verseau for 1ere secondaire, is that the school CANNOT accept a child without CEB who has been to a Belgian school which is a possibility, but it CAN accept a child into 1ere secondaire without CEB if coming from abroad or from an international school in Belgium (which the French community recognise as being effectively abroad). That's the rules of the French community.

Duffel Fri 11-Feb-11 23:51:03

Nat - the link is the wrong one. There is something to help those who don't have french though.

Le versaus policy does seem odd and what a hassle to have to trek outside bruxelles and then also go to the british school in Tervuren. This is a joke surely!

italianmom Sat 12-Feb-11 03:52:23

Can somebody explain more about all these exams that the children have to take.
For what I understand they have exams starting in their 2nd year. What can they possibly test so early? And what is it tested in the CEB? It seems weird that they have a test in their 6th year but they don't have a final examination at the end of secondary school Right? I mean they don't have anything like the french baccalaureate (how do you even spell that?).

natation Sat 12-Feb-11 07:54:30

External exams are in 2e, 5e and 6e primaire. Schools often have their own exams which could even been twice a year. It's up to individual schools how they evaluate their children, our children's school is quite liberal, has continuous assessement and have green/amber/red along with percentages. We don't get told where in the class the child is. The Catholic schools can do non obligatory assessements at 2e and 4e.

By the time our children leave secondaire, there might indeed be a bac system. CEB has only be obligatory since 2008? I think. There are now obligatory exams at the end of 2e secondaire. Who knows.

The CEB link is already published, take a look at the papers.

Le Verseau is not saying you HAVE to go to BSB, just because of the rule allowing children to come from abroad without CEB to enter secondaire but not those from a Belgian school, to avoid possible failure in 6e primaire of a child with only just joining the Belgian system in 6e primaire, spending a year at an international school gets around the rule.

I can only speak from limited experience of children at school's in our local area, but our school has a large number of non francophones and gets "polyvalent" teacher who takes children out of classes in primaire to help the non francophones, another school nearby with also a loarge number of non francophones just lumps the children with those having difficulties with French who are first language French.

Catalyst Sat 12-Feb-11 11:13:29

Hi all. Yes, there's a lot to factor in. I am excited by these 'methods' schools as their approach fits with my own thinking/values about learning and human development. However, the truth is that I'm not a country or small-town dweller and am drawn to the city, or at least, suburbs. If only Le Verseau was nearer the city (damn)! If I had my choice (at this point in time) I would choose Ecole Decroly because it ticks the school and the location boxes. However, it looks as if that would be very hard to get into. Does it matter to them how bright your child is? My oldest is scoring A-plus across the whole curriculum from physics to music (family joke - I ate a lot of fish when I was pregnant!)

Yes, I think the issue about the youngest is that the CEB would be hard to get through in just one year, and therefore a high-risk approach, and I agree.

I could just put them into local schools .. and I won't rule it out either but now that I have discovered Decroly, I am inspired to find out more.

I may have to move earlier than I thought in order to be resident in a commune; something else to look into.

There's a mine of information and insights here, thanks to you all. smile I will come back to you later .. domesticity beckons ...

natation Sat 12-Feb-11 12:04:04

Decroly are having open days on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th February. Enrolments for primaire for next year are by telephone only on Monday 28th February and it would not surprise me if every single spare place in primaire gets booked up within a couple of hours.

Remember Décroly has a class in premiere secondaire for those who do not get CEB. Here's the full list of schools in Brussels which have these classes. Most are not the most academic. A quick look down list and I can see a few schools which were oversubscribed last year for 1ere secondaire mainstreams classes for those with CEB, so they might be good choices. College Roi Baudouin in Schaerbeek, Athénée Royal in Auderghem, Notre Dame des Champs in Uccle, Athénée Charles Janssens, St Adrien and CS Ma Campagne in Ixelles, as well as Ecole Décroly.


If you were to move a year early, your elder son would be going into 1ere secondaire. If you were wishing for him to go to a local school, you still have to use the same enrolment form as those children living in Belgium. From info received from parents in similar circumstances, you have to ask your first preference school for the application form. As your child cannot pick up points under the points system they use to order applications, as the point are based on distances between French school attended and secondary and also home, you get given the average points for all those children who apply to that school. For example, a school has 200 non priority places in 1ere secondaire receives 500 first preference applications, your child gets placed at 250 on the list, therefore will be 50th on waiting list, a school with 200 non priority places gets 300 first preference applications, your child gets placed at 150 and therefore gets a place. Sorry, hope you understand, it is rather complicated. The final hurdle is that the French ministry has to accept in conjunciton with the school that your child is able to attend 1ere secondaire without any French, apparently based on the last 3 reports from whichever school your child is currently attending. Enrolments for 1ere secondaire commence 14th March until 1st April, the application form goes back to the first preference school, you hand with it a sealed envelope with up to 9 other choices of secondaires.

No it does not matter how clever your child is, it used to be the case under the French system, it meant schools could pick and choose and I bet that the children from poorer areas were discriminated against. Now the secondaries have no right to ask for primary school reports (except when arrving from abroad). But there are still very academic schools and less academic ones and it's up to parents to choose an appropriate school. If you choose a school which is too academic for your child, there's a risk they will fail their years and be "asked" to leave. I chose an academic school for our child but not the most academic one in our area, I followed the advice of the head and the class teacher.

For choosing schools, every school must have a "projet d'établissement" and "projet pédagogique et éducatif". I find these documents incredibly boring to read, but if your school's ones are like other schools, in fact it is spot on in describing the "ethos" and "values" of a school and how children are evaluated and how the school communicates with the parents.

Theoretically you are supposed to submit your "compostion de ménage", that's the family document you get when you register at the local town hall showing who is in the family, but in practise, all but the most difficult school would waive that document for new arrivals. We visited schools in the September before moving and enrolled then with only a photocopy of passports, took the children around all the schools we had visited a few months earlier during the Easter holidays and still preferred the school we enrolled in, we finally submitted our "composition de ménage" and a copy of the health insurance cards called "cartes sis" to the school in the September when the children started. Know plenty of families who have also enrolled without any proof of residency, in some parts of Brussels, registration is apparently a nightmare lasting months, they can't expect children ot sit at home whilst bureaucracy is at a standstill. We are lucky, at least in our commune it only takes 2 visits about a month apart to register and get residents cards.

Finally, yes the CEB would be hard to get t

natation Sat 12-Feb-11 12:07:34

sorry pressed send to early. Yes CEB would be hard BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE after a year in French school. If you have a plan B, it helps! It might mean doubling again 6e primaire, or accepting a place without CEB in one of the secondaires with the special classes in premiere secondaire - for that option, the children re-take the CEB at secondaire then if they pass, move back into the mainstream classes. I wish you all the luck.

Duffel Sat 12-Feb-11 13:32:37

italianmum - look at the website that explains the exams and certificates It's all set and marked outside of the schools. The end of secondary exams is recognised for university entry/whatever in other countries. Just like the bac & other exams taken in other countries/international schools after secondary studies.
The ceb end of primary school exam is also set & marked outside of the school by the education authority for the french speaking belgium region. Look at the link posted before with the past papers for what is asked of the kids.

Duffel Sat 12-Feb-11 13:51:44

Don't know if this school has been mentioned BICS It's in the city in the etterbeek neighbourhood so good transport links & in english & french. It is religious but catholic faith schools are popular in Belgium. Website is in both languages and explains the education system and exams very well. Costs about 6000 euro a year with cost of uniform (a rare thing in Belgium) and school books/materials as usual.

Duffel Sat 12-Feb-11 13:54:32

Forgot to mention it is an academic school with most pupils getting top grade passes in their state exams ceb & end of secondary

natation Sat 12-Feb-11 14:46:09

The downside to BICS is that the curriculum is NOT recognised by the French or Flemish communities, it may also be the case with the maternelle/primaire only Ecole Acacia in Etterbeek too which is now doing French/English bilingual classes (so far up to 1ere primaire). The CEB at BICS has to be assessed by the Jury Central - don't know much about that other than it's the way to have a Belgian qualification outside a recognised Belgian school. Anyway, if you do not pass CEB at the end of 6e at BICS, you cannot go into 1ere secondaire at any local French school, that includes Le Verseau and Décroly or any others, including those which do classes for those who do not have CEB. The reason you cannot transfer to a local French secondaire is because none of the curriculum at BICS is recognised, you will be deemed to have failed not only CEB and therefore 6e but also 5e too, you could only transfer to a local primaire and re-start 5e primaire. This info comes from Le Verseau by the way, don't doubt the accuracy of it at all. You CAN transfer from International Montessori or BSB or ISB where you would not have done CEB to a local French secondaire, because these international schools have curriculums recognised by the French community. It's a tricky situtation. Easy to transfer into BICS from a local school, not so easy to transfer out if you don't pass the external exams, with the risk of having to drop 2 years. Of course, none of this is really of consequence for children "passing through" Belgium, but since you are thinking of a more permanent move, it is worth serious consideration.

For BICS, I wouldn't be put off totally by its quite obvious Catholicism. I think you really would need to see the school, perhaps more than once, before making a decision.

Duffel Sat 12-Feb-11 15:59:46

bics has a 100% pass rate for the ceb & 100% pass rate for end of secondary.

Can't find Le Verseau's pass rates for the state exams on it's website?

Catalyst Sat 12-Feb-11 16:49:16

I got similar info from Le Verseau on BICS. Also, the sense I have of BICS is not positive - sure, that's built on limited data to date, but it's my sense as I said - it appears to me to be extremely conservative, not to mention, stifling. I also don't like the way they split the week into two .. don't think that's a good approach. So, not a runner for me.

This is all very helpful dialogue; forcing me to question my assumptions and think outside the box (as good dialogues do ...)

natation Sat 12-Feb-11 17:32:43

BICS is not obliged to enter children for the CEB or CE1D so you cannot compare a private Belgian school with a local French community funded school, mainstream ones, where all children are obliged to take the CEB.

Our children's school has 100% pass rate also at CEB but to me that means nothing and in no way proves our school is an academic one. I was more pleased to hear 87% was the average mark in French/Maths, over 10% more than the national average. In the end, it matters how clever your child is, not how clever the rest of the class is. It also matters how competent the teachers are and that is a virtually impossible thing to measure.

This is only hearsay from parents, former parents and parents who have visited BICS, some have absolutely detested it, some rave about it. All I could read into this is that it certainly suits some people and not others.

As for how BICS divides the school week, again only based on chidren I know at schools where they do 50/50 and schools where the 2 languages are mixed all day long, the 50/50 method appears to produce children with far more fluent French as a second language. Fantastic examples of 50/50 schools are EAB and EABJM in Paris, semi-public bilingual schools. What BICS certainly has in its favour at primaire and secondaire level is that there is a high percentage of native French AND English speakers, just like le Verseau. Other bilingual schools do not have such high percentages of mother tongue children, the knock-on effect is that it is harder to acquire French when hardly anyone speaks it mother tongue and not fluently.

Duffel Sat 12-Feb-11 19:44:58

You have to choose a school you like. What suits some wont suit others. fwiw bics does get good results & you can go from bics to a local school no trouble. You just apply at a local school & the education authorities see you're coming from a non state school. Your child will be in the class for his/her year group & no surprise will be fine.

Find it odd that a 100% pass rate means nothing to you Natation. It is significant as it means all kids get to go onto main stream secondary

frazzlenz Sun 13-Feb-11 07:13:24

I'll have to read through this thread closely this week as I still have to choose more school options for my eldest who is sitting CEB this year (after only 1 year in French schools).

Thanks for posting all that info Natation and for that link with old exams Duffel. I'll get his tutor to use those for practice before the exams.

Catalyst, if you are interested in hearing about our sons experience this year then feel free to drop me a message. He started at a local French speaking school last September in Year 6 (he turned 11 last August). He gets additional French language support through the school as well as a tutor twice a week that we arranged ourselves (she's a teacher at his school).

I don't have the time to read through all the posts in depth so I'm not sure if this has already been posted or not. You'll find the past papers for the CEB exam here.

Ah so I only needed to read the post above mine to see that it has indeed been posted by Duffy. Sorry!

Have read through a bit more now and I understand where natation is coming from Duffel re the 100% pass rate. The CEB is not known to be a difficult exam (unless of course you don't have the French needed to understand it) and therefore I would presume most of the schools talked about on this thread would aspire to a 100% pass rate.

This whole school thing is a real mine field. I also think because of the new system (ie schools can no longer cherry pick the best pupils) things will change so a school that has a high academic standard now (the new system hasn't been in place long enough to have changed that as yet) may not be able to maintain that standard. That remains to be seen.

Catalyst, I have a friend here whose children have gone through the Décroly system (not finished yet) so if you pm me I'm sure I could get some information for you or even ask her if she'd agree to me giving you her e-mail address.

natation Sun 13-Feb-11 08:59:18

CEB has been compulsory for all French schools for only 3 years. The pass rate in 2010 was 94.9%. Imagine a school with 20 children in 6e, one is ill for one paper = fail, everyone else passes and the one ill child brings down the pass rate to 95%. The pass rate is so high, it's just not worth arguing over "our school got 100%" and "the school next door got only 95%". An average score is a better measurement, but still when the marks are so high, one child failing can make a significant dent in the average scores. This is why our child's score was far more important to us than what the other children in the class scored or even where they chose for secondary.

Academic is not always the most important reason for choosing a secondaire. We are fortunate in where we live and under the current system, our children could go to any number of "academic" secondaires, we live just close enough to get into St Michel or SC de Lindhout, Mater Dei, St Hubert etc. Finally we chose a school close to home with a strong pastoral system, one where academic standards have traditionally been high but not seen as St Michel league, where options in the higher years are varied, strong at Maths/Science and also Greek/Latin. It has so far been quite a positive experience, most encouraging is the fact that at the parents' evening, some teachers had no idea our child had only been in French for 2 years.

Duffel Sun 13-Feb-11 13:35:16

Average results are a better guide on the level of the school but I'd ask on the whole pass rate as well. If not 100% I'd want to know why.

If a pupil misses an/all ceb exams with good reason they're not failed. Their school work/record helps the school authorities to give the ceb diploma.

Duffel Sun 13-Feb-11 13:42:21
Duffel Sun 13-Feb-11 13:55:28
Duffel Sun 13-Feb-11 14:11:56

expat education questions forum could be interesting asking on here.

Duffel Sun 13-Feb-11 14:12:31


So we've got the brew then! grin

Pfaffingabout Sun 13-Feb-11 19:27:37

Sorry I've been absent for a bit, RL got a bit busy! Anyway, the link for the residential language courses is : My friend was really happy with them - can't comment personally yet, but may use them this summer.

Pfaffingabout Sun 13-Feb-11 19:29:03

Oh and I'd like to thank everyone for the really helpful links. I didn't even know that you could get CEB past papers. I've also saved the link to the list of diffencie secondary schools as I'm expecting that my dd will have problems when the time comes.

italianmom Sun 13-Feb-11 23:49:25

Thank you so much for all the links. I guess I am having a hard time understanding the need for all these tests.
How stressful is it for the children?
I would love to hear from frazzlenz since your child is going through it after such a short time.
I just really would like to know how stressful it is for the children. Do they hate school because of it?
I know I am probably very paranoid. I just want my kids to be happy in school.

natation Mon 14-Feb-11 06:57:25

Our children don't find the tests at all stressful, with the exception of the CEB. I think our child's 6e primaire found it more stressful not being completetly sure if our child would perform well enough on the day, but she didn't tell me how worried she was until after the results came out, I gave her a rather generous present as a thanks for her efforts. When we arrived in Belgium, I think we had the advantage of not knowing a thing about the CEB, so the ignorance was bliss. The stress with CEB was still loads less than that involved in taking UK tests. Our children there went through KS1 and KS2 testing and the eldest spent 2 years preparing for the 11 + to get into the local grammar school - now that really was incredibly difficult. The head teacher was very naughty our our eldest's school, he told us 2 weeks before the official results came out that our child had passed, but I still found the waiting to see if he was really right quite agonising.

natation Mon 14-Feb-11 07:20:07

Le Chat Botté at De Haan, 1 week for €390, mix of language and multisports

De Pauw at various locations, 1 week from €450, French lessons with lots of different choices of sports

Some Belgian health insurance companies give discounts on these type of holidays. For example our "mutuelle" gives €10 euro reduction for each day, but other mutuelles are more generous.

italianmom, all three of my dcs found the tests stressful and I can't honestly say any of them actually enjoyed school in the Belgian system. I guess it just depends on your child/ren and also the approach of the school. I'm hoping that the CEB will be less stressful for my dd than the Paradis tests would have been because they were much harder (I've seen the past papers and I remember what my ds's had to do in sixth year primary).

The thing I find most difficult about the Belgian system is the lack of anything really creative. And this gets worse as you move through the system. They find time on the timetable for Latin and Greek but not for, for example, music or art, design or drama. Not that I'm saying these are for everyone but I think it's great to have the option. I'm sure there are more of these available in the technical schools but then the academic level drops. DS2 finished his education in the British School studying design and technology with physics and maths (oh and French but we don't really count that!). That's a combination not possible in the Belgian system as in a school where DT is possible, the maths and physics levels will be lower than in the "academic" schools.

Still, I'm not sure I'd recommend going through the British School route as it's very expensive and we're now having to pay for him to live in England for university. European students can get a loan for the fees but not living expenses. So there goes our pension!

frazzlenz Mon 14-Feb-11 08:29:32

Italianmum, I have three boys (ages 4, 7 and 11)who started at the local school this year. I'm happy to share our experiences,. just wondering if you would like to hear about a certain age group?

italianmom Mon 14-Feb-11 23:54:20

Thanks Frazzlenz, it would be interesting to know how was the experience for your 11 years old since that was definitely the more difficult age.

italianmom Tue 15-Feb-11 00:42:28

LongtimeinBrussels, I definitely agree with you that it would be better if it was possible to choose a more diversified curriculum.

Catalyst Tue 15-Feb-11 08:57:30

This is the dilemma that I can see myself facing with school choices. I can relate to your comments, LongtimeinBrussels, as my oldest wants to do Product Design (of course, given that he's only 12 that could well change over the next few years).

How do any of us find the time to work, with all this on our plates, I wonder. confused

Catalyst, DS1 had friends who went to uni to do product design so either they took DT, chemistry and erm not sure what other A level(s) or they did the IB where DT is sometimes possible. An option would be to move them into an international school for the last two years of their education. I realise that this isn't an option for everyone as it's very expensive (my dh is self-employed and I do mainly volunteer work so we had to use our pension savings - something, I realise, many people will think we're mad for doing) and it would most probably mean private lessons in English to get their English up to speed but it is a possibility. I don't know enough about universities here to be able to say where you would do it here.

Here's a site that might be interesting for those moving here (or even those here for a while).

Catalyst Tue 15-Feb-11 16:07:41


I have just read through this thread again. There's a lot of detailed information here about the ins and outs of this system.

Can you clarify that my oldest would only be able to get into 2nd year secondaire without French in BICS and/or Le Verseau?

Do you know what level of French he would need to get in? Or, in your view, is it unlikely that he would be accepted?

natation Tue 15-Feb-11 17:02:16

Hi there Calalyst

your eldest would be able to get into a local French community funded French secondary (including Le Verseau which is also french community funded but because it partially opts out of the French community curriculum, basically substituting English for Dutch as the second language, it receives less funding and therefore you pay a bit of fees, I think around 5k per year). You may not find it that easy finding a place in 2e secondaire, firstly because the oversubscribed schools will be full and secondly because of the lack of French, but it is possible.

Your eldest could also go to BICS in 2e secondaire. BICS is completely private, the children sit exams which are examined by an external board called the Jury de la Communauté Francaise. I know little about this system but it's there to enable access to qualifications of the French system when you are not being schooled in it. To transfer out of BICS to a local French school is fine if these Jury exams are passed in 2e and 4e secondaire. If you transfer from BICS to a local secondaire any time in secondaire without these exams, a French community school can deem a child not having done any of a particular cycle, eg transfer at the end of 1e secondaire and the child can be deemed to have to start again in 1e secondaire, transfer at the end of 2e secondaire without passing the Jury exam, the children again can be deemed as to have to start 1e and 2e secondaire again. This information comes from the deputy head of le Verseau. Transfer from an international school or from abroad to a local French school and, dependent on your school reports, you should normally be placed in the appropriate year.

If you moved in September 2012, it's your younger son which would in fact be more problematic. He'd be in 6e primaire in a local school, but in 1st secondary in an international school. You could put him in a local school, if he passes the CEB then yippeee. If he doesn't make it, then either he repeats 6e primaire or he goes to 1ere secondaire in a local school into a special class and has to retake the CEB, hopefully passing it at the second attempt, then he'd enter 1ere secondaire mainstream, maybe even 2e secondaire if the school allows it. Most of these special classes are full or children of lower academic ability, if you look at stats on CEB failures, in fact most children fail on the Maths, your son is probably going to have more difficulty passing the French and Social Science / Science part. Anyway, there ARE some schools such as Décroly which do have higher academic across the whole of the school. Le Verseau made the suggestion to another child recently that to avoid the problems with CEB, they could opt for one year at 1st secondary at an international school and then enter the local system in 1ere secondaire without this obligation to pass the CEB and on previous school reports.

I bet you are even more confused than before.....

natation Tue 15-Feb-11 17:47:41

Just to clarify, Décroly has 4 or 5 mainstream 1ere seondaire classes and 1 class for those who do not get CEB. That's how other schools which offer non CEB class in 1ere secondaire operate too. A few of the more over subscribed secondaires for mainstream 1ere secondaire in Brussels offering also the non CEB classes are :

Sacré Coeur de Lindhout in Woluwe St Lambert, College Roi Baudouin in Schaerbeek, Athénée Royal in Auderghem, Notre Dame des Champs in Uccle, Athénée Charles Janssens, St Adrien and Centre Scolaire Ma Campagne in Ixelles, as well as Ecole Décroly in Uccle.

Catalyst Wed 16-Feb-11 07:08:51


Thanks, this is very clear and very helpful. I wasn't as clear in my own post - what I was really asking was this: In order for them to be considered alongside other French-speaking kids, do the schools require evidence that they have reached a certain level of French? I imagine they do. Does anyone know what this is (e.g. Proficiency or Pre-Advanced)? No doubt they have their own assessment standards.

I could then explore the feasibility of getting them up to this level, or at least work towards it, over the next year.

This would then allow me to keep my options wider. At the moment, I am exploring Le Verseau and Decroly. I am not inclined towards BICS, nor the other lower-level schools you mention that offer non-CEB classes in first year. Ideally, I would not want to have to change their schools after the first year.

At the moment, the oldest is in a Jesuit college. So, the other option I would like to have is an local academic catholic school e.g. in the Uccle area. How realistic is this? If it's a complete non-runner, I will rule it out and narrow my focus.

(This is very one-sided as I can not offer anyone any help - when I move next year, I shall return all favours smile)

There are lots of local academic catholic schools in Brussels and therefore there are definitely some in Uccle. However, I guess you will run into the same problems as mentioned earlier on the thread. I'm a bit confused as to who's asked what now so I'm sorry I can't be more specific. Hopefully natation will be along soon!

Also, another alternative Décroly-like school is Plein Air in Uccle. Comes highly recommended by the mum I gave you the e-mail address of as her dcs went there in maternelle and primary.

Catalyst Sat 19-Feb-11 19:15:28

Hi folks

Have decided to fast-forward our plans and move this year. Based on all the info to hand, it will be much easier to get the kids into schools this year - the oldest going into 1st year secondaire and the second going into primaire 6. As a result, I am coming over for the Ecole Decroly open day on Saturday.

Your support has been invaluable in getting me to this point - so I am raising a glass to you now, thank God for some good old-fashioned sociality!

