Wallonia-Brussels Federation agrees on new school calendar
After long negotiations, the parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation definitively approved the reform of the school calendar on Wednesday. The next school year in Wallonia and Brussels will now start on Monday 29 August and end on Friday 7 July 2023, reports RTBF.
The reform aims to better take into account the needs of students, promote learning and facilitate the integration of sports, cultural or remediation activities during school hours.
The reorganisation of the school holidays is at the heart of this reform. In the new calendar, the school agenda will now alternate between seven weeks of classes and two weeks of leave. The first period of the year and the last will however each have eight weeks of classes rather than seven.
This change extends the Toussaint (autumn) and Carnival (spring) holidays by one week, while the summer holidays are shortened. The schedule for 2022-2023 looks like this:
- The start of the school year: Monday, August 29, 2022
- The autumn break: Monday, October 24 until Friday, November 4
- The winter holidays: Monday 26 December 2022 to Friday 6 January 2023
- The Carnival holiday: Monday, February 20 to Friday, March 3, 2023
- Spring break: Monday, May 1 to Friday, May 12, 2023
- The year will end on Friday, July 7, 2023
- The start of the 2023-2024 school year will be August 28, 2023
The first day of the school year will now be the last Monday in August and no longer September 1. The last day will be the first Friday in July instead of June 30.
Tests banned after holidays
In order to ensure that students can really take advantage of their holidays to relax and rest a little, no tests can be organised during the first five days of each school year. In order to ensure compliance with these new rules, financial penalties may be imposed on offending schools
The new holiday dates generate a number of changes, especially with regard to historical breaks resulting from Catholic religious holidays.
Shrove Tuesday, between February 3 and March 9, will no longer systematically take place during the Carnival holidays and becomes a public holiday. The municipalities will be able to move this day to make it match the day of the local carnival.
Easter Monday becomes an isolated public holiday. As a reminder, it follows Easter Sunday, always between March 22 and April 25. For longer holidays, it will now be necessary to wait for the spring holidays taking place in May.
The end-of-year holidays retain their central place in the school calendar and will systematically begin the week of December 25. If the 25th takes place during a weekend, the holidays will start at the beginning of the following week.
Finally, different dates will remain holidays: Ascension Thursday (between April 30 and June 3), Whit Monday (between May 10 and June 13) September 27 and finally November 1, 2 and 11.
These changes will not impact the number of course days, which will remain set at 182 days per year, with a margin of flexibility between 180 and 184 days. Initially, a transition period with weeks of classes between six and eight weeks will be set up in order to limit, especially with other communities, the difficulties that this change of pace could cause. This is expected to continue until 2032-2033.
The decree provides that school calendars will always be set in April for the following two years. Only next year does not benefit from this.
School attendance checks will be conducted at the beginning and end of the school year over the next three years to ensure that parents respect the new terms and do not take time off as they previously did.
Limit set on number of 'blank' days per year
In addition to these changes in school holidays, the decree also plans to limit the number of "blank" days, days dedicated to class councils, evaluations, distribution of bulletins or meetings with parents.
In primary school, the number of blank days and assessment days will be reduced to three per year. Today, the limit is set at five for students in Primary 1 to 4 and ten for Students in Primary 5 and 6.
Lower secondary (the first three years) will increase from 18 to 12 blank days.
Upper secondary education (the last three years) will now be limited to 18 blank days, compared to the current number of 27.
On the secondary side, this limitation on the number of blank days will be gradual. This will start in Secondary 1 during the 2025-2026 school year. It will then progress each year by one year, until reaching the 6th secondary.
On Wednesday, all the political parties said they supported this reform in its substance, but it's the desynchronisation of the calendars with the other cCommunities that has led to the most debate.
Among the major criticisms is the limited room for manoeuvre of schools to adapt their school curriculum to this new agenda. The reform also risks creating a gap with other communities. For example, families whose members attend schools in different regions may encounter organisational difficulties due to different holiday dates.
Some point to a risk of losing Dutch teachers in Wallonia, who live in Flanders, because they would prefer to have the same leave as their children. However, the Wallonia-Brussels Federation wishes to keep 10 to 11 weeks of joint leave with Flemish and German-speaking pupils.
The decree was finally approved by the deputies of the Socialist Party/Reformist Movement/Ecolo majority. In the majority, however, Brussels MP Alexia Bertrand abstained.
They did this years ago when my son was in primary school in Brussels. We were at the Belgian coast for Easter break and during the second week, when Flemish children returned to school, all organised holiday activities simply stopped. The powers that be eventually decided that having different school holiday periods was not a good idea so holidays then reverted to being the same for all of Belgium. Looks like here we go again. Such a tiny country, so many not so tiny divisions. All created by politicians.