Politicians welcome teachers and 1.2 million kids back to school


Royals and politicians were present at schools across Flanders and Brussels today to welcome back pupils and say a few words about the new school year

Middle schools up-and-coming

Today in Flanders and Brussels, 1.2 million children and teenagers went back to school. The school year in Belgium always begins on 1 September unless it falls on a weekend, such as it did this year.

Politicians and royalty could be seen across the regions, both taking their own kids to school and making appearances to welcome teachers, staff and pupils back after the summer holidays. Minister Sven Gatz, who is in charge of education for the Flemish Community Commission (VGC) in Brussels, visited the tienerschool, or middle school, in Anderlecht, a new concept in Flemish education that groups 10- to 14-year-olds together.

Porta middle school opened last year, but this year is at full capacity. Similar to a middle school in the US, the idea is that, rather than six years of primary school followed by six years of secondary school, pupils spend four years in primary, four years in middle school and four years in secondary.

“Another middle school is going to open next year in Schaerbeek,” said Gatz (Open VLD), who talked about the reform of education. “Middle schools answer one need, but VGC looks at the needs of children and parents from myriad perspectives.”

Minister at alma mater

Another middle school in Flanders has been opened on the Sint-Rembert school campus in Torhout, where acting education minister, Hilde Crevits (CD&V), spent the first day of school. The school is in her hometown, and she, her husband and both their children (now in their 20s) went to the school.

Crevits (pictured above) is involved in the formation of a new government of Flanders, following the elections of last May. While a government accord has not yet been reached, leading party N-VA has invited Christian-democrats CD&V and liberals Open VLD to formation talks.

Crevits said today that she’d be happy to take the education minister post for another five years. “I enjoy my job very much,” she said. “Education is one of the most crucial mandates there is. I really hope that the next minister is dedicated to all of the people who make up the education sector.”

I really hope that the next minister is dedicated to all of the people who make up the education sector

- Acting education minister Hilde Crevits

King Filip, meanwhile, accompanied his youngest daughter, Eleanor, to school this morning, while Mathilde accompanied their youngest son, Emmanuel. Princess Eleanor, 11, goes to the Dutch-speaking Sint-Jan-Berchmanscollege, while her brother Emmanuel, 13, attends the Eurekaschool in Leuven, for children with certain learning challenges such as dyslexia and dyscalculia.

The couple’s eldest son, Prince Gabriel, started school last week at the International School of Brussels in Watermaal-Bosvoorde. He previously attended the Sint-Jan-Berchmans. According to the royal palace, the king and queen decided to transfer their son to the English-language school, well-known in the expat community, so he would be able to complete the International Baccalaureate Programme.

Heir to the throne Elisabeth, 17, is attending boarding school in Wales. She will graduate from the UWC Atlantic College next spring. This year is the first time that all four royal children are attending different schools.

Photo: Hilde Crevits welcomes children back to school in her hometown
©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA