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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 ;-)

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...

MammaBrussels Wed 27-Feb-13 14:40:16

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?

MammaBrussels Wed 27-Feb-13 15:11:00

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.

MammaBrussels Wed 27-Feb-13 19:32:04

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.


MammaBrussels Fri 01-Mar-13 17:57:26

Bloody hell natation you should be running the education system!

taneba Fri 01-Mar-13 19:31:33

Actually I was about to say Natation should get into the relocations business. This is the one issue that makes or breaks a move - how you can continue to provide a nurturing environment for your child(ren). When I think of the crap that I've been told by relocation agencies (especially by their real estate arms) elsewhere ...... we ought to be able to take Natation with us when we move. Or clone her, at the very least.

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