Cheers smile

natation Sat 19-Feb-11 19:40:26

Hi there Catalyst
you said your younger son has just turned 10. Was her born in 2000 or 2001? I'd sort of assumed he was born in 2001. If he is indeed born in 2001, he'd only be going into 5e primaire in September. But if he is born in 2000, he'd be going into 6e primaire. HOWEVER as you said he'd only just turned 10, if he's born in 2000, his birthday is near the end of the year right? Doubling or holding back a child born at the end of the year is extremely common here. Rightly or wrongly roughly 50% of children in the French system have doubled at least one year by the time they reach the last year of secondaire. If you held back a child born at the end of the year who speaks no French in order to be in 5e primaire instead of 6e primaire in September, it means that child completes the whole 5/6 cycle and the curriculum which goes with it, culminating in the CEB, also it gives the child an extra year to get up to speed in French.

Have you sent Décroly an email? If you haven't, it might be worth it, you might be able to get a bit more "personal treatment". Plus if Décroly end up as your first choice secondaire for the eldest, they could be ready to give you the application form. A contact at another school emailed me today, she was told by the head of another secondaire that in fact a "late" application from abroad actually favours those applicants, that schools have to hold back a few places specifically for those comming from abroad, without the hassle of completing the standard form and choosing 10 schools. Worth checking this info with Décroly?

Catalyst Sun 20-Feb-11 09:31:22

Hi natation

Yes, younger son was born on 02/01/2001, so you're right (my error), he'll be going into 5e primaire, which will give him a great start and mean he'll be comfortable when it comes to the CEB. The oldest will be repeating 1st year secondary (born in April 1999).

Decroly is now my first choice quite definitely, as I believe that total immersion will be better for them; also, I love the method, and the location fits the bill too.

Your information here is very valuable, thanks. I now have a couple of questions I need help with:
- do I apply for a 'general' place for the oldest, or do I apply for a place in the 'non-CEB' class?
- in your opinion, would it be better to seek clarification on this issue you raise in your last paragraph in the email beforehand, or wait and discuss it face to face when I am there?
- is the telephone application system for both or just for primary? How does that work?

Much appreciated. smile

frazzlenz Sun 20-Feb-11 13:37:34

sorry Catalyst, that we didn't manage to catch up this week. I will be home tomorrow morning for sure

Hi Catalyst

Your eldest may be repeating first year secondary because of the system he's currently in but he won't exactly be repeating first year secondary as they don't go up to secondary until they are 12 here (unless their birthdays are between 1 September and 31 December, in which case they are still 11). Those going into 1st secondary in September are (generally speaking though there are some who have either skipped a year or doubled) are those born in 1999. My dd is June 1999 and she'll be going up in September too! The level of work she is required to do in sixth year primary is generally ahead of what my nephew is doing in first year primary in England!

Catalyst Sun 20-Feb-11 16:03:21

There are times in my life when my faith in humankind is restored and this experience on this chat forum is one of them - you have all been so wonderfully generous to me, thank you.

Frazzlenz, that's great, I will try again in the morning, probably about 9am my time.

LongtimeinBrussels, yes, I'd forgotten about that. Is your DD in Decroly? Without reading back through the thread, I've lost track ..

Off to make Sheppard's Pie now ..(the joys ..)

Unfortunately not as I think that system would have suited her. I didn't know about it at the time ds1 first went to school and without access to a car/a new baby to drag round on the public transport, I took the easy option. I got a car when dd was a baby but the ds's were then already in two different schools (one in secondary, one in primary) so I didn't fancy going to three different schools. With hindsight... (Oh if I only had a Euro for every time I've said that since becoming a mum!)

Portofino Sun 20-Feb-11 17:26:49

I've put a link to this thread on the Local page, as there is so much fab information here. When I find some spare time, I will put all the links on there. Will be useful to build our own little data base. Contact details and comments......

Catalyst Sun 20-Feb-11 18:14:04


I have copied and pasted this thread into a word doc as it is so packed with good info.

Eh, the 'Local page' - where's that??

Portofino Sun 20-Feb-11 19:57:24

If you look at the very top of the page where "My Mumsnet" and everything is, it says Local. If you go there for the first time, it asks you what Local site you want to join. So we have a Brussels page where we can put info about forthcoming events, meetups and enter details about local services. There is not much on there at the mo, but I have made a start! Anyone can add stuff to it.

Catalyst Wed 23-Feb-11 11:39:32

Got it thanks smile

Catalyst Wed 23-Feb-11 11:52:22

Getting geared up for trip over at the weekend. As usual, now find I've got a million and one things to do ..throw in a family crisis or two .. - isn't life such fun (gggrrr ..)

I will be making my application on Monday morning after 08.30 by telephone for DS2 who will be going into 5eme primaire (as I understand it, the application for DS1 for 1st year secondaire will be later, in March). Got a couple more questions about applying at Decroly if anyone can help -
I was wondering what documents etc I might need. On the website it says "Une composition de ménage" and "photocopie de la carte SIS de l’enfant". These translate as "domestic composition" and "photocopy of the card LOCATED of the child" but IN PLAIN ENGLISH???

My DP is working on Monday morning and therefore not able to make the call to the school. I will be at the airport (I didn't spot this bit in time, before I had booked flights) and anyway, my French is not good enough.

I have a big favour to ask - is there anyone who could help me out in making this call? If not, I will make arrangements anyway, so not to worry - everyone's got their own stuff, however, thought it was worth asking.


Catalyst, every commune (so local area) of Brussels has its own town hall called a maison communale. Everyone living in that commune has to be signed in there and have an ID card. Some communes seem to insist on children under 12 having an ID card some don't. Une composition de ménage is a document you get from the maison communale which shows what your household (ménage) is made up of, ie how many people there are, names, dates of birth. It is then stamped by someone at the maison communale which makes it an official document to show that your family are actually registered living in Belgium. You of course won't have this and therefore won't be able to provide it.

As we don't have the NHS here, we all have some sort of private health insurance. You can sign up to a "mutuelle" which is what most locals would have (which may or may not be topped up by their company). This mutuelle give you a credit card type card which is called a carte SIS. It has your name and national number on it as well as proves that you have a mutuelle. You have to hand it in when you go to hospital, get prescriptions from the chemist etc. Again you won't have this and therefore won't be able to provide it.

Oh and I am more than happy to help you make the call to the school.

Catalyst Thu 24-Feb-11 11:02:56

LongtimeinBrussels, thanks very much, you're really very generous. I owe you one, for sure.

I guess I will bring his passport details just in case.


It might be a good idea to make a copy of your passport, your dh's passport and your other dc's passports as that would sort of show a composition de ménage. Just an idea!

If you are moving because of a job you or dh already have, a letter from the company might not be a bad idea either if you have time to get it.

Catalyst Thu 24-Feb-11 18:49:47

This may merit a new thread - I will be looking for a job and from what I can see, along with thousands of others. Is it that tough to get a job in Brussels? Networking seems to be key. Any comments and/or suggestions welcome.


Portofino Thu 24-Feb-11 21:06:03

Depends very much on your language skills, qualifications and experience. And what you expect of course. I am only fluent in English, though have some French. I got a GOOD job as a opposed to a compromise position within 2 months. I was shortlisted for a few other roles in that time, though they were jobs I was over qualified for. I wasn't being picky though so actually fell on my feet in the end.

They do like a degree though. Everyone with 2 brain cells to rub together has a post school qualification of some description or so it seems. Some companies were most suspicious that i didn't have a degree despite having nealy 20 years of work experience hmm. I did "tests" with HR at Toyota. I passed all with really high scores, but not ONE hiring manager would see me.

Portofino Thu 24-Feb-11 21:12:44

The big job websites are, and is another, but only in Fr/NL. The Bulletin here has jobs advertised every week. It is well worth subscribing too as you get the English tv listings, and lots of news/info on things going on.

Catalyst Fri 25-Feb-11 07:09:22

Portofino, thanks for these. I'll start looking. Encouraging to hear that you don't need to have a vast network after all to get a job.

I will let you know how I get on at Decroly this weekend.


natation Fri 25-Feb-11 08:55:18

It can be very difficult to get a job here with so many multi-lingual locals and spouses of EU civil servants and temporarily expatriated spouses, but depends really on what field of work you are looking for. I'm on a career break from my "real" job which I have done during the holidays for the last 2 years, whilst working term time in another job which in fact I love just as much, I didn't even apply for it, I just got asked to temp and sort of ended up with that job by accident. There are lots of interim agencies here, that's how many people get work here initially.

Portofino Fri 25-Feb-11 09:34:57

There are a lot of international companies where the working language is English, though they usually "prefer" trinlingual applicants. The job market seems a lot smaller than it did 5 years ago.

Pfaffingabout Fri 25-Feb-11 11:22:55

Try - they specialize in English speakers. Possibly more oriented to admin roles, although I'm not sure about that.

Catalyst Tue 01-Mar-11 06:30:46

Had a very successful trip at the weekend. Indeed, getting through on the phone to Decroly was like a lottery but with the persistent assistance of LongtimeinBrussels, we made it and DS2 is now on the list for primaire 5eme. DS1 stands a good chance of getting into secondaire 1eme as well. So far so good!

Just goes to show what you can do in a few weeks if you put your mind to it.

Thanks again for all your useful info folks.


He's now on the waiting list for all four of the similar schools that the lady at Decroly gave us the names of!

frazzlenz Tue 01-Mar-11 11:02:14

Hi there, I've been reading through the posts on secondary schools and there is lots of good info. My eldest son is in 6th primarie this year and we are now looking for a secondary school for him in the WSP area (currently working on the assumption that he passes the CEB).

I've been in touch with Natation but I would also like to get other views on French speaking secondaries in the area. Does anyone hear have experience with any of the following schools:

Jean 23
AR Auderghem
AR Crommelynck
St Julien-Parnasse
Dames de Marie
St Adrien
St Hubert

We are looking for a school that has high academic standards but will still support my son while he works on his French.

AR Auderghem, St Julien-Parnasse, St Adrien and AR Crommelynck don't have such high academic standards. A friend of mine told me to steer clear of St Adrien when I said I was going to the open day (it has Dutch immersion which just means history/geography is in Dutch as well as Dutch). Out of the four I think l'ARA has the highest academic standards.

Dames de Marie is supposed to be easier than St Michel but a good standard. Very popular and difficult to get into.

St Hubert = high academic standard.

Don't know about the others.

Your most likely to get in somewhere either close to your home or close to your primary school.

As for supporting your son, I'm not sure about that for any of them. I'm not saying they won't but I don't know. Might be worth ringing them to ask.

italianmom Wed 04-May-11 16:59:20

Can I revive this topic one more time and ask you few more questions?

I was looking at a Rudolf Steiner school which looked really nice in Leuven (dutch speaking). I am just really confused about the fees for this type of private schools. On the website it says that it is subsidized but it doesn't say anything about possible fees. And then there is Le Versau (french speaking) is that free? I am just kind of confused about all the different schools.

Question #2) Do schools in general use science labs, or computer labs, or language labs. Or is the teaching just very theoretic even for this type of classes?

Thank you very much.

natation Wed 04-May-11 17:34:03

The 25 Steiner schools in Belgium are mostly if not all subsidised by the Flemish / French communities, but because they partially opt out of the national curriculum, they have to part fund. I don't think their top-up fees are more than 1 or 2k per year. The one I know of in Tervuren asks for a "voluntary" donation, but I guess all parents pay.

Le Verseau is in the same subsidised category as the Steiner schools. I think fees are up to 5k per year there.

There are not that many of these schools in Belgium, in Brussels for example, there are about 10 of them, only the Steiner one is Dutch.

Primary schools more and more use IT equipment, but nowhere near like to the standard and frequency as our children experienced in the UK.

We have a child in the early years of secondary. Science lab work doesn't really seem to commence until the 3rd year of secondary, Science is very much theoretical for the first 2 years. In 2nd year at our child's school, there is a 2 hour Science experiments option.

italianmom Thu 05-May-11 04:14:17

Thanks Natation for the explanation about the different schools.

So as far as you know do all the kids get to work in a science lab starting from their 3rd year of secondary school or only the ones that choose science as their option?

natation Thu 05-May-11 06:29:05

I am only recounting our son's school. Science is obligatory for the first 2 years of school. From the 3rd year onwards, schools fall into 4 categories, you would have to check with the French curriculum for the details whether Science continues in every school, it does in our son's, our son goes to a school which offers general educations, by 3rd year onwards, that means for the more academically inclined.Next year he has 3 hours of Science, in 3rd year this will increase to 5 hours and divided into different strands of Science. Our son has learned an enormouis amount in Science already, to me it is not relevant whether he is sitting in a laboratory now or sitting in an ordinary classroom.

If you are going to choos a schoollike Le Verseau or Steiner in Leuven, be aware of distance from Brussels, if that is where you plan to live.

natation Thu 05-May-11 13:02:19

Here's a pdf of the number of periods for each subject in French secondary schools, for the first 2 years, I cannot find a similar file which shows the breakdown of subjects for the last 4/5 years of secondary. As you see, in mainstream 1st and 2nd (1ere and 2eme commune) that means 28 hours of the same curriculum with 3 periods of Science per week, the remaining 4 hours are different from one school to another.

Where it is marked "langue moderne", in Brussels that means obligatory Nederlands, in Wallonia it can be replaced by another modern language, for example at Le Verseau in Bierges, that means up to 4 hours of English.
click on "tableau reprenant la structure"

The curriculum diversifies into General, Technical, Artistic or Professional from 3rd secondary upwards. At a guess, around 50% or perhaps a bit more follow General and the rest follow one of the other 3 types. In our son's school, from 3rd year onwards, there are 7 classes of General and 1 of Technical. There are 2 schools near us which have only Technical and Professional options from 3rd year onwards, quite alot of children transfer to these schools at this point - Technical and Professional covers things like plumbing, carpentry, IT, para-medical, if you are from the UK, it would be a bit like going to a further education college at aged 16 to stydy a profession, here in Belgium you can specialise a bit earlier at age 14, but you still have to study French and Maths at these schools, along with a profession.

italianmom Fri 06-May-11 05:00:16

Thanks a lot for all the info and the link.

ZIMAROULIS Fri 03-Jun-11 14:00:13

Hi everyone, I have been reading from yesterday onwards because there is really valuable information here..
We are a family from greece and our son will be four on July. We will be moving to belgium on september...I visited the sites of steiner school in Leuven and Tervuren and I liked the Leuven one better. The site is in dutch and I am trying to translate it but it is quite difficult. I understand that both schools are subsidised by the local community. Does any mum have her kid there to share her experience with me? You see our son speeks only greek and I believe that such schools are more kid friendly so they will help him to adjust least I hope so.
The other problem I have is that I don't know if there will be any position left for my son by the time we move. I will try to call both schoolds but I don't know if the stuff there speaks English since I speak neither Dutch nor French. Do you know when registration period at those schools starts? Which one of the two areas would you suggest for living Leuven or Tervuren? Unfortunately at the beginning we will have a very tight budget so we can afford an appartment no more than 700€
My uncle lives in belgium in Sint Pieters Leeuw and initially we were looking to rent an appartment close to him but then I saw those steiner schools and we changed our mind. How much time I need by car from Leuven or Tervuren to reach Sint Pieters Leeuw?
Any suggestion and response would be great
Thanks for reading me and sorry for all these questions

natation Fri 03-Jun-11 15:28:53

Steiner school Leuven from Sint Pieters Leeuw is going to be one hell of a journey. I would recommend leaving at latest 7am in the morning with the hope you make it to school by 8am, I would count on 90 minutes each way, so that means up to 6 hours per day, 2 return journeys, wouldn't even bother going home for half day wednesday. Steiner school Brussel is much better situated, about a 20 minute drive, but still a long way if your child is young. But you do not say age of child. Any child under 8 years old is going to be better off in the nearest or almost nearest local school, rather than travelling a large distance. I would NOT say the Steiner schools are more friendly than any other school, not that I know the Steiner schools at all, local schools can be great too. I am only guessing, but your monthly fees for the Steiner schools are going to be around 100 to 200 euro. If you have a tight budget for accommodation, would you be able to afford the Steiner school fees? Add on the transport costs. If you choose a directly funded Dutch school, not a communal or Catholic one, you even get free school transport. There are 5 local school in Sint Pieters Leeuw, why don't you just look at those?

ZIMAROULIS Fri 03-Jun-11 16:00:38

Natation thanks for your answer
You are absolutely right I had no idea of the distance and of course I don't want my kid to be in a car the whole day. If we can afford one of the two steiner schools we were thinking of renting either in Leuven or Tervuren. Actually we are between two options either finding first the school we want and that will accept us and rent a house close to the school or rent a house to Sint Pieters Leeuw or to a close area and send our son to the local dutch school of our neighborhood. My other problem is that there is a possibility that my husband moves to belgium on september and my son and myself after a few months. This means that I will have to find a school to enroll my kid in the middle of the year so I don't know if there will be available places.
Well my son will be 4 years next month. I will check with the local schools you suggest. Sint Pieters Leeuw is a nice place and we like it. Can you suggest of any other places close to Sint Pieters Leeuw to rent in case we don't find an appartment there that will match our financial criteria? Do you have any info on the local schools there?
I am so happy but also anxious because I don't know how my son will treat the language barrier with his classmates and his teachers

natation Fri 03-Jun-11 17:25:46

There is NO WAY you will find somewhere other than a 1 bed flat for rent in Tervuren near the Teruvren Steiner school within your budget, Leuven you should manage in that budget but it's a minimum 30 minutes to Brussels, if that is where work is, same as Sint Pieters Leeuw. The Steiner school in Tervuren is tiny, only goes to age 6, meaning a change to local school after 2 years, the nearest one to it being GBS Vossem. Sorry I misread and thought you meant the Brussel Steiner school on the edge of Anderlecht which is 20 minutes from Sint Pieters Leeuw. The Tervuren Steiner is again 45 minutes to 75 minutes from Sint Pieters Leeuw. I really would counsel you to look at local and free from fees schools. The Steiner school in Tervuren for one thing has a significant percentage of non Dutch speakers, whereas the schools in Sint Pieters Leeuw are going to be very much Dutch speaking majority. I cannot give advice on areas around Sint Pieters Leeuw, just use google maps and immoweb, but I can see on a quick search of immoweb you are well within budget. Print out a map of the town, plot the local schools on it. Then choose a house. There is nothing stopping enrolment now for a later date either, just enrol NOW. Just looked up, there are in fact 7 schools listed for the town. And for a 4 year old, language will be really easy, only a tiny minority are not fluent within a year, perhaps quiet for 3 or 4 months, then small sentences, then with confidence, will be like any other child.

natation Fri 03-Jun-11 17:58:36

Here are the 7 schools in St Pieters Leeuw. Your son would be in 2nde kleuterklass in the next school year 2011-12.

1 directly controlled Flemish community school

2 town controlled schools

4 Catholic controlled schools (not that religion is taught until age 6, non Catholic schools still have to teach religion or morals but choice of religion)
Don Bosco Annex on above website

Here is the link to the town website, includes the schools in other villages under the same post code

ZIMAROULIS Sat 04-Jun-11 11:28:30

Natation thanks once more
Can you please tell me which is the difference between directly controlled Flemish community schools and town controlled schools? Is one better than the other?
I don't think we will choose a catholic school so we will choose one of the rest
What is the Don Bosco annex?
Unfortunately enrolling my kid now is out of the question since we are in greece and we don't have the chance to make a trip to belgium to visit the schools and decide. So I hope we will find a place when we move from september onwards. What kind of documents do the school require for enrollment?

natation Sat 04-Jun-11 11:49:39

There is virtually no difference between the 3 types of schools at all, just ultimately who controls them, appoints the teachers, sets the rules. The only practical difference is in religious instruction from teh age of 7 years. At Flemish Community controlled and communal (gemeente) controlled schools, religious instructions starts at st primary and there is a choice of Catholic, morals, usually a few more such as Islam, Protestant. The children are segregated for the obligatory religious instruction lessons. In the Catholic schools, the choice only Catholic. I think it would be a little unwise to reject the Catholic schools which make up around 50% of Belgian Flemish schools at kindergarten (kleuterschool) and primary (lagere school) levels and around 75% of schools at secondary (middelbare school) level. There is no religion taught at kleuterchool for under 7s, other than Sinterklas (Belgian Father Christmas) which you find in all schools. You are seriously narrowing your choice by rejecting the Catholic schools. Belgium is a Catholic country, both in majority and in the constitution, but it does not mean people choose schools according to being Catholic or not, and Catholic religious instruction is in the non Catholic schools too. Children of all religions or none attend Catholic schools, try and think of them as just another category of school. As a general rule the Catholic schools are indeed more popular, but that is a general rule, it differs from area to area.

Don Bosco has 2 schools in St Pieters Leeuw, the annex is the 2nd school.

If you are able to enrol now by email or phone, I would do it, you may find only 2 out of 7 with places for example, nothing stopping you enrolling in more than one school. Schools require initial proof of identity (passport or national ID card) for enrolment, eventually also a copy of Belgian residency card and health insurance card (called a SIS card).

Kristinaa Sat 04-Jun-11 14:05:02

Hello everyone,
Can I have some feedbacks about AR Crommelinck and ecole communale de Stockel for the kindergarten (2eme maternelle), please?
We will move in July in WSP from abroad and these are the only 2 maternelles where I could find a place for my 4 yo son.I visited both, they looked ok with many extra activities.between the 2 , without knowing anything else about them , I would prefer AR due to its location ( closer to the apt we found), the fact that it will be fully renovated this summer and also because the number of classes from kindergarten ( only 4 compare to 10 in Stockel).
Many thanks

natation Sat 04-Jun-11 19:18:45

AR Crommelynck is the least popular school in the area, but hard to define why, possibly because it is so near the most popular school Mater Dei but also because the attached secondary is the most UNDERsubscribed of all the local secondaries. The plus points are that I believe classes do not get above 20 children, the fact there are only 4 maternelle classes making it very small, the fact that it has a lovely playground, the children swim I think from 1ere maternelle since the swimming pool is across the road, there are also stages during the holidays run by Melting-Sport which are free only for children from the school. The minus points are that the maternelle is right next to the secondary which is quite large and the playgrounds whilst separate, are right next to each other, the fact it is not a popular school, the fact that there are an awful lot of Japanese children (could be as many as 40% of maternelle children) meaning 2nd language interference in the playground, the fact that alot of the children there do not live nearby and therefore few of the children where you live are going to be attending this school.

EC de Stockel is indeed a much bigger school with 22 classes in the French school, perhaps 10 classes in the Dutch school, but as there is no secondary, in fact there are less overall children there than at AT Crommelynck. It is very well regarded and children in the locality go to this school. Playground again is good. They have a full-size gymnasium, plus a smaller gymnasium for maternelle classes. Again, there are holiday stages at the school run by IDEJI. Children go swimming at Sportcity from 2e maternelle. Again a few after-school activities are run here, just like the majority of local schools.

Have you enquired at Don Bosco and Jean 23 Parmentier? Both schools have great reputations? I know already SC de Stockel and Mater Dei have quite long waiting lists. Or Joli-Bois, ths school should definitely have places?

Kristinaa Sat 04-Jun-11 22:03:15

Uau, Natation, thank you for such helpful comment.I was in Brussels only for 2 days this week looking for an accommodation and kindergarten and it iwas easy taking the decision about the neighbourhood but very difficult about the school.Your comments help me took a decision for now and for sure starting Monday I will make the necessary phone calls to the other kindergartens you mentioned.For the time being I will register my son to EC de Stockel to secure the place and after that will see.
One more question, is there any good private kindergartens ( except Montessori) in Woluwe St Pierre?I couldn't manage to find any on the internet.
Thank you a lot

natation Sat 04-Jun-11 22:18:34

Private kindergarten? Do you mean a creche 0-3 years or a maternelle?
If you mean a creche, there are at least a dozen options in WSP, I'd tell you the names if you could be a bit more precise as WSP is split into roughly 5 areas.
If you mean a maternelle, there are 11 publically funded maternelles and one private and fee paying (ie non publically funded) maternelle called Montessori House Brussels next to Montgomery. The next nearest fee paying maternelles are the 5 International Montessori schools in Vlaams Brabant, BSB, St Paul's, BJAB, BISB, BEPS, ISB, Acacia, BICS, Deutsche Schule. Very few locals would use a private maternelle, unless they are after English or German. If you are after French, then local is the way to go.

