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Help! How to get into a public school in Brussels

(34 Posts)
DesperatelyMoving Tue 14-May-13 20:27:38

Hi all,

I sense from this site that it is extremely difficult to get into a (good) public school in Brussels. We wil be moving there in September with our 4 1/2 year old (born Jan 2009) and are hoping to live either in Saint Gilles, Ixelles, Etterbeek or around the EU quarter zip code 1000). We do not wish to have a long commute to work (EU quarter) or to school for that matter. However, it seems like we should have signed up our son when he was born...basically. Sigh. If anyone can share some advice on schools (good, decent) in those areas and how to get in, either in September or as soon as possible I would be so thankful!

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 08:53:18

I am going to copy paste Marchmads posts on the other recent school thread:

I fear you might have to compromise on housing or schooling. Here are some figures on rentals in communes I'd recommend looking at, plus populations (to give you an idea of quantity of rental of housing per population) and number of schools.

On the subject of housing, this is the number of adverts on immoweb at the moment for 3 bed properties :

1150 WSP population 40,000, 10 schools
- 39 houses between €1295 and €2000
- 129 apartments between and €2000

1170 Watermael population 25,000, 7 schools
- 15 houses between €1450 and €2000
- 26 apartments between €900 and €2000

1200 WSL population 52,000, 16 schools
- 17 houses between €990 and €2000
- 94 apartments between €825 and €2000

1160 Auderghem population 32,000, 7 schools
- 12 houses between €1030 and €2000
- 67 apartments between €1000 and €2000

1040 Etterbeek population 46,000, 9 schools
- 11 houses between €1350 and €2000
- 107 apartments between €850 and €2000

1060 St Gilles population 50,000, 10 schools
- 0 houses under €2000
- 18 apartments between €700 and €2000

where you'd like to look
1180 Uccle population 80,000, 26 schools
- 86 houses between €890 and €2000
- 159 apartments between €800 and €2000

1190 Forest population 53,000, 16 schools
- 3 houses between €1200 and €2000
- 16 apartments between €900 and €2000

Do study these stats. I'd personally cross off Forest and St Gilles immediately, just not enough rentals under €2000 with 3+ beds. As for the others, well you can see that overall WSP and Uccle have a very high amount of rentals of 3+ beds in your price range, when compared against their populations. WSL has quite a limited supply of houses in the price range but plenty of apartments, same with Etterbeek. Watermael is ok for housing and apartments, but as so many of the Auderghem apartments, a good supply, are actually near to 2 good Watermael schools, if it's apartments you're happy with the "Pecheries" area of Auderghem/Watermael is an excellent place to look, as well as being and area with a reasonable amount of houses.

Your problem with Uccle is that the chances of a school place there is far lower than in Watermael, Auderghem, WSL, WSP, Etterbeek, but at least if you manage 2 places, you shouldn't have to worry about finding somewhere to live nearby.

WSP is frankly hard to beat for a combination of school places and housing.

Watermael is good for schooling, if happy with an apartment, wouldn't worry about housing, if you want only a house, I'd probably not want the children to start school there without a house.

You really shouldn't be fussy about housing, unless you want to make your situation even harder. Ideally you should be flexible about size and quality and features. 3 bathrooms are not essential, only 1 is. A garden is not essential, think of it as a luxury. Parking is not essential and in Brussels you can live without a car. 5 beds for guests is not essential. A power shower is not essential. Fitting all your furniture is not essential. Living close to school IS ESSENTIAL to getting a decent secondaire place. Do not sign any housing contract without firm school places and moreover without checking the order of primaire with reference to your new home or order of preferred primaire with reference to your new home. Ignore this advice at your peril. I know 2 families who did this year. 1 has been exceptionally lucky to get a place at a super school which was their nearest but they wanted instead their child to go to the most highly regarded secondaire and didn't get the place and sensibly accept their fantastic 2nd choice (so do half Brussels' parents and therein lies the problem of living more than 400m from this school, non priority children stand no chance of a place).

There is nothing to lose in enrolling for school places now and really I would have done it months ago. It doesn't matter if you don't know the exact date of arrival, the schools won't know that, the worst that could happen if you couldn't start when you want your children to start is that the places are kept a few weeks for you, or you have to look elsewhere. The longer you delay looking, the harder it will get. Your only other strategy is to hope luck is on your side and you get a last minute vacancy at the end of August/beginning of September. Once they start P5, they cannot be held back a year due to lack of French and they cannot change school either until the end of P6. Finally if you think you cannot enrol without being registered, as said before, you do not even need to be in the country, never mind registered, you just need to arrive on the first day for school with your passports and visas and then come back ASAP with registration papers.

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 09:09:33

Apparently the areas you are looking are totally oversubscribed for schools. I really would look further out. WSL, WSP are easy commuting distance to the EU area, as is Evere - and apartment prices there are really reasonable.

DesperatelyMoving Wed 15-May-13 15:37:05

Good morning!

Thank you so much for the advice. Yes, it seems like I must change mind about living in those areas indeed. I have been chatting with Bruxelloise on another thread and it seems like WSL and WSP are far better options. I will try and call the schools and hope they will speak English to me (as I also still have to learn French...). Thanks again!

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 18:46:48

There are lots of expats in those areas so it will help with making friends too. Good luck with English at the schools though - this is NOT my experience. Do you have access to any relocation services who could help with this?

Anywhere along the metro line from Stockel gives you easy access to the stops at Schuman, Maalbeek and Arts-Loi (pretty much covers the eu district) Look at for the public transport map. We live just outside Brussels at the moment, but plan to move to the Stockel area within the next year. It is really good for primary and secondary schools (important to me) and is really switched on in terms of public transport, restaurants, cinema, sports facilities etc. by my calculation you are looking for a 2nd year maternelle place in September.

