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Teaching in Brussels

(32 Posts)
WallounWallout Sun 29-Jan-17 10:59:27

Hi all Belgian MNers, I was hoping someone might have some info for me?

I am looking to apply for a teaching role at BSB, and have a few questions before writing the application.

Do teachers' children usually get free places at the school? If so, is the bilingual stream open for any children or just those who speak French at home?

I am looking for bilingual opportunities for my children. Do most teachers live near to the school, or is living in a more francophone are, eg. WSP, a realistic possibility?

Thank you very much for any advice.

lifeisunjust Sun 29-Jan-17 13:03:03

About half the teachers get completely free of fees, the other half don't. It depends if you apply for a position from abroad advertised like that or apply on locally advertised. It depends largely on your subject or seniority of position if it is advertised further than locally.

For bilingual your children need to speak it to level of class or if your cil is starting in reception or year 1 need a strong commitment that parents will learn and child will reinforce with outside activities in french. Best chance of a bilingual place for non french speaking child is a year or 2 in french school first.

Whilst the majority still live in Tervuren and overijse increasingly popular to live in mainly french Brussels especially if in bilingual.

WallounWallout Sun 29-Jan-17 13:22:54

Thank you so much lifeis. It's a position advertised in UK so hopefully, as not local hire, fees would be included?

I have read years of posts on this forum and education seems to be quite the topic. I worry about trying to balance school dropoffs in a local school alongside getting to work, after school commitments etc, but other than that I am absolutely not averse to the DCs going to a local school. Having said that, BSB looks like it has a lot to offer our children, who are sporty and creative, so it would be a shame to miss that opportunity.

I wonder if a summer immersion programme exists somewhere to get the children to a reasonable standard? We speak French so could start now but bilingual by next academic year would be unlikely.

Thank you ever so much for your support.

cannotseeanend Sun 29-Jan-17 19:58:59

It might make a bit of a difference if you live in Belgium. I do not know the whole rules. I would phone HR at the school, but I suspect if you're already here, they will not offer you the post including fees. Even if it's an advert which has appeared in the UK, it still might not include free education, you really need to ask the HR department.

It is easy peasy to do drop offs at local schools and get to BSB in time for work and back to a local school at the end of the day. More than half staff with kids do it, none of the support staff or teaching assistants get the right to free schooling, so all their children are in local schools.

Locally schooled children get sport outside school and creativity at music and arts academies, it's just organized differently to the UK. BSB children do miss out on sporting activities outside the school, due to only the under 7s being off on Wednesdays and the later finishing on other week days, as much sports and creative stuff is on Wednesday afternoons or from 16.00 which is impossible for BSB children, unless under 7.

All children are interviewed, as are parents for bilingual program, from what I can see, a Summer immersion will not be sufficient to get a place in bilingual except for reception or year 1, above that, between 7-11 no they really have to be semi-fluent and by 11 need to be fluent. A year in French school would be sufficient for children to get fluent enough, that is equal to 4-6 years at BSB bilingual! Then moving to bilingual. Also the bilingual classes are often full, so it also depends on a space freeing up. There are more Belgian children in the bilingual classes, so movement is not so great in those classes. The availability of bilingual places is very changeable.

WallounWallout Sun 29-Jan-17 20:51:14

Thank you.

I'm not in Belgium currently, am in UK. Perhaps local school would be a better option then, for now. Getting places is difficult though, I gather? If I were to be offered the job, presumably that wouldn't be until mid March at the soonest - would that be enough time to secure a place in a local school, do you think? Do they tend to have before and after school care?

Thank you

PetalMettle Sun 29-Jan-17 20:53:22

I hated living in Brussels so I'd be sure before you commit

WallounWallout Sun 29-Jan-17 21:14:47

Oh, why did you hate it petal?

cannotseeanend Sun 29-Jan-17 21:15:53

It's not true it is difficult to get places in local schools, it is completely dependent on the language and area. I would not be put off by that.

How old are your children? If they are under 7, bilingual without French is more likely, older without French unlikely to impossible. But it comes down to numbers in the class if you're looking for yr1 and above, numbers leaving, numbers applying and their ability to speak French.

There are mumsnetters who are previous and current teachers at BSB, plus previous and current parents. There is a secret facebook group and lots of other facebook groups where you get opinions other than mine! The secret group is good though, as no-one else at BSB can see it but the ones connected with there.