Portofino Sun 05-Jun-11 09:20:45

here there are exam papers from previous years. I believe there is a diploma for completion of secondary school studies. My dd is only in first Primary, so I haven't gone through any of this yet. Natation or Longtime should know more details...

Portofino Sun 05-Jun-11 09:21:15

Wrong thread! blush

Kristinaa Sun 05-Jun-11 18:37:36

I meant privates maternelles and you answered about them also.
We' ll go for a public one , as French is the language we are aftersmile
Thank you once again for your extremely helpful comments.

ZIMAROULIS Mon 14-Nov-11 14:35:10

After writing a nice and explanatory post I pressed a wrong button and I lost it..anyway here we go again. Our move to belgium was postponed for January maximum beginning of February. My husband will move first and me and our 4 years old son will follow as soon as he finds a house that will fit us. My question this time is about several areas where I usually find cheap and nice appartments while searching at immoweb. These are 1745 Opwijk, 1750 Liedekerke, 1785 Merchtem, 1850 Grimbergen, 1861 Wolvertem, 3001 Heverlee, 3010 Kessel Lo, 3200 Arschot. I am also looking at areas from the Zaventem side although I don't know if the noise from the airport will be a probelm. Since we have a kid I would like to know if these areas are green, safe, if they have parks and if I could find kid's activities for my prince or at a nearby area. You see we try to familiarize ourselves with many potential areas for renting since our final choice will be affected by schools we will find that will have a place for our kid. Fortunately my husband's job is on the technical field so the location of his work will vary from time to time. At the beginning though his company has taken a very big project in Brussels so for a long period of time he will have to commute to brussels on a daily basis.

natation Mon 14-Nov-11 17:18:00

Without knowing whereabouts your husband will work in Brussels, I wouldn't want to recommend any of those gemeenten - closest to the northen edge of Brussels is Grimbergen, but not a good choice if work will be on the south side of Brussels. Kessel-Lo would require crossing Leuven, it really is quite far away to live. The Brussels ring road has particular blackspots for traffic, this is also why it is useless recommending somewhere without knowing where your husband will be commuting too. They are all suburban to rural. You will find children's parks and activities everywhere. Zaventem is the worst blackspot for traffice on the Brussels ring road, any commute should ideally avoid the ring road at this point. The worst plane noise is not in Zaventem, it's in Stockel, the most popular place in east Brussels to live, it doesn't put people off living there, it's only a problem there for a minority, plus it's only sporadically a problem as the airport has several runways so you only get airport noise on the days the runway flying over Stockel is being used. Do bear in mind that choosing a cheaper area to live in often costs as much as choosing a more expensive area, once you factor in the extra costs of perhaps a 2nd car, more fuel for even the 1st car. You may spend a lot of time travelling too to activities or even school, if you choose a less accessible area. As a family, we live in a far too expensive house but we save by having all the children's activities within either walking distance or a tram / bus ride away, no need even for a car, but then I suppose if we lived rurally, we'd possibly spend less on children's activities as we'd never be able to get the children to them!

ZIMAROULIS Mon 14-Nov-11 17:54:14

Hi there natation and thanks once more for your reply. I will be checking immoweb for areas in Brussels as well. Any suggestions? I see a lot of areas in Brussels but I don't know which are better and which are worse. Should we worry more about criminality if we decide to live somewhere in Brussels? Is there a certain side in brussels which is better? From what I have read schooling in brussels can be tough since we will have to find a place for our son in the middle of the school year. So our worry is that we might find a very nice place to rent but then no place in the nearby schools or find the other way round.
What you say about renting costs is very correct. For example we might find an amazing house in immoweb but then when we check it at google we realize that it is in a very small village very far away from everything. As soon as my husband has more details I will come back. As far as commuting is concerned what we know so far is tha even when he will be working in brussels he will have to commute to all sides of brussels.

natation Mon 14-Nov-11 19:40:50

Well for a budget of 700 euro in Brussels, you would get in the most expensive areas a decent 2 bed apartment of 70-80 m2, must watch out for "charges" though, some include things you'd pay for anyway such as water and heating, some include payments for maintenance of shared space, so you need to "take out" of those charges, how much you would have to pay for bills, whether living in an apartment or house, and add on to the monthly rent the charges only for the shared extras. In the cheaper areas, you'd get either a more luxurious apartment or a small house even, or more metres, perhaps 90 m2 instead of 80 m2. The difference between the "poorer" areas and the "richer" areas is less than you might think.

The most sought after areas of Brussels are in the east and south - WSP, WSL, Auderghem, Etterbeek, W-B some of Schaerbeek, the least desirable in the west and north - Molenbeek, Anderlecht, St Josse Ten Noode, some parts of Schaerbeek. The more sought after areas are very French dominated and the Dutch schools are heaving with French children. The west and north are more Dutch, but still in the minority to the French speakers. One lovely area of the north however is Berchem Sint Agata, also not bad in some parts of Laeken and Jette, even some of Anderlecht.

The beauty of Brussels is that commuting by car is NOT DESIRABLE and public transport might be quicker and cheaper. You really don't need a second car, unless you are averse to public transport or walking or cycling.

If looking at Brussels, a very very good idea to choose a rough area, find a school, then narrow down the house search once you have at least one school place. Also you'd need to choose language, French or Dutch for Brussels.

But does your husband not have an office where he is at least going to be based part of the time? It would make sense to live an easy commute route from the office.

natation Mon 14-Nov-11 19:52:38

I have a feeling this apartment might be the renovated conversion of a townhouse we lived next to until recently, it's near to the metro and 1 minute from the tram in Stockel, one of the most desirable areas of Brussels. It's only 700 euro per month, ok so expensive, but in fact considering it's completely all new and in such a sought after area, it's really not a bad price at all, you'll find places in several of the local schools still, French or Dutch, although not the very best schools, still really decent ones.

Portofino Mon 14-Nov-11 20:04:29

I live in Zaventem commune and it is clean, has lovely park and pool and is not stuffed with criminals ;-) Easy to get into Brussels by public transport. Can't comment on the others. As natation says, they swap the runways at the airport so you don't get noise all the time. I don't notice anymore.

Portofino Mon 14-Nov-11 20:08:34

700 euros would get you this

natation Mon 14-Nov-11 21:23:42

Take a look at this great looking 2 bed house, for the price of 700 euro. It's a terraced house in the centre of Tervuren, only 100m from a very popular school, 2 more schools in walking distance. You are walking distance to the 44 tram which goes into Brussels, the bus stop to Leuven, the swimming pool, sports centre, Tervuren park, shops, restaurants, you couldn't get more convenient in Tervuren. If I were after a 2 bed house, I'd snatch it up straighaway.

natation Mon 14-Nov-11 21:27:19

Oh and the school 100m away is Mariaschool, plenty of non Belgian and Dutch second language children at this school. If no places here, then there's KA Tervuren "de Kattensprong" or GBS Tervuren.

ZIMAROULIS Wed 16-Nov-11 10:54:14

Natation we have checked this house and it is really a catch
I found the following today...I don't know the area of the first ad but love this house. When checking google earth I saw that it is in the middle of nowhere...too bad
Your info especially for schools is valuable...I will be back with more details this time

ZIMAROULIS Mon 30-Jan-12 14:34:52

Good afternoon and a happy new year to you and your families.
My husband is finally coming on 15/02, he will start looking for a house/apt and then my son and myself will follow. As I have already told you he will be working in different areas of Brussels. The office of the company though is downtown in 1000. He will have to visit it from time to time. He can commute to the place he will be working each time either by himself or by arranging to meat with his colleague who will have a company car. Therefore we are looking in many different areas even as far as Leuven. From what I am reading Leuven although far away from Brussels has good connection by transportation means. I saw today at immoweb this house
but I don't understand why its price is so low. Firstly I thought that it might be a shared house but no such thing is mentioned on the description. Any guesses?

ZIMAROULIS Mon 30-Jan-12 14:36:08

I am just posting the link of the ad again

Longtime Mon 30-Jan-12 15:28:12

Not sure why it would be so cheap. However, if you are looking for an easy commute for your dh to downtown Brussels, I would avoid Overijse. The only way in really is via the E411, either by bus or car, and this motorway is packed in the mornings. We have friends who do the commute and they are sick of it.

Portofino Mon 30-Jan-12 16:05:19

I would think that was a mistake - it says one bedroom, so presumably they have mixed up 2 listings.....I agree with Longtime - avoid the E411 (and the Ring) like the plague! The E40 isn't TOO bad, but can be very slow in the evenings.

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 18:36:58

Commuting from Overijse or Leuven by car to Bruxelles 1000 is really not desirable. Leuven to Bruxelles 1000 is feasible by train.

Is there a particular reason you are looking at Overijse and Leuven?

The cheapest and tiniest 2 bed house in Overijse is likely to cost you 800 euro, in Leuven it's a little cheaper, 700 euro for an equivalent house, but the choice at that price is very very limited. Leuven doesn't have as much rented housing as Overijse and Overijse has an abundance of housing over 1500 euro a month which mainly families at BSB and ISB rent. Public transport in Overijse is pretty poor.

Perhaps it is worth taking a general map and putting it on the floor, mark on it where work will be, avoid E411 and R0 from Waterloo to Antwerp turn-off. Look at de Lijn and STIB websites at public transport routes in combination with the general map and look at the best areas.

I have met so many people who have ended up in the wrong area for their needs. If you end up moving as a result, you could end up losing a lot of money to break a rental contract. It's better to try and get it right first time.

As for that advert, I would expect that size house (it's listed as 3 bed and 200m2) for closer to 1500 euro so the description is correct, the list price belongs to another property.

Portofino Mon 30-Jan-12 19:17:25

this one in Kortenberg is 5 mins from the E40, or on the bus route - 351 plus another I think. It,s not the prettiest house ever but the space looks good. It won't be under the flightpath either.

ZIMAROULIS Mon 30-Jan-12 20:02:53

Hi ladies,
I will sure tell my husband about E411
Natation I just found this cheap house at Overijse today and in Leuven recently I find cheap and nice places so no particular reason for looking there I just mentioned these two places.
You see we have not decided on a specific area, we are just looking for a nice two bedroom apt or house for maximum 750 per month. Of course we would prefer something in an area that my husband can commute relatively easy to his job. Since our budget is limited though, we would consider finding something more far away from brussels since my husband will be able to commute by train bus or tram. We will have a car but I don't think driving to brussels in the morning is a nice thing to do to yourselfsmile
It seems very difficult for us to decide which are the best areas. We will find the maps and try to concentrate on certain areas.
How much time do you think my husband will need to actually find a place? He would like to find one as soon as possible so our family will not be apart for too much time
Concerning the guarantee he will need to have a belgian bank account or he just deposits the money to the owner's bank account with the first months' rent?
Any other tips concerning rental agreements? It seems that Belgian owners are really scary. We were thinking of asking for a three year contract since we hope our financial situation will be better and we will have the opportunity to move to a bigger house after three years

Portofino Mon 30-Jan-12 20:09:08

You will need a Belgian bank account. We set up our ING account before we moved - they are used to expats and it was simple. The guarantee is held in a locked account in YOUR bank. ING offered us the facility of a guarantee without us actually handing over any cash. It's kind of loan yet not a loan. This costs us about 50 euros per year. The standard lease here is 9 years, but you can leave after 3 with no penalty - before that you have to pay 3,2,1 months rent respectively.

Portofino Mon 30-Jan-12 20:11:04

Leuven is lovely - very nice shops and lots of restaurants. If you can get to the railway station easily it is about 40 mins to central Brussels. Many of my work colleagues commute MUCH further than that.

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 20:17:49

Don't think that moving further away from Brussels will get you cheaper prices. Do factor in transport costs plus travel time. If you are happy with an apartment of 80m2 2 beds, then in fact there is quite a choice in the eastern communes at 750 euro including charges (so you might get hot water, heating included in price). Here is just one example, but you'll find others like it in 1150, 1200, 1160, 1170, 1030, 1040 communes. This one is in supposedly one of the most desirable areas of Brussels, it's almost opposite a very popular school with French and Dutch sections. It's a 3 minute walk to Stockel metro.

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 20:32:16

The very shortest time to find a place, sign contracts, arrange security deposit, moving etc will be 2 weeks, that's knowing exactly where to look, having appointments arranged in advance.

A season ticket Leuven - Brussels on the train is just over 1000 euro for 12 months, but most employers will subsidise a great part of that - ask how much. A single journey between Brussels and Leuven is 4.80 euro. A season ticket for Brussels region for metro, bus and tram is 478 euro, again employers will subsidise a great part of that.

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 20:35:09

Do you have any idea where your husband is likely to need to drive to with his work too? That could be quite a deciding factor as to where around the Brussels region you would settle? For example, if he will be often driving to northern France, then the west side of Brussels would be better, if off towards Antwerp or Netherlands, the north side, if off towards Liege and Germany, the east side would be better.

ZIMAROULIS Mon 30-Jan-12 21:01:03

Portofino what you say for ING is very interesting, I will check it. Also good to hear that we can leave the place after three years with no penalties. I realize that a nine year contract is better than a shorter one because of the guarantee. If we decide to leave the owner will inspect the house and charge us for the cost of damages? Before renting the place we can inspect the house on our charges or the owner will pay for it? What energy consumption would be good?
I have the impression that living inside Brussels it will feel like living in the central of Athens no green a few parks and very crowded. I know that in fact Brussles do have a lot of parks and children facilities. It is just that we are not used to this because we live in a very quite suburb of Athens with lots of space, playgrounds, we take our bikes and go for a nice walk.
For example when I visit my relatives in Belgium, who live in Sint Pieters Leeuw close to Halle, I love it. Nice neighborhoods, parks, beautiful houses and appartments and close to Brussels. I understand that such an area might not be practical for other reasons like commuting, transportation costs, schools etc.
Of course we are always checking the areas close to my family at immoweb so if we find something there our quest will end shortly.
In the meantime I am counting on your help for other areas.

Portofino Mon 30-Jan-12 21:37:32

There are lots of parks and green spaces in Brussels - I wouldn't worry too much. Normally when you move in and out, a surveyor comes to do the "Etat des Lieux" = this is a very detailed report of the state of the property. And I mean VERY detailed - if there is a scratch on the paintwork, or an appliance, it is recorded.

Portofino Mon 30-Jan-12 21:40:28

That flat is a bargain, natation. We will move in a couple of years - and I want something cheap, 3 beds though....

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 21:55:00

i have never been to Athens but I'm a frequent visitor to London and know Edinburgh pretty well (capital Scotland) plus Paris. Brussels is very quiet in comparison to London and Paris, more like Edinburgh.Take a look at google earth to see the large park areas in the north (Laeken), south (Uccle) and east (WSP) just as examples. I only know my own area very well which is WSP and it's about 1/3 park area and our house is 1km from a huge wood which stretches for kms and kms yet we are 20 mins by tram/metro to the Grand'Place. From our house you can cycle into the forest or the opposite direction along a lovely old railway cycle path to the city centre. There are over 20 playgrounds in our commune of 40,000 and 3 parks - Parc de la Woluwe, Parc Parmentier, Parc des Scources. Where Porto lives is even more rural yet it is just outside Brussels and there is a bus directly into the city.

Don't whatever you do accept a fixed 1,2 or 3 year contract with no "get-out" clause as your rights are poor compared to a 9 year contract and you need to be sure you will stay for the duration of the contract, whereas the 9 year contract you can at least break with penalties in the first 3 years. You will have to pay half the cost of entry inspection and exit inspection, so expect 200-300 euro there. Don't be surprised if damages end up at over 1 months rent, if it is less then you are doing really well.

Look out for newer looking boilers and double glazing. Rental properties now have to come with energy certificates. I don't know how reliable these area. However we have moved from a house with single glazing and an old boiler, to a house with double glazing and brand new boiler. Our annual fuel bill was 3600 euro at our old house, in the new one, we hope to almost half that to 1800 or 150 euro a month, might just be a little more. That's gas and electricity.

One last thought before choosing area is to decide language of schooling. Brussels is somewhere around 90% French speaking now and I read recently that the number of those classing themselves as ethnic "Moroccan" is about to overtake the number of those classing themselves as "Flemish" first language -that was to illustrate that the Dutch speakers are very much being squeezed by the French ones further out into Vlaanderen, but there is still the choice of Dutch or French schools. In Vlaanderen, eg Zaventem, St Pieters Leeuw, Leuven, there are only Dutch language schools.

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 22:14:24

Porto, here is another bargain house near Place Dumon ....... downside is that the landlady would not give us a 9 year contract on this place, ah well it seems like the tenants she did find have not lasted even 6 months there!!!! You can get however a 3 bed near us in an excellent condition for 1300 euro or less if you strike lucky.

natation Mon 30-Jan-12 22:39:50

Zimaroulis, that apartment in WSP I linked to is 48 rue Jean-Baptiste Lepage, 1150. If you look on google maps, you will see how close it is to the 2 local schools, ie about 20m!!! It's also right next a small shopping centre, about 200m away, with supermarket where the entrance to Stockel metro is, about 150m to the nearest playground, about 300m to the old railway cycle path which goes into the city centre and also leads to a sports centre, 3 or 4 more playgrounds along that cycle path.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 31-Jan-12 09:07:06

Natation can you explain to me about schools in Brussels?
Lessons are in French altough Brussels belongs to the Dutch part?

ZIMAROULIS Tue 31-Jan-12 09:08:14

We decided as a first choice to look for an apt inside Brussels and then as a second choice we will be looking at Sint Pieters Leeuw or Halle

Portofino Tue 31-Jan-12 09:13:59

Brussels Region is officially bi-lingual so you will find French and Dutch speaking schools. A lot of French speaking families put their children into Dutch schools - the standards are considered to be higher and they subsidise more - I believe that parents can only be asked to pay 25 euros per year per child for "extras" -books, stationary, trips etc.....In the French system you pay for all this. For Primary aged children you get an extra 50 euros child benefit in August to "help" towards the cost.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 31-Jan-12 09:32:58

Hi portofino, yes I know that Brussels is bilingual so I will try to look for a Dutch speaking school. Are there such in Brussels?
I have heard the Dutch schools are quite rigid and strict? Is this true?
Our son is 4.5 years old speaks only Greek and he is a very sensitive and shy little boy. I really want to find a school that will help him to adjust at the beginning that is my biggest concern

Portofino Tue 31-Jan-12 09:51:11

I thnk Belgian schools in general are strict - well at least as compared to the UK. He will start in 2/3 Maternelle/Kleuterklas depending on when he turns 5. Maternelle is generally a lot more easy going with lots of learning through play. Natation is the local schools expert.....

natation Tue 31-Jan-12 11:32:29

I would be very cautious about choosing a Dutch speaking school in Brussels, because you may find many schools with such high percentages of French speaking children in them, it will be a case of French in the playground and when the teachers are not listening and Dutch in the classroom, that is not ideal when your child speaks neither Dutch nor French. You don't get many non Belgian children in Dutch schools either, whereas in French schools, you can get 30+ nationalities in schools. The school opposite the apartment I linked to, Ecole Communale de Stockel has 30+ nationalities in the French school and many children arrive there with no French. In the Dutch school with which they share facilities and right next door, you will find close to 90% French Belgians and 10% Dutch speaking Belgians, maybe a handful of children neither French nor Flemish Belgian. I would however fully go for a Dutch speaking school if living in a Dutch speaking area such as Sint Pieters Leeuw, even though there are many French speakers living there now who send their children to school in French in Brussels - schooling as close as possible to home is always more desirable, sometimes it is not practical, but if you can do it, living and schooling nearby is surely better for little children.

In Brussels, Dutch is taught 2-4 hours a week from 3rd primary to end of secondary in French schools, French is taught (despite being usually mother tongue to majority anyway) from 3rd primary to end of secondary in Dutch language schools. You will however find many French schools in Brussels now start Dutch from 3rd maternelle, sometimes earlier, as the French community has woken up to the importance of the other main language in order to get on in life and for job prospects in Belgium. There are also many immersion programmes in the French schools now for children to learn Dutch, more than a couple of hours a week, where the children spend whole days or even the whole time in Dutch.

You will find no difference at all between Flemish community and French community schools when it comes to discipline.

natation Tue 31-Jan-12 11:36:54

Map of majority of French schools in Brussels, kindly made not be me but a parent searching for schools who passed it on to me.

Map of all Dutch language schools in Brussels/Tervuren.

ZIMAROULIS Sun 05-Feb-12 14:11:05

Hallo ladies,

What's with the immoweb?
I called for two ads last week and they told me that they have been rented for quite some time now. Although I sent an email at immoweb one of them is still at their website and marked as new.
Anyway can you tell me about this area please?

natation Sun 05-Feb-12 14:32:34

Many agents are rather unscrupulous and say places are rented, then often suggest somewhere else. If you ask in French or Dutch, you might indeed get a different response. Some agents however just can't be bothered to amend the adverts (take 2 or 3 minutes) and just leave the adverts to run until no longer valid.

Molenbeek is not the nicest commune, very deprived in Brussels terms, schools with high failure rates. Of course there will be a few places in the commune which are not so bad, that apartment looks fairly nice for Molenbeek.

Here is a map of with the 4 least deprived schools in Molenbeek, if the apartment is near these schools, I'd take it as having potential, otherwise, personally I'd leave alone. Appears there are 2 possible areas of Molenbeek not so bad to live in - 2 * 2 schools close together.

Compare this to the full map of schools in Brussels which shows all the local schools.

ZIMAROULIS Sun 05-Feb-12 15:00:04

Thanks natation,

A friend of mine called who lives in brussels and she talked to him in French..

Could you please tell me about Ecole St. Job? My friend's son goes there and if we find an apt close to them we thought it would be nice for our boy to go at that school. Since they have almost exactly the same age they might even be at the same class and our son will be thrilled to have a familiar person at school

natation Sun 05-Feb-12 15:19:46

Zimaroulis, I know no-one at Ecole Communale de St Job, so I think your friend will be better qualified to advise you what the school is like. It's got quite a high rating in the "deprived/priviledged" index, as have most Uccle schools - Uccle has a varied housing stock but at its top end, it's the most expensive place to live in Brussels region, so it's no surprise that most schools score highly on this index. The school's website lists one class for each primaire and maternelle year, except mat 1 and mat 2 which have 2 classes per year, so at the moment, it's a relatively small school. Uccle is a big commune, both in terms of population and km2, so if you want to be near St Job, do check location of apartments before looking.

ZIMAROULIS Sun 05-Feb-12 15:29:46

Thanks natation, yes it is quite expensive that is why we are looking at other communes in brussels as well.

ZIMAROULIS Mon 06-Feb-12 14:03:15

Natation do you know among Sint Pieters Leeuw's schools which is the best?

natation Mon 06-Feb-12 18:36:49

I don't know anyone in Sint Pieters Leeuw. There are only 3 schools in the village, although more in the wider gemeente. For a 4 year old, the best school is often the nearest one to home.

Here is a map which shows all the Flemish schools in Brussels and several of the gemeenten surrounding Brussels, including Sint Pieters Leeuw. It's quite useful to look at it each time you look at a house, to see which schools are nearest.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 07-Feb-12 15:57:51

Good afternoon,
My cousin visited today this house. He told it it is very nice in a very beautiful neighborhood. He also told me it is close to E19 and a bus stop that takes you to Vilvoorde and from there by train you can reach Brussels. Does anyone has any feedback on this area?
I also read today that Kampenhout and Wezembeek are good choices in terms of commuting

ZIMAROULIS Tue 07-Feb-12 15:58:19

I forgot to thank you natation for your reply

natation Tue 07-Feb-12 16:19:42

Zimaroulis, where exactly are you talking about?? The place near E19? It sounds a bit far.

