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Two Brussels schools experiment with four-day week

06:50 25/06/2024

Two of the five Dutch-speaking primary schools in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek will switch to a four-day week, with longer hours on other days to compensate.

The two schools, Paloke and Ket & Co, will begin the experiment from the start of the new school year in September.

There will no longer be any classes on Wednesday, but the primary schools will remain accessible on Wednesday and offer after-school care and educational activities such as sports, cultural and leisure activities.

On the other four days, classes will start 20 minutes earlier and finish 25 minutes later.

“I'm very happy,” one primary teacher at Paloke told RTBF. “I took parental leave this year so on Wednesdays, I'm already at home and I can see a change. I'm already more rested. I have more time to correct pupils' work or do things at home.”

The main aim of the measure is to combat the shortage of Dutch-speaking teachers in Molenbeek schools.

“I have teachers who come from West Flanders, Limburg and Bruges – with this solution, they will have one less round trip per week,” said Carla Perdaens, headmistress of the Paloke school.

“These are qualified people, good teachers. We want to keep them so that we can give our children the best possible education.”

The local authority’s decision was taken in consultation with the principals, teachers and parents.

“I had two options in September: either to close classes, or to work preventively and find a lasting solution,” said Saliha Raiss, alderwoman for Dutch-language education in Molenbeek.

“The choice was made quickly and this solution is already bearing fruit. Three teachers have already told us that they will be staying on in September thanks to this measure.”

Despite some concerns, most parents understand and accept the four-day week.

“I'm very pleased,” one mother told RTBF. “This way, on Wednesdays at home, we can work with the children or do activities together. The children themselves are stressed. Cutting out the middle of the week can help them study properly on Thursday.”

Molenbeek is not the first municipality to opt for this change in timetable. Other primary schools have made this choice, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe and Evere, for example.

Written by Helen Lyons