Having your children at BSB for free is indeed a huge perk, if you have 2 kids, it's more than a basic teacher's salary, you'd need 4 kids for it to be the basic deputy salary currently advertised though, but still, it's more than the average net salary of a Belgian resident. The extra-curricular programme is almost entirely free as well. The downside is the living in bubble, few of the children at BSB it would be true to say break out of the bubble, unless they were already out of it by speaking French or Dutch and living already in Belgium, many spend the majority or all their school lives there and don't mix and many never learn French or Dutch. People can be quite happy living like that, but do be aware of it and how easy it would be to be in that bubble.
I would base your desire to live somewhere on YOU really, not anyone else's love or hate of a place. We are all different.

cannotseeanend Sun 29-Jan-17 21:24:39

If you were to consider local schools and are looking for French, then I would not live in Tervuren, but in Wezembeek-Oppem or Woluwe-St-Pierre, for ease of commute to BSB and you can get there by bus, tram or bike.

It's reasonably easy to get a school place at the 3 Wezembeek French schools 2.5-12 years, but you need a Wezembeek or Kraainem address by the time of starting in September to be able to attend. You can apply from the UK, even before having a job, all you need is identification.

There are half a dozen more French school in WSP on the tram routes to Tervuren, the hardest to get places at are Mater Dei and Sacre-Coeur de Stockel, the latter is 40-50% non Belgian and about 10% English speaking at home, the most Belgian of schools in WSP, Mater Dei, is still about 20% non Belgian. You would get a place in WSP, just might not be the school you prefer.

Several children come from WSP French maternelles into the bilingual programme, at least I've met quite a few.

WallounWallout Sun 29-Jan-17 21:24:56

Thanks cannot, that's really helpful advice. My children are young, eldest is 7.

It looks like the perfect school for me professionally and Brussels too for us as a family, but I'm realistically assuming that jobs will be very sought after at BSB.

Bearing in mind it's only a possibility, would it be ok to join the fb group, do you think, or better to wait until I know?

Thank you for your help.

scaryteacher Sun 29-Jan-17 23:17:55

It is quite hard to get out of the BSB bubble if you are staff, and have your kids there. Belgium is expensive, housing is not cheap, and at BSB there used to be an element of keeping up with the Joneses in terms of what the kids had.

I am an ex BSB parent, and have been in Belgium for a decade, and if I had the choice again, I'm not sure that I would have sent ds to BSB. I certainly didn't leave him there for sixth form! That said, the SMT has changed, and it may have improved.

PetalMettle Mon 30-Jan-17 04:49:23

Caveated by the fact I was there over a decade ago, and although I still hate it when I go back for work this could be engrained. And the societal issues may have sorted themselves out a bit which is something you can't tell from visits. Also with a family it would probably be significantly easier to integrate.

1. The racial element. There were 4 distinct groupings and I felt there were real tensions there. West Africans were treated like scum/outcasts eg people would refuse to hire them, rent to them. The North African community would see white women as putain (as they used to yell) and literally up for grabs. I lived there when I was single and got used to regularly being groped, followed and catcalled. I would never sit on a park bench as I'd get too much hassle. I also found the police fairly feckless - I once had a guy grab me in a supermarket in front of a police officer who laughed. The expats - there is/was a large expat community although as so many people are there short term it can be difficult to form strong bonds, I also worked around the berlaymont and there was a weird temporary feel to life - people going "home" at weekends, people with one eye on "home" the whole time. And obviously the native Belgians (I won't get into Walloon vs Flemish here!) but in general I found some reasonable resentment against expats coming over and pushing the cost of living up for a temporary stay often paid abroad.

2. The dirt and litter. It just really got me down. There are beautiful areas and parks but the centre had a real litter issue which wasn't helped by

3. The rain. I lived there 2 years and it rained all but 3 days.

All that being said, I know people who moved there when I did and are still there. Belgium has some lovely places to explore, and is obviously brilliantly connected to the rest of Europe, a lot of the Brussels housing stock is lovely, it's great for gigs, bars and restaurants.

So, as a pp said it really is horses for courses, I think my bad experience is just really engrained in me. There's probably people who feel similar about London. I guess if you're thinking of bsb you wouldn't be living dead central anyway.

catmack16 Mon 30-Jan-17 12:26:22

I have a child in the bilingual programme and we are not French-speaking but pre-school was in a multi-lingual environment (not BSB) and a number of the children in the bilingual programme did pre-school elsewhere as other posters have indicated. If you have any specific questions please send me a message.

amyboo Mon 30-Jan-17 13:04:10

Oh for goodness' sake Petal - rained all but 3 days in 2 years. Nonsense. I'm from the Westcountry and lived in Wales for uni, and I can tell you Belgium gets a lot, lot, lot less rain that either of those 2 areas of the UK!