Kampenhout to Brussels? You are looking at a commute of an hour minimum into the centre of Brussels by de Lijn bus. It would be 30-40 minutes by de Lijn bus to the centre from Sint Pieters Leeuw, so personally if I had family in Sint Pieters Leeuw, I would prefer there as it's quicker into Brussels, plus you can get there by train from some of that area, no train in Kampenhout. I would expect a very small rental market there, just like in Sint Pieters Leeuw.

Wezembeek-Oppem? I would class that as being a suburb of Brussels, some people don't even realise it's actually in Vlaams Brabant! Houses only slightly cheaper than nearby WSP so houses out of price range, very limited choice of apartments under 800 euro, whereas WSP would have far greater range.

Look at this de Lijn map which shows buses and train lines from Vlaams Brabant into Brussels.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 07-Feb-12 17:47:50

Sorry natation I forgot the link
This is the house

Portofino Tue 07-Feb-12 18:00:59

Elewijt is in the middle of nowhere! It takes me 1h 15 mins to 1h30 mins to get into central Brussels dropping dd at school and getting the De Lijn bus from Nossegem which is much, much closer. They had some reasonably priced apartments in Evere when I looked last week. Near the bus/tram. Wezembeek is nice, but expensive.

natation Tue 07-Feb-12 19:31:11

I'd never even heard of Elewijt! 280 bus to Vilvoorde then train. Well that will be a minimum of an hour if you make the connections, so even worse than Kampenhout because there are 2 different modes of transport, both requiring their own tickets, so an added expensive. I'd only live out there if I had a company car 100% of the time, in fact you'll probably find most people there have 2 cars, it's such a small place, if you want your child to do after school activities, it is most likely going to involve driving, so even more expense.

That house would not be so expensive, were it not for the land around it. I wouldn't accept that house without the landlord agreeing to maintain the garden, that is going to be some garden to hand back if and when you leave in the same state you received it!

natation Tue 07-Feb-12 19:34:45

For 60 euro more per month, you could live in a leafy area of Brussels and get a 3 bed apartment. It seems like you want to live in the country, but the downfalls are the added commuting cost, the added transport cost, the limited opportunities for children.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 07-Feb-12 20:57:46

Don't misunderstand me I don't want to sound indecisive
I feel panic because my husband will be there next week and we have not been able so far to book any appointment to see any apt. Either they are rented or they tell us they cannot arrange a date from now for next week because by that time the place might have been rented. I am afraid that my husband will not find something as soon as I was expecting. Anyway I will try to focus on our initial choices, thank you for your understanding

natation Wed 08-Feb-12 09:30:17

I think you need to concentrate on making decisions such as :
language of schooling
getting a school place, before or in conjunction with finding accommodation
narrowing down search area for accommodation, otherwise you'll waste time looking and make it tons harder to find a school place
consider the following :
the further you live from work, the more time lost travelling
the further you live from work, the more costs that are involved
if you don't have a car, think about the consequences of how to get to work on public transport and how to get around for your social activities
add travel costs onto accommodation costs
open a bank account IMMEDIATELY
either get ready rental guarantee equivalent to 2 months rent OR arrange a guarantee from the bank (this service has a fee attached)
get ready proof of savings and income which you can hand immediately to potential landlords
most people take a few months finding somewhere to live, don't be disheartened if it takes longer than expected
most rental contracts start either 1st or 15th of month
even if you find a vacant property, expect at least a 2 week delay to set up rental contract, entry inspection, rental guarantee
never accept a fixed length contract without a "get-out" clause in it, if you need to leave you will still have to pay the rent for the full term of the contract, a standard 9 year contract is nearly always best

ZIMAROULIS Wed 08-Feb-12 18:21:43

I have one more question please irrelevant with our so far subject.
Current we have a health insurance for our son. We are thinking of cancelling the contract before we go. Do you have one for your children while living in belgium or you consider the local public health system satisfying

Portofino Wed 08-Feb-12 18:56:50

The local public health system is based on you joining a scheme. This should be covered by your dh's employers. It is not free here. My dh's employer covers our Mutuelle cover - though we have to pay a small amount each year. Hospitalisation insurance is on top of that. My employer covers my dd and I, Dh/s covers him. If it was only him working, he would have to pay a premium to cover us both.

natation Wed 08-Feb-12 19:53:13

You should arrive with an EHIC card to cover you for the first few weeks. You should also arrive with a specific form which is issued by Greece for people moving abroad to another EU country which you give to the Mutuelle when you sign up. There's not much difference between Mutuelles here, many people choose on political grounds eg there's a Catholic Mutuelle and a Socialist Mutuelle and several neutral Mutuelles. We pay €6.50 per adult per month so €78 a year per adult. If you pay Belgian social security, you are obliged to join a Mutuelle and if you don't and you come into contact for example with a hospital, they enrol you in one anyway! Many Belgian employers offer free hospitalisation for their employees, sometimes dependants too, otherwise you might be able to pay a small extra supplement for dependants. Hospitalisation insurance in optional.

The health system here is excellent, although highly medicalised and Belgians seem to take an incredible amount of drugs for minor ailments.

ZIMAROULIS Wed 07-Mar-12 18:42:39

Hallo ladies, my husband is for three weeks now in Belgium. He started working and signed his first six months contract. He is looking for renting a place but still nothing. Tomorrow he has planned a visit at below apartment
However I don't know if this a safe area for a family to live and if schools are deprived. So far we are looking for apartments in many communes of Brussels
I would really appreciate your feedback on the above area

natation Wed 07-Mar-12 19:04:17

Well it's sort of the opposite of what you said you were looking for. Very built-up. Immediate area run-down BUT streets away from where the Fantastic Christmas market is, at other times of year, famous fish restaurants, a converted market hall called St Géry nearby which is quite a chic place to have a coffee. So it's a mix of cheap housing, expensive restaurants, fine landmarks. Well if you don't mind lack of huge open space - there a squares but that's it - and you like the buzz of city life on your doorstep, well it's a cool place to live.

I don't know much about the schools other than most of the communal ones are separated into maternelle and primaire there, so you would have a change of buildings at age 6 for communal system. Otherwise the nearest Catholic school is fondamental 2 1/2 to 12. Know a jolly teacher there but not currently in contact with her. All the French schools around there are rated the most deprived in Belgium on a scale of 1 to 20 - all the schools score 1 or 2. So expect a very immigrant population there, hopefully a nice mix of different nationalities and not one dominant one like in certain areas of Brussels.

Here is my latest school map for French schools.

There are 2 Dutch language schools in the area too, 1 Catholic and 1 communal. I'd ask these schools how many speak Dutch first language, how many French, how many some other language. Dutch might work here if there are not too many French speakers in the school! But Brussels is overall 90% French so not so easy to be a Dutch speaker, usually the Dutch speakers also speak French in Brussels as most of daily life is in French.

Here is a map of Dutch schools.

natation Wed 07-Mar-12 19:17:36

Look a famous building a few doors down!

ZIMAROULIS Wed 07-Mar-12 19:28:04

Well natation it is not what I expected either but things are quite difficult for us and my husband is not thinking clearly. Yesterday he was looking for apartments and houses on Aalst because of the train and today he sent me this apartment. I have explaind to him that we should concentrate on certain areas, there have to be some standards, we cannot just rent a cheap apt regardless of its location. Anyway I was expecting what you said about schools...
I will try to explain to him and tell him to cancel the visit.

ZIMAROULIS Wed 07-Mar-12 20:08:16

Natation what about Sint-Jan-Berchmans school?

natation Wed 07-Mar-12 20:29:45

St Jan Berchmans is on the other side of central Brussels and the waiting list there will probably stretch as far as Athens thanks to all the Royal family's grandchildren currently there.

Actually I think the apartment area is quite cool and if it is a decent apartment and m2 it says it is (looks like it from the photos), it is a very very good price.

The advantage of the deprived schools is the amount of money currently being thrown at them! Just because the other children are poor and the school are is classed as deprived doesn't mean the school is bad. It matters what your own children achieve at school. Really don't let it put you off...... god Aalst is not a good idea at all, not just for commuting but also for integrations. You will find a Greek community in Brussels, you will find lots of people expatriated and instead of having close family bonds, they make close friendships with fellow expats / immigrants. Belgian society is very closed to outsiders. I would imagine Aalst has a very small immigrant population of perhaps a few Congolese or Moroccans who will probably all stick together and then the vast majority of Belgians who couldn't give you even a second of their day to care in the slightest about their neighbours, family is what matters to most Belgians.

natation Wed 07-Mar-12 20:30:47
natation Wed 07-Mar-12 21:35:37

Here's the page of activities of the nearest communal French maternelle to that house in central Brussels. The school has an awful full timetable, an impressive timetable, if they really do all those activities. From the photos, definitely multi-cultural. I'm quite attracted to that area now I've done a bit of hunting!

ZIMAROULIS Thu 15-Mar-12 18:54:21

Well natation that apartment turned out to be a scam angry
Anyway on saturday my husband will see the following apartment
If it is good we will rent it, can you tell me about the area please and good schools near the apartment if you know any

natation Thu 15-Mar-12 19:09:48

A pretty nice area BUT be aware that there simply are not enough schools in this area, the population has expanded so much that schools cannot provide the number of places possible. I really would not accept that apartment without having a school place for September. Look at the school map.

I still would go for this apartment which is cheaper in an area with school places and ideally situated for commuting into the centre of Brussels and also for commuting out of Brussels onto the R0.

Jux Thu 15-Mar-12 19:11:12

I went to Brussels for a w/e once. It was beige. Everyone was dressed in beige and everything in the shop windows was beige. I was dressed in red and green. People looked at me sidelong. grin

ZIMAROULIS Thu 15-Mar-12 19:28:37

Thanks natation
Unfortunately that apartment has been rented for over one month now...
If we rent the apartment I will make sure my husband will apply for a school place for our son from next week onwards. Do you think we will have enough time to find one till September? Any particular school which you know is better?

ZIMAROULIS Thu 15-Mar-12 20:03:03

Natation can you tell me if you know other areas in Brussels where we won't have problem finding a school place for our son? I might as well be looking at those areas

natation Thu 15-Mar-12 20:58:11

To be honest in that area, I don't know it super super well, but I do know that Maria Assumpta, the nearest Catholic school is super super oversubscribed and I'd be very surprised if you got a place there. The communal schools in Bruxelles 1020 (Laeken) did their enrolments for the first classes of maternelle and primaire in January, no idea how you apply for other school years but I'd imagine the enrolment timetable is pretty similar.

No I can't recommend individual schools in that area, but I cannot emphasize enough when you are late enrolling, that is far easier as a general rule to find accommodation that a school place, it's wiser to concentrate on a school place in an area you are interested in and then find accommodation afterwards than the other way around. There are over 300 maternelles in French in Brussels, I'm guessing about 100 Dutch language kleuterscholen. It is hard to reccommend individual ones, other than ones I know well where we live.

You will have problems finding school places in all areas of Brussels, as enrolments started last September and nearly all schools have done their enrolments, March is about the latest month schools do their enrolments. Then you are most likely to have to wait until mid August when schools get ready to re-open for the next school year and people who have reserved several school places finally give up their school places they do not want.

Portofino Thu 15-Mar-12 21:10:07

Zimaroulis, how old is your son? I moved to Brussels in April (to Evere) and enrolled dd in the local maternelle with no issue whatsoever. And the school is fine....I figured I had plenty of time to move for Primaire when I knew how it all worked....but it hasn't been necessary. I have chatted to someone else who recently moved to Evere and has a local school place.

natation Thu 15-Mar-12 21:12:11

This apartment is marked on immoweb as a new advert - means on immoweb less than a week. Very popular residential area Near metro and tram, playground. If you could get a place at the maternelle "Ecole du Bémel" or "Ecole Van Meyel" or "Ecole Prince Baudouin", then well worth considering.

natation Thu 15-Mar-12 21:22:56

Well I know quite a few mums currently looking around Brussels at short notice for places. Yes there are places, but it takes quite a few phone calls to find them. I know a family that has all but given up, looking for 2 school places, looks like they are going to send to an international school and try again later. It's completely pot luck I'm afraid, especially when it's maternelle, as there is no obligation to provide a place, whereas at primaire, your child must be in education. That apartment I found is also listed with NO CHARGES! It's pretty rare to not have extra charges. 750 for 80m2 is pretty good price per m2. I'd certainly live in it.

ZIMAROULIS Fri 16-Mar-12 08:33:32

Good morning, my son will be 5 years and 2 months old in September so he will be at a maternelle?
Well everything so far seems quite difficult, I could never imagine I should have moved on a specific month to get a school place.
Anyway our first priority is to find an apartment that we like since we will be spending most time of our day there. Unfortunately I cannot first look for a school place and then find for an apt since finding an apartment afterwards can take us ages. We are looking for one month now for an apartment in Brusses, in specifc areas in Flemish BRabant in specifica areas in Wallon Brabant and we have not been able to find something, imagine if we had to search only at a few areas

ZIMAROULIS Fri 16-Mar-12 09:11:57

Although we find apartments they don't want to rent it to my husband either because they don't like his contract and his salary is not enough, or because we don't both work and the list does not end....I am therefore scared in the thought of limiting our search

scaryteacher Fri 16-Mar-12 10:57:08

Natation has given you good advice. If you want to get your son into school for this September, get the school place and then the apartment.

natation Fri 16-Mar-12 11:35:43

I know quite a few families recently who got school places without setting foot on Belgian soil. They have reserved a few places in different areas, so that come their arrival during the Summer, they can look for accommodation around the schools.

your son will be entering 3e maternelle in September, the last of 4 maternelle years. It would be preferable therefore to look for a school with maternelle and primaire too (a fondamentale) but if there is only a place in a maternelle only school, then it will have to be that.

I do sympathise, it took us 3 months to finally find a new house last Summer, we rejected one house but were rejected for several others because the landlords did not want a large family.

I wouldn't recommend Brabant Wallon if working in Brussels, it is too far. I think you are really looking in places with a smaller rental market. Try concentrating on communes with a larger amount of rental accommodation, such as 1160, 1170, 1040, 1030, 1140, 1200, 1150, 1950, 1970, 1000 (parts of).

This place looks still empty, rent price is cheap, charges a bit high unless it includes water and heating.

ZIMAROULIS Fri 16-Mar-12 14:15:57

I spent my day calling all fondamentales and maternelles I found on the school map natation sent me. I found a place at Ecole Fondamentale annexee Rive-Gauche on Rue Marie Christine 83. I booked an appointment for my husband on Friday. However the school is not that close to the apartment but it was the only one that had a place.
I also put my son on the waiting list of one maternelle. The maternelle is Ecole maternelle des Pagodes which is at a walking distance from the apartment.
If we get the apartment we have to decide whether we should send him at the nearby maternelle or at the fondamentale.
I hope our troubles will stop here otherwise what natation advised in cases of late registrations is the best thing to do. I fear the idea of repeating this procedure again.

natation Fri 16-Mar-12 18:01:50

Well done, you found a place. Rive-Gauche is quite a poor area, but it's a place. You can apply for a place at Maria Assumpta, Pagodes primaire (préparatoire), Christ Roi primaire next school year for 1e primaire - all 3 of these schools are designated "rich" schools and are the 3 nearest schools at primaire level to that apartment.

Definitely follow up a place on the waiting list at ecole maternelle des Pagodes, as a place there will give priority to Pagodes primaire which is next door and I'd imagine a great percentage of the 3e maternelle there move on to 1e primaire next door, with some also going on to Maria Assumpta and Christ-Roi.

Rive-Gauche is not that far from the apartment, it's only about 10 minutes away by tram.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 20-Mar-12 09:45:31

I was wondering about something. If finally we find an apartment to a flemish area and my son goes to a dutch speaking school where he will start French at the third class of primarie will he become perfect bilingual? What do you think from your experience?
My only preference in a French speaking school, and therefore live in Brussels, is the fact that French is a language spoken in many countries whereas Dutch is not. Please I mean no offense to Dutch speakers

natation Tue 20-Mar-12 10:10:57

No your son is very very unlikely to become bilingual from 4 or 5 hours a week of French at a Dutch medium school, it takes an awful more exposure to a language than that. If the school has a majority or large minority of French speakers, then he will pick up some French from the playground, but then taht might be to the detriment of his Dutch!

Our children took a year to become bilingual at a similar age in French and English. IF you look at the number of hours a day in French it was 6 to 7 hours. So at a Dutch school, from 3rd Primary you are doing 1 hour a day maximum of French and it's not going to be French immersion, it's French taught AS a 2nd language, not IN the 2nd language, that is 1/6 or 1/7 of the amount of time spent in Dutch.

To become bilingual in French too if educated in Dutch, you'd really need to add a substantial proportion of after-school activities in French. The same is true if you choose a French school and want to add Dutch.

There are French schools which do Dutch immersion (no Dutch schools which do French immersion). But your son could not do this option 1)because he does not speak French and 2) because these schools are so oversubscribed, there are waiting lists at all these schools. French parents are desperate for their children to be bilingual French - Dutch, so they gravitate towards these schools.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 20-Mar-12 11:32:08

Natation how did you help your kids with their English which is their mother language?
I mean they learned them only because you speak them at home or you supported them with exta activities in English?
Apart from the problem of bilingualism my son will face, I plan to send him to the Greek school which I think is twice per week so he keeps up with this mother language.

natation Tue 20-Mar-12 17:17:49

I do nothing at all, the children just pick up books and read them in English! It's their mother tongue. The basics of reading transferred from one language to another. The children don't need any practice of spoken English, they used to do one activity per week in English in order for them to feel not too alienated in a new language, but don't any more.

Longtime Tue 20-Mar-12 23:11:17

And I would like to point out that natation's children picked up French amazingly quickly to the point where they seem to prefer to speak to one another in French having only been here for four years (I think). My three were born here and even by the time the ds's were 16 and 14, they still preferred to speak to one another in English. I don't know any other anglophone children who have come from England and pretty much transferred their mother tongue to French so quickly. So you will most probably find that truly bilingual in one year is exceptional.

Portofino Wed 21-Mar-12 00:23:58

My experience is the same as natation. Dd learnt to read in French and transferred the technique. I have done nothing special.. However in your case the alphabet etc is different - so if you have the option of greek school or after school activities....well grab them....

natation Wed 21-Mar-12 06:42:30

There are a handful of French schools in Belgium which have Greek language and culture lessons within the school buildings, sponsored by the Greek government. Unfortunately they list of schools does not appear on the internet. You could ask at this link which schools do this. I know Ecole Singelijn in Woluwe St Lambert is one of them, but you do also have extra top-up fees for this school of more than 1000 euro per year plus all their other charges are on the high side such as school lunches, garderie, after-school acitivities. These lessons will be in addition to the ones I expect you'll find associated with the Greek Orthodox archdiocese of Belgium.... Cathedral I think in Ixelles.

Longtime Wed 21-Mar-12 10:45:17

Oh and re the reading, I second (or third!) what natation said. For my first, I did start him off on some reading books but we gave up on them (as they were a bit boring to be honest), he went on to Goosebumps books and devoured them. There were of course words he didn't know but he could guess them from the context mainly. I didn't bother with the books for the other two. Ds2 took to reading much later (Harry Potters 1-3 in French and 4 onwards in English) but is fine now (at uni in England) and dd already has good English spelling - I think we have Facebook, texting etc to thank for that as it means she writes far more English than the boys did at her age!

Gemmax Tue 27-Mar-12 22:07:13

Hi all,
So glad to have found a current thread regarding Belgium. My husband is due to start a job in Wavre in May and we shall follow on in time for the new school year in August/September. I have an 11 year old, a 9 year old, a 6 year old and a 3 year old. I have read quite a lot of your past comments and I think that I would like to look at local schools in the area, or maybe ones with immersion English (are these Le Verseau and ARMC?). We don't want a Catholic school and don't want to spend too much in fees. Can anyone suggest good schools around or in Wavre? Offer any advice on places available at any of these i.e. waiting list possibilities? And also suggest any places to live around any of these that would enable us to walk to school?
Many many thanks

natation Wed 28-Mar-12 07:08:23

Gemmax, welcome to Belgian mumsnet (well our little bit of mumsnet).

First of all, Le Verseau is NOT an immersion school, it is a French Community funded school which has a small amount of independence from the French Commmunity Curriculum and it is able to offer out of a 28-35 hour week, 4 hours of English, either native level or second language level. All the other hours are in French. It's roughly 50/50 French/English native speakers. Fees in for maternelle+primaire are €4200 per year, plus the normal fees for books, outings. This €4200 covers the shortfall in funding as it has semi-independence from the French Community and receives less funding. It would depend on the year of birth of your 11 year old, if born in 2000, then he/she could go into 1st secondary in September (exemption from the end of primary exam if coming directly from abroad) - the school is not oversubscribed for secondary. As for the 9, 6 and 3 year old, well good luck because for their age groups there are waiting lists which could be 3 or 4 years, it's pot luck, you are very very very unlikely to get places for all 3 for September.

ARMC is a regluar French Community school, no extra top-up fees. I don't know the precise details of its immersion programme, some schools do 50% time in English, some more, some less, some schools only do the immersion programme for a certain school years, you'd have to look at the precise details of their programme. It is NOT however designed for English speakers and I'd be concerned for the 9 year old especially if the immersion programme is in the upper years, as your 9 year old would eventually have to pass an end of primary exam to get into secondary, spending some hours a day in English would hamper this.

Is there a reason for avoiding Catholic? They are not exclusively for Catholics and Catholic religion is also taught in non Catholic schools. About 40% of maternelles+primaires are Catholic, about 70% of secondaires. Very few people reject Catholic schools on gorunds of objection to the religion. Most people choose schools on reputation.

natation Wed 28-Mar-12 08:39:37

Just looked up ARMC has immersion from 3eM to 6eP, so in September 2012, that is children born in 2007-2001, 3eM is 75% English, 1eP to 6eP is 50% English.

I think you need to consider 3 things. 1) I'd expect this programme to be exceptionally popular and you might not get places, or you might get places simply to aid the teacher and other children by your children being examples of the target language 2) the immersion programme is designed for French speakers aiming to learn English, not for native English speakers, so native English speakers may not gain so much from lessons geared at second language acquisition, 3) if the aim of a local education is to learn French, the exposure your children get to French when 50% or less of lesson time is in French is likely to mean quite a slower rate of acquisition of French than you'd get in a monolingual French school.

There is another school starting English immersion in the area in September 2012, it' called Athénée Royal Rixensart. No details on the website so no idea which school years are covered.

If you have the luxury of choosing between ARMC and Le Verseau, to me Le Verseau would be my choice as the majority of its lesson time is in French, the English lessons are taught to native level for native speakers, unlike ARMC and other immersion schools.

There are quite a few mumsnetters living in the area, although the expat population is much smaller than in Brussels. You could look at the commune of Wavre itself which is 1300 post code, or the communes to the west of Rixensart (including Genval) with post codes 1330 and 1332, or the commune of La Hulpe with post code 1310 or Lasne with post code 1380.

natation Wed 28-Mar-12 09:46:20

Here is a map of maternelles and primaires in the Wavre-Rixensart-La Hulpe-Lasne area. I'm about to add Ottignies/LLN onto the map.

For secondary schools, well it's a bit more complicated, haven't yet done a secondary map for that area. At secondary level, schools can be of 3 different types - general, professional and technical - and even the general type varies in its academic level.

