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Different school calendars prove a headache for Brussels parliament

09:06 06/04/2023

Differing school calendars for French and Dutch-speaking children in Brussels are already proving a headache for the region's parliament.

The fact that the Belgian capital is home to students from both school systems means the Brussels parliament has had to conduct its own spring break in two parts, RTBF reports.

Brussels MPs are on holiday this week and will be off again in the second week of May.

The spring holidays are spaced out because of the different rhythms between the schools of the country’s two dominant languages.

The decision was taken by the bureau that manages the functioning of the parliament and therefore also its holidays.

“There were long discussions,” explained Hicham Talhi (Ecolo), vice-president of the bureau.

Vincent De Wolf, vice-president of the Brussels parliament, called the whole situation a difficult puzzle.

“We realised very quickly that there was no solution that would satisfy everyone,” De Wolf said.

“It creates a waste of time and difficulties. Things are already complicated without this."

The chosen solution is therefore an imperfect compromise - parliament is in recess for one of the two weeks when Dutch-speaking schools are on holiday, and one of the two weeks for the French system.

And like many Brussels citizens, MEPs, parliamentary staff and parliamentary attachés also have to adapt their private lives.

“We have to organise ourselves differently with the children, but we can adapt,” said Els Rochette, Vooruit MP.

“It is especially annoying for Brussels families who have children in both a French and Dutch-speaking school.”

Next week, Dutch-speaking Brussels schoolchildren will still be on holiday. The same question will be asked in May for the French-speaking inhabitants of Brussels: is there not a risk of absenteeism when it comes to crucial votes?

“We have agreed that the deputies ask questions to the ministers and therefore exercise their control over what the government does and this does not require a quorum,” answered Rachid Madrane (PS).

“If there is an emergency, everyone can be called back and mobilised.”

An evaluation of the system is planned, so long as the school rhythms in the north and south of the country are not aligned beforehand, as the majority of Brussels MPs seem to hope for.

But Flanders has voiced strong opposition to adapting the Walloon school calendar, meaning synchronicity is unlikely.

Written by Helen Lyons