Brussels European Schools – problems and solutions

It is becoming a norm that the Belgian authorities do not provide timely official information in writing about European Schools. Nevertheless, the Secretary General of the European Schools has confirmed it orally: the 5th school[*] in Neder-Over-Heembeek won’t be available in 2028 as originally planned, but in late 2030. 

The new school is expected to provide 3000 additional places for pupils, addressing the long-standing overcrowding of the other European Schools in Brussels. 

This is both good and bad news but in practice will have a limited effect on the situation as lived today: it’s a far-from-concrete, future solution to an ongoing issue. These days many colleagues with children in the Brussels European schools are frustrated because their children were not awarded a place in the school they preferred. Instead, most children are being assigned to Laeken(IV) and Evere(II). 

While these schools are well equipped and provide good services (even if Evere is a temporary site with bus-parking problems) they are perceived as too far away by many colleagues who would prefer schools closer to their residence or workplace in order to reduce the commute (and perhaps even increase the autonomy of older pupils)[**]. The 5th school is even further away and unlikely to become the first choice for many parents. 

So, in Brussels colleagues are stuck with some overcrowded schools which are in high demand and other schools with additional capacity but which are less in demand. What can be done? 

Generation 2004 is surprised by the proposal of one OSP to recycle an already-discarded option of the Board of Governors: make Ixelles(III) a campus for secondary school pupils. This proposal was unsurprisingly heavily criticised by parents in Ixelles since it would necessitate a significant redistribution of both primary and secondary pupils with no guarantee of satisfying the needs of identified. 

Proposals based on pitting some parents against others are not a solid foundation for sustainable solutions. 

Generation 2004 has already suggested supporting international school provision to alleviate pressure on European Schools while still considering parents’ choices and household well-being. 

Most overcrowding in European Schools happens in the English and French language sections, particularly in French secondary. However, the international-school offer in Brussels caters well for both English- and French-language tuition. In addition, it is reasonable to expect that some local schools could become accredited European schools providing French-, Dutch- and English-language sections. 

By supporting existing schools, parents would have more choice without being pitted against each other. At the same time, increasing the supply would necessarily reduce the pressure on the whole system. 

While this solution is not a silver bullet, it has the benefit of addressing existing problems without creating new ones. 

We will keep you posted on any developments and as always, we appreciate your feedback.   

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[*] There are currently 4 Brussels European schools on 6 sites.  

I (EEB1) 2 sites: Uccle  and Berkendaelean
II (EEB2) 2 sites: (Woluwe and Evere(temporary)) 
III (EEB3) Ixelles
IV (EEB4) Laeken  

Here’s a map of all European schools, together with a full list of European schools and parent associations. 

[**] The European School of Mol – new school bus service to Leuven from September 2024 21.05.2024 

 

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