Gemmax, what years of birth of your children, as school years are divided by years of birth? In September 2012, MAcc-3M is 2010-2007, P1-P6 is 2006-2001, S1-S6 is 2000-1995.

natation Wed 28-Mar-12 09:46:36
loreley Wed 28-Mar-12 10:43:50

Hi all!
I just discovered this thread and the information available is really hugely useful, thank you all for sharing!
We are currently in a process of moving to Sint Stevens Woluwe from downtown Brussels (probably over the summer). We have a 6-year old son (he shall turn 6 this May) and a baby girl of 13 months. Our son is currenlty attending the European School in Uccle, but we are rather unhappy with his language section and consider it beneficial to move him to a public Belgian school. For now the two 'shortlisted' options for us are GBS Kraainem and GBS Sint Stevens Woluwe - we had appointments with both over the last few days.
I wonder what has been your experice with GBS Kraainem or GBS Sint Stevens Woluwe? Are they supportive? Are they open to non-Dutch speaking foreigners? Our son speaks fluently Hungarian, Bulgarian and fairly good English, but no Dutch. Is the teaching process well-structured? Are the classes of reasonable size? Anything - absolutely any aspect - you may have to share would be greatly appreciated.
We already met the headmistresses of the two schools, both seemed very nice and spent time explaining us everything in English. Perhaps I like the GBS Kraainem slightly better than the one in Sint Stevens Woluwe (Leuvensesteenweg 194), but the school trip would be somewhat more complicated logisticaly. In both schools they said that if our son started almost immediatelly and he got some coaching over the summer, he may have fair chances to 'pass' the Dutch comprehension exam that he needs to enter primary school - a major worry for me. I am a bit scared that this may put a lot of pressure on him - we've been through many changes in the last 2 months moving from Italy to Brussels and moving him from his beloved English pre-school in Italy to EEB-1 in Uccle - but both Flemish headmistresses agreed that given his linguistic background and what I described them he is now doing, keeping him for another year in pre-school may not be productive...Kraainem seemed to me a bit more 'relaxed' in language terms, perhaps due to the fact that they are a commune facilite.
So, any info you might have about these two schools would be much appreciated!

Portofino Wed 28-Mar-12 18:23:58

I don't know the schools but drive past the one is SSW every day. Would you be dropping off by car? I can imagine that being a major pain in the morning on the chaussee de louvain. What would be the route into work....maybe we could suggest some other alternatives? I live in Zaventem commune and they are most strict about Dutch speaking.....

SalM Wed 28-Mar-12 20:01:56

Hi Gemmax, welcome! I moved to Belgium in August last year and have a three year old dd who started 1er Maternelle in September so I'll add what I can. I live in Genval, its about 10 min drive to Wavre and its a lovely place to live that I would highly recommend. My dh works in Louvain La Neuve which is a few junctions past Wavre and it only takes him 20 mins to get there so I wouldnt restrict your search to Wavre itself.

The other areas Natation mentioned are all nice and very close to each other, Rixensart, La Hulpe, Lasne and Ohain are all about the same distance away. I've only ventured to Wavre a couple of times (I mainly go to Waterloo for shopping or the shopping mall at Louvain la Neuve) but havent actually met anyone that lives over there.

As for schools, dd goes to a local french school that she really enjoys, we were lucky that there wasnt a waiting list and she could start straight away. She struggled with the language for the first few weeks but I kept her in just half days and she soon asked to stay for her dinner when she'd made a couple of friends. The most popular Maternelle in the area (la Hulpe), which I believe always has a waiting list is and a couple more I went to look at that had availability were and . The last two have primary schools attached, the main reason I went for the one I did was because it was just a Maternelle and coming from a nursery in the UK I thought smaller would be better for my DD. There is a primary school next door but in its own grounds (a catholic school). ALOT of the schools seem to be Catholic so I wouldnt rule it out. I'm afraid I dont have any knowledge of the primary schools in the area though, however if you have somewhere more specific in mind I could ask around some of the mums with older kids. Good luck!

Gemmax Wed 28-Mar-12 21:08:37

Wow! Thank you all for such a comprehensive response. Thank you Natation for all the information on specific schools that you have provided. I will go look it up when I can. The date of births are as follows: 04/05/2001, 31/12/2002, 07/07/2005 and 01/01/2009.
I am concerned about the school place issues but less so the maternelle. I would be quite happy to wait for that.
Great thoughts about reality of learning French in immersion schools, I will take that on board and maybe look more towards a monolingual as you suggest.
Our thoughts on non-Catholic are quite strong. I am actually quite spiritual in a hippy kind of way but have a strong sense that spirituality comes from within and not from without. So I have real feelings that spiritual truths can be taught in schools but not through religion. A bit weird but that is me!
SalM thanks too for your input on lovely places to live.
What I'd love to do is to be able to walk them to school that a ridiculous idea? Or more likely if I look at more rural local schools?
Many many thanks again for taking such time and such care!

Portofino Wed 28-Mar-12 21:20:27

To all the new posters - we have a mailing list and private/closed FB group for Belgian Mnetters. If you would like to join send me a PM.....There are quite a few of us now - and we do go out!

natation Wed 28-Mar-12 21:41:56

Just added to the schools map of French schools in Brabant Wallon around Wavre. If distance to school is important to you, I'd bear in mind that there are areas where there are no schools in walking distance at all, specifically the whole of the south side of Wavre, the south side of Rixensart, the area between Genval and La Hulpe.

You're in a tricky area for renting and looking for schools at the same time. Were you looking in Brussels, I'd say immediately find a school and then go for a house next, as school places are difficult to find there and housing is plentiful. However, Belgians do like to buy rather than rent, so the rental market where there is not a large number of expats is quite small, there is not so much pressure on school places in Brabant Wallon, so I'd try and find school places and housing at the same time in the Wavre area. The expat population is going to be bigger in Genval-Rixensart-La Hulpe, so I'd start there really.

As your eldest is born in 2001, that's 6e primaire in September 2012. Le Verseau will not accept new pupils in 6e primaire at all, have had that directly from the British deputy head herself and same story told to 2 separate parents. The deputy head also emailed me to say they would not accept a non French speaker in 5e primaire either, so no place even if available for your 2002 born children who'd be in 5e primaire -however with a birth date the last day of the year, there is a good chance a school will ask you to put your child down a year, unless your child is particularly gifted academically - being the very youngest in the class combined with no French will be seen as quite a disadvantage and I myself would opt for a place in 4e primaire rather than 5e primaire. So if there is a place at Le Verseau in 4e primaire, it might be an option. For the child born in 2005, that would be 2e primaire. For the child born in 2009, that's 1ere maternelle.

There is no religion taught in maternelle. However from 1e primaire and for the next 12 years of school through to the end at 6e secondaire, religion is obligatory in ALL schools, not just Catholic ones. In the non religious schools (there are also Jewish, Protestant and Muslim schools in Belgium), from 1e primaire, there are various religious options for the 2 hours a week slot. You would get MORALS, CATHOLICISM, PROTESTANTISM, ORTHODOX, ISLAM, JUDAISM, not every choice in every non religious-aligned school but you will always have Morals and Catholicism among the choices. The children during the 2 hour lessons are divided on religious grounds and taught separately. In secondary, it is often difficult to find a non religious and academic secondary, the only one in Wavre is actually Le Verseau! Our son is at a Catholic secondary and half the children came from non religious primaries, around our area of Brussels, there isn't a really academic non religious secondary.

natation Wed 28-Mar-12 22:50:08

Just a thought, the French Community has a system of "passerelle" classes which are supposed to be reserved for asylum seekers, recognised refugees and children from 3rd world countries, where there receive intensive French lessons. There is one single school which has one of these classes at primaire level near Wavre. Your children will not be officially eligible, unless you fit these categories, but maybe schools turn a blind eye to the rule. Anyway, this is the school, Ecole Communale Fondamentale du Centre de Rixensart. It's near the train station, the sport centre and swimming pool, the shops, as central a spot possible in the town.

loreley Thu 29-Mar-12 10:48:47

Hi Portofino and thanxs for the FB offer - I sent you a PM :-) We shall be commuting SSW to the European district, so - unless school deviations (pretty impossible, I guess) - we shall go either on the highway or Leuvensesteenweg. Otherwise probably Woluwelaan and consider using the park-and-ride in Roodebeek...if we make it on time to get a spot. It seems that our choice is now between the Flemish school GBS Kraainem and Parc Schuman in Woluwe Saint Lambert. We are meeting with Parc Schuman headmaster tomorrow.They seem much more relaxed about the fact that our 6-year old would have very limited French at the start of primary than the same with Dutch in GBS Kraainem. Thank you for sharing any impressions or thoughts relatd to this.

loreley Thu 29-Mar-12 15:27:11

natation, would you please share your resource for school ratings - you refer in an earlier post to a rating of francophone schools on a scale of 1 to 20, so I wonder where one can check the performance of a certain school? I am aware of how scewed and misleading results can be, but still I am ratehr curious. Thank you!

natation Thu 29-Mar-12 17:43:30

it's not a rating of performance, so do not take it as that. The rating system is of socio-economic status of the area the school is in / children who attend - if you can read French and are internet savvy, you can look up exactly how the ratings are calculated. You cannot rate performance in Belgium of primary schools. The CEB exam taken in 6e primaire has only been obligatory for about 4 years, the pass rate is 90 - 95% so not so helpful, the average scores of the 3 tests making up the exam might be more helpful but schools are not allowed to advertise the scores, so you cannot compare schools on even this one exam without specifically asking each individual school for its results.

Parc Schuman is one of the less sought after French schools in WSL. From a commuting point of view, I'd be looking at getting onto waiting lists at other schools such as Aurore and l'Aubier in Evere, Singelijn, Vervloesem, Parc Malou, Angélus in WSL, Divin Sauveur in Schaerbeek.

loreley Thu 29-Mar-12 19:03:24

natation, thank you for the explanation. I am internet savvy, but my French is rather mediocre, so I cannot dig deeper into this. I am embarassed to say, but would you confirm that high scores are supposed to reflect wealthier area? In this Parc Schuman scores 'well', which is small wonder given the status of WSL. We are thinking to get our son enrolled in Parc Schuman (given that there is a place there) and possibly try to arrange a few more meetings in other schools from the list you suggest. My understanding is that one can hold places in several schools.
We really wanted to get to a Flemish school, but we are very afraid of the stress to impose on our son that he has to 'pass an exam' still in August so that he does not stay an extra year in kleuters. So, at the end this may tip the balance towards a francophone school. Do you have an idea if the crowd in Parc Schuman is more international? We do hope to have the opportunity to socialise with other parents at some level...
thank you so much once more!

natation Thu 29-Mar-12 19:51:31

Parc Schuman doesn't score too badly but some schools score 19 in WSL, there is only one that really stands out and that is AR WSL, 3 schools score a lot worse than expected (Ste Jeanne de Chantal, Bonheur and SC de Lindthout), the rest of the scores pretty much reflect their reputations. The schools mentioned in the last post above which are good for your commute I'd try and concentrate on, sorry missed off Ste Jeanne de Chantal and Don Bosco off the list.

Yes you can hold places at several schools at once, it is pretty much dependent on your honesty if you ask, plus schools might just contact other schools to check if pupils are registered simultaneously at other schools.

I only know one person with a child at Parc Schuman, the school I know with the most international children in WSL is Singelijn - I've collected from there for a friend and very much middle class and international as well as Belgian. IN WSP the most international schools are the Stockel, Joli-Bois and Chant d'Oiseau ones, but I'd possibly only say the Stockel ones are practical for you, depends exactly where you live in SSW, Stockel is good for onward commuting by metro.

Gemmax Thu 29-Mar-12 20:00:03

Hi Natation,
You are really helping me to cut through so much information really quickly here. I very much appreciate your input.
You mentioned 'non religious and academic secondary' as being pretty much a no no given the restrictions for my eldest two. What in your opinion would be the schools that are less academic and non religious? It was ironic that you mentioned that they might want to keep down my second child as she is gifted and is currently working around 2 years ahead of the national average (though how that will compare in Belgium I don't know), so keeping her back may be really hard on her. I am not sure if for the short term academic success will be relevant as I am sure that this will have to plateau for at least a year while they grapple with their language skills. So maybe something less academic will be fine. Correct me if I am wrong. What I of course want is for them to be happy more than anything, so social integration and language skills will be key.
Many many thanks again for your support.

natation Thu 29-Mar-12 20:27:46

No non religious and academic are just less numerous than Catholic and academic. Many of the communal secondaries are professional and technical ones, the French Community controlled schools (always Athénée Royal XXXXX) are a mix of general and technical schools, some are very well regarded, but just not so often as Catholic ones. It is very much dependent on area, where we live, all the academically leaning schools are Catholic.

Placing a child born in December down a year should be with the co-operation of the parents. I know 4 children in our girls' school who have all been placed below their peers, some because there were no spaces in the correct year group, 1 because it meant starting in 1st primary instead of 2nd primary (so not to miss out the crucial 1st primary where they seem to learn to read as well in one year as they do in 3 years in a UK school), 1 because her knowledge of French was too poor. It would be up to you whether you think your child could cope with the standards in 5e primaire or whether better to drop down to 4e primaire. Academic standards are not really going to be your main issue at first though, understanding French and getting to grips with a completely different school system are most important hurdles - eg expect plenty of tests, lots of grammar, Maths 1 or 2 years higher than UK, rote learning - and if you get a more progressive school which doesn't test so much and is a bit more creative with the curriculum, then you've hit the jackpot!!!

Your eldest is going to find it hardest, only 10 months at school and needing to pass the CEB. I'd look towards Le Verseau as a strong contender for secondary, as there is no obligation there to do Dutch in the first 2 years of secondary like other secondaries in the Wavre area and the curriculum time is replaced with English, but to get a secondary place at Le Verseau requires a pass at CEB, it's not impossible but your eldest might have a very tough first year in 6e primaire.

loreley Fri 30-Mar-12 08:46:36

Well, here is my experience: finding a school place in 1st primary is a real trouble that late in the year :-( After Aurore and l'Aubier, I got refusals from Singelijn, princess Paola, Vervloesem and parc Malou (in this last one they told me the waiting list is only for WSL residents, which was somewhat strange to me). I still have a few more on my list, but at this point it seems I am lucky to get any place in WSL at all, so I accept what is on offer...To my greatest regret the Flemish schools are really difficult with a child about to start primary and with no Dutch at all - either you have to put them in 3 kleuters or put them through an 'exam' in August, which is pretty discouraging.
I shall follow the advice to try again some of these in May and then again in August.

Gemmax Fri 30-Mar-12 16:31:14

Hi Natation,
Thanks again. You mentioned Le Verseau as a contender for secondary, but haven't you already ruled that out for me as they don't accept directly into 6e and certainly not without French? Or do you mean for the younger ones, with the 9 year old dropping down to 4e?

natation Fri 30-Mar-12 16:47:50

Le Verseau has a maternelle, primaire and secondaire. Le Verseau don't accept new pupils into 6e primaire, don't accept non francophones into 5e primaire. That does not stop you sending your children to a different primaire and applying to Le Verseau for secondaire. Le Verseau is super oversubscribed at maternelle and primaire level, you might get a place for 1 out of 4 of your children or none at all, I have been told of children waiting 3 years to get in there even with siblings. However in 1ere secondaire, the school is not oversubscribed (at least didn't fill up straightaway in the last 2 years when vacancies became public), so you could apply for Le Verseau secondaire from 6e primaire at another school and would be likely to get offered a place. Applications for 1ere secondaire are done on a single application form for the whole of French speaking Belgium, choosing up to 10 schools. If you are at a French primaire, you automatically get the application form and return it to your 1st choice school in the month of March, hearing if you get a place after Easter in mid April.

I would contact Le Verseau directly to ask if policy has changed at all for entry into 5e and 6e primaire, for the eldest 2, but don't forget fees will be 4200 each child, then add on up to another 1000 for school books, midday garderie, residential trips for the elder children, less for the younger ones.

I think Le Verseau at secondary would be quite a good choice, I'd be a little concerned about a non francophone going into the school from 1e to 4e primaire, if only because of the number of anglophones in the school which could hamper the speed of fluency in French, for a child already fluent in French and English, far less relevant.

natation Fri 30-Mar-12 18:02:27

Oh I forgot to mention at the moment, even if you are at Le Verseau primaire, there is no priority for the secondaire section unless you joined the school back in something like 2007, you would get priority for further siblings after the first child gets a place in the secondaire, you lose the priority if you don't place Le Verseau first and then change your mind and want Le Verseau secondaire, but in any case as the secondaire is not oversubscribed, lack of priority or losing priority should not impact on an application for secondaire.

ZIMAROULIS Wed 04-Apr-12 13:31:38

Good afternoon ladies.
May I ask if you know of a real estate agent that could help us find an apartment?

Longtime Fri 06-Apr-12 21:04:09

Not sure about an agent but this website is really good

natation Sun 08-Apr-12 08:36:29

You can try contacting agents who have concentrations of properties in areas where you are looking, but when I was looking last year, there was only one agent among about 10 local ones who were remotely interested in suggesting alternative properties and would contact me with appropriate suggestions. I found most agents are more interested in promoting you anything, irrelevant what you were looking for, so I would often get sent properties way over budget, with not enough bedrooms, or in completely the wrong areas.

Your best option is to find schooling options (preferably more than one) taking into account the availability of property around the schools, then concentrate on areas around these schools. Immoweb is the most comprehensive means of looking. You need to be quite pro-active too, it is much easier if you are in Brussels, masses easier, lots of research into individual properties - looking on the outside and immediate area BEFORE requesting visits, double checking if the property is with other agents at lower prices or who are more efficient (when more than 1 agent, I always chose the one I found most reliable for negotiations).

I can only really help you with property searching in our immediate area. I've probably posted this one before, but walked past it again a week ago, it is STILL empty, not sure if it's a good sign or not or if the owner is being difficult over the price. Anyway, it's near a metro, near 2 very good schools (about 100m from one of them), near everything, nice quiet street is sought-after area of east Brussels. Rue Francois Vanderelst. 580 per month + 150 charges (I think is too much for charges, but depends on if that is your electricity and water and heating in that price).

mayy Sun 08-Apr-12 18:10:55

any feedbacks about the school (école maternelle de bemel ) in woluwe saint pierre?? thanks a lot

mayy Sun 08-Apr-12 18:13:35

In brussels sorry i need some feedbacks about ecole de bemel small school maternelle in brussels in woluwe saint pierre thanks

natation Sun 08-Apr-12 18:29:22

I know someone who is sending their child there next year to école du Bémel, don't know anyone currently with children there. Heard plenty of extra-curricular activities - including la Chaise Musicale which does ateliers also in Ixelles, some schools do very little of those at maternelle level. I'd certainly have the school on my list if I were living in the Chant d'Oiseau area.

mayy Sun 08-Apr-12 18:56:39

thanks natation i am interested in small schools esp concerning the maternelle (familiar) after for primary schools some friends told me athene of auderghem is excellent and le paradis des enfants. chant d'oiseaux some like it and others no but still have time ! please let me know if u will listen sty my son will begin next september and i do not know the school just i like the building (clean and small)
thanks again natation

natation Sun 08-Apr-12 19:45:07

Mayy, you should find that the school will have a "fancy fair" or "fete de l'école" in May or June. It's a good chance to get to see the school, children, parents, get a feel for the atmosphere and community. It will be open to all, not just to children in the school. It's a good tip for anyone whose children are starting school in September to go to the Fancy Fair of the school in the May/June before.

mayy Sun 08-Apr-12 19:48:49

excellent idea thanks i ll call them next week to have the dates ! yes thanks for this idea hope i will ,to be disappointed
some say it is good and some say the staff is not kind esp with parents! !Realy good idea the fancy fair thanks again

Longtime Mon 09-Apr-12 21:23:29

I know a teacher from Paradis (all three of mine went there - it's not an easy school - lots of homework and exams twice a year from the age of 6) who sent her daughters to Bemel and then Chant d'Oiseau after that as she knew that Paradis wasn't right for her children!!

I also have a friend whose daughter went to Paradis but whose son they moved to Chant d'Oiseau (lots of children who find Paradis too difficult go to Chant d'Oiseau). They are far happier with Chant d'Oiseau than Paradis. You might well ask why I choose Paradis in that case. I choose it in the first place because I didn't have a car and it's very near a metro stop, and then it's a case of better the devil you know. That and for my dd they had priority for a secondary school also near a metro and with an ok reputation.

L'ARA (Athénée d'Auderghem) has a mixed reputation. I hear some good and some bad things about it.

mayy Mon 09-Apr-12 21:40:26

@Longtime thanks a lot for the details! i am convinced now that i will not put my son in (le paradis) i had no information about Bemel but through your words i understand that the teacher of your kids know the schools of the area the Bemel is good and not far from tHE CHANT this is good too to prepare the kids for secondary schools (may be i'ill think about jaquemain too( good reputation before but now no idea)
thanks a lot for the feed backs
i have worries because my son has some allergy
and teachers should be careful esp with food that i's why i chose the Bemel (small & clean building) and just 4 classes
Hope everything will be good
thanks again
i wish success for our kids

mayy Mon 09-Apr-12 21:58:36

our kids (me you and all parents)

natation Tue 10-Apr-12 09:03:45

It's very early to be thinking of secondaires, they all offer 90% same curriculum for the first 2 years, then they become general, technical and professional, they are all a little different and you really cannot know at 2 years old which one might suit at 12 :-) So I really would wait for several more years, in which time schools could change significantly.

For maternelle, for me proximity and overall happiness are the most fundamental reasons for choosing.

Do try and get the school to co-operate when it comes to dealing with the practicalities of a child with allergies. I know a child in another local school who had a peanut allergy severe enough to have an emergency kit. His school went a bit crazy - they put up "wanted" posters around the whole school to remind staff, imagine what it was like suddenly for the child to see photos of themself and for the mum, instead of having a reminder in the classroom and staff room with specific instructions, an info session for all staff, they simply expected the staff to look at the poster! This same school then excluded the child from all things nuts insensitively eg King cake made of almonds, refused to make one also with peaches or apples, excluded the child from class birthday cakes with no reference to contents of cake, instead of sending guidance to every parent to exclude nuts from the shared birthday cakes. At the school where we work, we had a child with a similar level of peanut allergy, we never excluded him from anything, just made simple adjustments, every new member of staff was briefed, discreet reminders (without wanted posters) on walls of classrooms.

mayy Tue 10-Apr-12 11:15:50

yes nation i am looking for happiness and the allergy of my son is the one u talked about but not very severe (hope that u are not talking of the bemel school )of course i do not like to see the picture of my son everywhere .They can look after and inform everyone in a different way.Thanks

mayy Tue 10-Apr-12 11:19:14

and of course no idea of the satf of the school and which school will be good or no !i think that a small school should pay attention (the teacher there said me that thet had before a boy with allergy and they are careful! hope so

natation Tue 10-Apr-12 11:24:31

no it wasn't Bémel which put the "wanted" posters up, the school meant well but was completely the wrong approach.

mayy Tue 10-Apr-12 11:39:15

yes you 're right! of course i ll be crazy with "wanted" posters up i chose the Bemel because it is small and i clean no more i did not have any feedbacks

ZIMAROULIS Wed 11-Apr-12 14:06:34

Good afternoon,
I am proud to announce that after two months of search we found an apartment. We did not manage to find anything though in Brussels and we decided to live at Halle which is close to my family and has easy access to Brussels by train.
Now I started calling schools but this week they are closed.
Natation this link you had sent me in the past includes all schools of Halle?

I hope we can find a place for our son for September
Do you have any info for good/bad schools or their scoring? I know it is very far away from where you live but I was wondering if you have heard anything from colleagues or other mothers you might know

natation Wed 11-Apr-12 15:08:33

There aren't any league tables for any Belgian schools, so there are no scores for academics. I don't know anyone out there, it's really not somewhere international / expat families choose to live, unless there is a family connection.

Don't forget the map I made which shows all the local Dutch language schools in Vlaams Brabant (Halle is in Vlaams Brabant) and Brussels. Halle is squeezed between majority French speaking Anderlecht and Uccle (in Brussels region), half French speaking officially Flemish speaking communes of Sint Genius-Rode, Linkebeek and Drogenbos to the east, and French speaking Brabant Wallon Tubize to the south. You'll therefore find an interesting mix of French speakers in Halle and a fair amount of militants in the Flemish population. As a foreigner, it is probably going to be easier for you there than if you were a French speaker!

natation Wed 11-Apr-12 15:10:30

PS go to Provinciedomein Huizingen - it is a lovely park with an open air swimming pool and plenty of things for children. You get a discount on entry if you show your proof of residence in Vlaams Brabant.

