Flanders can continue to give priority to Flemish children in Brussels' schools

The Belgian Constitutional Court does not mind that 65% of places in Flemish schools in Brussels are reserved for Dutch speakers. However, it overturns the rule that pupils who have attended school for nine years in Dutch-speaking primary education are also given a 15% priority in secondary education. The Flemish minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) is pleased.

The priority rules were part of the broader Flemish decree that introduced new registration rules in order to get rid of the long lines in front of the gates of popular schools. Specifically for Brussels, Flanders raised the priority for Dutch speakers from 55 to 65 percent, referring to pupils with at least one parent who is sufficiently proficient in Dutch. In addition, students who have attended school for nine years in Dutch-speaking primary education were also given a priority of 15 percent of secondary school places.

This was not to the liking of the Commission of the French Community in Brussels (COCOF), which protested a conflict of interest. As a result, registration decree processing was interrupted and the new registration rules could not start as planned. Consultations between the two communities did not lead to a breakthrough, but because the conflict of interest procedure was fully completed, the Flemish Parliament still managed to pass the decree in the last session of the previous legislature.

However, the Government of the French Community and the College of the Commission of the French Community in Brussels have appealed to the Constitutional Court against the new priority rules. But the Court ruled that this 65% is reasonably justified because it meets a reasonable need. Furthermore, it does not prevent the Flemish community from receiving a large proportion of pupils who do not have Dutch or French as their mother tongue.

The rule that students who have followed nine years of Dutch language education have priority for 15% of high school places, on the other hand, is being revoked. The Constitutional Court considers that Flanders can require a school career of a minimum number of years to give priority to a student, but determines that a period of nine years is "excessive".

 "The Constitutional Court rejects the francophone objections and confirms the principles of the Flemish priority policy in Brussels," said Weyts. "The regulation of around 15 percent in secondary education can be easily remedied. This is good news for Flemish people in Brussels and proof that a priority policy is really possible - both in Brussels and in the Flemish periphery," he added.



© BELGA PHOTO (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK) Flemish Minister of Education and Animal Welfare and Sports Ben Weyts visiting 'Sint-Jan-Berchmanscollege' school in Brussels


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