Potential Brussels move... help with schools, areas to live etc... PLEASE!

(107 Posts)
lozzyblue Tue 17-May-11 09:19:24

Hi there,

my husband is expecting to receive an exciting job offer this week which would involve us and our young family relocating to Brussels.

Although excited by this, I'm also extremely nervous. I have 2 young children with my third due in 4 weeks so I have my hands full without organising an International move so any help you can give me is really appreciated and might just save my sanity!

My DD is 3, 4 in August (and so due to start school here in September). My DS is 2. I have been looking into schools but feel completely lost and out of my depth. From what I understand it can be really difficult to even get a place in a good school in Brussels as they are subscribed to super early grin(

My daughter is somewhat a creature of habit and I'm really nervous about throwing her into a completely foreign language school with no friends etc and no way of communicating. I have also read that the local schools can be inflexible and unhelpful in settling a new child when they do not speak the language? For this reason I have been looking at a blilingual education - we do not know how long this move will be for... I would guess a minimum of 2 years however I don't see it as somewhere we will stay forever.

The school which has caught my eye so far is Ecole Internationale Verseau? Does anyone know the school? the area? how likely it is we could get a place? The timing of our potential move is also stressing me out as we are fast approaching the Summer holidays I fear it will make our plans even harder.

My husbands potential employer is not actually in the centre of Brussels - it's in Ixelles I believe. Are there any areas you could recommend for us to look at property which would suit a reasonalbe commute for him (within 30 mins ideally) and in close proximity to a good school? We would be looking for a 4 (ideally 5) bedroom house with a garden. I would quite like an English speaking community close by and parks, amenities would be a bonus too!

I know I'm asking a lot and I'm aware I've rambled but my head is at bursting point with so many questions and fears about how I'll cope rattling around!

Thanks in advance for anyone who bothers to read or can help point me in the right direction!


OP’s posts: |
natation Tue 17-May-11 10:19:32

There are lots of threads about moves to Brussels ans schooling and where to live, give them a read, lots of info there.

Le Verseau is NOT a bilingual school and NOT near Brussels, about 25km south east, would involve 2 round trips of 60-90 minutes each day from Ixelles or central Brussels, I personally would not consider it unless I were really in love with the school, not with having to put 3 children in a car anyway.

Quite a few bilingual schools, but beware of the lack of children with English and/or French in some of these schools.

You will find a place in a local French school, just depends on area, may not be your first choice school.

Ixelles is quite a long commune, before recommending where to live, I'd be nosey and sk the address first, the north is near the centre, the south of the commune is quite suburban.

The British School of Brussels is starting a bilingual French / English class for your eldest daughter's age in September, the aim is for most if not all the children to speak English and / or French already, you will have to double check whether this is still the aim of the class, it is to avoid the situation in some of the bilingual schools where Germans / Finns etc make up the majority of the class and master neither English nor French. For a child staying only initially for 2 years but looking for a French education, I think this is a very good choice. IF interested, contact them very very quickly. The

natation Tue 17-May-11 10:21:04

PS not true that local schools are ALL unhelpful in settling in newcaomers, some are most welcoming of newcomers, you'll find many in the south and east of Brussels.

lozzyblue Tue 17-May-11 11:15:19

Thanks Natation. I didn't intend to imply ALL local schools are unhelpful with settling newcomers - I think it's just my nerves making me irrational!

Thank you so much for the info you provided - the BSB bilingual class looks really interesting. I have emailed them to find out about places for this year however the fees from Yr 1 onwards are so expensive and I don't think my husband's employer will cover unfortunately.

The company is on Av Arnaud Fraiteur and actually Tervuren - where BSB is, is one of the places I had looked at properties. Do you know anything about the area or surrounding to it?

Thanks again.

OP’s posts: |
Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 13:55:49

Hi Lozzy

My children started out at a "bilingual" montessori school and then moved to a local French speaking school last September - no regrets, brilliant proactive school with fantastic teachers and only 18 per class. There are 7 different nationalities in my eldest son's class and they are both now fluent in French - so I think it has been a great advantage to send them there and they settled very quickly. Obviously you have to make an effort with the teachers and parents but that is the same at any school and I like that the kids are all local.

My observation from some of the bilingual schools is that for many children, neither French nor English is their first language so they are not that strong in either. Also, let's face it, if you were given the choice of speaking your mother tongue or French, most children will stick to English which kind of defeats the object of exposing them to another language. But then again, both my DH and I speak French so I think it scared us less! But my point is that most of the "bilingual" schools will not make your children bilingual...

