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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 ;-)

littlemissl00py Mon 13-Oct-14 22:25:41

Hello, another newbie to Brussels!
I have just found out that I got the job which will take me and my two children to Brussels in January 2015. They are 2&1/2 and 4&1/2.
I am slightly panicky about finding them a school place after reading many of the previous posts. I will be working near Gare d'Etterbeek and as many before me, had assumed living in Ixelles would be best. Given that I only have 3 months to find a school any advice or direction to past posts would be very gratefully received. I am a single English speaking mum but the girls are familiar with French as this is the language their dad speaks to them in (mostly). Many thanks in advance!!

Maymay2009 Sun 27-Apr-14 15:46:38

hello everybody!! Any information about school parc shuman in woluwe saint Lambert??? Ecole princesse paola ,?? Ecole du bonheur .thanks

gastrognome Thu 26-Sep-13 21:21:29

Sorry hit post too soon.
But not fully bilingual curriculum obviously.
Nonetheless, we have found the amount of French sufficient to keep our bilingual child progressing well in both languages.

gastrognome Thu 26-Sep-13 21:16:39

BISB does an hour of French a day from Reception upwards.

cinanina Sun 22-Sep-13 18:43:28

The good thing I would see in BISB is the more familiar atmosphere maybe and perhaps we could find a house in the same neighbourhood. I guess it will also depend on who has a place. In our case the school fees are payed so that's alright. BSB seems to be an excellent school.

runningmad Sun 22-Sep-13 18:29:42

LF is not very good for Schuman.

BISB does not do French and only goes up to 11 years old, most children transfer to BSB for Year 7 or relocate.

The public and private systems are completely different. The private system is mainly non Belgians who don't pay their own school fees - the exception being LF which is cheap enough people tend to pay their own fees but still has few Belgians attending, mainly French and other nationalities who have gone to LF elsewhere in the world. The public system is mainly Belgians and non Belgians who prefer to integrate / don't get private school fees paid.

cinanina Sun 22-Sep-13 18:24:13

Thank you so much! You don't know how much of a burden you took off from me because I was really affraid I wouldn't find a place for the children. I guess because the public system is very good then the private system still may have some places, we'll just have to look around a bit more.
Work location is not such of a criteria because they will be relocating so for the moment it's Schuman but then I risk being somewhere entirely different in some time. I will have a look at BSB and BISB maybe, to start with.

runningmad Sun 22-Sep-13 18:03:02

Only Lycée Francais and BSB have bilingual programmes which last from 3/4 to 18 years old. LF is French outside class time and BSB is English outside class time, so a child without French doing bilingual at BSB is not likely to reach full fluency for several years if all the exposure they get to French is at school and a child without English doing bilingual at LF is not likely to reach fluency in English if there is only exposure to English in class time.

LF is very difficult to get places at. Maternelle is about 2km from primaire and both are in Uccle, so your children, if you were lucky enough to get 2 places there, would be in different school buildings. It's about 5k per year there. BSB is in Tervuren which is outside Brussels. It's between 20k and 30k there. Both schools are inspected and you can read their inspection reports. Both very different. BSB usually has places, but not in the bilingual programme - depending on date of birth, your 4 year old might not be old enough for bilingual class there until next September but the class before has plenty of space and is superb. You're far more likely to get places at BSB than LF. Ultimately, work location might lead you to prefer one over the other.

The other schools which offer French and English are International Montessori, Acacia, BICS, out of those. Acacia gets good reviews, as does International Montessori, although not necessarily for the level of French. These schools always have places, so long as you have the money to pay.

There are no public school which do English in Brussels. There is one in Wavre called Le Verseau which does 4/5 hours of English per week, but you pay top-up fees of 4-5k, despite it being a public school. It's quite a way out of Brussels and exceptionally popular in maternelle and primaire and as likely to have places as LF so not likely.

cinanina Sun 22-Sep-13 17:38:15


This will be my first post in this forum. I would like to ask you if you have a suggestion for a good school to look at in Brussels, starting from this time of the year. My children would start in November, that is if there are any schools... I could see a number of schools mention a certain flexibility with the beggining of the school year, such as BISB, ISB or BSB ("as we are an international school, it is fairly common for a limited number of places to become available throughout the year as parents are called elsewhere for work, or return to their home countries. As a result, we accept applications at all times and aim to help all students arriving throughout the year"). However, I'm not sure exactly what to expect and do not wish to be over optimistic.

