Funding of early childhood education and care
Belgium is a federal state. As early as 1983, childcare policies were devolved to the Communities and the National Childhood Institution, the parastatal body responsible for protecting the interests of mothers and children, became the Office for Birth and Childhood (ONE = Office de la Naissance et de l'Enfance) for the French Community. It is the task of the ONE to ensure – in compliance with current legislation – the authorization, approval, subsidisation, provision of guidance to, inspection and assessment of childcare outside the family setting for children under the age of 12. All childcare facilities must be authorised by the ONE, but some are also approved and subsidised.
From 2015, the sixth state reform comes into effect and federal competences in flexible reception, emergency and sick children are transferred to the ONE.
In 2019, the legal framework for the childcare sector was reformed. The various measures of this reform are gradually coming into force. This reform aims in particular to further support the accessibility and quality of childcare facilities, as well as to ensure administrative simplification of the ECEC system.
The subsidies paid by the ONE to the controlling authorities of grant-aided childcare facilities (public authorities or non-profit organisations) are mostly related to staffing, attendance by children, and the monitoring of the children’s health.
Childcare facilities also benefit from other subsidies, such as the infrastructure facilities paid by the Walloon and Brussels-Capital Regions (COCOF) for the construction of buildings with a view to the creation of centre-based childcare settings. This also applies to works of extensions or conversions, major repairs, equipment and the initial fitting out of such buildings.
The Regions also contribute by subsidising jobs within the framework of the Unemployment Abatement Programme (PRC). A ‘Childcare solidarity and development fund’ has been created within the ONE. This Fund is financed by contributions from the Regions within this framework. This Fund is responsible for compensating for the discontinuation of interventions by the Fund for Collective Equipment and Services (FESC) and developing the provision of childminding services.
To receive a subsidy from the ONE, a childcare facility must first have been authorized and approved by the ONE, retained in a programming and meet various criteria relating to occupancy rates, the quality of reception (staff training, infrastructure, etc.) and the accessibility (opening hours, application of the parental financial contribution, etc...).
The subsidies allocated depend in particular on the type of childcare facility concerned, as well as on the institution’s capacity and occupancy rate. They relate to staff scales (in particular childcare, medical and social staff, and social workers working with government-approved childminder services and from 2022, the management function as well), to the attendance of the children and to certain operating costs (especially the costs incurred by the childcare services).
On 31st December 2020, out of 46,863 childcare places in the French Community, 34,141 were subsidised by the ONE.
It should also be noted that since 2003, the ONE has had the competence to support reception during free time (children aged between 2.5 and 12, or even 15 years old): Out-of-school care (the ONE subsidizes the coordination of the reception of children in their free time and the support to operators of out-of-school care), homework schools (the ONE subsidizes these places which are structures independent from schools, places of reception, listening and conviviality places which make the link between the school and the child's living environment) and the vacation centers (the ONE subsidizes plains, camps, stays).
Funding of ordinary and specialised pre-primary, primary and secondary education
The expenses relating to education provided in educational institutions or sections thereof administered by public and private providers are borne by the controlling authorities, but the Communities can allocate salary-grants and operational subsidies to educational institutions administered by provinces, municipalities, or other public or private bodies (in public grant-aided or independent grant-aided education).
To this end, a pre-primary, primary, secondary, ordinary or specialised education institution or section must conform to regulatory provisions concerning the organisation of studies and the application of the language laws.
A grant-aided institution must:
- adopt a structure approved by the Minister;
- respect a curriculum that is decree-compliant and approved by the Minister;
- submit to inspection by the body organised by the government of the French Community. This inspection covers the subjects that are taught, the level of studies and compliance with the language laws, but excludes teaching methods;
- be administered by a natural or legal person that assumes all responsibilities;
- have the minimum number of pupils per class, section, stage or other subdivision, as required by Community government decree, unless waived by the Minister under special and exceptional circumstances;
- be established in buildings that meet certain hygiene and health standards;
- have the teaching aids and school equipment to meet pedagogical needs;
- form a teaching entity located in the same complex of buildings or, in any case, in the same municipality or town, unless waived by the government of the French Community in exceptional cases;
- have staff that are not prone to endangering pupils’ health;
- observe the holiday scheme as prescribed by law;
- comply with the provisions set out in the decree of 20 December 2001 on the promotion of health at school and with those set out in the decree of 30 June 1998 aimed at ensuring all pupils equal opportunities of social emancipation, in particular by the implementation of positive discrimination and differentiated staffing levels.