If you're interested in a 5 bed, 3 bath house in SE Brussels with a great enclosed garden within walking distance of above school, tram / metro - let me know, ours is available from end July! Looks like your DH's workplace is near to Delta metro station, which means Auderghem, Etterbeek and that part of Ixelles could all be good - but you really want to be somewhere near the line 5 metros on Hermann Dubroux side (we are about 15-20 mins walk from Hermann Dubroux metro station or 10 mins from a tram to there).

BSB is an interesting prospect but VERY expensive and Tervuren is a long way out of BXL in my opinion. Leafy and bourgeois...and Dutch speaking.
But much of BXL is very green. My house is 2 minutes walk from a huge forest and we have a choice of 3+ parks within walking distance. So don't discount living in BXL proper! It is a very green place and easy to get about on public transport too depending on where you are.

scaryteacher Tue 17-May-11 14:50:50

BSB is low on numbers at the moment, so getting a place shouldn't be too difficult!

Tervuren is 20 minutes away from the centre of Brussels by car (if the road is clear) and it takes dh longer to get to and from NATO by car than it did for him to get to Schumann by tram and metro each morning.

Tervuren is lovely to live in, ostensibly Dutch speaking, but most people speak English.

Portofino Tue 17-May-11 17:20:00

This mammoth thread is absolutely packed with info about schools and locations. grin

If you have a spare day hour or 2, I would suggest having a read through and coming back with questions....

Also if you would be here by the summer, maybe worth looking at some French (or dare I say it, Dutch) classes in the holidays. I know they are available - even for the littlies.


Portofino Tue 17-May-11 17:25:29

Plus last year, I enquired at the french speaking Ecole de Fermette in Wezembeek Oppem, and there didn't seem to be a big pressure on places. This is the next village over from Tervuren. You have to live there (in W-O), or in one of the other Communes A Facilities eg Kraainem, to get a french speaking school place, which ruled me out, though I live quite close to there.

Wezembeek is also where the headquarters of the Brussels Childbirth Trust is located with all the mother/baby/toddler groups. BCT It is well worth joining, for the opportunity to meet people and for local support.

Portofino Tue 17-May-11 17:27:31

Ecole La Fermette

natation Tue 17-May-11 18:11:30

Our house is also available for rent from around 1st August, 4/5 beds, a 5 minute walk from metro line 5, the other side of the forest to superspudable. We cannot afford rent :-( as the our husband's employer is no longer paying rent, so we have to move.

I personally would look in Watermael-Boitsfort (1170), Auderghem (1160) or Woluwe St Pierre (1150) especially in Chant d'Oiseau area. Use this website to search for properties. A 4 bed with garden, near public transport, near a good school, in good condition, should set you back from 1400 to 4000 euro, depending on how luxurious you want, plenty of properties targetted at expats will still come in at under 2000 per month. The numbers in brackets are postcodes for the communes, essential to know them when searching Immoweb. I recommend using a plubic transport and ordinary map and also google maps, when searching.

natation Tue 17-May-11 18:17:43

Oh and another PS, ecole le Verseau does do a few hours of English for native level per week, the rest of the time is in French. It's a great option for long term, if you want your child to be proficient in writing in English for example. For short term, I am not sure if the distance is worth it. Ok maybe I am biased, it's just when children are young, for me being near school and going to school with children from the same street is far more attractive for me than sitting in a car for 2 to 3 hours a day and commuting 250km a week, I prefer 10 minutes walk per day.

Finally, here is a full list of bilingual schools in the greater Brussels area.

Eastern Brussels and Vlaams Brabant near Eastern Brussels Area

Ecole Acacia
143 Rue Louis Hap,
1040 Bruxelles (Etterbeek)
02 736 13 86
aged 2-12 years, varied fees max €5k?? per year

Brussels International Catholic School (BICS)
457 Chausséé de Wavre
1040, Bruxelles (Etterbeek)
aged 2 ½ to 18 years, up to €7,000 per year (without financial support)

Montessori House Brussels
195 Avenue Teruvren,
1150 Bruxelles (Woluwe St Pierre)
02 733 63 55
aged 2-6 years in 2 classes, up to €10,050 per year

