Moving to brussels with large family- any advice appreciated!

(15 Posts)
michandmorgs Mon 02-Dec-13 00:05:04

Hi,
I have just joined this site and already read through a few posts which have been very helpful.
We are moving to belgium just after Xmas from Australia. It has taken almost 2 years to get all the paperwork sorted as my husband is working as a surgeon and it is apparently a very lengthy process to get registered as a foreign doctor!
Here is our situation: we have 4 children, ages 9,7,4,3- I know the older two will be in years 2 and 4. Younger two in maternelle 2 and 3 I think.
My husband is working in Aalst. He is only earning a stipend (ie not a full doctors salary). He will commute by train. I would like to send the kids to a local french school. The older two have had at least 3 years french education at school here, not that I expect that to help all that much. But I would like them to get the experience of becoming bilingual. I actually grew up in belgium in my early years and was bilingual in Flemish. But we won't be able to pay school fees, especially not for 4 children!
We arrive just before New Years, I have not contacted any schools yet as the paperwork process never let us actually have an arrival date until just now. We were originally supposed to be coming in July 2013!
We are planning to live somewhere along the train line from brussels midi to aalst, looking at Jette, or Laeken areas I guess?
My question is - what are the chances of getting my kids into schools half way through the school year...... I would hate for them to miss out and not go to school until the next year, plus it would drive me slightly bonkers. And suggestions of school in that northern or western region of brussels, or we are happy to live in the outskirts too as long as there is easy access to transport to Aalst?
And, do I just ring up the schools when we arrive to ask them? Would they be able to speak English enough to understand? I can speck some French but not well enough to have that sort of conversation I don't think.
I was planning on finding a school first and then accommodation. We have a furnished apartment booked in ixelles for the first month...
Any advice? Many thanks in advance smile

runningmad Mon 02-Dec-13 08:46:38

Hi there
welcome to Belgium.

P4 = 2004, P2 = 2006, M2 = 2009, M1 = 2010

2 options for Aalst
1) Local train out of gare du Midi, then Gare Centrale, Gare du Nord, passing BOCKSTAEL, JETTE, BERCHEM-STE-AGATHE and at Berchem, it's 32 minutes to Aalst.

2) Interregional train out of Gare du Midi, through Denderleuw to Aalst, 32 minutes from Gare du Midi.

So for me, there would be 2 options for areas to live, BERCHEM-Ste-AGATHE or JETTE within minutes of these stations - BOCKSTAEL is a bit horrid really immediately near the station, but I'm biased, you'll have to decide yourself. The other option would be for me somewhere along tram lines 3/4/51 south of Gare du Midi, say ALBERT stop or a little further south or tram route 81/83m say JANSON stop.

Work out the actual travel times including walking/cycling/tram to the train station Brussels end, bus/cycing from Aalst station to the hospital. Set your commuting time limit. Then pinpoint all the schools near the travel routes, in the 2 areas, or choose 1 area only. It might come down to availability of primaire places.

Yes you'll get mid year places, but you might have to do lots and lots of phoning, emailing (not usually as successful).
https://batchgeo.com/map/1f1bf2b3b6e4ad41fe67c1a57d56a826

You will find few international families in Jette / Berchem Ste-Agathe area, though the numbers are growing but for those attending European school Laeken, doubt you'll find many in the local schools beyond maternelle, whereas lots in the Ixelles/Forest/St Gilles area.

runningmad Mon 02-Dec-13 09:03:25

Place Dr Schweitzer seems a good marker point for Berchem-Ste-Agathe, thought the Dr was a good sign too!

Here is an apartment which is under 1k per month.
There are 3 schools nearby, 2 école communale de Berchem-Ste-Agathe and école St Albert - don't be put off by Catholic, the majority of schools are Catholic here but few people are practising and it's 2 hours a week of a timetable.
www.immoweb.be/en/Rent.Estate.cfm?IdBien=4636042&xgallery=gallery&xpage=1

bigbrick Mon 02-Dec-13 11:11:27

would you consider living in aalst? would be flemish in school but your kids would pick it up

runningmad Mon 02-Dec-13 18:18:41

You might want to join this group. Not sure if anyone lives in north-west area of group but a few in Forest/St Gilles/Ixelles.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/BrusselsAreaSchoolParents/

runningmad Tue 03-Dec-13 19:07:16

I must say the more I look into Berchem-Ste-Agathe and in particular using Pl Dr Schweitzer as an ideal point of reference, the more I see the advantages. The De Lijn buses which are the alternative to the train to Aalst also go through this area, along Av Charles Quint, past all the shopping where there is a Carrefour hypermarket and Berchem-Ste-Agathe train station and the terminus of the 82 tram which runs into Brussels, change to metro at Gare de l'Ouest or Gare du Midi, there is also tram 19 which runs through the area. You have Ganshoren pool reopening in a few months, the 50m Molenbeek pool undergoing refurbishment, 2 football clubs including Anderlecht, athletics stadium of Heysel not far off. The only reason this area is not so popular with expats is there are no international schools in this area, otherwise it's actually quite pleasant to live in for families. I'd be straight onto the schools, with fingers crossed, concentrating on places for the 2 older ones, the younger ones might have to wait or go to a different school at first.

michandmorgs Sun 08-Dec-13 11:40:38

Thanks so so much for the advice! I have been flat out packing up a house with 4 kids and this week my husband has moved for a 2 week locum elsewhere and we are joining him end of next week. Once I get there, I will have a couple of weeks to sit down and go through all of this in detail and start contacting the school,s though I guess I will need to wait to get to belgium to actually call.
Michelle

michandmorgs Sun 08-Dec-13 11:43:16

We were told Aalst wasn't very nice to live in, but we are open to all options. We will have a look when we arrive. I guess my main concern was that I hoped the kids would become bilingual in French as this would transport a bit better after our time in belgium, and it is possible we may go to France afterwards as well.

michandmorgs Sun 08-Dec-13 23:36:11

What is the area Essegem like?

runningmad Mon 09-Dec-13 08:55:10

Never heard of Essegem but if you want to live in Brussels, limit yourself to the 2 areas already mentioned. If you want to live near work, live in Aalst.

runningmad Mon 09-Dec-13 09:07:18

If you mean Osseghem in Molenbeek, absolutely no no, apart from it not being on the train line to Aalst, not good schools, not nice area.

runningmad Mon 09-Dec-13 09:15:41

Aha found it, Essegem in Jette, well College St Pierre is well regarded but primaire only and very very very unlikely to get a place there, the other 2 schools in that area, no I wouldn't sorry.

IF you really want to look at Jette, with its disadvantages over Berchem-Ste-Agathe of being further from work, not de Lijn bus option to work, then look north of Jette station to DIELGEM.

Jaynebxl Mon 09-Dec-13 10:26:19

No advice about schools but I spent years in Brussels and absolutely loved it.

michandmorgs Mon 09-Dec-13 12:30:21

Thanks, very helpful. I will focus in bercham ste agathe and jette. Just seeing what sort of accommodation is available in these areas. And I will definitely contact the schools you have mentioned. Thanks again....

bigbrick Mon 09-Dec-13 21:16:05

Do think about the towns around Aalst and Gent. I've not been to Aalst to know what it's like but I haven't heard any thing bad on it. Your dh might have long hours and nice to be home quicker. All this depends on education language. The Flemish schools do teach French in a class once a week. This could something to ask on

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