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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice

Belgium - French Community

4.Early childhood education and care


Last update: 27 November 2023

Place guarantee to ECEC

Non-school childcare services

Since 1991, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Charter of Infancy, a child’s access to childcare services has been recognised as one of their rights, regardless of their parents’ income or employment. However, there is no legal guarantee of a place in a non-school childcare setting. Nevertheless, since 2004, through the various ‘stork’ (cigogne) plans implemented by the government of the French Community, the overall coverage rate of childcare for children under the age of 2.5 years has increased significantly, reaching 36.8 % in 2019.

Coverage rates for children aged 0–2.5 years, 2018 and 2019


Number of places

Number of children aged 0 - 2.5 years

Coverage rate


Centre-based childcare settings






33 462

12 853

46 315

129 009

35.9 %


34 591

12 384

46 975

127 807

36.8 %

Source: ONE, ONE en chiffres – Rapport d’activités, ONE, Brussels, 2019, pp. 28–43.

The variety of centre-based childcare settings, in addition to the availability of home-based childcare services, enables access even in rural areas. However, there are differences between the subregions, and publicly subsidised provision is not always sufficient to meet demand.

Parents have a free choice regarding the childcare setting attended by their child.

Priority rules depend on the type (and size) of public subsidies. Settings receiving income-related subsidies on top of the basic subsidy should grant priority to children from families where childcare is needed because of a work situation (retaining work, looking for work or undertaking vocational training) and to children from single-parent families, children from low-income families and children in care.

To enable comparisons with other European regions and the Barcelona objectives, the coverage rates for all children aged 0–3 years are shown below. These children can attend either childcare settings or pre-primary school.

Coverage rates for children aged 0–3 years, 2018 and 2019 


Number of children enrolled

Number of children aged 0 - 3 years

Coverage rate


Subsidised centre-based childcare settings

Non-subsidised centre-based childcare settings

Pre-primary schools





40 265

16 853

19 145

76 263

155 291

49.1 %


39 081

16 058

18 736

73 875

153 823

48.0 %

Source: ONE, ONE en chiffres – Rapport d’activités, ONE, Brussels, 2019, pp. 28–43.

Between 2018 and 2019, it can be noted that the coverage rate is slightly down.  This drop is due to a decrease in the number of children enrolled and a slight decrease in the number of children in the 0-3 age group.  As a reminder, the objectives set by Europe in Barcelona in 2003 were to achieve a coverage rate of 33% for children aged 0-3 years.

Pre-primary education

Right to schooling / education

The right to education is a fundamental right enshrined not only in the Belgian Constitution (Article 24) but also in various international texts. Thus, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989, ratified by Belgium in 1991, provides, in Article 28, that states must recognise the right of the child to education. One of the principles of this right is free access to education (i.e. without paying school fees), which is guaranteed by the Belgian Constitution for pre-primary, primary and secondary education.

From the age of 2.5 years, children are legally entitled to 23 hours per week of pre-primary education in a pre-primary school free of charge. The rules of access to pre-primary school from the age of 2.5 years are specified in the decree of 13 July 1998 pertaining to primary education.

Compulsory education

In Belgium, compulsory schooling applies to all minors of school age who are domiciled or resident in the Belgian territory, regardless of their residence status.

Minors are subject to compulsory schooling starting in the school year in which they reach the age of 5 years. This includes the final year of pre-primary education (ISCED level 020).

Parents have a free choice regarding the school attended by their child. If there are no remaining places at their desired school, they are invited to choose another one.


Non-school childcare services

The 2019 reforms aim to reinforce the accessibility of childcare settings to families, particularly the most vulnerable. Articles 87–89 of the decree of 2 May 2019 introduced a level 2 accessibility subsidy (if priority enrolment covers 20–50 % of the available places), a level 3 reinforced social accessibility subsidy (if priority enrolment covers 50–80 % of the available places) and a level 3 accessible crèche hours subsidy, with the aim of taking into account needs linked to social priorities. These measures are currently being implemented; the extent to which they can be applied will depend on the resources that can be allocated.

The Birth and Childhood Office (Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance (ONE)) of the French Community subsidises a large part of childcare services (around 71 % of available places).

Childcare places available in the French Community on 31 December 2019


Subsidised by ONE

Not subsidised by ONE



Centre-based childcare settings


Centre-based childcare settings




22 705

10 235

10 757

2 618

46 315


23 559

9 922

11 032

2 462

46 975

Source: ONE, ONE en chiffres – Rapport d’activités, ONE, Brussels, 2019, pp. 28–43.

The financial contribution of families in subsidised centre-based childcare settings is calculated according to the income of the family, in accordance with the rules defined in the decree of 2 May 2019, which established the authorisation and subsidy process for crèches, childcare services and independent childminders.

In non-subsidised childcare centres, prices are set by agreement between the childcare centre and the parents.

Financial support is available for families using childcare, including tax deductions.

Pre-primary education

From the age of 2.5 years, children are legally entitled to pre-primary education free of charge.

To help to ensure affordability, pre-primary schools provide children with the school supplies that they need (pencils, markers, files, notebooks, glue, scissors, paint, etc.). Pre-primary schools have received a fixed amount per child for that purpose every year since the 2019/2020 school year.

Costs related to meals and other services (daycare centres etc.) are not considered school costs, in that they concern activities carried out outside school time and are not related to school learning. They fall outside the scope of the regulatory authority and are managed by each organising authority in an autonomous manner.

Some costs are borne by parents. Only the following school supplies are not provided by the schools and therefore remain the responsibility of the person with parental authority over the child: school bags, pencil boxes, the child’s usual clothing and sportswear. The supply of nappies, handkerchiefs, snacks and meals remains the responsibility of the parents.

Only the following three types of fees may be charged to parents :

•    access to a swimming pool and related travel ;

•    access fees for cultural and sporting activities that are part of an educational project or a school project and related travel (maximum EUR 45 per child per school year) ;

•    expenses related to educational trips with an overnight stay organised by the school and forming part of an educational project or a school project and related travel (maximum EUR 100 per child for the total duration of pre-primary school).