The surveys and international comparative research show that the results for certain domains, such as mathematics, science and reading comprehension, could be better. From the school year 2023-2024 onwards, primary and secondary schools will therefore be implementing the first Flemish tests. Flemish tests are standardised and validated cross-network and -sector tests, with the primary aim of supporting the internal quality assurance of schools and thus helping to strengthen educational quality. It is an instrument in the context of monitoring learning outcomes and measuring learning gains, generating knowledge that in turn contributes to supporting the internal quality assurance system of schools, external quality control by the inspectorate, the support to schools by educational guidance services and monitoring the attainment of educational objectives by pupils at system level.
The tests are set up centrally, taken digitally, and will be processed and analysed. They are initially limited to Dutch (reading comprehension, writing, grammar) and mathematics.
A new learning support decree
The Flemish Government replaces the M-decree for pupils with specific educational needs by the learning support decree. In this decree, a new model for supporting pupils with specific educational needs in mainstream education is defined: the learning support model. The decree on learning support and the learning support model will be phased in on 1 September 2022. The decree increases the quality of education and guarantees workability for schools and teachers. The aim is to strengthen ordinary education, learning support and special education. The Flemish Government aspires to create:
- a strong primary care and increased care in mainstream education;
- a sustainable learning support model with appropriate employment conditions for support staff;
- a fully-fledged place and a strengthening of the quality of special education.
Funding analysis and optimization
The funding system of the second and third grades is being adjusted. This measure is part of the realisation of inclusive education. The available resources must be used efficiently in function of the pupil and the teacher, in the classroom and in the school. To this end, a study, ‘Analysis of the flow of resources from schools to umbrella organisations and central services of GO!’ was carried out and will soon be presented to the Minister.
In this context, extra attention is being paid to optimising the new Equal Educational Opportunities (‘gelijke onderwijskansen’ or ‘GOK’) cycle in special needs primary education and in mainstream and special secondary education. Schools must provide excellent education for every pupil and guarantee correct and targeted use of the operational and budgetary resources allocated. This will be verified by the education inspectorate:
- Schools implement a GOK policy in accordance with the quality expectations set out in the reference framework for educational quality. Schools themselves determine their targets, indicators and a time schedule for achieving these targets. In primary education, these matters must be included in the school work plan, in which the GOK policy must be made explicit.
- The Education Inspectorate evaluates the schools' equal opportunities policy during its regular inspections, including the use of the specific resources allocated for this purpose. In case of a first negative evaluation, the school continues to receive all GOK funds until the following school audit, but has to make a commitment to remediation with external guidance and support. With a second consecutive negative evaluation, the school receives only half of the GOK funds from the following school year until the school year in which an evaluation is positive again.
Within the framework of the Flemish spending review, the department produced a report on, among other things, the financing of secondary education. The effectiveness and efficiency of the use of resources were examined and numerous policy proposals were made to optimise these processes. In addition, a spending review that focuses specifically on the financing of higher education was launched.
The Flemish government constantly strives for quality education within a context of social and technological change. That is why it regularly takes initiatives for educational innovation. With the priority in-service training, the Flemish Minister of Education establishes priority themes to support the policy every 2 years. A call invites interested organisations to translate the chosen themes into a specific in-service training offer for teachers, principals, educational supervisors and teacher trainers. The minister then makes a selection of quality projects.
For school years 2020 - 2021 and 2021 - 2022, 'reading comprehension for primary school teacher teams' has been chosen as the theme. The following school years will focus on the 'professionalisation of school teams on language integration paths' or of 'teacher teams in mathematics/PAV (trajectory general subject matters, VET) 1st stage secondary'.
Additional education support fund (bijsprong)
The COVID-19 pandemic poses great challenges to education in Flanders. For many pupils, especially the most vulnerable ones, the pandemic resulted in an increased learning deficit. Eliminating this learning deficit is an absolute priority. In order to achieve this, the Flemish Government wants to give schools extra support by providing additional guidance, the additional education support fund or ‘Bijsprong’.