My children are bilingual English/French (and portuguese) and they are 4 and 9. My oldest child is of course my biggest concern since he is in 4th grade. I wouldn't mind to keep my daughter at home for some months, if needed, although we are looking for a school for the both of them. My son I think would probably adjust slightly better to a bilingual or english school. He went to Lycée français before for 2 years and I could see he struggled a bit with french and he seems to be more at ease with english.
But I don't mind public or private or cost just as long as the school is good. At this time of the year, I wouldn't be too specific as to what is good...

Thank you for any advice.

Lucy012 Tue 27-Aug-13 13:52:55

Thanks for the advice!

runningmad Mon 26-Aug-13 13:22:20

now! Well from next week. You can at least ask them to tell you how many children they have in P4 now. Ecole communale de Stockel is supposed to be buiding 5 new classrooms, no idea if the current building work there is for that. If they did add them by next year, they could divide 2 X 25 chidren into 3 X 18ish and add on some more students if they are able to add that extra class.

Portofino Mon 26-Aug-13 13:08:34

When should I think about asking for 5eme places in Stockel schools? or Don Bosco?

runningmad Mon 26-Aug-13 10:59:46

you can live in Kraainem and Wezembeek and usually prices are a little lower and you might still be nearer Brussels schools.
do not restrict yourself to just Kraainem and Wezembeek, look on budget, you can find bargains in WSP too or WSL.

Is it likely the points system might change? Who knows, but I think not in the next 2 years, it's certainly fairer than the 3 previous systems tried, with exception of facility French school children.

It is easy to get places in all the WSP schools, maybe Mater Dei and ND des Graces excepted, but only if you apply on time, which means from next week onwards.

Lucy012 Mon 26-Aug-13 10:41:15

She is 19 months now - it should be 2014 for classe d'accueil or 2015 for first maternelle. I know it's soon, but as we're thinking of buying we have to think ahead. Thanks!

Portofino Mon 26-Aug-13 10:30:44

Yes - you can enrol in any school that has places. The only rule is for the facility schools where you need to live in one of them. It should not be that hard to find a place - identify some schools and make sure you follow the enrollment process promptly. When will your dd start?

Are you thinking of renting or buying?

Lucy012 Mon 26-Aug-13 10:21:30

Hi there,

Thank you all for your amazing contributions. This thread is really helpful!

I hope that you can help me with a few more specific questions. We are looking for a house in east of Brussels region (WSP, Kraainem, Wezembeek...) and have a girl who will enrol next year in maternelle.

Given the house prices in WSP, we are thinking to move into one of the facility communes. I understand that the facility French maternelles/primaries there are good, but it will be more difficult to get into French secondaries later on.

My questions are:

- can one live in one of the facility communes and send the children to Brussels (to Stockel, for instance)? Is it easy to get a place?

- all considered, do you think it'd be wiser to settle for a smaller place and live in Brussels instead?

- is it likely that they will change the point system in the next few years?

I'd really appreciate your help!

runningmad Mon 26-Aug-13 07:45:56

If you choose a facility French school, you get no points at all, each year all the children from these schools get given the average points of all children. I can tell you to get into the 2 nearest secondaires to Wezembeek which are always full, College Don Bosco and Mater Dei, you must have points above 4.5 and I believe that means the average points (which you can guess at but never know until all applications are in) are not enough to get in to these schools as a non priority child, it might get you near to the top of the waiting lists but might not get you in.

You'd get your children into Athénée Royal Crommelynck as it does not fill up and is an ok school. I know children from la Fermette who've managed places at Jean 23, but this year they wouldn't have got in, and further away at l'Assomption in Watermael-Boitsfort, but again I don't think they would have got in this year. La Providence hasn't filled up this year, so that's where I'd choose if I had a non priority child in a facility primaire such as La Fermette this year.

If you want a place in Mater Dei or College Don Bosco, choose your nearest primaire which gives you points, most likely the Stockel schools or perhaps Chapelle-aux-Champs if you're in the north of Kraainem.

BTW 1.5 is the lowest score you can get, 5.94 is the highest.

There are no league tables. Rest assured nearly all schools in the east of the region are fine, plus the facility primaires. I wouldn't let the current points system put you off placing a child in a facility primaire, if in P1-P4, but I'd not do it at all for P5 or P6 as you really should go further into Brussels to get points from a school there. Once in P5, you cannot shift school.

Portofino Mon 26-Aug-13 06:47:48

My understanding is that the French facilities schools don't count AT ALL. For points you should should go for one of the schools in WSP.