International Montessori (Tervuren Rotselaelaan)
1 Rotselaerlaan,
3080 Tervuren
02 767 63 60
aged 2 ½ -11 years, up to €13,380 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Tervuren Savoorke)
24 Bergestraat,
3080 Tervuren
02 767 02 76
aged 15 months - 6 years, up to €11,040 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Wezembeek-Oppem)
4 Molenweg,
1970 Wezembeek-Oppem
02 782 12 36
aged 2-6 years up to €11,040 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Sterrebeek)
79-I Mechelsesteenweg,
1933 Sterrebeek
02 784 27 84
aged 2 ½ months – 6 years, up to €11,040 per year (without financial support)

International Montessori (Woluwe Hof Kleinenberg)
97/99 Kleinenbergstraat,
1932 St. Stevens-Woluwe
aged 2-16 years, up to €14150 per year (without financial support)

Lycée Français Jean Monnet
Avenue dy Lycée Français 9,
1180 Bruxelles (Uccle)
02 374 58 78
aged 3 to 18 years, up to 6k per year

British School of Brussels
Leuvensesteenweg 19
3080, Tervuren
02 766 04 30
bilingual classes starting September 2011 for Reception (age 5), Year 1 (age 6) and Year 3 (age 8)
aged 1 to 18 years, up to 27k per year

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 18:20:39

I agree with natation's search area - WSP can be more expensive than Auderghem /W-B but no less desirable/convenient/practical and I think schools may be more sought after and therefore harder to get into but she'll put me right on that one!

If you use google maps, and get directions to DH's office from certain streets / areas, you can click on a public transport icon and it will tell you how long it takes by public transport! Genius!

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 18:22:18

My kids were at Intl Montessori Sterrebeek last year so I can answer questions on there (or any of their other sites) - basically two teachers, one english speaking, one french speaking but both understand the other language...

Superspudable Tue 17-May-11 18:24:28

Also there are BCT playgroups within BXL now in Ixelles (avenue Louise / avenue de la toison d'or) and plenty going on in local BCT groups - definitely recommend joining as soon as you know you're coming! We're all in the same boat and it's a superb support network!

natation Tue 17-May-11 18:35:11

Oh another PS, for the bilingual classes at BSB, especially the reception class one, it would not surprise me if they had more applications for it than places. There will be one Fr/Eng class and two English classes, the latter two I am guessing will be easier to get into than the new bilingual one.

Tervuren to university are of Ixelles for a commute? Well by car or tram (44 change to 7) at rush hour expect a minimum of 45 minutes. Tervuren is great if you wish to remain within an expat community centred on BSB, International Montessori and St Paul's schools, but for a commute to Ixelles..... well to me it would be better to concentrate on the Brussels communes because you can half commuting time. I admit it, I am hellishly biased, just know too many people who live in Tervuren who never venture into Brussels, or even Leuven in the other direction which is well worth a shopping / social trip.

lozzyblue Tue 17-May-11 20:43:31

Wow - thank you all so much for your input! Certainly lots to get thinking about!

Thanks again and once I've digested the huge amount of info I will certainly be back in touch!


OP’s posts: |
LillianGish Tue 17-May-11 20:53:48

I can't tell you where to live in Brussels, but I would urge you not to worry about throwing the kids in at the deep end with a new language. When we moved from France to Germany ds had not yet started school. He went to a German nursery at 18 months where he learned to speak German and then joined his sister at the French school a year later where he learned to speak French. When we left Germany four years later both my children were trilingual. I have never regretted it and the kids have absolutely thrived on it. It is a brillliant opportunity and your kids are at just the right age to benefit.

scaryteacher Tue 17-May-11 22:39:02

From Tervuren I tend to use Leuven or Waterloo for shopping, as opposed to going into Brussels, and also use Woluwe Shopping Centre, and Louvain-Le-Neuve.

It depends what you want - I always used the local small town near us rather than venture into Plymouth when in UK, so it's horses for courses really.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 02:32:15

Ok ladies so if we decide to go local, I feel I'm going to be really caught out with timing. From what I have understood places at the preferred schools I'm each area will be hard to come by and as we would potentially arrive in August and still need to decide on a permanent home, we will be unable to organise starting at a school as it's school holidays right?

Ideas? Advice?

You've all been so helpful so far and I know these questions are probably difficult to answer when we ourselves have not even visited but really it's helping to steer my thoughts and relax me a little!

