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Back to school: new rules come into effect, here’s what’s changing

The new school calendar, the new common core, personalized support, the enrollment decree… many provisions come into force on August 29, which is the start date of the school year in the Walloon-Brussels Federation.

This new organization follows the adoption of new school rhythms last spring by the Walloon-Brussels Federation. The goal: alternate seven weeks of classes during the year, followed by two weeks of vacation.

Consequence: The All Saints and Shrove Tuesday holidays will be extended from one to two weeks, while the summer holidays will be shortened to seven weeks.

This reform of the school calendar, mentioned for 30 years, aims to better take into account the natural chrono-biological rhythms of (younger) children, for whom too long summer vacations often led to leaving school.

However, this new calendar will only apply to schools in Wallonia and Brussels. Flanders and the German Commonwealth will continue to apply the old calendar.

Of the fifteen weeks of school holidays granted each year, only about ten remain in the three communities at the same time.

Universities in FWB also do not change the holiday period.

Even after the adjustment, the new school calendar in compulsory education will still have the same number of teaching days, namely 182 per year.

A new common core is coming to the primary

The new common core, which is ensured by the Teaching Excellence Pact, will be applied in the first and second year of elementary school from the beginning of this school year. To this end, new reference systems (which are used to define course programs) were adopted last spring.

The new Common Core intends to give lessons a series of new accents without deviating from the skills considered essential (reading, writing, arithmetic).

The school route has been redesigned with the aim of offering greater clarity and a better learning process.

The extension of the common core will apply to the 3rd and 4th primary schools at the beginning of the 2023 school year.

The following school years – from primary 5 to secondary 3 – will gradually integrate them between 2024 and 2028.

We remind you that kindergarten classes use their own reference system from the beginning of the 2020 school year already in the same common basic logic. The aim is to offer every student the same educational continuum from kindergarten 1 to the end of secondary school 3.

Personalized support

Starting this year, new provisions on personalized support for primary school pupils will be gradually implemented in order to support the introduction of the new primary curriculum and reduce the risk of failure.

To improve this support for pupils, the system provides for the first two grades of primary school the possibility of assigning a second teacher to the class for four teaching hours (50 minutes) each week.

There will be two periods in the 3rd and 4th primary years and one period in the fifth and sixth primary years.

Additional means of supervision were provided for this purpose. The mechanism will also be applied later in high school.

However, the implementation of these new support provisions will be gradual. The school year that begins is therefore considered a year of transition and adaptation for schools.

This should make it possible to provide approximately 10,000 support periods this year, which represents 424 full-time equivalents (FTE).

At full speed, the goal is nearly 40,000 support periods, representing more than 1,600 FTEs.

Some changes in the registration decree

The new decree regulating secondary school enrollment, amended last January, will take full effect from this school year, but without a radical change in the way of deciding on places at the most desirable schools.

The changes will apply to children who will enter the sixth form this year (and therefore will enter the middle form 1 at the beginning of the 2023 school year), as well as all subsequent cohorts.

Allocation of places in Secondary 1 will always be based on a composite index calculated according to various criteria. These are now reduced from seven to eight and their relative weight in the index has been adjusted slightly.

The home-primary school distance criterion, which has been at the center of parents’ criticism for years, has thus significantly downplayed its importance in favor of the distance between the desired secondary school and home.

Otherwise, a small change: the registration procedure (which will start as usual next February) will remain centralized, with the same registration period for everyone and a single registration form (FUI), where parents must always announce their choice of school(s) for their child.

Enrollment priorities that already apply, such as having a sibling already enrolled at the school or a parent who works there, are maintained.

Perhaps the most significant change is the introduction of a certain decentralization in the administration of the registry system. The inter-network Enrollment Commission (Ciri), the central authority that until now piloted and decided on the entire procedure, will give way to the new architecture in the future.

At its summit will now be the Commission for the Management of Enrollments (Cogi). However, it will be accompanied by ten Local Enrollment Offices (ILIs) in each school area to better take into account the often very different local enrollment realities.

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