Almost 4,000 families hoping for a place for their child in one of the Dutch-language schools in Brussels will go into the summer without being certain of where their child will find a place when September comes.
According to the local consultation platform for education in Brussels, 6,888 applications were made for a place in one of the Flemish community’s schools in the capital. Of those, 2,936 received a positive response for a place in one of their nominated schools (though not necessarily their first choice).
The remaining 3,952 families will have to wait until places can be allotted in schools which are not yet fully subscribed.
The compares to 3,450 children who were left waiting at the same time last year, from a slightly lower number of 6,600 applications.
Flemish schools in Brussels are in big demand, not only from Flemish people bit also other groups, in particular those of immigrant origin, who see the acquisition of the Dutch language as an investment in a child’s future in Belgium.
The system does reserve a proportion of the available places for children from households where Dutch is the spoken language, as well as for siblings of older pupils, for the children of staff and for certain other disadvantaged groups.
But demand always exceeds supply, especially when it comes to the choice of school. Parents who are left on a waiting list may find themselves come September having to ferry their child to a school distant from the one they preferred.
Advocates of a change to the system argue that the problem is directly responsible for an exodus of younger Flemish families from the capital to the periphery or further afield. In the municipalities that ring Brussels, and where families could once be sure of a place for their child, the same kind of pressure on places is beginning to appear.
Back in Brussels, the latest situation exists despite an additional 755 places having been created since September 2019. During the first part of 2019, meanwhile, 2,600 new places were created in primary schools, and 3,500 in total.
But demand continues to exceed supply. The Flemish education system in Brussels is, as the Dutch expression says, ‘mopping up while the tap is still open’.