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 18:50:15

These 2 schools here are definitely worth trying first.

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 18:58:19

They are used to foreign applicants and I plan to switch my daughter to one or other in 5th Primary. And here is a map/details of all the others

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 19:03:31

My daughter is at L'aubier in Evere which I would recommend also. There I are a lot of new build apartments in that area, so prices reasonable but it might put extra pressure on the schools there. Good bus links to the eu district from there though.

DesperatelyMoving Wed 15-May-13 20:16:36

Thanks Portofino,

This is really helpful! I will look into whether the relocation services we have could help me out with calling the schools.

Yes, I have indeed been told that since he is born Jan 2009, he will go to 2nd maternelle. We do actually have a spot at the International Montessori School at their Kleinenbergstraat 97, Zaventem location, but we are not certain about it for various reasons: the work might not cover the costs as we thought; I am told that he will not really learn French there (I was hoping for a smooth transition from English/USA where we are now into French (he also speaks Danish (mum) and Italian (dad)), but if he does not pick up French really, maybe we are doing him a disfavor since he will have to start public French school when he stars primary).

Anyways, thanks for all the help!

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 20:36:59

If you don't plan for international schools long term, definitely get him local school ASAP. 2nd and 3rd maternelle will really prepare him for Belgian primary and is plenty of time to pick up the language. I know lots of people who have put kids into Belgian schools at that age. He will do fine. I cannot stress highly enough the need to contact the schools to see if hey have places before school breaks up on 28th June.

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 20:39:13

And find your school place before you sign a rental contract. is the main search engine for houses and apartments.

Duckegg80 Wed 15-May-13 20:43:52

Hello all, I'm now living in Stockel and my son (just turned 2) is in a crèche at the moment but I need to register him for a maternelle. We missed the boat for September but if anyone has any advice or pointers for getting on a waiting list, or even registering for next year, I would be hugely grateful.

Oh and Desperately if there's anything else you need or you find yourself out this direction feel free to give me a shout. I may not know the school system but I have managed to figure some other stuff out about life in Brussels!

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 20:45:34

Phone the schools as per my advice/details above, ASAP.

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 20:48:23

We have a private Facebook group here. If you would like to join, please send me a PM (message poster right hand side of the page from where my name is)

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 20:50:28

Duck egg you will need a classe d'acceuil / 1st maternelle place, either September or January depending on when your son turned 2.

DesperatelyMoving Wed 15-May-13 21:00:22

Hi Portofino, I send you a message. Thanks DuckEgg, I will!

Duckegg80 Wed 15-May-13 21:09:54

He was two a few weeks ago, so only just at the moment. Thank you for the info, I am clueless, and although I am really working on it, my French is still poor so navigating the websites etc is a bit boggling. Just one more question if that's ok, the most basic of all..... do most primary schools have maternelles attached or are they separate? Thanks again! Sorry for hijacking Desperately

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 21:22:05

Most have them attached in my experience. Some have them in a separate annexe away from the main school building. If your ds was 2 in may he should get a place for January. they need to be 2.5 and toilet trained. If you are at Stockel, I would contact the 2 schools mentioned above tomorrow. Call rather than email. If you have no luck, come back and one of us will advise what to do / try next.

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 21:25:29

If they don't/won't/can't speak English to you, then let me know, I can try to find someone to help you.

Duckegg80 Wed 15-May-13 21:32:50

Thank you, that's very kind!

marchmad Wed 15-May-13 21:41:20

Duckegg, your son will be 2.5 years in mid October 2013? That's when he can start in acceuil class. Most but not all schools ask children to be dry, except for sieste time, you have to ask the individual acceuil teacher, not the head teacher.

All schools, maternelles, primaires and combined maternelles+primaires called fondamentales are on this map for Brussels region.

You don't say which commune you live in, Stockel is in 3 communes, WSP, Kraainem and Wezembeek-Oppem. If you live in one of the latter 2, you have the additional choice of 4 fonadamentales in Kraainem and Wezembeek.

I must tell you that some schools started enrolling children for acceuil class in September 2012, so many schools will already have a full cohort for acceuil starting October 2013. A few schools do not accept children born after March 2011 into acceuil or do not even have an acceuil class (such as Mater Dei maternelle).
Just take a look at your house on that map, look at the nearest schools first and move outwards.

You'll almost definitely find places in acceuil still at Athénée Royal Crommelynck which is about 500m from Place Dumon. You could consider this school for acceuil, then a nearer school from 1ere maternelle onwards. Changing schools between acceuil and 1ere maternelle is quite common. You might find places at Joli-Bois too.

Getting on waiting lists at some schools can be a challenge. I think secretaries are trained go "on est full" every time anyone phones up. It might take several phone calls to the same school to get on a waiting list. See if you can at least get a school tour.

Mater Dei has its "fete de l'école" on Saturday 25th May.
Sacré-Coeur de Stockel has its fete on Saturday 1st June.
AR Crommelynck has an open day on Saturday 25th May.
Ecole communale de Stockel has already had their fete, as has Don Bosco.

DesperatelyMoving Wed 15-May-13 22:05:24

No worries for hijacking DuckEggsmile

Duckegg80 Wed 15-May-13 22:27:27

Thank you so much everyone. Hugely helpful

Duckegg80 Wed 15-May-13 22:30:43

Oh and we are very close to the Sacre-Coeur in Stockel but technically in Kraainem

Portofino Wed 15-May-13 22:45:14

Doesn't matter, as there are no catchment areas. You can live in Kraainem and apply to wsp schools etc.

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