More funding for pre-schools across Flanders


Education minister Ben Weyts is gradually increasing funding for pre-schools to bring it in line with primary school levels, while diversity minister Bart Somers is working to end segregation in primary schools

Language matters

Flemish minister for education Ben Weyts (N-VA) is investing €71 million extra in pre-schools. The first instalment of more than €35 million has been paid out to almost 2,500 pre-schools, with the second instalment to follow in June.

The aim is to bring pre-school education funding in line with primary education for the first time. Pre-schools can use the money for equipment, operational purposes or to recruit additional staff.

“Our teachers work very hard and could use an extra helping hand,” Weyts said. “This will provide the means to improve the education of more than 260,000 toddlers. For children with parents who speak another language, pre-school offers language immersion, and it also gives children of Dutch-speaking parents more opportunities for development.”

From 1 September, the age at which children must start school is changing from six to five. There will also be more focus on Dutch in primary schools, with language screenings for five- and six-year-olds.

Efforts to end segregation

In related news, diversity minister Bart Somers (Open VLD) and the non-profit School in Zicht are working to reduce school segregation between families of difference socio-economic backgrounds.

Parents choose which school to send their children to. If the nearest school has a high population of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, better-off parents are likely to choose a school some distance from home, because they feel their child will do better there.

School in Zicht brings together groups of parents to encourage them to send their children to the local school. The project receives an annual subsidy of €60,000 from Weyts’s ministry of education, and Somers is now adding a further €90,000.

By bringing children into contact with each other from a young age, they can learn from one another

- Minister Bart Somers

“We want to expand the project and roll it out on a larger scale,” said Somers. “By bringing children into contact with each other from a young age, they can learn from one another.”

The project is currently active in Lokeren, Wetteren and Mechelen, where it organises open days and information sessions. “In the coming year we want to set up in three new town centres,” said spokesperson An-Katrien Hanselaer. “We also want to examine how schools that detect changes in their population can support them better through targeted screening and communication.”

Somers: “This project requires an effort from local authorities, schools and parents, but we can see that it is paying off. If children from diverse backgrounds grow up together, we can really make a success of living together in diversity.”

Photo courtesy Gezinsbond