As for your rant about litter - this might have been the case 10-15 years ago (I've been here for 15 years), but the city has really cleaned up its act in recent years - fines for dog poo on the street, fines for rubbish bags left out too early, more litter bins in the metro and on the streets etc. It's much cleaner now in the centre. Many of the former run-down areas in the centre and Schuman areas have also been renovated in recent years.

And the rant about 4 different ethnic groups - I would entirely disagree. I've lived here for 15 years, in the city centre for 10 years, and have never once been or felt aggressed by anyone no matter what colour or race they are. I've also never felt that everyone goes "home" every weekend. Yes of course expats still talk about "home" as being the country they're from, but that's the nature of being an expat and isn't unique to Brussels. And resentment of expats from Belgians - not something I've felt, and I now live in the heart of Wallonie...

PetalMettle Mon 30-Jan-17 13:46:36

The rain is accurate. I took note of all the days it didn't rain. Glad to hear the litter and dog mess situation has improved - when I go over I commute into midi which still seems fairly grotty but then I guess waterloo isn't the most aseathetically pleasing part of the uk.
Has the situation with west Africans improved, it was upsetting to me to see black men refused entry to clubs etc?
Regarding the transitory nature, I did say I worked around the berlaymont so I think it would be more pronounced there.
Regarding the sexual harrasment, I'm pleasantly surprised for you. I never felt safe there.
As I said though, it's horses for courses, I just wanted to share my experience.

cannotseeanend Mon 30-Jan-17 16:20:03

I've never been in a nightclub, though there is a great nightlife in Matonge, so that would be surprising that central Africans (there are few west Africans) or north Africans would be refused access to nightclubs. I dare say the OP is not going to be very likely to be going to clubs too often.

Berlaymont area is not respresentative of Brussels, it's a small area.

I've come across the odd sexual harassment. I've come across quite a bit of resentment of those who earn a lot in multi-nationals but most resentment is reserved for those on special conditions who don't pay tax to Belgium and whose salaries are far in excess of the average Belgian resident. It wouldn't put me off being on special conditions or being paid more than average, it's to be expected.

It rains no more than south-east England, I do spend an awful lot of time outside. Data from shows Belgium has about 120 days per year of precipitation, so about 1/3 of days in a year it rains. The claim it rains 362 days a year says it all for the claims of the poster.......

PetalMettle Mon 30-Jan-17 18:08:41

The whole point about clubs was illustrative - it was actually a Jamaican guy I know (hence why I said black) who was refused entry to a club by louise. I'm sure in matonge it's not an issue, that always seemed to be the one area that Central Africans were "allowed". Apologies for typing west, I got confused about where the Congo was...guess I should've gone to the museum which I think they've finally revamped so it doesn't quite glorify the occupation as much. It wasn't really so much about whether the OP would be going to clubs, it's whether you're happy living somewhere with that attitude. After growing up in London it seemed bizarre to me to see people refusing to rent room to POC etc.
Yes, berlaymont is a small area - that's why I specified that area has the transitory feel to it. It may be different else where.
The rain thing who knows.
Anyway, OP as you can see it's a place that divides feelings! I will say I found the healthcare very good.

scaryteacher Tue 31-Jan-17 12:43:36

Petal The museum is still shut, or was when I drove past it on Friday! Agree about the rain, I live on the Devon/Cornwall borders in UK, and Belgium is wet just like home, and we even get Dartmoor days here, with mizzle, mist and low visibility. I have been here a decade, and although it doesn't rain every day, it's a pleasant surprise when it isn't mizzling at the very least.

Amy Try the 3080 postcode for resentment of is there.

Imarriedaniceman Tue 31-Jan-17 22:47:58

I have to say after living in Brussels for 4 years I agree with Petal. I have moved now and can't even bring myself to go back for a weekend. The city is filthy and I often felt unsafe there. There is massive segregation and it is no surprise to me that it is a breeding ground for terrorists. I left less than a year ago.

Of course it is different in the suburbs where expats reside but for me having a vibrant city to explore is part of the attraction of moving country. And the expat scene is stifling but horses for courses.