The subsidies granted by the Communities, when the conditions set by laws and decrees are met, are of three types:
- salary subsidies for the staff, equal (for the same titles and functions) to the salaries paid to the French Community’s education personnel;
- operating and equipment subsidies, of a flat-rate nature, which are variable depending on the level, form and type of education;
- subsidies for the construction and equipping of premises, allocated for the amounts set by the law and according to different schemes for public and private education.
The law of 29 May 1959 specifies that municipalities and provinces that provide financing in the form of social benefits to the schools that they administer are also required to provide the same benefits to the independent grant-aided schools established in the municipality.
Following differences of interpretation as to what is meant by ‘social benefits’, a decree (7 June 2001) has drawn up an exhaustive list of social benefits:
- the organisation of school restaurants and canteens, excepting those restaurants linked to hotel and food sections;
- the distribution of food and snacks as well as toys that do not form part of the teaching activities;
- the provision of childminding services, in whatever form, one hour before lessons begin or after they have finished;
- the supervision of the midday meal, which must last between half an hour and an hour in order to fall whithin the scope of this article;
- the distribution of clothing apart from clothing specifically related to education;
- the organisation of school trips specifically for children with health problems;
- access to public swimming pools, as well as the related transport when the swimming pool visited during school hours is not in the same municipality;
- access to facilities belonging to the municipality, the province, or the French Community Commission, for the purpose of an educational activity, with the exception of school buildings and swimming pools except those identified in the previous point;
- access to organised playgrounds and day trips during school hours and during the holidays on the municipality’s territory;
- financial or other aid to groups, associations or organisations, whose objectives are to provide social assistance reserved for pupils.
This same decree specifies the mechanism and its implementation procedure. As compensation for the exclusion of French Community institutions from the system of social benefits, these institutions are awarded an allocation per pupil, depending on the school level and whether it is an ordinary or specialised school.
The scheme set up in the French Community as regards school buildings for directly administered or grant-aided ordinary and specialised pre-secondary and secondary education, was reduced at the start of 2008 to two intervention levels:
- For structural construction work, the ‘classic’ funds (Community School Buildings Fund, the Fund for Grant-Aided Public Education School Buildings, Guarantee Fund) grant capital subsidies amounting to 60% of investments in grant-aided public education and interest subsidies amounting to the difference between the market rate and 1.25% in grant-aided education.
- A priority programme of work is intended to subsidise the most urgent work relating to safety or hygiene at schools and boarding schools, including preventing heat loss and improving disabled access in certain cases. Priority has been assigned to the specific needs of institutions for pupils with socio-cultural disadvantages and those whose governing body is under-funded.
As regards the priority works programme, the amount of the French Community’s contribution is determined per site and per eligible project at 70% of the investment amount in pre-secondary schools and in implantations of secondary level, benefiting from a differentiated staffing, and 60% in secondary schools, boarding schools and centres for Psychological, Medical and Social Services (CPMS) with a maximum total investment amount of €240,000 (the maximum amounts are higher in the case of sites where disadvantaged pupils are educated).
Mechanisms exist for reimbursing the French Community contribution if the building is sold or assigned to non-school use within a period of 20 years (first necessity programme) or 30 years (emergency programme).
In July 2009, the Declaration of Community Policy assigned the minister responsible for school buildings the task of evaluating the Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), an exceptional funding programme for school building renovation, construction, reconstruction or extension projects via public/private partnerships set up in 2008. The evaluation led in June 2011 to the introduction of a new financial mechanism, honouring past commitments and maximising the available budget.
Since then, new mechanisms have been put in place, including the intervention under a specific investment plan to increase the capacity of schools.
Certain educational resources
Funding has been provided by the French Community to promote the dissemination of certain educational resources. By the decree of 19 May 2006, a special budgetary programme was created for the acquisition by pre-secondary and secondary education institutions of the French Community of school textbooks and software programs which have received conformity approval. The conformity criteria are set by the government of the French Community, and the various inspection services are responsible for assessing conformity.
Additional resources for groups with special needs
As a supplement to the basic rules applicable in pre-secondary and secondary education, a supplementary period endowment is granted to meet the special needs of certain pupils in ordinary pre-secondary or secondary education.
