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Calling Belgium MNers

(9 Posts)
mummytime Wed 04-May-16 14:55:33

DH works in Belgium, at present in Waterloo, although it may relocate but not far.
At present he has been commuting from the UK. However the DCs education has reached stages where it could be possible to relocate as a family.
If we do:
Should we buy or rent?
Where should we live?
What school options are there for a 16 year old and a 13 year old? Would it be best to send them to an international school? They have very rudimentary French. (The 16 year old has an NVQ level 2 in French, a pretty good accent but limited fluency.)


lifeisunjust Wed 04-May-16 15:27:12

Where you live depends on how much you like commuting and your budget. Buying here has very high costs, not recommended unless you know you'll be here at least 5 years or you don't mind losing 10-20% of house value in costs.

Options for school are private English or public French or Dutch.

The cheapest private English school with a track record longer than 2 years old is International School of Flanders ISF, for those funding themselves. There is also Bogaerts but little more than some classrooms rented from SSB and with another "school" opening on the same site, same way of renting classroom form SSB, called European School Argenteuil (no secondary years), I wonder what will happen there and would not be confident at all that European school Argenteuil or Bogaerts school would still be running in 2 years. ISF is a long standing school but has only done 16-18 years for about 4 years, the choice of A levels in limited. It is however only 18k per year for self funders.

Then you have a huge step up to the 3 large private schools which cover secondary school age, you will need 30k per year as a self funder minimum. ISB, St John's are both effectively American and BSB is British curriculum.

If you are brave enough to go French, I'd recommend Le Verseau. It is NOT a private school and it is NOT an international school (despite the name). It has, like many Belgian schools, a large number of nationalities and significantly around half of the secondary students are mother tongue English. The head is British. It also charges fees - public schools are allowed to in Belgium - but only around 5k per year. 4-6 hours per week mother tongue English, rest in French. This would be the public school best matched to English speaking children with limited French to go cold turkey into French. You can also hold your children back a year to concentrate on language acquisition and take off the academic pressure. You can also do A levels and GCSEs, not at Le Verseau, but supported by Le Verseau staff as an external candidate at BSB for 100 euro per exam. It's quite a small school, something like only 220 in 6 secondary years. It's not far from Waterloo to Le Verseau and there is public bus which goes from Wavre station connecting with train and other buses and goes to the school once a day.

Here is a map of the private schools.

Then you can basically

inparticular Wed 04-May-16 15:50:19

I was going to suggest Le Verseau too. I know several people whose children go/have gone there, and I've only ever heard good things about it. It's certainly one we'll consider for DD for secondary when the time comes.

Then of course there's St John's in Waterloo, which is by all accounts a fabulous school...but it probably depends whether your husband's company will cover the fees. Private schools in and around Brussels are very expensive.

Waterloo is a nice place to live (lots of expats), but if you opted for Le Verseau you could consider living between the two, in Rixensart or Lasne, for example. Your children would be much closer to school, but your husband would still be only a short drive from work.

scaryteacher Thu 05-May-16 00:21:59

Buying or renting depends how long you will be here for. We have been here a decade now and rent, as we know we will return to our house in the UK. Initially we were in HM Forces accommodation, but now dh is a civvy, we rent privately. It ain't cheap!!

mummytime Fri 06-May-16 17:59:10

Thank you. Lots to think about.
What about the Scandanavian School for IB?

lifeisunjust Fri 06-May-16 18:29:05

SSB is 23.5k.
BSB is 31.7k
St Jphn's is 34k
ISB is 35k

SSB is not well known in English speaking circles, I assume there will be few non Scandinavians in the IB there.

If you can afford 23.5k, I personally would prefer to pay for any of the other 3 big schools.

Go compare the IB results of all 4.

State boarding in the UK is as little as 10k per year. I would seriously consider it. The end results could be the same if not better for one third of the price.

mummytime Fri 06-May-16 19:05:21

The alternative is probably just to remain in the UK, and DH to commute.

flipflop13 Wed 08-Jun-16 10:11:26

I am a parent who went to an Open Day at the new European School Argenteuil in Waterloo a couple of weeks ago. lifeisunjust, you make it sound really dodgy, which is unfair. I know from watching these boards that you are an expert on schools in Brussels so please do not take this as any personal attack. I am not interested in conflict, just in presenting a more fair and balanced view.

I respectfully suggest you actually go on the website of the school and read up. It is a project between two schools, both long-established; the Lycée Moliere (established in 1964) and the Scandinavian school. The European School Argenteuil has been approved to apply for officially accredited European School status and has also been officially approved by the Belgian Ministry of Education.

I walked around the campus, which is indeed shared with the Scandinavian School. The Scandinavian School has a huge campus and only a few hundred pupils so it is no surprise that it is searching for other solutions. The facilities are impressive and the fact that education will be fully bilingual with Either French/English is a bonus. Even thought the new European School in Waterloo is only just about to open its doors for the first time in September 2016 it does not deserve to be so casually and scornfully dismissed.

Mumsnet is a wonderful resource for information but I would like to gently suggest that sometimes the best way to find out about things like schools is to contact them yourself and go for a look, rather than rely exclusively on hearsay or online speculation.

lifeisunjust Fri 10-Jun-16 16:10:58

It is hardly me making the new school "dodgy" by pointing out that there is already Bogaerts there (about to move out, no public news about where), then also Ace of Brussels and then also Montgomery, all 3 opening at the same time. I would be very surprised if all of these 3 new schools and also Bogaerts will still be running in a few years. They are all trying to capture the market of people who don't get fees paid for by employers or who get only partial fees paid but who'd like an English education. They are all therefore cheaper and some are half the price of the big 3. I would be very surprised indeed if all 4 of these schools remain operating in a few years, which would for me be a very big consideration if I were thinking ahead. There is nothing dodgy about any of them, but there is a risk.

It's no secret SSB has been struggling and has taken in new schools to make their own school viable.

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