Gemmax Tue 08-May-12 10:02:27

Hi, I haven't been here for a while. I have had my head down. Natation I have to say a huge thank you. We now have 2 places at Le Verseau (maternelle and 2 eme). They have also suggested that there may be a place in 5eme!!! for Freja. However just as you said 6 eme has been turned down flat by the Head.
Would your next school of choice be AMRC? Or would you suggest we try somewhere else?
Really really appreciate your time!
Gemma x

Longtime Tue 08-May-12 10:59:01

mayy, ZIMAROULIS and Gemmax (and anyone else I missed!), I'm currently updating our Benelux mumsnetters spreadsheet if you're interested in being on it. We use it to organise get-togethers. Otherwise, there is also our Facebook page. It's a secret group so no-one else can even see it, let alone post on it. You need to be invited by a friend who is already on the page. It's a great way of sharing information. Let me know if you're interested.

Gemmax Tue 08-May-12 11:30:27

I would absolutely love to be involved. I wonder did you have anything like this support when you got started? I am so impressed by your warmth and kindness. Can't wait to meet you all. I have been laughing about trying to put names to faces...'Natation' and 'Longtime'!
I am a dinosaur so am not on Facebook, but let me know what else I can do and I'll get to it!
Gemma x

natation Tue 08-May-12 17:20:54

Hi Gemmax,
if you want your children to learn French quickly, I would suggest putting them in a monolingual French school and not one which does English immersion - it's not designed for anglophones, it's for francophones immersed 50% (in the case of ARMC) into English, furthermore you really need the amount of French to be at max, but when only 50% of teaching time is French, you are getting 50% less time in French at AMRC than other French schools without immersion. The English is pitched for francophones, not at anglophones. It's different at le Verseau because it's 50% anglophone there and their English lessons (about 4hours a week) are pitched at native level, the 50% francophones are taught English as a 2nd language.

Take a look at the French schools map. I'd contact the nearest schools to where you're living, keep phoning, keep asking to be put on waiting lists, please consider ALL schools if you really want school places, most children at Catholic schools are not practising Catholics and there isn't much Catholocism left, the Catholic schools at primaire level can make up to 50% of schools, so if you don't consider them, you narrow your search.

natation Tue 08-May-12 17:52:13

I have just remembered I read in the last few days (can't remember where though) that there has been a significant drop in the number of children enrolled in communal maternelle/primaire schools in Rixensart - thought to be partially due to the number of francophone children in that area enrolling in Dutch schools in nearby Overijse and Hoeilaart. So perhaps if you haven't found somewhere to live yet, you should start your school search there.

natation Tue 08-May-12 17:58:27

Here is an article about the "nose dive" as it is called in the number of students, so it could work to you advantage looking for a place in Rixensart.

Longtime Tue 08-May-12 18:42:32

Gemmax, I wasn't in the same position as you as my dcs were all born here so I didn't need to find a school before arriving. However, it would have been good, in hindsight, to have had someone to ask re choice of school. I'm pm you so I can add you to our list :-)

Gemmax Tue 08-May-12 22:26:04

You are so helpful and also so prompt!...I completely buy into your thoughts on AMRC...I am just a bit nervous about sending Zoe out on her own (if all the others get Le Verseau) to a completely French sink or swim. She out of all of them may struggle with competence and confidence.
Anyway it will all work out I am sure, but thank you for continuing to keep me updated. I have looked up the Rixensart Rixensart lovely?
My husband starts his job next week, so we will finally have someone on the ground. We are going to head over in June half term so will know more then.

Longtime I have to confess that I have no idea what pm means (dinosaur) you need me to send you any details?
Gemma x

Longtime Wed 09-May-12 07:29:27

pm = personal message - you should have got a message from me in your inbox. You'll be able to get to your inbox by clicking on the inbox box at the top of the page next to the login/logout button smile

natation Wed 09-May-12 10:35:10

how about the elder 2 children together? Or put all 4 together? You could make the decision last minute, even after starting school, you have to 15th September (don't quote me on that date but whatever date it is, it's immovable) to change schools without prejudice.

Your youngest in maternelle will ironically probably benefit the least from Le Verseau, especially at over 4k per year! There's no reading or writing taught in maternelle, you would have to think, is there a benefit to the extra 3 or 4 hours a week in English at school, when your child has an English environment at home? Just my opinion. I believe le Verseau likes to keep it roughly 50/50 anglophones/francophones and 2 times when friends have phoned it has been one of the first questions, whether francophone or anglophone. With such a large number of anglophones in one school, there is a risk your children will take much longer to speak French and might even just refuse, as little children can suss out quickly that when others speak English, why speak French!!! Experts quote 3 factors crucial in acquiring a (second) language : consistency, frequency, need. So when there is a bilingual environment where a monolingual child joins, sometimes they work out that there is no need to learn the second language because everyone else understands their first language. I work in a bilingual class and there are a couple of children who do exactly this - the entire class speak English fluently as a first or second language, 1/3 speak French first language, 2/3 speak English as a first language, a couple of the English speakers are completely resistant to speaking French in the French time and it's an uphill struggle, they just don't want to speak French because they don't need to, they know the teacher speaks English too, they know the other children speak English, so why the heck, they think, should I speak French!!!!! It's definitely a minority reaction, but it happens. Le Verseau thankfully has most of its teaching time in French, only a few hours a week in English, but with 50% of the class speaking English, there is a risk your children might react the same way and simply refuse to speak French, even when they can. You see what I mean? In a monolingual school, there is no choice, it's either French or nothing.

Anyway, it might be an idea to look for a school with places for all 4 in Rixensart, especially at Ecole du Centre and Ecole Bourgeois which are reported in the articles as the 2 communal Rixensart schools which have lost the greatest number of children. They are the 2 communal schools nearest to the centre of Rixensart. There are 3 reasons given in the articles given for the reduction : 1 the move towards francophone parents sending their children to Dutch speaking schools in the next Dutch speaking commune, the asylum seeker children in the "passerelle" French second language classes at Ecole du Centre and thirdly the disruption caused by the building work around central Rixensart by the RER (express train network) where they are adding 2 extra rail tracks, meaning parents have got fed up with road closures!

Rixensart is lovely, so is the next town (also part of Rixensart commune) called Genval and parts of Genval are a bit more pricey, especially around the lake there. If several Rixensart schools have places, then I'd take all the places, also look at the same time for housing (I'm now guessing you've not moved yet) as the rental market is much smaller in this area than in Brussels where you look for a school first and then somewhere to live later, in Rixensart I'd do both at once, possibly looking for a house first actually.

I think you could do with our Genval mumsnetter on here to help you, she knows the area far better than me. I think her ID her is SAMiAM or something like that. Look back through the thread and you'll find her-send her a pm, I'm sure she'll read it.

natation Wed 09-May-12 10:43:14

Here's a house in Genval, a short walk from Ecole Communale de Genval. It's also only a few streets away from our Genval mumsnetter.

natation Wed 09-May-12 10:58:53

PS there are only 24 four bed houses on immoweb advertised for rent at 2k per month or less in Wavre (1300), Limal (1300), Bierges (1301) , Genval (1332), la Hulpe (1310) and Rixensart (1330) post codes which covers all French areas within about 5 miles of Le Verseau school, I'd really concentrate on housing. La Hulpe has the biggest current housing stock, 11 out of 14 of these house there. La Hulpe, Genval, Rixensart, most of Bierges and Limal are all on the west side of the E411 motorway and all merge into one another. Wavre is on the east side of the motorway, same side Le Verseau school is on. I'd never met an expat living in Wavre, from memory driving through there, the other areas are nicer.

natation Wed 09-May-12 12:22:20

Here's a great link I found when looking at the website for Ecole Communale de Genval - it lists lots of extra-curricular activities in the Genval/Rixensart/La Hulpe area. The majority of extra-curricular activities happen outside school and at sports centres, music / arts academies etc.

Icidently, on Ecole Communale de Genval's website, it lists how many children are currently in the classes which will become P2, P5 and P6 next year, the classes your eldest 3 would be in. There are currently P2-22 P5-19 P6-21, so if the numbers remain the same, there are places in those school years as usually primaire classes go up to 25 or 26, in our school though we had a class of 36 when the French Community decided to remove one of the teachers and 2 classes had to become 1 class :-(

Longtime Wed 09-May-12 14:35:17

It's SalM you're looking for.

Despite my misgivings about the Belgian system, I actually agree with natation that it would be easier for the younger ones to adapt to the French-speaking system than the older ones.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 12-Jun-12 08:29:59

Good morning ladies,
Longtime I would be really interested to enroll. Please let me know what I should do
For us this first month is difficult. Halle is a very nice town but with very few non Belgian residents. People talk English but in the market or a restaurant. So far when visiting the town hall or other services the language is a very big problem. We will start with my husband Dutch lessons on September at GLTT
We enrolled our son to the same kleuter school with my nephew at Sint Pieters Leeuw. It is a Don Bosco school. We thought it would be nice for him to have a familiar face around
We checked with two schools nearby if they had any place left for September and although they had, we did not like either one of them since the principals were not supportive at all with the idea of having a kid not speaking the language at a Flemish school. One of them actually told us that they would put him at the second kleuter class because there is no way that our son learns the language sufficiently in one year to continue at lagere school. Anyway we did not like this idea so we talked to the school at Sint Pieters is Leeuw where they told us that every child is different so we cannot know if one year will be enough or not that is why he will go at the proper class for his age and if by the end of the school year he is not ready for the lagere he will repeat the last class of kleuter.
Now we are trying to decide with which mutuelle to sign, we are thinking either Euromut or Social. Any experience with one of them?
I would like to ask you something that I have not understood. Concerning the compulsory insurance, it is paid by my husband's employer and we just have to decide with which mutuelle we want to register? Is the employer obliged by Belgian authorities to pay for this?
My husband's employer does not offer him hospitalization insurance, so we will have to pay an extra amount each month. Employers here our not obliged to offer you hospitalization cover as well. Have I understood correctly?
Since I am unemployed my husband will pay for this hospitalization cover and he can insure both me and our son or we will have to pay an extra amount for myself?
Concerning child's benefit we have to claim it ourselves from Partena? Do you know if we will get any extra amount since I am unemployed? Our relatives here told us that my husband will get an extra amount each month apart from child's benefit because I am not working but they don't from where we should ask it.
P.S. Natation we visited Huizingen which was beautiful indeed.

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 09:10:40

hi there

first of all, welcome to Belgium.

Sorry to hear of the attitude of one of the head teachers towards learning another language and towards your son, I hope his views are minority ones. Children who arrive late into the Flemish system or go into Flemish primary from a French one have to take a special language test in 3rd kleuter, I asked around about this recently, the test does not in fact sound too hard at all, it is mainly based on comprehension and full fluency is not expected. Am I right that your son has started 3rd kleuter now? There is a chance he'll pass the test, well if not, then he stays back for another year to perfect his Flemish, but to put him immediately into 2nd kleuter seems a rather defeatist attitude.

The mumsnet group is going out on Friday, you should join them - it's centre of Brussels, send longtime or portofino a private message.

As for health insurance, your husband will be paying social security and this covers the "compulsory" insurance you will get from a mutuelle. Then if you are working, you also have to join a "complementary" package at a mutuelle, I find the name confusing as it is also compulsory if you are working!!!! We pay 6.50 per month per adult with Euromut, same package with Partenamut is 7 euro so expect similar pricing with all the mutuelles.

Which mutuelle to join? Well for me I found it important to have an office nearby, so I ruled out Partenamut and Symbio straightaway as they don't have offices near my. I have indeed found it useful having the office nearby. But it is not the only consideration. The complementary packages are pretty similar between mutuelles. A bonus to a mutuelle membership when you have children is the reimbursements you can claim for sports camps and club memberships. In retrospect, if I had chosen a mutuelle for this aspect, I would have gone I think for Symbio or Partenamut, off the top of my head these mutuelles give more money back for sports camps! Some mutuelles run their own sports camps too, Mutuelle Chretienne is especially appealing in this respect. But it is a small point, it might not matter too much.

Many mutuelles now have some of their information in English - certainly Symbio, Euromut, Partenamut do.

It seems pretty much all mutuelles are quite efficient at refunding quickly.

All mutuelles offer top-up insurances such as hospitalisation and dental. I'm the only person in our house with hospitalisation insurance (through work for free) and it is a risk I take that the rest of the family are not covered. It's up to you to decide the risk and also I would compare costs. You can also buy hospitalisation insurance from other insurance companies, not just from a mutuelle, eg DKV and Ethias.

The child benefit is applied for through your husband's work and he should get that sorted ASAP. It will be paid by whoever the mutuelle is of the employer - for me it is Partenamut, but I am not a member, only my employer is. Yes that is confusing, nothing to do with personal mutuelle membership, you cannot choose who pays the child benefit. For one child, it is not much, about 100 euro a month, but still worth claiming. You can claim from the day your husband started work in Belgium, not from the time your son arrived - if you have claimed already in Greece, then that is deducted from the Belgian claim and Belgium pays Greece back - that is dealt with by the child benefit provider, don't worry about that aspect if relevant.

I have no idea if you get more child benefit if a parent is unemployed, I suspect not. However, your husband will claim tax relief on his salary as you are unemployed, maybe that is what your relatives mean, it means your husband will pay less tax, he also gets an allowance for his son. The entitlement to these allowances should be shown on his salary payslip every month - one mine it mentions "4 children at charge" and I receive the tax relief for them.

You know you can officially register as unemployed? It will give you access to free training courses, including 60 hours of free language tuition. In Brussels the organisation is ACTIRIS, can't remember the name of the organisation in Flanders. For the free language courses, you get a booklet of language course providers. You might find GLTT is one of these providers, so you might find that you can do 60 hours of Dutch tuition with GLTT for free, but you need to apply for this entitlement.

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 09:34:21

Here are the rates for child benefit - 88.51 basic per month for first child.

I am guessing that the addition for unemployment is only applicable when both parents are unemployed.

ZIMAROULIS Tue 12-Jun-12 09:43:29

Hi natation thank you for the welcome
Well actually I have been to VDAB which is the orginisation for Flanders and I registered. However they told to my cousin, who was with me to speak in Flemish, that since I have not worked at all in Belgium I am not entitled to any free language courses. I found it strange myself so I will double check it.
Concerning school my son will stard at 3rd kleuter on September currently he just stays with me at home.
I will tell my husband to arrange the child benefit and join a mutuelle to get a SIS number. Will I also have a SIS number since I don't work?

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 10:15:24

Absolute lie. My friend has just registered as unemployed specifically to have access to these courses, his wife works and therefore he gets no benefits, only access to the courses. As certain parts of Flemish politics is constantly banging on about integration of foreigners, I find this an appalling and racist attitude. I think it is worth even getting a local sympathetic politician and writing to him/her explaining what happened. It is unfortunate that you are not living in our commune in Brussels where communication is more important than language, where staff speak in any language to talk to the residents, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, despite any official rules saying they should speak only French or Dutch.

Yes your husband just walks into whatever mutuelle he chooses or does it online even, you will be his dependent. You might have a form to fill in confirming your income is zero. Your son will get a SIS number too. You get temporary cards quickly and then permanent cards several weeks later.

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 10:19:08

PS my friend has never worked in Belgium. He got his language courses with ACTIRIS. I am making an assumption that VDAB has the same structure for language training. I shall see if I can find a link with my poor Dutch...

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 18:06:10

Check with GLTT if they accept Opleidingscheques as payment for classes - it halves the cost for working people.

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 18:13:35

Here is a VDAB link to learning Dutch.

Portofino Tue 12-Jun-12 20:18:59

I wasn't working when we first arrived. Dh sorted SIS cards, mutuelle (Euromut) and child benefit through work. I have been happy with Euromut (if you want a recommendation). He initially had hospitalisation insurance for all of us, but when I started work, I took that on for dd and I. I would be surprised if you cannot access free, or at least very cheap, Dutch lessons. Most communes are very keen for you to learn.

We are indeed going out on Friday and have a mailing list and private FB group - there are about 50 of us now! Send me a PM if you would like to be added.

natation Tue 12-Jun-12 20:42:33

In Halle there is :
Euromut, Partenamut, Christelijke Mutualiteit (St Michielsbond), Liberale Mutualiteit, Socialistische Mutualiteit.

moveornottomove Sat 16-Jun-12 21:56:25

I just wanted to say hello! We're moving to Brussels from the UK in August. We've sorted out local schools. We're now looking for a place to live, hopefully in Uccle... The joys of immoweb?!!?!
Anyway, I just wanted to say 'Hi'.

Portofino Sat 16-Jun-12 22:51:05

Hi! There are LOTS of us here. PM me or Longtime if you want to be added to the private FB group or the mailing list. Yes - Immoweb is a good starting point. Do you have a relocation bod? Natation is the world expert in seeking local property/schools.....

natation Sun 17-Jun-12 10:22:57

Hi there
a few tips for immoweb (sorry if I'm preaching and you already know) :
- get to know post codes by heart eg Uccle 1180, Forest 1190, Drogenbos 1620, Linkebeek 1630
- see if there are any "code words" in the descriptions which can narrow down location of properties eg "Calvoet" or "pres du lycee francais" for where you are looking
- if looking for say 1500 max, set the max to 1700, as you can often negotiate down a rent, especially in this economic climate
- if looking for 4 beds, set minimum 3 beds, as many 3 beds have a "bureau" which can be used as a bedroom
- if looking for a house, but you'd be happy with a ground floor apartment or ground floor/first floor duplex, look at appartements too as you'll find a few that fit that criteria, just be careful of the extra common charges and what is included with appartements.
- check for multiple agents for a same property, you might find some agents are useless and some very helpful, then contact the helpful agent first and also keep an eye on the other agents adverts, especially if the price differs according to agent
- a fold out map which is laminated can be immensely helpful - plot where school is, or other things which are important to you like shopping centre, sports centre, public transport link, draw a circle around the school / public transport / shopping centre etc to however many kms away you would ideally like to be, try and keep within the circle and plot each property you see/like on that map.
- if you're using public transport to get to work or school, bear in mind the actual public transport routes, if dropping off at school on the way to work, try and find properties which don't require going in the opposite direction to get to school
- google mapping and can be very helpful at locating properties, measuring distances etc, often use google street mapping when I have an address but not actual number, to locate properties

moveornottomove Thu 21-Jun-12 22:32:32

Thank you nation. You aren't preaching, we don't have a clue, so all help gratefully received. However, I've now found out that we are going to have the services of a relocation agent, so hopefully that will make things easier.
I'll send you a DM about the mailing list and FB group.

natation Thu 21-Jun-12 22:46:08

moveornottomove, honestly be very very careful and less than trusting of relocation agents. Heard many stories of these agents carefully selecting properties for clients based on what is in it for them ie backhanders and if you don't know areas well, you end up signing house contracts for completely inappropriate areas and houses too. I would do as much personal research as possible as regards housing, double check any properties a relocation agent proposes. Just to give you an example, ex colleague asked specifically for housing with a simple public transport link to gare du Midi in Brussels (not allowed to bring car to work and nowhere to park nearby either), saw a house, thought it was lovely, signed the contract, then found to his horror the agent had actually shown him a house with a direct public transport link to gare du nord instead! Too late, contract signed, had to live with a very long journey to work when he thought he would be able to get there in 30 minutes, all because he trusted the agent and not checked himself.

Longtime Thu 21-Jun-12 23:19:59

I would second what natation said. Come on here and ask for advice before signing!

Portofino Fri 22-Jun-12 09:40:30

Our relocation agent was shit too. At the time we wanted location near to public transport with short transit times into/around Brussels and near creches/schools. She showed us a succession of houses in the middle of bloody nowhere eg out Steenknokkerzeel/Hacht way - with no schools or buses in evidence. When asked about these things, she was very vague. The only reasonable properties she showed us, were the ones on the list I sent her - and when I asked why we could see some of the others I'd found, she just said they were "unsuitable". Given that we had ONE day to find somewhere to live, it was very frustrating.

We only found our eventual apartment when, being shown round a totally unsuitable one, I asked the estate agent bod if they had any others in that development, otherwise I am not sure where we would have ended up...

SomethingBetter Mon 02-Jul-12 18:04:44

This seems to be a really good source for schools info so I'm dipping my feet in..... Would really appreciate any advice/suggestions!

I am trying to help an poor immigrant family with 3 children in the French system (St Josse). They have been here 2 years. The mother (single parent) is really committed to school, but cannot help her children with schoolwork as she never went to school herself! (She is starting now)

Problem: all 3 kids are failing in the Belgian system. The primary issue appears to me to be language - they just don't speak French well enough yet to understand what is wanted of them.

Behaviour is not really an issue, they're rather obedient and well-behaved, attend regularly, don't disrupt class, etc.

The teacher's behavior is another matter, especially for the middle child. Very negative. Total lack of understanding of the family's milieu (for example demanding they do lessons on the internet, when they have no access to internet - could not possibly afford. Telling them to read every night, but locking up all the books & not allowing them to take one home. Not explaining the use of a library… the list goes on.)

I read about these classes for primo-arrivants, but I don't think they would get in, because they've already been here two years.

I'm now trying to research schools in that area, but failing miserably. My own child is in private education, which this family could not possibly afford.

Any suggestions, anybody? How can I possibly figure out the difference in the local schools? Would you change the school, or hire a private tutor?

natation Mon 02-Jul-12 20:29:58

-move schools to a nice middle class school such as La Vierge Fidele, will only be allowed if not mid cycle for any children in primaire
-yes too late for primo-arrivant, been here too long
-no French at home makes it more difficult but shouldn't be a reason for failing, as there must be perhaps 30-40% of children in Brussels who don't speak French at home.
-there are lots of after-school activities completely free, such as music or arts academy, take advantage of arts, music, dance, theatre classes
-internet is usually free at the local library, so the children could go there after school
- PMS service can help the family find free homework clubs, in the near area, or just self refer to a homework club
- holiday clubs which are virtually free are held in WSP for children from very poor backgrounds, children are bussed in. A different environment might do them quite some good, especially if their spare time is spent in another language entirely, another language at home is fine, but the children I am guessing need exposure in the wider community and this could be what they lack the most

Send me a PM with their address and school, years of birth, I'll see where they could possibly move school to or where they can access free after-school activities.

SomethingBetter Wed 04-Jul-12 07:49:27

Thanks for the input - I tried to send a private message but don't know if it went through.
Looked up and Contacted La Vierge Fidele - it looks really good! But of course, no place is available in either primary or secondary. I guess you'd have to know someone to get in there sad.
The kids (15 repeating 2eme, 12 repeating 5eme, 9 going into 3eme) are now enrolled in a couple of holiday clubs this summer. And I have found the many "ecole de devoirs" on the web - wow, there are a lot! But I still hope to find them a better school. I just hate the idea that they'd have to sit in school all day, discouraged and miserable and being told despite exemplary conduct that they are a "catastrophe", only to start school again starting at 3:30.

Better they should use that part of the day when they're at their brightest and best to learn and catch up (and still do some extra afterwards)- if only can get them into a school where the teachers have a more positive attitude!

So still interested in any input as to better schools...

ZIMAROULIS Sat 07-Jul-12 15:21:19

Good afternoon ladies,

I have a very important thing to ask you..
My son has his birthday on Friday...he asked me for a 3D mcqueen car birthday you have in mind any pastry shop that I can order it from?Initially I thought of doing it myself but I searched the internet and it will be impossible for me to prepare such a cake
I know he will be happy even if I bake a cake for him and put some mcqueen cars on top but I know he will be even happier if he sees a 3D cake in front of him

natation Sat 07-Jul-12 15:34:40

try this lady to see if she'll make what you want. Birthday cakes that are not full of lots of cream are not so easy to find here. You could try the big supermarkets like Cora and Carrefour, they stock a limited amount of children's character birthday cakes.

ZIMAROULIS Sat 07-Jul-12 20:21:36

Thanks a lot natation
Can you suggest me of any other pastry shop with good quality cakes?

