Secondary schools in Brussels


I've been living in Etterbeek, Brussels for around 18 months with my family. My 2 kids both go to a local French-speaking primary school. When we arrived, they spoke only English, but are now pretty much fluent in French. The eldest is 10 and is in the penultimate year so I'm starting to think about secondary school options for September 2020.

I don't work for the EU institutions so I assume the chances of enrolling in one of the European schools is basically zero (that right?). Can anyone please advise on French secondary school options. In the UK where I'm from, there is an independent inspection system which allows parents to know something about the quality of schools. Is there anything like that for Belgium?

If not, which secondary schools are considered good? Is there anything I need to know about applications/enrolment? Do some schools have specialisms (ie science or languages)? Are there any pitfalls to be aware of?

Many thanks in advance for your help.


While understanding your fears, this topic has already been treated dozens of times on the site. So read them!

The two valid tips to give are to discuss with the parents of the other children in your child's class and look for the proximity of the school to facilitate transportation.

Secondary schools that are rightly or wrongly considered are already overcrowded. And every year, it's the race for registration with huge waiting lists.

Now a child's success in school does not depend on the courses he follows. But also in the involvement of his parents to follow him and help him ...

AND no, there is no schools' cops system to give them a grade

Thanks for taking the time to respond Phipiemar. I did take a look at previous on the thread but most if it wasn't relevant or useful. Thanks for the tips. It sounds like a bun fight out there...

No problem.

I am a father like you who of course wants the best for his children. But experience has taught me that nothing is better than an approach based on my own feelings than one based on the feelings of other people. Because what is good for one is bad for the other.

You are probably worried about the language barrier. Know that a child will learn 100X faster than an adult to speak a foreign language. Because the child does not have the gene of the adult who thinks that others will laugh at his efforts.

My children have always attended public schools. As a result, my 14 year old daughter speaks French / Portuguese / English and my 4 year old son speaks French / Portuguese.

So locate the surrounding schools where you will live according to the age of your children. Then visit them with them. They will tell you immediately which one they feel comfortable with.

And when they start, of course they will have some difficulties, be behind them to motivate them. And do not stress if for a while their results go down. But attend them.

You will see that they will adapt much faster than you to life in Belgium ...

You hold a huge chance for your children to give them an international openness in a country that has three national languages. So do not ghettorize them like many people do when they move to a country that does not speak their native language ...

Thanks. That's all good advice and yes, international openness is very important to us - it is one of the main reasons for the move here.

Making sure they are settled and happy is obviously extremely important. I'm not too worried about the language barrier as such. They've been in a francophone school since September 2017 so they are over the worst of that. It is really just navigating the secondary school system that is the issue and avoiding any pitfalls.

To help you, you're going to have to state the primaire your child is at and also your address. By pm.

If you've chosen a primaire far from your home, you are going to have a difficult time getting a secondaire place in the Etterbeek area. If you've chosen a primaire which is 1/2/3rd nearest of type to your home, you will have a wide choice of secondaires.

Secondaire enrolments depends entirely upon your home address and the address of primaire. It's all points based on direct measurements between the roofs of your home, your primaire, your preferred secondaires + and priorities you get such as your children attending and ISEF school (if in Etterbeek, not relevant), siblings (I assume not relevant in your case).

Geography is therefore the single biggest factor in which secondaires your child can get a place at.

Forget completely the concept of inspections. In any case in the UK, OFSTED is just pathetic and can ruin perfectly good schools and make average schools suddenly have student numbers surges.

I wouldn't rely on opinions of other parents, the majority probably don't understand the points system, only talk to those who do!

Hi Etterbeekdad
Since posting this query in January, were you able to shortlist secondary schools? I am also looking for one for my eldest daughter in 2020 and am curious to learn from your experience. In particular, if any of the public school(s) you contacted seemed more welcoming of foreign students.
Thanks a lot

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