In schools attached to a childcare facility administered or recognised by the Office for Birth and Childhood (ONE), or a home for children of homeless parents, or a home for children placed in care by the courts, the number of pupils is multiplied by 1.5 to determine staffing levels.
Whatever school is attended, the number of pupils is likewise multiplied by 1.5 in the case of children coming from:
- a foster home or foster family, if the children were placed in care by the courts (not by a magistrate) or the youth assistance counsellor;
- a home for children of homeless parents;
- a childcare facility organised or recognised by the ONE.
A school that organises a "DASPA" also receives complementary periods to organise this device.
When a course of adaptation to the language is organised, the school benefits from a number of periods depending on the number of pupils concerned (3 periods for 10 to 20 pupils, 6 periods for 21 to 44 pupils, etc.). Pupils eligible for a course of adaptation to the language, who also fall under the definition of newly arrived, are counted times 3 during the first two years of enrolment in French Community education and times 2 for the following year if they are not enrolled in DASPA, or times 3 during the year following enrolment in DASPA and times 2 the year thereafter.
Following on from the policy of positive discrimination engaged in from 1998, a decree dated of 30 April 2009 introduces differentiated staffing within ordinary, full-time pre-secondary or secondary education institutions organised or grant-aided by the French Community to ensure that all pupils have equal chances of social emancipation in a high-quality educational environment. The Decree organises ‘the objective and proportionate allocation of significant additional human and financial resources on the basis of objective and uniform socio-economic criteria, with the aim of promoting additional educational activities in schools’ (Article 2). The selection of institutions is based on the population schooled there, not on the area in which it lives, as earlier. While increasing the resources made available to pre-secondary or secondary schools which take in disadvantaged pupils and increasing the number of schools benefiting from extra resources, the new decree is intended to correct certain undesirable effects of the positive discrimination policy, whereby schools either were or were not in the system and either received or did not receive supplementary resources.
Since the decree voted on 6th July 2017, there has been a new method of calculation. Henceforth, per capita income, the level of diplomas or the unemployment rate will be taken into account. Moreover, the ranking of schools will be carried out each year. This system makes it possible to find a balance between the educational and budgetary stability needs of the schools and the need to stick as closely as possible to the socio-demographic evolution of the establishments, ie to act as close as possible to the pupils.
Additional means in the form of staffing resources and operating grants or subsidies are allocated every year to sites in classes 1 to 5 in a 20-class categorisation system of schools (known as sites benefiting from differentiated staffing). These resources are calculated on the basis of the class to which the site belongs and the number of pupils regularly enrolled there. The educational teams draw up a General Differentiated Staffing Action Plan (PGAED): this defines, annually, the goals pursued and all concrete actions planned with the additional resources granted annually in the context of differentiated staffing.
The PGAED and its follow-up report are subject to continuous evaluation.
Ordinary pre-primary and primary education
Creation of schools
The standards for the creation of schools depend on the number of pupils concerned, the geographical situation of the school, and the population density within the municipality in which it is located.
The creation phase extends over several years.
The standards for the creation are one of the conditions to be fulfilled to be able to create a new school or a new implantation. They define the minima of population to be attained by 30 September 30 of the current year :
Municipalities with less than 75 inhabitants/sq.km
Municipalities with 75 to 500 inhabitants/sq.km
|Municipalities with more than 500 inhabitants/sq.km|
Year of creation
The general standard of creation is the standard of the 4th year of creation.
The minima of population are understood, when the school or the implantation contains both pre-primary and primary levels, by the addition of the pupils of both levels.
The law also stipulates rationalisation norms, which are less exacting than the norms for creation. These set the minimum required enrolments.
Staffing depends on the number of pupils and is set by different rules for different levels of education.
The autonomy of school administration in pre-secondary education is based on the period endowment. This allocation corresponds to the number of periods made available to the school, calculated based on the number of students regularly enrolled there on 15 January preceding the start of that school year. The rules for calculating the period endowment differ for pre-primary and primary education. When, on 30 September, the number of pupils in all schools administered by the controlling authority or an organising body of the same network within the municipality for education administered by the French Community or public grant-aided education, - or in the territory of the entity for independent grant-aided education – is higher or lower by 5% or more than the number calculated on the preceding 15 January, a new calculation for staffing purposes is made for each school.
In some circumstances, schools benefit from additional periods to allow them to take account of the special needs of some pupils.
Independent pre-secondary schools and pre-primary schools also benefit from periods allocated to the management. The number of periods is calculated on the basis of the number of pupils in pre-primary and primary education on 15 January of the preceding school year, taking account of any multipliers. The number ranges from 6 periods (schools with less than 51 pupils) to 24 periods (schools with more than 179 pupils). In case of fluctuation of the number of pupils on 1 October, the management supplement is adjusted accordingly, upward or downward.
The number of periods remaining after allocation of periods for additional staffing in the first and second primary years, and periods for adaptation to the language of instruction to the period endowment of the school head, class teachers, full-time or part-time teachers of language adaptation courses, physical education teachers, second language teachers, is known as the residue.
Differentiated refinancing of schools entered into force in the 2004-2005 school year. The progressive increase in operating expenses is differentiated on the basis of the socio-economic index of each location (ISE = Indice socio-économique). It is determined annually on the basis of its school population of 15 January of the calendar year preceding the school year for which the additional resources are granted.
The method of calculating the socio-economic index is based on the individual characteristics of the students, such as household income, the level of graduation and the unemployment rate of household members.
Ordinary secondary education
Standards for the creation of secondary schools
The creation of secondary schools is regulated by decree.
Since 1994, school mergers have occurred in the three networks. For the past few years, the key idea has been to rationalise the education on offer through consultation and to aim at increased harmonisation.
In 1996, a more ambitious secondary school redeployment plan was outlined for the three networks. This redeployment process is based on three operational concepts :
- Optimal size: a consensus appears to be forming in the French Community that the ideal size for secondary education schools should be between 450 and 900 pupils. Such a size is sufficiently large to enable optimal use of human resources and offer a range of sections and complete options. Additionally, this type of school is on a human scale, thereby making it possible for everyone to know all members of the school community.
- Equality of access to education and freedom of choice: in rural areas, all children have the right to education access under conditions as favourable as in urban areas. The free choice of school character (denominational or not) must be ensured, as ordained by the Schools Accord (law of 29 May 1959). Schools administered by the French Community must provide access to neutral education for all. Based on these two convergent principles, preferential standards result according to the population density and distance between two same-character schools.
- Reinforcement of technical and vocational education: it is in technical and vocational education that the dispersal of streams undoubtedly is most damaging. To attain levels of excellence, it is necessary, in particular, to have the appropriate equipment. To be credible vis-à-vis the business world, one should specialise in one’s domain. The remodelling of the school landscape must integrate this principle.
Each school has a total number of teacher-periods (NTPP), which may be distributed by stage, year, or group of years, based on the number of regular students attending the school on 15 January of the previous school year. This management process gives the controlling authorities and heads of school a stable basis before the start of the school year upon which to plan the organisation of their school. However, the NTPP is completely recalculated on 1 October in certain cases: a more than 10% increase or decrease in the school population, the organisation of a new stage, or the elimination of several grouped options.
Teacher-periods can be used by each secondary school, with a maximum of 3% of the total number of teacher-periods, for activities such as class council, class administration and coordination.
Staffing norms were reviewed in 1996 as part of a reorganisation of the secondary education on offer. The reform was designed to guarantee improved teacher/pupil ratios, i.e. maximum 24 pupils per class, in the first ‘observation’ stage and in the technical and vocational forms. Under-attended options were eliminated.
The teacher-periods calculated in this way can be allocated according to pupils’ educational needs, in consultation with the educational team, without prejudice to the programming rules that define the conditions required for the opening of new options and sections.
A percentage (1%) is deducted from each school's number of periods. A reserve of teacher-periods is thus created, which makes it possible to assist schools in difficulty or allocate additional teacher-periods for special projects.
The ‘Schools Contract’ signed on 31 May 2005 as well as the Decree of 28 April 2004 guaranteeing teaching equipment for vocational and technical secondary education allowed for investments in the teaching equipment of the qualification streams of technical and vocational education and the creation of new infrastructures in the French Community: the future ‘Centres of advanced technologies’ (CTAs). These amounts are distributed as follows: 22% for institutions located in the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region, 78% for institutions located in French-speaking territory. The amounts are divided between the different networks on the basis of enrolments.
Moreover, the government subsidises a non-profit organisation which seeks out companies that could give away materials to schools, informs companies on schools’ needs as regards materials, and distributes fairly the materials obtained among schools in the different networks.