ZIMAROULIS Tue 10-Jul-12 15:13:16

Good afternoon,
Question for UK ladies
Do you know if I can find these butters and creams?
Or any good enlish butter and cream from grass fed cows?
Natation for the cake we decided to go for one from Le pain quotidien, a lovely carrot cake since we plan to visit a park on his birthday. Hope the weather will be nice

OomVoom Sat 04-Aug-12 15:01:20

Good afternoon everyone. This is a wonderful thread, so useful. Thanks!!!
We are moving to Brussels in 12 months' time. We're currently in Paris and our dd is starting first year primaire and our ds starting first year maternellle. So we will need to find them french schools in Brussels.
From the postings, I have found I think 3 main pieces of advice - I would be very greatful if the Brussels experts could tell me if I've got this right or wrong:

1. look for a school place first, then worry about the apartment!
2. I need to call each ecole separately because there is no single admissions system
3. To find a place for september 2013 I need to call in January 2013 because that's when the places open.

Have I got this that basically right?

I'm reading through all the posts about locations and so on, but these are my main questions.
Many thanks!!!

OomVoom Sat 04-Aug-12 15:02:11

ps if anyone is thinking of moving to Paris, i would be delighted to help with information. the schools admission is very easy!!! smile

natation Sat 04-Aug-12 15:49:37

Hi there,

welcome to all the mumsnetters in Belgium. We have own on closed group where details are kept on a spreadsheet and also most of us are part of a closed Facebook group, just send a pm if you want to join us.

Now I'll answer your questions....

1. look for a school place first, then worry about the apartment!
Yes but do try and choose a school in an area convenient for a commute to work and also before choosing a general area to look for a school, check there is a sufficiently big rental market in that area too. Ideally you should arrange a school many months, up to 18 months in advance, whereas you can't normally start a search for a home until about 2-3 months before moving.

2. I need to call each ecole separately because there is no single admissions system
Yes with a few exceptions, such as you can apply for a single Brussels Ville communal school (which make up only 40% of schools in Brussels Ville anyway), but you'll find out which schools do NOT handle their own admissions by contacting individual schools. Do phone as a first choice, don't rely on emails which often go unanswered.

3. To find a place for september 2013 I need to call in January 2013 because that's when the places open.

No in fact, you'll be too late for many school already. For children starting any time from September 2013 to April 2014 (such as children going in to "acceuil" who start any time from Septemter to around April in the school year), some school start their admissions arrangements in September 2012. As most schools do their own enrolments, they can start them at any time in the preceding school year, many of the more popular schools start and complete admissions in September/October/November of the preceding year.

If you say where work is and any other wishes, plus a price range and size of house, then I could suggest areas where to start looking, along with schools to look at. Don't worry about being near green space or having a garden, as Brussels is far greener than Paris and houses with gardens can be found in all areas. Also I'd think a fondamentale (maternelle and primaire together) would be better than separate maternelle and primaire, although some separate maternelles and primaires are right next door.

OomVoom Sat 04-Aug-12 16:49:36

Thank you for such a helpful and speedy response. I'll be working by Troon metro but quite relaxed about the area we live in. i don't mind a commute, and our main concern is finding a school.

We'll be looking for a place with a maximum rent of 2000 E/month, preferably less. We'd prefer a house having been in a small paris apartment for the last couple of years.

Again thank you so much for your time and help. I'll PM you about the FB group.

natation Sat 04-Aug-12 17:16:42

Hi again
given you are looking at the best time before enrolments start, I'd shortlist some areas now to start looking. For that budget, you could get a 4 bed with small garden in a bustling city area near to Troon (though your choice will be smaller the nearer you get to the city) or you could live out a bit further but still within 30 minutes by metro, the further out you go, the more suburban it becomes, still you can easily get a 4 bed with garden within budget.

Trone metro is just in Bruxelles Ville 1000, but Ixelles 1050 starts within metres of this metro station. Ixelles and Bruxelles Ville schools are quiet polarised, sought after, not sought after, whereas in the suburbs, there are areas where nearly all schools are sought after and yet easier to get places!

So in fact, I'd choose a general area, or a few general areas now, then concentrate on securing some places as early as possible in the year, then somewhere to live in the Summer of 2013.

OomVoom Sat 04-Aug-12 19:08:25


natation Sat 04-Aug-12 19:37:05

If I were you, I'd book myself a reccie trip, to choose general areas in relation to a commute to Trone. You'll probaby end up either right in the central pentagone of Bruxelles Ville 1000 where the Grand'Place is, or east or south of Trone in Ixelles 1050, Etterbeek 1040, Uccle 1180, Auderghem 1160, Schaerbeek 1030, Watermael-Boitsfort 1170, Woluwe St Lambert 1200, Woluwe St Pierre 1150, just outside Brussels in Kraainem 1950 or Wezembeek-Oppem 1970.

I'd try and get hold of a few copies of the STIB public transport map - you can mark off the communes on there, mark schools and houses on them.

Take a look now at what your budget will get you - you're in budget for the entire region of Brussels, so long as you are not looking for really really high quality, but Ixelles and Etterbeek and Bruxelles Ville (nice areas) can actually be MORE expensive than the suburban areas of Watermael-Boitsfort, WSL and WSP for 4 bed houses and you will find less houses nearer the centre. Areas with biggest number of 3/4 bed family houses are Uccle, Watermael-Boitsfort, WSL, WSP, Auderghem, Kraainem, Wezembeek-Oppem. You'll probably get to know the postcodes off by heart quite quickly, plus the code words which might denote the smaller quartiers of each commune.

Take a look at the schools map of primaires, maternelles and fondmentales for Brussels region,

plus this one has 4 French schools in Kraainem and Wezembeek-Oppem which are outside Brussels region in Dutch speaking Vlaams Brabant - these 4 schools have special status in the Dutch region, you have to live in these 2 communes to send your children to any of these 4 schools, otherwise you are not limited by catchment areas at all and can pick any French school in Brussels, no matter where you live.

internationale Mon 06-Aug-12 23:11:32

I am so impressed with the information and advice on this thread.

I have started a new job in Auderghem. I have a daughter born in 2005 and would like to find a place in a French school (no fees...)

I note the sound advice of natation on finding a school then a place to live. I'm not into commuting much.

Blankedelle, the primary attached to Ecole du Cirque, La Sapiniere...has anyone here got kids at these schools or general info on the local schools? Have been calling and emailing since end of June but no reply. Guess I have to wait to midAugust to see where there's a place, and stick with temporary accomodation in the meantime.

any pointers / expert local knowledge very gratefully received...

natation Mon 06-Aug-12 23:37:54

Hi there Internationale
schools have been closed since the beginning of July, a few would have had the head in maybe for a few days. The heads and secretaries should be back at schools from around 27th August. Emailing is NOT effective, just use the phone or turn up in person.

La Sapiniere, du Souverain and Blankedelle are not that near to each other, la Sapiniere is not even in Auderghem but in the most southerly part of Boitsfort, plenty of other schools in between - if you've been given these names by people you work with, forget immediately their recommendations and start at the beginning. You will almost definitely get a place at the latter 2 in your list as they are not the most popular of schools. Do you have somewhere permanent to live? If so, start at the nearest school to home and move outwards. If you don't have somewhere permanent to live, well then you can look in other areas which might be good for a commute to where your work is. Take a look at a public transport map - Auderghem is well connected, depends on where your exact place of work is of course, you can get to the centre of Auderghem from several other areas by metro, tram and bus or by cycling. The schools in Watermael-Boitsfort and Woluwe St Pierre do as a general rule have far better reputations that the schools in Auderghem, but remember it's a general rule.

Here again is the primary schools map for Brussels.

natation Mon 06-Aug-12 23:54:52

PS if you still haven't got any permanent accommodation lined up, I really wouldn't hold back from finding some now and wouldn't wait until the end of August, it can take several weeks to find somewhere to live and move, very few people manage it within a week or two. Finding somewhere to live after finding a school place in your situation is also going to depend on the ready availability of accommodation within budget in the areas you are looking for schools - on past experience of helping others to combine housing with schooling, if it's a house you're after, well some areas have far more choice than others, eg WSP has around twice the rental stock of houses than Watermael-Boitsfort, Wezembeek with about 1/3 of the population of WSP has almost as many houses for rent as WSP, so the availability of accommodation does vary per area and depending on budget and also type of accommodation - just make sure before settling on a small area to look for schools that you will have enough choice of accommodation in the area surrounding the schools.

Annie456 Wed 17-Oct-12 20:09:39

We're moving to Brussels next week!
We're re-locating with DH's work so they'll put us in services apartments (in the city I guess?). I have a 13 mo DS and i'm a stay at home mum.
I am really keen to meet other mums and find out about toddler groups / swimming lessons / music classes etc for my DS. We do these things every day in London so it will be a shock to arrive with no activities for us!

Another query is, will it be tricky to meet people if we're in the city centre? Should we push for apartments in a particular suburb?
Any help would be much appreciated!
Thanks, Annie

natation Wed 17-Oct-12 20:48:52

Hi there Annie456, welcome to Brussels.
Do you know where your husband's work will actually be? Will you be permanently in serviced apartments?

The Brussels Childbirth Trust is the main means of meeting other English speaking families. The new website is still not live (person paid to do it has not delivered on his promise) but basic details are on the front page.

There is a fair amount of non BCT things to do in English with under 5s too, but as most children are at creche by 6 months old here and school by 2 1/2, you won't find indoor play centres open here in school hours, outside school areas many are over-run hosting birthday parties, no limits on numbers. There are 4 places I can think of immediately that do baby swimming, 1 place that does music in English (very expensive though), BCT has a free informal music group and loads more mums and tots groups.

You'll find English speaking families in the central communes and also suburban ones, particularly the southern and eastern ones - Brussels region is 19 communes (towns) including Bruxelles Ville as one of the 19 communes. There are really 2 city centres, the old one where the Grand'Place is and the EU city centre area which is further east. Parking is a big problem the nearer the centre you get, so I'd make sure you get a serviced apartment right near a metro or tram route.

Annie456 Wed 17-Oct-12 21:16:52

Thanks Natation, wasn't expecting such a quick response!
DH will be working in Woluwe St Lambert so I'm not sure how accessible that is (I guess we'll find out soon). We'll be in serviced apartments while he's on the temporary (6 month) contract so it's a decent enough amount of time that I need to be in the right area.
When you say that the play centres are closed / over-run during the school day, how are they different to mum and toddler groups? Good to know there is baby swimming as its my favourite thing to do with DS.

Also when you say that most babies are in crèche by 6 months, does this suggest that there aren't so many stay-at-home mums in Brussels?
Thanks again, such a help!

natation Wed 17-Oct-12 21:52:40

I'll send you a pm

LouisaE Tue 23-Oct-12 15:00:41

Hi everyone, This looks a great forum!

I'm moving back to Brussels "permanently" with kids (girls 6 months and 4.5 yrs) from France next month, November 2012, having lived there already from 2004-2009.

We'll be based in Auderghem very near the Foret de Soignes (15 minutes walk from metro Hermann Debroux in SW direction). Me British, DH French, home language is mainly English.

I know the city well but my daughter has never been to school there (she's bilingual English-French). We looked at international schools but they look outrageously expensive, and I'm fine with the idea of local school anyway (she goes to local school in FR, I only went to local comp in UK myself) although I am interested in ways of teaching her to read and write in English probably after she's learnt it in French. Any pointers?

Also I just realised that the local school RIGHT next to the house we're going to be renting which I very quickly signed her up for is an "ecole fondamontale libre" with a catholic ethos. Religious schools are all private in France and I didn't realise until afterwards that it wasn't the case in Belgium. Me and DH are complete atheists! It's only maternelle for now, but I was just wondering if any of you have experience of this kind of school, is the religious side fairly "light" or can it be quite "heavy"? I am not keen on any kind of indoctrination but the school is just so well placed for us and it's only "infant school" plus we plan to move house/buy somewhere within 2 years so I reasoned it would be ok.

Also, I was a member of BCT in the past, and now am looking to meet other English speaking families who are permanently based in the area - not to have so many "revolving friendships" as in the past - as I'd like my daughter(s) to hear me speak English with others and have English speaking friends. BCT seems mainly to have playgroups for the toddler age and not much older.

I also considered signing her up for dance classes at the BSB in Tervuren, so she can socialise with other English speaking girls. Anyone with experience of these classes?

If any of you have English speaking kids the same age and live in or near Auderghem it would be great to meet up too.

natation Tue 23-Oct-12 17:07:57

Hi there

what school exactly have you signed your daughter up for as there is no infant/maternelle only Catholic school in that area which is French speaking, there is only a communale one called Blankedelle-Collin in Auderghem. All the Catholic schools around there are FONDAMENTALE, that is having maternelle and primaire. There is St Hubert which is split site, with maternelle + P1-4 I think in one building and P5-6 in another building.

Very very few of the Catholic schools contain much Catholicism, other than ethos, no religion is taught at maternelle level in public Catholic schools here, only in the private ones such as Acacia and BICS in Etterbeek.

I'll send you a pm. If you're SE of Herman-Debroux, you'll be right next to 2 other mums I know down there who will know other mums. You can do after school things in English every day of the week, no need for a bilingual school here.

LouisaE Tue 23-Oct-12 21:59:44

Sent you a pm!

Portofino Wed 24-Oct-12 08:44:47

We have a mailing list and private FB group if you want to PM me your email address - there are LOADS of us here.

Longtime Wed 24-Oct-12 10:04:56

You can always join the BCT Lifers (started by me many moons ago). As the name suggests, we are here FOREVER (or at least very long term). We don't get together than often as a whole group but various mini-groups of friendships have certainly formed over the years. We also have two google groups - one for sharing information, the other for buying and selling. First step for that is to join the BCT again and then contact me for the rest!

Longtime Wed 24-Oct-12 10:06:07

Oh and my daughter does tap at the BSB. She absolutely loves it. Another one of the mumsnet mums' daughter goes too. I am now taking an adult class with the same teacher and it's great fun!

Longtime Wed 24-Oct-12 10:07:11

And whilst I don't have children the same age as yours, there are a few mums round here who do. I've sent you a pm so feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

P51mama Mon 05-Nov-12 14:03:48

Hi, I'm new to Mumsnet and Brussels! It's great to see there is quite a community of you out there.

My husband has just started working in Brussels and we moved into our new home in Hoeilaart last week. We've come from the Netherlands, my husband is Dutch, I'm English. My son (2 1/2) and daughter (8) are attending the local flemish school, as they are bilingual it made sense to us. I was just wondering if there are any other Mums nearby as we don't know a soul! Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.


natation Mon 05-Nov-12 15:11:57

Hi there p51mama, I know a mum with 2 children aged 3 and 6 at het Groene Dal, if it's this school, send me a pm.

I have a colleague in Hoeilaart too, with 3 girls aged about 7 to 13 years old, but they are at an international school. There will be a fair few children at ISB in the gemeente.

P51mama Mon 05-Nov-12 16:40:39

Ok, thanks. Yes they are at Groene Dal, they had their first day today and loved it, thank goodness. I think the bus for the ISB and BSB stops close to our house so I figured there must be some Brits around!

Not sure how to send a pm (I'm new to all this) but will figure it out and get in contact. Thank you again.

natation Mon 05-Nov-12 16:44:16

Well my guess is there are only about 10 children from BSB who live in Hoeilaart, many more will be from ISB. BSB children live, about 70% of them, in Tervuren and Overijse.

natation Mon 05-Nov-12 16:55:11

For a pm, go to the top right of a post and click on "message poster".

Portofino Tue 06-Nov-12 08:28:54

I sent you a PM - check your inbox at the top of the page P51.

OomVoom Wed 07-Nov-12 11:21:21

quick update on our plans for moving to Brussels - after a reccie trip we've decided on WSP which we thought was fantastic, especially the green spaces.

Schools - I called around today for places for annee scolaire 2013/14.

Ecole de Stockel would have a place in Maternelle 2 for our ds but probably not a place in CP2 for dd. Apparently they may go down to two classes for CP2 (apparently they have three clasess in CP1) from sept 2013, and if they do, then they wouldn't have room. Does anyone have kids at EdS at the moment? Maybe you have more info on this point?

Better news, I found places for both ds and dd at Ecole de Joli Bois, and the insrciption is dead easy. Does anyone have kids at this school or have any info on its quality?

natation Wed 07-Nov-12 20:58:45

Hi there

I'm not sure what years CP2 and CP1 are. In primaire the years are quite simply named here P1-P6.

Ecole Communale de Stockel only has 13 physical classrooms at the moment available for primaire, they are currently building an extra 5 classrooms, so that they can go from a 2 form entry in primaire to 3 form entry. You'll have to ask the school what the current building schedule is, whether this will in fact be achievable by September 2013.

Given a choice between Ecole Communale de Stockel which is 2 1/2 to 12 and 2 Ecoles Joli-Bois, I'd go for the former. I don't have any current contacts for the primaire, previous contacts liked the school but I personally don't like the primaire, not sure why, maybe it's the contact I have with the children when we go there for music academy, I see the children completely without supervision wandering around the school building, running from the French playground, to the Dutch school, to the French school. The head has never impressed me, 3 times I've been in her office and 3 times she's smoked in front of me. Funny how those sort of impressions stick. It's definitely not as popular as Mater Dei, Stockel, Jean 23 (Parmentier) and Sacré-Coeur de Stockel as when people I know have phoned up, they've always had places in primaire. It does have its good points though, both the French music academy and an ASBL called Vitamomes have after school activities there.

natation Wed 07-Nov-12 21:01:22

PS given where you said you are going to work, if you really want WSP, I'd go for Chant d'Oiseau area which is far nearer to Trone metro. Joli-Bois requires tram + metro. Stockel requires only metro. There are 4 schools in the Stockel area, well less than 800m from Place Dumon.

Portofino Wed 07-Nov-12 21:16:49

If CP2 is Primary 2, then I would go for where there is a space - as this is well tricky at the mo. You can then look round at your leisure for other schools before the Year 3/4 cycle if you are not happy.

natation Wed 07-Nov-12 21:40:36

I know for definite there are only 15 children at Athénée Royal Crommelynck in P1 and there will also be spaces in M2, but then you'd be wondering why the nearest school down the road has 25 in every class with waiting lists. It's a no win situation. A school with lots of places V a school with waiting lists. That's what happens when parents are free to choose local schools. But at least if there is a school with places now for P1, there is little movement allowed into P2, other than children leaving / arriving in Belgium.

TwoNewGirls Mon 18-Feb-13 10:53:45

Hello everyone! We are soon moving to Brussels with our 2.5 yo girl following my new job. When looking for information about pre-schools I came across this amazing forum. So many useful tips, reading your posts was incredibly helpful.
So, I thought I will introduce myself instead of just reading secretly smile

I want to register my DD for the 1st year of pre-school. I managed to find out we just missed the deadline for registration to both Dutch and French schools. Would anyone of you be able to explain what can we do now? There seems to be re-opening of registration (only Dutch schools?) on 6 May. How can we register then? We only move to Bxl on 1 June, so we won't have any Belgian documents, residency and so on before then... Any help or advice will be appreciated, I feel totally lost dealing with the different system (and not speaking NL or FR).

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 12:21:16

It's not strictly correct to say you've missed deadlines for local schools in Brussels.

The first round of enrolments for Dutch (Flemish system) schools ended on 1st February. You must now wait until 6th May for the enrolments to recommence - think it's by going to individual schools at that point and don't hold up hopes of places at any popular schools. In Flanders, enrolments generally start on 1st March. That includes areas just outside Brussels such as Sint-Steven-Woluwe, Kraainem, Tervuren. Do you speak Dutch though? Very very few Dutch schools will agree to speak to you on a regular basis in any other language other than Dutch, even if they can speak French or English or Spanish or other. You will have to find someone to interpret every time you wish to talk to the teacher, unless you are able to find a school willing to speak to you in English. In Brussels, only 7% of the Belgian population speak Dutch as a 1st language, the percentage is even smaller if you included the non Belgians. There are more people in Brussels now that speak English than Dutch well. In Flanders, some areas are still French majority, but most areas are overwhelmingly Dutch. You don't need to have moved to Belgium to register for a Belgian Dutch school. You can apply for a national number before arriving, to enable you to register. I know someone who can help you do this. I and that person have just helped a family in Prague enrol for a Brussels Flemish school using this very method, they won't be here until after schools have closed for the Summer.

There is no general deadline for Brussels French schools. All schools are different. Only Brussels communal types which make up a small percentage of schools in the region have a centralised system and these schools have indeed done their enrolments. Many many other schools completed their enrolments in September, October, November. But many schools haven't yet opened enrolments. It depends on each individual school.

But are you actually moving to Brussels? Many people say they are and in fact it's Waterloo or Louvain-la-Neuve or Tervuren. Where exactly will work be?

I'm more than happy to help with guiding you to schools with vacancies, but I'd need exact work address, top limit for rent, number of bedrooms, urban or suburban or rural, in order to help you out.

TwoNewGirls Mon 18-Feb-13 12:58:37

Thank you natation for your quick reply. You're right, communication is an issue, especially with the French-speaking part of the population. I have a strong preference for the Flemish system (I also plan to learn Dutch myself), but if there are no vacancies in preschool, then we will also consider French speaking schools. In any case, I would be most grateful if you could help navigate through the system to find schools that will have a place in September for my daughter. Those few Flemish that I called today said they were totally full.

As for the details you ask for, my work is in Brussels 1000, very central. We were considering south-east end of 1000, Etterbeek, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert to live. I don't think we can afford a house, so a 2-3 bed flat in an area with playgrounds and short commute to work is preferred; definitely more urban.

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 13:15:10

Communication as a general rule is far easier for a non French or Dutch speaker at the French schools than at the Flemish schools. The reason for this is simply that around 95% of foreign national Belgian born children are registered in French in Brussels and I bet figures regarding which schools they are at will be pretty similar, secondly those international families overwhelmingly choose the French schools in Brussels, meaning in some areas, there are many English speaking children in the French schools, meaning a supply of parents who can interpret and the schools are used to having to communicate in English or Spanish or Italian or any other language. The French schools as a general rule don't have a French only rule, it's their lack of ability to speak English which might hold them back. Ironically, many of the Flemish school teachers will have very good English, but rules mean they are not allowed to speak English, only Dutch. There are a few exceptions, but the general rule is Dutch only. Out of 250 contacts I have in Brussels schools, about 230 of them are in French schools, out of the 20ish in Flemish schools, I think I have 17 who are Dutch/Belgian Dutch speakers, 3 who are not Dutch speakers but have learned.

I have to say, in Brussels region, I wouldn't advise a non Dutch speaking family to choose a Flemish school, whereas if they were living in Tervuren, I wouldn't advise them to go for French, as it would mean a minimum 7km journey to a French school. You really are not going to find any places easily in south-east Brussels. If you really want the Flemish system, then choose instead to live in a Dutch majority area such as Tervuren or Zaventem. In the Flemish system schools in south-east Brussels, I'd estimate 90% of the children in them speak French, that means one language in the playground (if lucky French, some schools ban it) and the teacher speaking Dutch with a class of 25 children and maybe 2 or 3 Dutch speakers. It's really not conducive to a child being immersed in Dutch.

Any reason for a preference for the Flemish system? I'd look at each school individually.

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 13:30:04

PS avoid Bruxelles Ville completely, unless you wish to wait 6 month + for your registration and make many visits taking several hours to register.

Uccle in the south is very slow to get into the Pentagone area of Bruxelles 1000, if work is there.

Ixelles is terrible for trying to find a school place. No parking. Expensive housing. It's definitely the commune which has proved most problematic for those parents on my contact list.

Etterbeek not bad, but schools are getting very oversubscribed there.

Look along lines 1 and 5 if you want a speedy commute to the Pentagone. But it gets more suburban the most east you go. More chance of school places the further east you go.

Don't rent until you have found a couple of school places in areas where housing is plentiful and in your budget. Have plan A and plan B.

I know at least 5 parents who have applied before the deadline for Flemish schools in Ixelles, Etterbeek, Schaerbeek and Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe. They all speak Dutch as 1st or 2nd language or Afrikaans. They will be finding out in the main this week which schools if any they have been offered. I think they all applied for the recommended minimum 5 schools and had a fantastic colleague of mine plus my contact list of 20 parents with children in the Flemish schools in these communes helping them.