For this measure, 85 million euro has been earmarked for the school year 2021-2022. Schools for mainstream and special needs primary and secondary education and centres for part-time vocational secondary education can apply for additional support in the form of teaching hours (primary education), teacher hours (ordinary secondary education) and teaching hours (special secondary education). The funds can be used from 1 September 2021 until 30 June 2022. Pupils who meet the pupil characteristics for the socio-economic (SES) framework in mainstream primary education or the gelijke onderwijskansen (GOK) framework mainstream secondary education and pupils in part-time vocational secondary education (DBSO) receive additional resources.
Digisprong (see also overview 2021) aims to to make up for lost time in the digitisation of learning and teaching in compulsory education. It is the minister's ambition to strengthen the digital competences of all learners, from primary school pupils to adults. Starting from a strong Flemish e-inclusion policy, special attention is paid to vulnerable target groups. The measures and actions to make distance learning easier are framed within the Flemish recovery plan and the pursuit to digital inclusion.
Efforts are being made on 5 different fronts for an enhanced digitisation policy: (1) a digital friendly government, (2) ICT infrastructure, (3) ICT vision and school policy, (4) digital learning resources and (5) ICT skills. A strong ICT infrastructure and the development of an ICT vision and policy for schools are basic conditions for achieving a digital acceleration. In order to further develop ICT skills among teachers and in school teams in compulsory and adult education, existing initiatives will be reinforced and ICT bootcamps for teachers and ICT coordinators will be organised.
The digital transformation of Flemish education is a complex process. In order to coordinate and support the many different actions and projects in the field of education from a single framework, a knowledge and advice centre has been set up.
New enrolment decree
On 7 February, the Flemish Parliament approved a new enrolment decree for ordinary education. The new enrolment decree applies to enrolments for 2023-2024 school year. It is therefore postponed by one year to 1 September 2022 for enrolments for 2023-2024 school year. This way, schools can continue to use the same enrolment register and model for enrolments for school year 2022-2023. Of course, the constitutionally enshrined free choice of school remains paramount. However, some schools have a limited capacity. The new decree must prevent parents from camping out at the school gates. Moreover, the government keeps an eye on the social mix. Thus, parameters such as the diversity of the neighbourhood, social origin and the proximity come into the picture. The system of double quota allocation is being overhauled. From now on, the municipal council can reserve up to 20 per cent of the available places. The parameters are free to choose: gender, social origin, place of residence, etc. This should make any priority policy 'supplementary and corrective, but never disruptive'. In Brussels, 65% of the available places must be reserved for a child of whom at least one parent speaks Dutch. In some cities, such as Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels, a central digital registration system is used. This will be retained. Elsewhere, only schools with an expected shortage of capacity have to set up a digital application. The school may choose the algorithm that will make the distribution. Flanders will develop a central platform to technically facilitate all digital enrolment procedures. Again, the municipalities get the last word in choosing the algorithm. The schools retain the freedom to determine the period for enrolment.
Educational guidance services reform
The educational guidance services (PBDs) support the educational institutions and pupil guidance centres (CLBs). The PBD has different missions that:
- Strengthen the school's policy
- Promote the professionalisation of the teaching staff
New core tasks for the PBDs were developed and came into effect on September 1, 2022. These relate to all educational levels and forms, including VET.
From now on, these services will guide educational institutions and CLBs in strengthening the professional skills of their staff and they will strengthen the schools as learning organisations with their projects. At the same time, they have to implement the policy priorities of the Flemish Government in the field of education.To this end, they receive additional operating funds.
- reinforcing the professional competence of the staff members of the educational institutions and CLBs in question, in direct contact, with attention for the reinforcement of their pedagogic and didactic approach and with a view to the development of all learners;
- reinforcing the educational institutions and CLBs in question as a professional learning organisation. The educational guidance services hereby give priority to the educational institutions or CLBs where the greatest needs are to be found. In order to identify these educational institutions or CLBs, the educational guidance services may use different sources such as the data from the educational guidance service itself, the data from the educational institution or CLB in question, the data from audit trails carried out by the educational inspectorate of the educational institution or CLB in question, the data that form the basis of the profile of the educational institution or CLB as set out in Article 38 §4 or other results or data that indicate a low quality of education or pupil guidance;
- supporting the educational institutions in question in the realisation of their own pedagogical, artistic-pedagogical or agogical project and supporting the CLBs in question in the realisation of their own mission and their own guidance project;
- supporting the implementation of certain policy priorities of the Flemish Government in the educational institutions and CLBs in question, as provided for in Article 19/2. The emphasis of the supervision of the educational guidance services is always on the development of the educational institutions and CLBs in question. This requires a long-term relationship with the institutions concerned.
