The minister for education for the French Community, Caroline Désir, has issued an instruction to schools in Wallonia and Brussels to relax the rules on absences.
In the circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak now affecting Belgium, Désir has informed schools they may allow students more absences than the current rules allow.
At present, students have the possibility to be absent for the equivalent of nine half-days a year without justification – in most cases a medical certificate.
That allows for cases such as a cold that requires only one day off – or two half-days – before the student is fit to return to school.
The instruction from the ministry allows the school head to consider an absence justified if it takes place under “exceptional circumstances”. One example given was a sick parent, or a legally recognised tutor who was confined to home on medical instructions because of a suspicion of coronavirus infection.
Exceptional circumstances are already covered by a rule which includes in the category matters such as family troubles, the physical or mental health of the student or the transport situation.
The new rule extends those provisions to include other circumstances related to the coronavirus outbreak.
“If children are unable to attend for reasons linked to the coronavirus, their absence may be considered justified by exceptional circumstances by the school’s director,” said the minister’s spokesperson.
At the same time, Désir is also relaxing the rules on school trips. Whether or not to organise trips is left to the discretion of the school head, in line with advice from the federal ministry for foreign affairs.
And a rule that forbids the organisation of a trip which involves one or more overnight stays in the absence of a minimum number of students is suspended for the time being.