HomeBru Mon 26-Aug-13 02:26:45

A quick question (I hope) about the system for calculating priority for secondary schools. We are looking for a primary school for my son. The closest would be one of the French facility schools in Wezembeek-Oppem (WO); however, I am wondering how this affects selecting a secondary school in Brussels (well - there are no French secondaries in WO).

Am I right in saying going to the closest primary would help maximize the score for a school in Brussels (i.e., score a "1.5"), even if the primary is not in Brussels? Or does it have to be the closest primary in Brussels. That wasn't clear from the post above.

Also, I would appreciate any recommendations on primaries in or around WO. Are there any "league table" web-sites?

Thanks in advance for any replies.

GrandeRoyale Tue 06-Aug-13 22:32:56

Hi All

Just wanted to thank you for your amazing contribution , info,advices ect...You did a brilliant job and giving so much support is really really appreciated

Thanks to you , future exapats like me are very well prepared and reassured in this daunting process


natation Mon 18-Mar-13 09:53:14

Schools which should have places left for primaire :
ecole Les Cedres/La Roseraie in Watermael-Boitsfort - know a family about to enrol there and 3 other English speaking famlies there

ecole Joli-Bois maternelle and primaire separate - don't have any current contacts there, but know a family enrolled there for next year, the primaire is expanding to 3 form entry, currently P1 and P2 are 3 forn, P3-P6 are 2 form. Should have no problem getting places.

natation Mon 11-Mar-13 22:16:37

Ixelles Chatelain area is one of the very worst areas you could look with families if wanting a local school. First negative is cost of housing is higher here than other areas. Second negative is parking. Third negative is the sports facilities are not that near to here. Fourth and most important negative is that there are not enough school places for existing population, never mind those wanting to move there. Just forget St André and Tenbosch completely, even St Boniface, why give yourself a hard time when you can give yourself a much easier time by looking for school places where there are some.

Start with where work is and a good commute. Choose urban or suburban. Look at public transport routes to work. Find school places in realistic areas - you're 6 months late looking for schools, with the exception of the 13 year old and even then you need to forget certain schools which simply won't even consider waiting lists (for 13 year olds, enrolments normallly not until mid June for those changing schools).

Ixelles, especially Chatelain, Uccle, Forest = hard time, school places for 3 would require a miracle. I know over a dozen children living right next door to Tenbosch, Catteau-Aurore, St André, only one single family has managed a place, this is the experience of families who already live here and applied several months ago.

Look further east = easier time.

I must have written to half a dozen families this week alone about the hard time they are giving themselves by all looking in Ixelles and Uccle. They are all coming back and agreeing with me, after futile searches for schools.

Paris3 Mon 11-Mar-13 21:43:59

My husband and I are moving this summer to Brussels with our 3 children from Paris - 5, 10 and 13 for the next school year. French is the children's dominant language so the state system is an option for us. We loved Ixelles and are flat searching around Place Chatelain. We have just spent the last few days knocking in the doors of local schools ( st andre, st bonniface, tenbosch, ma campagne.....) and have not even been admitted on to a waiting list (with the exception of ma campagne... We are returning tomorrow with our fingers crossed). The lycee francais is a very expensive option (with 3 children) and not close by but we shall try there as well.
Does anyone out there have any advice / recommendations ... Apart from checking the schools close to where we hope to live, I have no idea where to start... I knocked on the doors of the schools which appeared most recommended, but any other suggestions would be very welcome !
Many thanks !

natation Fri 08-Mar-13 18:40:46

Carre, have you experience of any Belgian secondary schools? There are few secondaries I'd consider for 16 year olds here with no French or Dutch and I'd certainly not consider any for children who are already lacking in focus. No school will be happy with a 16 year old on a technical or professional course with no French or Dutch. It would take even the most dedicated 16 year old a very minimum of a year of intensive French or Dutch to be capable of an attempt at following regular school. I know 1 very intelligent 11 year old who is doing well now in secondary and another 10 year old who arrived with no language skills who is just about getting through. The biggest issue in our son's case (he was also quite old when he moved here) has not actually been the language but the attitude of the school system.

carre Fri 08-Mar-13 17:35:38

It could be a great idea to broaden the outlook for your kids. If they've finished their uk schooling with exams done then why not go to belgium and get language skills and a different perspective on life. Kids pick up language fast and going into a french or flemish school in year 5 and 6 will be hard to start getting the language will go fast with activities. If they like sport them perfect. There are technical training courses and a huge choice of things that aren't academic. If you want the academic route then perhaps it would take 3yrs instead of 2 but many kids redo a year there so it's not a problem. You'd have french or femish universities open to you then which cost much less than the uk system.

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