New attainment targets in the third year of secondary education
As of 1 September, the new attainment targets and approved curricula for the first year of the second secondary school grade apply. The attainment targets are the minimum of what pupils have to know and be able to do. The new, stricter attainment targets for the second and third stage of secondary education have been drafted in consultation with, among others, umbrella organisations and educational experts.
New admission requirements for mainstream primary education
From 1 September, there are new admission requirements for mainstream primary education. Five-year-old pre-schoolers are expected to attend at least 290 half-days during the previous school year in order to be admitted to mainstream primary education in the school year 2021-2022.
Every pupil from the fifth year (primary education) onwards gets their own laptop
Starting this school year, every pupil from the fifth year of primary education onwards will receive their own laptop or equivalent ICT device. Schools will receive resources for ICT material for teachers and there will be a strong mandate for an ICT coordinator in all levels of education. These measures are part of the so-called Digisprong (see below).
As of 1 September, schools can also contact the Digisprong knowledge and advice centre if they need any guidance regarding these topics. Digitisation should also help communication to run more smoothly and can reduce the planning burden so that teachers have more time for their core task: teaching.
Teachers can be appointed permanently from 360 days
From 1 September 2021, the rules to able to apply for a permanent position in education will change. Teachers will be able to apply for permanent appointments after 290 days - in practice a full school year - and after 360 days they can actually be appointed. Until now, this was only possible after 690 days.
The evaluation and appraisal procedure will also be adjusted. For instance, novice teachers will receive an assessment at the end of each school year so that they know where they can improve. This way, they know after a maximum of three years whether they really have a future in education.
The evaluation procedure for permanently appointed teachers is also being reformed. The obligation to evaluate each staff member at least every four years will be abolished. Schools will be able to focus the evaluations on staff members who are no longer functioning well. On the basis of this evaluation, school management can much more quickly proceed to implement a personal coaching trajectory of 120 days for teachers that would benefit from this. If such a coaching trajectory is unsuccessful twice and if the shortcomings persist, a staff member can be dismissed.
For all other staff members, only an (informal) performance review needs to be organised on a regular basis.
Strengthening mainstream primary education
In both school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, an additional 23 million euro will be invested in (mainstream) primary education. For school year 2020-2021, this extra boost has been earmarked for support in schools and should help pupils learn and study. The extra investment is equivalent to a 20% increase in the care budget of schools for mainstream primary education. This will make it possible to recruit some 525 care coordinators. These investments are part of an investment trajectory that will increase to 100 million euro recurrent extra resources in primary education by the end of the legislature.
Additional guidance for gifted learners
The 2019-2024 Coalition Agreement pays explicit attention to gifted learners. Within this context, a call was launched last school year targeting schools providing mainstream primary education, mainstream secondary education, and research centres to submit a project proposal with the aim to support this target group for a maximum duration of 24 months (2 project years). The project ‘Model schools for the guidance of cognitively strong pupils’, will select model schools from mainstream primary and secondary education and (further) develop and disseminate their policies and practices. In addition to the participating pilot schools, an expertise centre will provide scientific guidance and monitoring throughout the project.
The project started earlier this school year (2021-2022). 13 schools (9 primary and 4 secondary schools) that were able to demonstrate their experience with the target group as well as an expertise centre (Catholic University of Leuven) have been selected to participate in the project. During the first school year, the selected institutions will describe their policy and practice and the expertise centre will research if their strategy (policy, tools, instruments) has a scientific basis. The centre will also identify ways to strengthen and improve their working method. Equipped with this feedback, participating schools will then develop a plan to disseminate their developments (e.g. through informing and coaching other schools that wish to set up or improve their own practices with regards to the target audience) during the second year of the project.
Student coaching and remedial courses
Following in the footsteps of the summer schools, Flanders organised remedial courses during this school year to support students, offered outside of regular school hours and during holiday periods. Small groups of pupils were offered tailor-made solutions to catch up on learning deficits and to make them more resilient with regards to important school transitions. This measure will reduce grade retention by supporting schools and pupils by means of additional instruction time outside of the regular schooltime.