I would recommend spending a weekend in Brussels/Tervuren wherever you intend to live with your eyes wide open before signing up. Oh and local schools are very very different culturally to an anglophone. Think lots of shouting, children falling into line. It's not like the teachers are bad people but they just view children very differently. Be clear what you are getting into. There is a very positive spin on life in Brussels/local schools on this forum. I just wish I had researched a bit more elsewhere before I found out the hard way.

Anyway just my experience, obviously won't be everybody's.

If you get places at BSB for your children and live close by it won't be much of a culture change apart from having better access to mainland Europe.

Good luck.

travailtotravel Tue 31-Jan-17 23:14:32

I loved living in Brussels and like move back in a heartbeat. So much going on. I don't disagree it can feel like a bubble at times but it depends where you live, whether you speak the lingo and your approach to something different. Anyways, different experiences etc. Op,have you spent any time there or are you basing your decision to apply on other factors. Strongly recommend spending time there ....

cannotseeanend Wed 01-Feb-17 08:07:22

Local schools.....

Think lots of shouting, children falling into line

Well does that mean you have NO experience of local schools? In which case your opinion is a bit useless isn't it?

There is massive segregation

Where is this massive segregation? What do you mean by that?

amyboo Thu 02-Feb-17 07:18:41

My kids' local FR speaking school doesn't have lots of shouting or children falling into line. There's discipline, but it's a school, so that's to be expected... Frankly, I find the schools here are much more like school was when I was a kid in the 80s - no formal learning till 6, lots of outdoor time, expectation of basic good behaviour, decent hot meals, small classes, no pressure to meet targets, pass exams or talk of league tables... Not to mention there's wraparound care (i.e. expectation that you can actually still work and have kids in school). Compared with stories I hear from many friends in the UK - classes of 30+, SATs and insisting 4 year olds learn to read and write as soon as they start school, league tables, ofsted reports, rubbish school trips, crappy dinners, no/expensive afterschool care, etc etc.

I guess some love it here, some hate it. But, generally I think the ones who embrace life here are more likely to love it. The people I know who don't are generally the ones who have moved here expecting the UK but on the other side of the Channel....

And I can only echo cannotseeanend - I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about with "massive segregation". Oh yes, and because the UK is such an inclusive society these days hmm

Imarriedaniceman Thu 02-Feb-17 19:14:53

Okay to answer a couple of points.

My children attended local school for 3 years so I am basing my views on that experience. I could write a lot but to be honest I don't have time right now and it also brings up a lot of sadness for me, I simply advise that anyone considering local school go in with their eyes open. We often hear that children are resilient and are like sponges when it comes to languages but this is not always the case. I have met many people during my time in Brussels who had similar experiences with local school. I also met some who were happy but not as many as you would be led to believe from this forum.

In relation to class size it is true that in primary ( from 6 years upwards) class size is smaller than the UK. However at maternelle ( from 3 to 6 years) the pupil teacher ratio is far higher than the UK. I was actually shocked to realize that one teacher was responsible for 22 three year old's. Okay he sometimes had as assistant but on some days he was alone. Crazy and it is this that probably leads to the shouting...just silly expectations of very young children. Ultimately it is a completely different view of childhood, one in which the child fits into the adult world.

Yes they do the amazing school trips ( 3 nights away for 5 year old's???) They are great I am sure when you are 8 years or older but at 5 years old? It's all about the child identifying with the group and making them independent from a young age. Which sounds great apart from the fact that current research on attachment tells us that young children become confident and independent through secure attachments with primary caregivers. The system is reminiscent of days gone by...days in which children were seen and not heard.

I am happy for those who have had positive experiences. I went out with a very open mind, actively pursuing something different which I thought would be beneficial to my children. I kept with it all the time, looking for positives. I now cringe at what I put my kids through all in the name of a cultural experience.

I read this article a while back and it really summed up my experience especially the part about the kid feeling invisible...Its Paris but could just as easily be Brussels

On the school meals....the menu reads well. Its mass produced by a catering company.

Yes they get a longer break at lunch to be outside. Supervision at my school was carried out by low paid garderie workers whose suitability for working with any children was questionable. One of them stood over my daughter until she finished her school dinner.. It was a rich creamy sauce. Cue projectile vomiting. Another day my other daughter was made stand by the wall for yard time ( 40 minutes) because she forgot her coat ( she was 4 years old). Yes and the wrap around care means that lots of children are dropped at 7.30am and picked up at 6. For about 5 hours of this time they are supervised by unqualified staff who are supervising large numbers of children. That is why they resort to shouting etc.

