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School enrolment and registration

In Belgium there is free choice of school. Your child must meet the admission criteria, but apart from that you may choose the school where you enrol your child.

For example, you may have a preference for:

  • a school nearby or a school further away
  • an official school or a free school
  • denominational or a non-denominational school
  • a ‘traditional’ school or a school with particular pedagogic methods (Dutch: methodeschool).

Even if your child is referred for special educational needs education, you have free choice of school. This means you can decide to enrol your child in a mainstream school. However, after consultation with the parents and the pupil guidance centre (Dutch: centrum voor leerlingenbegeleiding/CLB), the mainstream school may decide to terminate the enrolment if the adjustments necessary to allow a pupil to follow an individually adapted curriculum in the school are unreasonable. Parents who choose a school for special educational needs education require an enrolment report (Dutch: inschrijvingsverslag) from the CLB. This should show that the child requires special educational needs education and the type of such education that would be appropriate.

If you want to enrol your child in a school that specifies its own capacity, there must be place available. Contact the school in good time.

Parents are thus free to choose a school, but must agree to:

  • the school's pedagogical project (the basic principles of the school)
  • the school regulations (the rights and obligations of parents and pupils, and the school board).

Enrolment and registration

Information per school

On the website of Education Flanders (Dutch: Onderwijs Vlaanderen) (in Dutch)(opens in new window) you will find the entire education provision available in Flanders. You will not only find the details of all schools, but also whether or not the school accepts registrations.

Enrolment and registration periods

You have to enrol your child in a school:

  • when he/she goes to school for the first time
  • when he/she moves from primary to secondary and sometimes from pre-primary to primary school
  • when he/she changes schools.

Enrolment is done during the previous school year. The start date of enrolments may vary. Each school is obliged to clearly communicate the starting date it has chosen. Ask the school about this.

In some schools or municipalities you have to register before you can enrol your child. Registration means that you let us know in advance in which school(s) you would like to enrol your child. After registration you still have to enrol your child in the school. Ask the school where you want to enrol your child whether you need to register your child first.

After the registration period you will receive a letter or an e-mail.

  • If your child has a place, you will receive a notification of allocation. That means you can enrol your child.
  • If there is no room for your child for the time being, you will receive a notification of unfavourable ranking, and an explanation of the steps you can take to still find a place.

Priority rules

Priority rules for registration and enrolment apply in:

  • pre-primary education
  • primary education
  • the first year of secondary education
  • special educational needs education.

Priority is given to the following groups:

  • Siblings of pupils already enrolled in the school. This also includes stepbrothers and stepsisters, half-brothers and half-sisters and other children living at the same address.
  • Children of school staff (teachers, secretarial staff, etc.).

In Brussels, children with a parent who is proficient in Dutch also get priority.

The ratio of indicator to non-indicator pupils is also taken into account when ordering the registrations. This applies at least to the years of entry, the 2 youngest birth years in pre-primary education and the 1st year in primary education, and the 1st year of the 1st stage in secondary education.

Indicator pupils (Dutch: indicatorleerlingen) are:

  • children from households who received an education allowance during the current or previous school year
  • children whose mother does not have a secondary education diploma or a 6th year of secondary education certificate.

The ratio of indicator pupils to non-indicator pupils is taken into account in order to obtain a social mix in the school.

Enrolment during the school year

If you want to enrol a child during the school year, you should ask the school if they still have a free place available.

Please note that until the fifth school day in October, a school is obliged to respect the chronological list of unrealised enrolments. After this day, any vacancy will go to the first pupil presenting him/herself. An exception to this is the enrolment of preschool children of the youngest birth year. The school must respect the chronological list throughout the school year in that regard.

Mediation in case of refused enrolment

The school must refuse your child:

  • In primary education, if your child does not meet the admission, transition or entry criteria;
  • if the school is full. The school will announce in advance how many places are available;
  • if there are indications that your child is alternating between schools.

Schools that determine their own capacity must refuse your child:

  • if the school is full. The school will announce in advance how many places are available.

The school may refuse your child:

  • in secondary education, if your child does not meet the admission, transition or entry criteria
  • if your child was expelled from that school following disciplinary action during the current school year, the previous school year or the year before that;
  • in secondary education, if your child changes schools due to permanent exclusion from another school. This can only be done in accordance with criteria agreed upon beforehand within the school’s local consultation platform (Dutch: lokaal overlegplatform/LOP);
  • if your child received an enrolment report for special educational needs education and the mainstream school shows that the required adjustments are not reasonable. The school will take this decision after consultation with the parents, the CLB and the class council.

If the school refuses to enrol your child, it must confirm this in writing. This constitutes a refusal document.

You can request mediation from the LOP of your region (in Dutch)(opens in new window). Such mediation must take place within 10 days of notification of unrealised enrolment. Therefore, be sure to ask for it in time. LOPs are in place for primary education and secondary education. Some 70 LOPs are active in Flanders and Brussels.

If you think that your child has been wrongfully refused, you can lodge a complaint with the Commission on Pupil Rights (Dutch: Commissie inzake Leerlingenrechten). This can be done within 30 days after refusal or within 30 days after mediation by the LOP. The Commission will inform you within 21 days whether or not the school was right to refuse enrolment. For more information: address details and procedure of the Commission on Pupil Rights. (in Dutch)(opens in new window)

If the Commission considers that the school had the right to refuse your child, you can count on support from the LOP in finding another suitable school.