The pathways are linked to educational objectives and the individual educational pathways of secondary school pupils. The target group for these pathways consisted of pupils from ordinary secondary education, including the initial education of non-native language speaking children (OKAN), and the third year of the third grade from vocational, part-time vocational secondary education, and special needs secondary education. The call prioritised pupils in the second year of first, second or third grade secondary education in 2020-2021 because these pupils attended less physical school last school year and therefore have the greatest needs. However, remedial pathways for other groups of pupils were possible if schools deemed them necessary.
The new school building master plan aims to address the needs and challenges in the school heritage through various objectives and actions. The plan is ambitious and deals with the following five important objectives:
- Investments in the replacement of the existing school infrastructure
- Investment in extensions to address capacity shortages
- Alternative financing of school infrastructure
- Evolve towards multifunctional infrastructure
- Providing infrastructure with attention to climate, sustainable construction and effective learning environments
Firstly, substantial investments are being made to replace the existing school infrastructure. This is necessary in view of Flanders' outdated school heritage. During this reign, no less than 1.4 billion euros will be spent on this via the traditional budget appropriations. In addition, the patrimony will also be renewed and expanded via alternative financing. 2 fundamental changes in the school building policy complement this first objective. Infrastructure resources will be distributed across the various networks on the basis of pupil and school numbers. In addition, multi-annual grant agreements for larger projects will be introduced and attention will be paid to mapping out the patrimony.
Secondly, additional capacity is being created. The focus in the construction of new school buildings is secondary education, where needs will be highest in the years to come. The greatest shortages are expected in the Vlaamse Rand and in the education zones of Antwerp and Brussels. A new reduction in capacity is planned for 2021, which is why the future distribution of capacity resources will be based.
Thirdly, alternative financing is being sought. The Scholen van Morgen DBFM operation will be fully completed with the delivery of the last 21 projects (see annual review 2019). The project-specific DBFM programme will continue to be implemented, accounting for 40 school construction projects. An additional wave of DBFM investment totalling 1 billion euro is being prepared during this reign, provisionally spread over 3 public procurement contracts of equal size and always subject to positive advice from the statistical authorities. Rental subsidies will continue to play a role in the alternative financing through an annual call for proposals.
Fourthly, multifunctional school buildings are resolutely chosen. An appropriate legislative framework will be put in place and new calls for projects to open up school sports infrastructure will be launched.
Fifthly, attention is being paid to climate, sustainability and effective learning environments. From 2021, BEN schools will be built and a project call for the realisation of climate-neutral schools will be launched. Extra attention will be paid to circular construction and research will be carried out into how climate care can be further consolidated in the subsidy and financing conditions. A great deal of attention is being paid to the degree of renovation of the buildings and effective and sustainable learning environments.
Measures relating to the teaching profession
- The basic education teachers' platform project will be extended during the 2020-2021 school year and, at the request of the social partners, the starting date has been postponed from 1 October to 1 September 2020. The aim of the project is to offer young teachers better career prospects. It gives novice and temporary teachers more job security within the teachers' platform (see annual review 2019). Anyone entering the teachers' platform has job security from 1 September until the end of the school year. In secondary education, the project will not be extended.
- As of 1 September 2020, the (financial) seniority of new and side-entrants for certain bottleneck subjects or posts in primary and secondary education will be validated. Previous achievements will be included in the financial seniority up to a maximum of eight years.
On the first of September 2020, a two-year pilot project on dual teaching in full-time mainstream secondary education launched: a new concept whereby an employee of a company can take up a teaching assignment in a secondary school on a part-time basis. The pilots explore the potential of 'dual teachers' in secondary education, remove barriers and map out the different framework conditions.
The concept of 'dual teachers' partly provides an answer to the shortage of teachers in education and, on the basis of the interaction between education and Flemish companies, strengthens the specific expertise and know-how in education. If a school has a vacancy that it cannot fill by means of a regular statutory appointment, it can call on an employee working in a company. To this end, between 1 September 2020 and 31 August 2022, the school and the company will conclude a service provision agreement within a regulatory framework. The employee retains their salary in their company and the school grants financial compensation to the company. An employee without a teacher training course will receive a shortened, tailor-made educational course in cooperation with the teacher education organised by univerity colleges.
