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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 ;-)

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.

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