TIA, Lauren

OP’s posts: |
natation Thu 19-May-11 07:15:29

If you can decide on approximate location before arriving, it will make it easier you as schools do not finish until 1st July. You could start enquiring right now. IF you leave the location decision to arrival, you should find the head in school during the last 2 weeks of August, plus the teachers in too the last week - it is their responsibility to equip their classrooms so most spend several days at the end of August cleaning / re-arranging. You can use this time to visit schools. Some schools will have specific days advertised for late enrolments, look on their websites. A full list of local schools in French is available here, search according to commune post code. You are not limited by geography, you can send your child wherever you want, if there is a space.

I am guessing your children are born in 2007 and 2009, therefore you need to ask for places in "2eme maternelle" for the 2007 child and "acceuil" for 2009 child who could start at 2 1/2 - means this class often has children joining during the year as the children come of age.

There is a lot of double booking of school places, as most schools do their own enrolments so parents enrol at several schools. Parents must decide on a school by 15th September, so in August and the first 2 weeks of September, many school places become available as parents decline their double booked places. So if you can get your child on several waiting lists, you may be phoned and offered a last minute place.

Most schools are "fondamentale" which means they have maternelle classes for 2 1/2 to 6 year olds and primaire classes for 6 to 12 year olds, covering 10 school years in total. A few schools are maternelle or primaire only but most of these are linked together. Finally there are a few maternelle only schools without a linked primaire, these tend to be the smallest schools with just 4 classes, one for each year, I even know one with jsut 2 classes. They can be a good choice if looking for intimacy, the disadvantage being that transition to primaire can be problematic, you have to secure a space in a primaire which is going to have either maternelle classes or a linked maternelle and all those children have priority over your child coming from a stand-alone maternelle not linked to a primaire. In Brussels, I'd say 2/3 of schools are "fondamentale" type, to give you an idea of size, a minority have one class per year, more typically there are 2 classes per year, some even have 3 classes per year. Brussels does not have enough schools, heads are being asked to take on more and more children per class. Expect 25 per class, even in maternelle. If you find a school in east Brussels with 20 in a class, well you must enquire as to why!!! So in a 2 class per year popular fondamentale, you'll find typically 450 children, don't be scared at the numbers, look rather at how each individual class is managed. Our children's school is now at 420, will grow next year to 450, yet in the maternelle classes, it is calm and quiet and has a small school feel to it, with the exception of the start of the day which is the only time the whole school is together in one playground.

Superspudable Thu 19-May-11 08:16:18

Our school definitely had places for late enrollments at the end of August last year, and my Canadian friends enrolled at the end of June so it is definitely possible. Feel free to PM me if you want the school's details, it is in Auderghem and has maternelle and primaire so goes from 2 1/2 to 12.

My DCs both have less than 20 per class, and it IS still an excellent school! The "catchment" has seen a falling birthrate / ageing population and the head is keen to keep the numbers down that way... so please don't always assume that a school with spaces is not a good one.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 08:25:16


once again thank you! And not only for the info above, but the info you provided me with in your PM. We expect to have much more information regarding this move today so I may finally be able to plan a bit more and would hope to get out potentially next week for an initial visit. Everything feels a bit crazy because of the timing... not only in terms of schooling but with baby number 3 due in 4 weeks I really need to get a move on and would like to get the initial visit done PRE baby!

I've been looking at houses in the areas you suggested and also in Waterloo. I know that it's much further out but don't want to discount it before a visit... do you have any thoughts on Waterloo as an area?

One other thing I've realised is that rent is so much higher than the UK... is the cost of living in general SO different??

OP’s posts: |
Portofino Thu 19-May-11 08:43:01

I think it's swings and roundabouts really with the cost of living. Food and clothes are more expensive. Wine and eating out are cheaper. Facilities are generally good - schools, healthcare etc. There are loads upon loads of inexpensive things to do, particularly for children. I would say we have less cash, but a much better standard of living than we did in the UK.

lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 09:21:49

Superspudable, have only just seen your message... our posts must have crossed! I will PM you now - very interested to hear your thoughts on your own school. Thanks!

OP’s posts: |
lozzyblue Thu 19-May-11 09:34:19

Portofino, I guessed it would be really... it's just hard to get your head around sitting here in the UK, especially as we are waiting on the concrete details (fingers crossed for answers today!)

It's so scary doing anything like this once you have children to consider isn't it! Silly really as I'm pretty sure that they'll be happy anywhere as long as they're with their mummy & daddy (at this age anyway - lol!)

OP’s posts: |

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