Language integration programmes for children with limited Dutch language skills
The Flemish Government will provide language integration pathways for children with a limited Dutch language skills. An excellent command of Dutch is essential: pupils who do not sufficiently develop the school-academic register of Dutch experience more problems throughout their school career. Dutch is the key to strong educational performance, to full integration, but also to good communication in the classroom. Language integration pathways for primary education will be introduced from school year 2021 - 2022 onwards. An additional budget of € 20 million has been allocated for this measure.
Children and young people from families with a lower socio-economic status or whose home language is not Dutch are at increased risk of a problematic educational career. School-aged children and young people with limited language skills in Dutch often receive the necessary support at school. However, this specific support in a school context is lost during the school holidays. The summer holidays appear to have an impact on the learning performance of all pupils. It widens the gap between Dutch-speaking pupils and non-Dutch-speaking pupils.
That is why Flanders organises language activities during the school holidays, before and after school and at weekends. In order to promote this offer and these activities, a call was launched in May 2020. Local authorities in cooperation with partners from the education and leisure sector in the Flemish Community were able to respond and organise an offer for (full-time and part-time) school-age children and young people. Regions where children have less contact with Dutch, such as the major cities and the 'Vlaamse Rand', received special attention.
These Dutch language activities, organised for the first time during the summer holidays of 2020, will be organised for the time being until the summer of 2021. Subsidies will be awarded to the organising bodies. Numerous language-stimulating activities are already planned for 2021.
Standardised tests will be set up as a quality monitoring tool for education policy. In this way, we will be able to identify the learning gains of young people and gain an insight into the scores of each learner. These instruments will measure the achievement of the attainment goals, the learning gains of the pupils, and the learning gains at school level.
The tests will be taken at four pivotal moments in the curriculum of each pupil in compulsory education: at the end of the fourth and sixth year of primary education and at the end of the first - second year - and third stage - last year - of secondary education. The focus will be on Dutch and mathematics at the first instance. The results of the test will be used in function of:
- the assessment of pupils: the results of the test can be included in the global assessment of the pupil, but are not decisive for study progress and orientation. The school team receives an objective and high quality test result that can be used as one of several sources of information in the assessment of the pupil.
- self-reflection by the teacher and improving quality
- the monitoring of educational quality at school level: schools whose pupils generate significantly lower learning gains on those tests are obliged to participate in a freely chosen guidance trajectory to improve the quality of their education.
- monitoring educational quality at the system level
In 2021, a new academic support centre began to develop these tests, with a view to introduce them in the first grade of secondary education from school year 2022-2023 onwards.
SRSP project to support initial guidance
From 1 September 2019, initial guidance will be a right and an obligation for both temporary staff and their school(s). To this end, the Flemish Government grants additional resources as of the school year 2019-2020. In order to support the implementation of the initial guidance, the Flemish Government appeals to the support of the European Commission through an SRSP project. Through the project 'Implementing an effective induction system for novice teachers in Flanders', Flanders wants to develop methodologies in an evidence-informed way that help schools to embed induction guidance more structurally in their operations and personnel policy. The project has a duration of 24 to 30 months and started on 28 September with a general kick-off.
A new support and guidance decree
The Flemish Government decided to replace the M-decree (see overview by a new guidance decree, which will include a definitive model of support for pupils with specific educational needs. The aim of the new decree is to support all pupils and their teachers. The aim remains to achieve maximum inclusive education: children with (learning) disabilities and special educational needs will continue to follow lessons in mainstream education to the extent possible (and with extra support), but in practice this is not possible for everyone. For those pupils, special needs education remains the most suitable pathway for them in order to for them to receive the best possible support. In this way, every pupil is given a place in the education system that best suits their needs. The current operation of the support model will be extended by one school year in order to take sufficient time to prepare the new decree.
Autumn and winter schools
Following in the footsteps of the summer schools (2020), the Flemish Minister of Education is organising autumn and winter schools. A call for the organisation of a varied range of remedial courses (at pre-school, after-school and/or extra-curricular times and during holiday periods) was issued earlier this year. The pathways are linked to the educational objectives and the individual educational pathways of secondary school pupils. The target group for these pathways are pupils from ordinary secondary education, including OKAN, and the third year of the third grade from bso, part-time vocational secondary education, apprenticeship (Learning and Working) and special secondary education (OV3 and OV4). The call is intended as a priority for pupils in the second year of first, second or third grade secondary education in 2020-2021 because these pupils attended less physical school last school year and therefore have the greatest needs. However, if a school considers that remedial pathways should be used for other groups of pupils, this is also possible.