I didn't mean to write so much, it's obviously an experience that's very close to my heart!

I wont start on the segregation! Just take a couple of metros and walk around Brussels for the day and draw your own conclusions. Both France and Belgium have massive issues with non integration of entire communities... the UK whilst not perfect has done a much better job. Walk around London for the day and then walk around Brussels. it's like a different world.

For those who love Brussels and the education system. Great. I am genuinely happy for you. I wanted to love or even like it too. I think its legitimate to write of my experience. Hopefully this thread will encourage anyone reading to do lots of research and draw their own conclusions.


PetalMettle Thu 02-Feb-17 21:18:27

For me - and as I've said things may have changed it was the fact you only had those 4 distinctive groups (5 if you split walloons and Flemish) rather than in London where it was a complete mix of tens of different nationalities and cultures.
flowers imarried, sorry it was so tough.

Longtime Tue 07-Feb-17 02:06:23

I'm mainly with Imarriedaniceman. I have lived in Brussels for 31 years and I hated the Belgian school system. My eldest ds ended up having a breakdown at the age of 15 and we had to move him. dd is homeschooling for the final two years of school. I don't understand the comment "no pressure to pass exams". It's all about exams! From the age of six, it's tests all the time plus exams twice a year. If you don't pass, you'll get the chance to resit in August otherwise you have to redo the whole year! There is little creativity and the emphasis on academic subjects and learning by rote is something out of the 1950s I'd say rather than the 1980s. I have seen children in maternelle being handled roughly, being shouted at and other incidences which have beggared belief. They have no clue about child psychology.

Long lunchtimes are mainly because when the schools were built they didn't expect so many children to stay at lunchtime so they don't have the facilities to cope so they need two shift for lunch. The supervisors tend to walk around together chatting and often miss what they are paid to look out for. In secondary there are no long lunchtimes though and it's a very long day. My dd (17) would be going from 8.10 to 16.30 with an hour lunch break and about three hours of homework a night.

Trips. Yes, my dd could have gone on a pony club week with the school at the age of 5. Wild horses wouldn't have dragged here away from me for a week at that age. She was still wetting at night so there is no way she would have felt comfortable doing that. She and one other boy were the only ones in the class not to go.

Oh and the "children are like sponges - they'll be speaking the language in no time" Not in my experience. Also, what people forget is that if they only come over for a few years when the children are young and never live in a French speaking country again, they WILL forget it.

This is not just the opinion of someone who expects the UK this side of the channel. I came here before I had my dcs, I feel Belgium is more my home than the UK, I speak both French and Dutch, I have Belgian friends, some of whom are just as vocal about the school system as I am. In my experience it depends on the child. If you have a child with a good memory they are more likely to survive the Belgian system. If you don't, then good luck. A mnetter went back to NZ recently. She said her youngest felt settled at school after the first day. Before she left I asked what she would miss about Brussels and what she wouldn't. For the latter she replied "the school system".

I'm sorry I didn't come onto your thread when you were asking for advice Imarriedaniceman as I would have told you what I thought.

And no segregation? You're kidding right? Go walk around leafy Woluwe St Pierre and then take a walk in Molenbeek and come back and tell me there is no segregation. Well, it's not forced segregation but most north African/Turkish immigrants can't afford the house prices in Woluwe St Pierre! The police are extremely racist in Brussels (and were even before the attacks). My sons often went out for the night in Brussels and the police targeted non white young men for ID checks etc over the white young men.

All that said, I wouldn't necessarily say not to come here. It's easy to travel from to visit all over Europe. If you stay in the bubble of the East of Brussels, you could live here without knowing much of what goes on over in the west. I would put your children in the BSB in a heartbeat over the local school (though can understand the appeal of just a couple of years to get their French to a standard where they can join the bilingual programme). It's definitely not perfect but most children I know have thoroughly enjoyed their time there. I don't know any children that this can said of in a Belgian school. One more thing, the facilities at the BSB are second to none and in the Belgian schools (though I'm thinking of secondary here) are pretty appalling. My dd's school was falling to pieces with rubbish science labs (but then for the most part the children don't do experiments), nowhere to sit for lunch (they sit on the floor in the corridors), well really no facilities other than classrooms with central heating that is either full on or full off because they have no temperature regulators on the radiators.

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