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Francophone education minister considers delaying school schedule reforms

Pupils pictured at the secondary school GO! Technisch Atheneum Horteco, on the first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year, in Vilvoorde, Tuesday 01 September 2020. (BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM)
09:15 28/06/2021

Francophone education minister Caroline Désir has indicated that she is ready to postpone the reform of the annual school timetables, scheduled for the start of the 2022-2023 school year, if Flanders and the German-speaking community were to announce "very quickly" their willingness to adopt a similar reform.

The minister in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation met several representatives from the education branch of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CSC) at the end of last week to listen to their concerns about the consequences of the announced reform, especially in the Brussels region.

According to the CSC, the desynchronisation of school calendars in Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders will have a significant impact on teachers working in both communities, but also on teachers working in both compulsory and higher education, whose timetable will not be adapted.

The CSC also expressed worries over the impact the planned reform would have on staff and parents of children during the school holidays as well as extracurricular activities, such as summer schools and camps. There are also concerns about how the public transport offer for school children travelling to and from Brussels, provided by Stib, TEC, De Lijn and SNCB, would be affected.

Fabrice Pinna, the permanent secretary of the CSC-Education branch in Brussels, said that the education minister was ready to postpone the entry into force of her reform if Flanders showed itself willing to follow suit and adapt its school schedules.

However, in a statement released on Friday, Désir said she did not intend to wait for the other two communities to align themselves before implementing the reform of the new schedule. Nevertheless, "if the other communities announce a willingness to carry out a similar reform very quickly, this could be a point of negotiation," she added.

On Friday morning, delegates from the CSC-Education branch in Liège-Verviers had woken up minister-president Pierre-Yves Jeholet at his home in Herve to denounce the lack of consultation in the context of the planned reform.

According to these delegates, Jeholet assured them that he did not want to rush things if the reform was not sufficiently ready. In this case, it would be better to postpone the changes until September 2023, the Minister-President told them.

The reform outlined by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation plans to double the duration of the Toussaint and Carnaval holidays, but to shorten the summer holidays to seven weeks, from September 2022. The start of the school year would therefore take place at the end of August, with the school year ending at the beginning of July.

Written by Nick Amies