TwoNewGirls Mon 18-Feb-13 13:30:38

I see your point about the language confusion at Dutch schools in central Brussels, I didn't realize that. We opted for Dutch as it would be easier for DD in the future if she can speak Dutch and English, and which I hoped the Flemish education can give her, given my job and possible further moves (that is Netherlands or back to the UK). But now I am so much concerned that we won't find any school for her for September sad If there is anything in French school in the areas where we were thinking of living, then we would of course enroll her there... The only thing is that I don't know how to find those places, seems hundreds of schools to call around...

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 13:50:00

If you really want Dutch, then live in Tervuren, Zaventem, Dilbeek, Groot-Bijgaarten, but bear in mind there is a good chance the school will not be allowed to speak to you in English. They are indeed allowed to show you around the school in English, answer the phone now in English, but once your child is enrolled, the school may be obliged to impose the Dutch only rule. You'll find this worse in the de Rand area of Vlaams Brabant and Brussels, where Dutch is becoming more and more squeezed by French. This is the biggest issue of tension in this country, it's a very complicated thing to explain and can only be understood with a bit more knowledge of the history of language suppression.

Yes you have to phone many schools and sometimes many times.You are best off choosing one or two small areas and concentrating on schools in those areas.

If you were thinking of being able to communicate in Dutch in Brussels, the reality is only 75,000 out of 1.1 million inhabitants speak Dutch as their first language, most of whom speak French fluently too by necessity, so being served in shops or restaurants in Dutch can be a challenge and utterly awful for those Dutch speakers. French is the lingua franca, English is the next most frequently used language when looking for service.

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 16:12:33

You'll find all the French schools in Brussels region on this map.

You'll find all the Flemish schools in Brussels and much of Vlaams Brabant on this map. If you're working near Schuman, Luxembourg or Etterbeek stations, I'd look at Hoeilaart to live as 20 minute on the train- 2 good schools in that gemeente, one of which has quite a little expat community in it. You could look at Groot-Bijgaarten in the north-west or Ruisbroek/Huizingen/Halle in south-west if you're working near Nord, Central or Zuid stations as again 20 minutes by train. Then out norht-east is Zaventem/Nossegem/Kortenberg are max 25 minutes by train, or south-east there is Tervuren by tram into Montgomery. There is Kraainem by bus/metro or Sint-Steven-Woluwe by bus.

natation Thu 21-Feb-13 22:45:20

read this newspaper article about the results of the first round of Brussels region Flemish school enrolments for the onthaalklas (2011) and eerste kleuterklas (2010), there are 652 and 612 children without places in the region. 93 places still available (think they mean onthaalklas) but only in certain areas - would expect those places to be taken in the next few weeks by some of the 612 children without places, so still there will be 500+ children in the year without places.

You need to think seriously about the unlikelihood of now getting any school place in any Flemish schools in Brussels for your 2.5 year old. You'd have 2 options, 1 to look at schools in Vlaams Brabant who start their enrolments next week or to look at French schools which have 4 or 5 times the capacity in Brussels region and are also experiencing demand which outstrips supply.

natation Thu 21-Feb-13 22:47:44
CPrunner Mon 25-Feb-13 15:04:02

Agreed with Natation on the issue of 'french-speaking-flemish schools' in BXL. I have one child in french-speaking maternelle, the other in a Flemish school, where indeed he is one of the 2 (!) kids in his class of 24 that speak Dutch at home. However, being able to compare the two systems (as for, approach to teaching) I prefer the Flemish. You may consider Acacia in Etterbeek which has a French-English immersion. They are also more open to non-french speaking parents (which in my experience the french-speaking schools are not). I believe there are also Montessori immersion schools (Natation probably the best person to guide you on this).

taneba Tue 26-Feb-13 14:30:08

Hello all.... I have learnt an enormous amount reading through these posts. I'm a desperate dad, not a mum, and our son will be 2.5 yrs old in September 2013. [Like others on this thread and another, I am in awe of natation's knowledge of the education system (and a lot else)]. Although I've read through this thread, feel free to refer me back to it if I'm covering old ground. I'll post a very specific question: We're looking for French-language local schools not too far from the Sterrebeek / Kraainem area that might accept our son into maternelle in September. We've already secured a place in Sacre Coeur Stockel, but we note that it is primaire-only, and don't want to be struggling with secondaire places many years hence. Materdei (where we would love our son to go), won't accept children under 3 yrs of age. I realize (from previous posts) that I'm late - can you suggest any doors I could still knock on?

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 17:09:06


first of all why do you wish to secure a place at Mater Dei maternelle, any particular reason?

If you live along Tramlaan in Sterrebeek, Chapelle-aux-Champs is your nearest Catholic fondamentale, Sacré-Coeur de Stockel is 2nd nearest, if you live in central Sterrebeek or down Mechelsesteenweg in Sterrebeek, Sacré-Coeur de Stockel is 1st nearest, Chapelle-aux-Champs 2nd nearest. I think in all areas of Sterrebeek, Mater Dei is 5th nearest. Under current rules for entry into secondaire, going to Mater Dei as 5th nearest primaire and applying there for secondaire means a low chance of success. If at Chapelle-aux-Champs or Sacré-Coeur de Stockel in 1st or 2nd place, it means a much higher chance of sucess at Mater Dei secondaire.

As from next year, under current rules, priority for children at associated primaires for place in secondaires is abolished yeh yeh yippee!!!! All children are now treated EQUALLY!!!!! The exceptions remain are priority for siblings and teachers's children and special needs and children in care.

This year 25 children in Mater Dei primaire P6 do not have priority to S1 Mater Dei secondaire, 50 children DO have this priority. From next year, none of them have priority from primaire to secondaire, unless they have siblings etc. It means children from Joli-Bois, Stockel, Crommelynck, Sacré-Coeur de Stockel etc who live in this area will have as much chance at Mater Dei secondaire as the children at the primaire there.

I was told yesterday by another parent that there are acceuil places still available at école communale de Stockel which is your nearest non Catholic school, so go and take a look there too.

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 17:47:00

PS as an explanation, the 25 children in P6 at Mater Dei primaire do not have priority from primaire because they started at the school after 30.9.07, the 50 who do get priority from primaire get it because they've been there since before 30.9.07. This should potentially open up possibly a further 50 places for S1 and Mater Dei secondaire too all other children living around Mater Dei secondaire who are at the other primaires in the area. On history of previous years, according to the secretary at Mater Dei secondaire, roughly 110 out of 150 places have been taken by priority children, leaving roughly only 40 places for the non priority children. In future, this might become 60 or 70 priority children and 80 or 90 non priority children. It's not fair for everybody, but it's fairer for more children, especially the ones who are at the 4 "écoles a facilités" in Kraainem and Wezembeek, for whom Mater Dei and College Don Bosco are their nearest secondaires and for whom few non priority children from those schools can go to their nearest secondaires, instead having to travel past them and to less popular schools further away, due to them being at Flemish French schools.

taneba Tue 26-Feb-13 20:31:47


Thanks so much for your quick and thorough response. To answer your initial question (why Mater Dei):
1. - good reputation for excellence (this is what we've heard from other parents)
2. - within easy driving distance (but clearly further away than Chapelle-aux-Champs, which would be closest to us)
2. - I was under the impression that going through primaire in a school assured you of a secondaire place - but you've clarified that this is not true at all.

So what I understand from your response is that under the rules which take effect next year, a child fulfilling none of the criteria for priority, has just as much a chance of admission as other non-priority children irrespective of where they live, and which primaire they attended. In other words, the only reasons to choose a school would be its suitability to one's child, and other issues of convenience. Did I understand that correctly? (Of course, by the time my son is 12, the rules could have changed again).

Secondly, how easy or difficult is it to switch schools later? (For example, if the child is very unhappy at a school).

Thirdly, have I missed the boat this year with Chapelle-aux-Champs? (in case you happen to know - I will call them tomorrow)

Finally, we just want him to have a nurturing environment in which he feels cared for and develops a love of learning. Any standout recommendations or places to avoid?

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 21:10:23

not any more. Until 4 years ago, Sacré-Coeur de Stockel children got equal priority with Mater Dei children to the Mater Dei secondaire. Along came the new decree which obliged schools to choose one associated school or none (many schools chose none to be fairer) and guess which one the head of secondary chose? The priority was set only for those starting in primaire before 30.9.07 and next year it is completely abandoned.

From next year, the non priority children (now including those which would have benefitted from school priority before) are classed according to order of primaire from home and secondaire from home, as the main criteria. In some areas of Sterrebeek College Don Bosco is 1st nearest secondaire with Mater Dei 2nd nearest. In some areas of Sterrebeek, Mater Dei is 1st nearest secodaire and College Don Bosco 2nd. In some of Sterrebeek, Sacré-Coeur de Stockel is 1st nearest primaire, with Chapelle-aux-Champs 2nd nearest, in some of Sterrebeek Chapelle-aux-Champs is 1st nearest and Sacré-Coeur de Stockel as 2nd nearest. I think in all areas of Sterrebeek, Mater Dei primaire is 5th nearest. It means that if this system is still in existence in a few years when your children nears secondaire age, those children living in your street who go to Sacré-Coeur de Stockel will be much further up the list than those children living in your street who go to Mater Dei primaire. If you were applying this year, you'd have very little chance of a non priority place living in Sterrebeek and sending to Mater Dei primaire wanting Mater Dei secondaire, whereas you'd have an excellent chance of a place at Mater Dei secondaire if your child were at Sacré-Coeur de Stockel.

You can change schools before 15th September in maternelle and in every maternelle year at the end of the year, between 16th September and 30th June, you can only change in maternelle with good reasons such as moving house or exceptional circumstances.

You can change schools before 15th September / end of school year ONLY at the end of P2 and P4. You cannot change schools at the end of P1, P3 or P5, again without reasons such as moving house or exceptional circumstances- which might go as high as French Community approval. There has to be a place at another school of course too.

Sacré-Coeur de Stockel, if you ask the head, should have a pretty good average mark for the combined 3 CEB papers taken in P6 - if you ask, she'll probably say the average is between 80 and 85%. The national average is under 75% over the last 4 years. I'd hope our P6er will get at least 90% and I'm hoping closer to 95%.

Sacré-Coeur de Stockel is 1km nearer to Sterrebeek and it is much easier to park near on Baron d'Huart. Mater Dei is very hard to park near - combined schools population of almost 4000 over the 8 schools on that small site means traffic chaos every morning. Chapelle-aux-Champs is in a pedestrian precinct, a rather unusual school in building and also serving the staff at St Luc to a great extent, perfect if you work there. Not sure where you'd park. Don Bosco is the 3rd nearest school, again much easier than Mater Dei to park near.

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 21:18:00

Oh and the order of primaires is for type, so nearest communal primaire + Mater Dei nearest secondaire also gives you an excellent chance of a place at Mater Dei secondaire.

The 2 nearest communal primaires to Sterrebeek are 1) école communale de Stockel (told was still places) and 2) école communale Parc Malou (already full).

Then nearest non religious aligned is 1) Singelijn and 2) l'Autre Ecole. Both have top-up fees, Singelijn probably already full, l'Autre Ecole has no acceuil class.

TwoNewGirls Tue 26-Feb-13 22:22:35

Thank you all for the advice, especially natation, your knowledge is impressive. I can't even say how much you are helping us. Following your advice I've looked at French-speaking schools roughly in the areas of Ambiorix and Georges Henri. They were all full with long waiting lists (where we put down our daughter), with the exception of one: Ecole de La Retraite du Sacré-Cœur (1000 Bruxelles) that actually had a free spot. Now that's great news but makes me suspicious of the quality of the school.. Does anyone have any experience with that school, any opinions heard from parents who have their kids there?

TwoNewGirls Tue 26-Feb-13 22:27:35

And regarding the Acacia - we are impressed with the school but the fees at 7.4k/year are not affordable. Are there any ways of financing this through taxes (deductions?) or any other way? We started looking at the Belgian tax system but nothing clear comes out of it...

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 22:36:54

Ambiorix - La Retraite du SC is as best as you'll get at this time of year, I know one child due to start in acceuil class in September, will be my first contact there. You could get far worse. The socio-economic classes at schools around there are quite low, usually 1 or 2, then you get La Retraite at 4 and Emile Jacqmain at 6-7. How good is your French? As I have no contacts there, I don't know if there is any big expat population at the school which normally means the school is used to expat kids and parents with less than perfect French skills. Big expat population at Emile Jacqmain but no chance of a place there without a miracle. Other schools not far with expats are SC de Lindthout and du Bonheur.

You are making your life difficult though by looking in some of the most popular and populous areas. If you looked further out, say Auderghem, Watermael-Boitsfort, east WSL, WSP, you'll find it much easier to get places in these areas.

So Acacia has increased their fees substantially, that's 25% up. No reductions in tax for private schools, except the first class at Acacia which is inspected under creche regulations, other classes are classed as home school (no it's not a recognised school).

If fluency in language is your major goal, go with monolingual local.

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 22:42:34

PS did you check with La Retraite about how many vacancies in the entire school? 1 single 1ere maternelle place free out of 50 indicates a popular school, but does depend on area, because some areas are so overpopulated, cannot go on full=good. If you found a school in Brussels with 3+ places in every single class free, then I'd worry. La Retraite's website is quite a positive one. It says it limits class sizes in lower years. Nice photos of refurbishments in the school.

TwoNewGirls Tue 26-Feb-13 22:56:15

La Retraite had 2 free spots, now just one left.. I also liked how the school looks in the photos on their website, children seem happy and have interesting and creative play. Now you migth have 2 contacts in that school, if we don't find anything else smile I will call SC de Lindthout and du Bonheur tomorrow. Thanks again!

natation Tue 26-Feb-13 23:03:49

Just checked, other child enrolled is actually 2010 born so that would be 2 English speaking children starting together.

TwoNewGirls Wed 27-Feb-13 13:58:49

My girl's also 2010 born, so they might be in the same class, great! Maybe we could meet over the summer before they start school?
Natation, I was wondering about the classification of socio-economic classes you use. What do the numbers exactly mean, and is there a place where such information is available also for other schools?
Du Bonheur is full with 60 children on the waiting list for 1ere maternelle (crazy); I can't get through to the SC de Lindthout, will keep trying...

La Retraite is just around the corner from where I live. There are lots of expats around here so I'd be surprised if there weren't some English speakers there.

TwoNewGirls Wed 27-Feb-13 14:49:35

Hello MammaBrussels. We will be looking for a flat in that neighbourhood as well, given the place at La Retraite. Would you have any recommendations as to which streets or areas to focus on or avoid?

Because you're so close to the EU buildings there are lots of eurocrats, it's a very international area which I find brilliant as you feel like less of a foreigner. The area around Sq Margueritte and Ambiorix are nice and parts of Schaerbeek are good. Basically, you want to stay the EU side of Chaussee de Louvain if you're looking at Schaerbeek. St Josse isn't great but some of the streets between St Josse and Rue de la Loi are good.

We found our flat by pounding the streets in our chosen area; as Immoweb (the Belgian equivalent of Right Move) doesn't let you specify the area very well and lots of properties don't give the address. You just search for flat, 2 bedrooms, 1000 which is a huge area.

My DS was born in Dec 2010 but is staying in his creche for another year, I'm so relieved as we left it way too late to register him for anywhere.

natation Wed 27-Feb-13 16:37:16

Immoweb is on postcode, but some of the EU area is 1000, some is 1210 St Josse, some is 1040 Etterbeek, some 1200 Woluwe-St-Lambert and some 1030 Schaerbeek. 1000 Bruxelles has a horrendous reputation for dealing with registering. The easiest way is the learn the streets and their communes, do a radius map from a point such as the school and look 1km around.

Socio-economic index is based on average income / unemployment rates of micro areas, so a school getting 6 like Jacqmain with 1 and 2 around show the children are on average significantly richer there than the 1 and 2 schools. Dare I say you might also see a difference in ethnic origins / nationalities too.

natation Wed 27-Feb-13 17:53:16

Yes I have the complete socio-economic index of all Belgian french schools. You'd need to provide me with an email to send it to you.

natation Wed 27-Feb-13 18:03:04

Just emailed the parent who lives next to Square Ambiorix whose 2010 born child has a place at La Retraite. There is another parent living near there with a 2010 born child and emailing her too as I haven't heard back from her if her child has a school place. Send me a pm so I can put you in touch.

natation Wed 27-Feb-13 18:36:41

Just looking on the map, MammaBrussels might be able to confirm this, but I think for La Retraite, I'd limit a housing search to Ch de Louvain, Auguste Reyers/Brand Whitlock, Av de Tervuren, Rue Archimede, Rue Pavis - find the roads on a map and draw this as your sort of radius of good area within walking distance of La Retraite.

Second what Natation said about 1000 being a total nightmare for administration. I'm still waiting for my appointment to get an ID card 4 months after applying.

I'd go for Ch de Louvain, August Reyers, Rue de Spa, Rue Stevin, Av de Tevuren as my boundaries. Although the 28 and 61 buses stop at Rue du Noyer which is about 150m from the school so you could look at places on those routes too. You can find info on public transport at

The best thing to do would be to come out to Brux and get a feel for the area. PM me if you want to ask any specific questions.

natation Wed 27-Feb-13 21:59:58

Twonewgirls, you have a pm, please check.

taneba Thu 28-Feb-13 11:38:35

Thanks again, Natation (and since i think i'll be saying that a fair bit, consider it said in future posts). I've read and re-read your two most recent posts on the rules, and I'm not sure I understand them. Is there a website you could refer me to that spells them out clearly?

natation Thu 28-Feb-13 16:28:36

Secondary French admissions

1) priority children first
a) children from schools in very poor areas
b) silbings
c) special needs
d) in care
e) teacher's children
f) for LAST YEAR children enrolled in associated primaire before 30/9/07, from next year no priority

2) non priority children next

For both priority and non priority children, they receive an "index" calculated according to following :
1) * 2) * 3) * 4) * 5) * 6)

1) is order of preference of schools 1.5 for 1st choice, 1.4 for 2nd choice etc
2) is home-primaire measurement, 2 is 1st nearest, 1.81 is 2nd nearest, 1.61 is 3rd nearest 1.41 is 4th nearest 1.21 is 5th nearest, all other schools are 1
3) is home-secondaire measurement, 1.98 is 1st nearest, 1.79 is 2nd nearest, 1.59 is 3rd nearest, 1.39 is 4th nearest, 1.19 is 5th nearest, 1 are all other schools
4) complicated and a composite of the results of 2) and 3), look it up on a table
5) only relevant for those doing Dutch immersion, otherwise 1
6) relevant only if in sparsely populated area, for most of Brussels is 1

So if you live in Sterrebeek, go to Sacré-Coeur de Stockel primaire and it's your nearest primaire and want to go to Mater Dei secondaire and it's your nearest secondaire, you get the maximum index
1.5 * 2 * 1.98 * 1 * 1 * 1 = 5.94

If you live in Sterrebeek, go to Mater Dei and it's your 5th nearest primaire and want to go to Mater Dei secondaire and it's your nearest secondaire, you get this index
1.5 * 1.21 * 1.98 * 1.216 * 1 * 1 = 4.37

I will be able to estimate from those who do and don't get places at Mater Dei who go to schools in the area this year what index was required to get a non priority place. At a guess, I'd say you would need at least 5, many of the children at Joli-Bois, communale de Stockel, Sacré-Coeur de Stockel will have points very close to the 5.94 maximum, as for many Mater Dei will be their nearest secondaire and their primaire will be their 1st or 2nd nearest.

It's all here, the instructions on who gets priority for secondaire and how the index is calculated for each child.

pilotis Thu 28-Feb-13 20:10:09

Hello all, I'm new here and thrilled to have found this thread, which is full of good information. We're moving to Brussels soon and are in the throes of looking for schools and housing.

I'm wondering if anyone can advise me on schools in Uccle and Watermael-Boitsfort. We are hoping to live in Uccle, nearish to the Calvoet train station to have fairly easy access to Gare du Midi (for work commute)—or even Forest to be closer—but so far the only schools I've had luck with are in Watermael-Boitsfort. I've been told there are places for my two children at both La Futaie and Bois de la Cambre no. 7. Obviously these are nowhere near the Calvoet train station!

In terms of where to live, we are most interested in something more urban. We like northern Uccle for its proximity to some shopping areas (Vanderkindere, place Saint-Pierre, even place Saint-Job) and Ixelles in general but still many houses have parking and yards and the Bois de la Cambre and forest are right there.

Does anyone have thoughts on the schools mentioned above (Futaie or Bois no. 7) or schools in Uccle...what are the chances wait lists actually move? We are trying to decide if we should go ahead and find a house in this area, knowing worst-case scenario we commute to W-B for school, or hopefully we get off a wait list somewhere closer.

I would be truly grateful for any insights!

PS - What is the situation with Bois de la Cambre no. 7 and no. 8? I was told they are totally separate schools? Is this correct? Is one the maternelle and one the primaire? They are literally next door to each other.

taneba Thu 28-Feb-13 20:16:25


that's very helpful!

1. I'm assuming that Mater Dei is the closest secondaire to Sterrebeek - correct? (do you have a map of secondaires? - couldn't find one in this thread).

2. Your examples above used Sacre Coeur de Stockel as the primaire. Yet in an earlier post, you stressed the nearest primaire OF TYPE, mentioning Ecole communale de Stockel and Ecole communale Parc Malou in this context. Did you mean to say that attendance of one of the above two communal primaires is somehow more strongly weighted because Mater Dei secondaire is of the same type (i.e. also communal)?

How does this "type" factor affect the calculation?

taneba Thu 28-Feb-13 20:33:07

natation, just sent you a PM.

natation Thu 28-Feb-13 20:39:17

I've given you the link which measures which the order of secondaires and primaires in relation to home address and also for all 4 types of schools. As I already said, it does depend on your address, Mater Dei and Don Bosco are your 2 nearest Catholic secondaires, order depends on address, in fact they are also the nearest secondaires of all types too. As there are so many French speaking children living in Tervuren and Zaventem and educated in WSP in particular at the 2 Stockel schools, Joli-Bois and Mater Dei, many of these children get maximum and near maximum indexes, due to geography of schools and home locations. Tervuren and Zaventem children might in fact be living 6 or 7kms from school, but because they attend their nearest primaires and choose their nearest secondaires in Don Bosco and Mater Dei, they actually can have higher indexes than those children living as little as 1km away from Mater Dei primaire but for whom it might be the 2nd or 3rd or 4th nearest Catholic primaire, due to the fact they live west of the school and not north-east to south-east.

Yes each type gets a nearest, Sacré-Coeur and Mater Dei are Catholic schools, so they are ordered 1/2nd for Sacré-Coeur depending on address and Mater Dei appears to be 5th nearest for all of Sterrebeek. Ecole communale de Stockel appears to be 1st nearest for all of Sterrebeek too, of "communale" type, so gets maximum points if you choose Mater Dei as 1st choice secondaire.

You can go to a communale primaire and Catholic secondaire, a Catholic primaire and communale secondaire, but what matters is order of type for primaire-home and order of type for secondaire-home.

Remember this is how enrolments have happened for 4 years and will almost definitely happen like this next year too. It's not fair on everyone, but certainly fairer than the 3 previous systems which were 1) lottery in 2009, 2) camping outside for first-come-first-served in 2008, 3) previous to that on school report and interview which would have meant much bias.

oldwomaninashoe4 Fri 01-Mar-13 09:24:19

Thrilled to find this thread as also moving to brussels this summer. Looking for a belgian maternalle close to the European School in Uccle for a 3/5 year old for september. I have contacted MontJoie / Amelie Hamaide/ decroly/ st joseph/ notre dame wolven simply based on the map supplied by Nanation in an earlier thread. i know nothing about them so grateful for any views / preferences.

i have also contacted BICs for a place as its near to where I work but the fees would kill us so that would only be the nuclear option.


Bloody hell natation you should be running the education system!