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One in three Brussels crèches not in line with language legislation

13:37 18/05/2022

Only one out of every three crèches in Brussels is complying with language legislation that requires a Dutch-speaking contact person be present, according to reports by Bruzz.

The Flemish Care Inspectorate found 75 breaches of the language legislation in recent years, out of a total of just over 200 crèches. Five day-care centres were forced to close as a result.

Frequently, the lack of a Dutch-speaker simply was due to broader staff shortages in the childcare sector. This has led some actors to question whether it would be better to hire non-Dutch speakers who learned the language while working. 

“The language requirements are not exaggerated or bad, but I wonder if you wouldn't do better with language training on the job,” said Flemish MP for Brussels Celia Groothedde (Groen). 

“With such a large staff shortage, people can then already start working, without having to study the language first.”

The Care Inspectorate carried out 306 separate inspections in the Brussels childcare sector since 2017. More than half of them were commissioned by Kind en Gezin, the agency for Dutch-speaking children and families. 

The Brussels region still has 201 childcare locations recognised by the Flemish Community, with each location being inspected, on average, at least once. 

In 75 cases, the childcare facility was found not to be in compliance with the language legislation. A violation occurs when there is no Dutch-speaking manager or child carer present (38 cases), the childcare facility does not focus enough on stimulating Dutch words and language development in the children, or when children could not fill in the correct pedagogical tools in Dutch (37 cases). 

While five crèches had to close their doors because the language problems were not solved, others decided to switch affiliation to the French-speaking community’s Office de la Naissance et de L’Enfance (ONE).

Member of parliament Annabel Tavernier (N-VA) was hesitant to relax language standards in the face of staff shortages.

“Of course it is important that there is sufficient staff, but we continue to insist that those people must be Dutch speakers,” Tavernier said.

“Toddlers must be able to indicate in their own language that they are hungry, thirsty or in pain. And if a child falls, the parents must be notified in Dutch. These are also safety elements.”


Written by Helen Lyons