Courses of study: a simple and uniform matrix
From now on, educational institutions in secondary, higher, adult and part-time art education will be obliged to use at least the official designations that relate to the structural components of the education in question.
For secondary education, a clear and uniform table will be drawn up with the complete range on offer. This table will include, on the one hand, the matrix developed by the government with the study domains, finals and forms of education (aso, bso, kso and tso) and, on the other hand, for the first degree, the basic options and packages. All schools in Flanders that use designations for their fields of study. After all, parents and pupils are entitled to transparent and above all correct information about the content and finality of the study programme they choose.
Guidance for gifted pupils
The Coalition Agreement 2019-2024 of the Flemish Government pays explicit attention to very easy learners, gifted and exceptionally gifted people. Within this context, a call was launched for schools for ordinary primary education, ordinary secondary education, and scientific expertise centres to submit a project proposal with a maximum duration of 24 months (2 project years). The aim of the project 'Example schools for the guidance of cognitively strong pupils' is to select example schools from ordinary primary and secondary education and to visualise, further develop and disseminate policy and practice in schools. In addition to the sample schools, a centre of expertise or partnership of centres of expertise for scientific guidance and monitoring of the project will also be selected. At the moment, the selection committee is selecting a number of exemplary schools and (an alliance of) centres of expertise. Once the grant decision has been made, the project can then start (end of 2020).
Modernisation of secondary education: step-by-step modernisation: 2nd year of the 1st grade.
From 1 September 2020, the modernisation of secondary education will continue and will be rolled out in the second year of the first grade. In the second year of the first grade, pupils will make a first choice of study through the choice of a basic option or package. In 2B (b-stream), pupils can also choose a combination of up to 3 basic options and/or packages. In this way, the 2nd year of the 1st grade prepares pupils for their transition to the 2nd grade where they will make a conscious choice for a field of study and a domain of study.
At the same time, the Flemish Government continues to work on the reform and update of the educational curriculum. After the introduction of new attainment levels in the 1st year of the 1st stage of secondary education (see overview 2019), new attainment levels for the 2nd year and 2nd and 3rd stage of secondary education are now being defined, and afterwards new attainment levels for primary and adult education will also be developed. All SE courses of study must meet either the needs of the labour market or the initial qualifications of higher education, or both. The complete study offer of SE is brought together in one simple and uniform table which gives parents and pupils a clear overview of all possible courses of study. This table includes both the matrix developed by the government with the domains of study, finals and forms of education (artistic, general and vocational education) and the basic options and packages of the first stage.
Last school year 2019-2020, unique learning tables were no longer offered in the first year of the first grade A- and B-stream. This change will be implemented progressively (i.e. school year by school year). In concrete terms, this means that the further implementation of these changes in the second year of the first grade will take place during the school year 2020-2021.
Basic education attainment levels
The trajectory for the development of development goals and attainment targets for pre-school and primary education started in 2020 will be completed in the autumn of 2021. This will take place in accordance with the agreements in the draft memorandum on 'attainment targets and development objectives for primary education', which was submitted as a communication to the Flemish Government on 2 October 2020. This guarantees continuity between primary and secondary education. With the new educational objectives, Flanders wants to tackle the downward trend that has become visible in international comparative research.
As stipulated in the communication to the Flemish Government of 2 October 2020, the development objectives and attainment targets are elaborated by the specific development commissions. During the process, a general development committee monitors the principles and lines laid down by decree. On this basis, it monitors the overall feasibility of the set of educational objectives and identifies possible bottlenecks to the specific development committees.
The key competences 'competences in Dutch' and 'competences in mathematics, science and technology' will have the greatest weight in the new curriculum to be developed. The development committees must describe the learning outcomes Dutch and mathematics in such a way that a minimum of 25% of teaching time is needed for Dutch and 25% for mathematics. However, this does not prevent special attention being paid to the development of ambitious final attainment goals in French, science and technology.