Specialised pre-secondary and secondary education
Creation of schools
To be created or become eligible for grant-aiding on 1 September, a specialised pre-secondary or secondary school must meet three conditions by 30 September:
- it must provide at least two types of education (unless exempted);
- it must enrol a minimum number of pupils for each type (18 pupils for types 6 and 7, 30 pupils for types 1 and 8, 21 pupils for types 2, 3, 4, 5);
- it must enrol a minimum number of pupils determined year by year for all types provided (for example, if the school provides types 1 and 6, the minimum number of pupils is 64 for the 1st year, 72 for the 2nd year, 80 for the 3rd year).
The law also stipulates rationalisation norms, which are less exacting than the norms for creation. These set the minimum required enrolments and are applicable as of the fourth year.
The number of teaching positions in specialised pre-primary, primary, and secondary education administered or grant-aided by the French Community is determined every year and for each school on the basis of the number of regular pupils enrolled on the preceding 15 January (except for type 5, for which it is based on the average number of regular pupils attending during a reference period). A new calculation of staffing levels is made on 1 October if the enrolment on 30 September has changed by 5% or more versus the enrolment on the preceding 15 January. In the course of the school year, staffing levels can be recalculated each time that the enrolment increases by at least 10%.
The number of positions is set within the limits of the period endowment for each school, i.e. the total number of 50-minute periods allocated to the school to provide education. This allocation is obtained by multiplying the number of pupils taken into account in each type and form of education by the number of weekly periods provided, and dividing the product by a guide-number (the number of pupils per group, which varies from 5 to 10 depending on the category of pupils concerned).
The school’s period endowment is the sum of the quotients obtained per type of education, rounded up to the nearest unit.
The calculation of grants amounts is determined according to the form and type of education.
The operating expenses for specialized education are allocated to the institutions according to the type and level of education per pupil. They represent much higher amounts in comparison with ordinary education, especially at the secondary level (means can almost double).
Financial autonomy and control
Non-school childcare facilities
In order to facilitate controls over the allocation of subsidies, the childcare facility follows the accounting and administrative recommendations drawn up by the ONE.
Ordinary and specialised pre-secondary and secondary education
The allocation of operating subsidies to grant-aided institutions is conditional on controls on the use made of these subsidies. In particular, a decree specifies the use of a chart of accounts consisting of the maintenance by the school that receives the subsidies of a ‘special ledger’, a cash ledger, a bank or postal cheques ledger, annual accounts, and an inventory of purchases.
Control of these documents is carried out by the audit department of the Ministry of the French Community. This department is also charged with controlling proper use of the salary subsidies, based on the regulations on required qualifications and school population norms.
Fees within public education
Non-school childcare facilities
For childcare facilities which are merely authorised, the amount payable by the parents is set freely; charges are collected in accordance with the arrangements set out in the internal regulations.
By contrast, among the minimum operating conditions set for childcare facilities which are approved or even approved and grant-aided is the requirement to set the parents’ financial contribution (PFP) on the basis of the net monthly household income, in accordance with the ONE scale which is reviewed annually. In 2020, for the French Community, the parents’ financial contribution is €18.41 on average per day and per child. A 30% reduction in the parents' financial contribution is granted when two children attend an approved childcare facility, or the family has at least three children. Furthermore, if a family has two children, one of whom is disabled and for whom the family receives increased family allowances, the child represents two units and allows the above reduction to be obtained. Finally, for all families, the rate is different when the child attends for half a day.
In order to ensure a minimum PFP for all childcare facilities grant-aided by the ONE, a system of solidarity allows childcare facilities with a very low average PFP to benefit from compensation from the highest PFP.
Ordinary and specialised pre-secondary and secondary education
During the period of compulsory schooling, access to education is free of charge: no school fees may be charged, either in the education organised by the French Community or in grant-aided education. Only non-EU nationals who come to Belgium on their own to study are required to pay a special registration fee.
Recently, the Government of the French Community voted a decree to introduce the prohibition to require "optional fees" from the parents, by adapting the current legislative framework. On the one hand, the point is to define explicitly and in a limiting way the only school fees which will remain authorized and according to which modalities, and, on the other hand, to forbid any other request for payment of school fees to the parents of students.
This draft decree also aims at allocating to pre-primary schools a sum of money intended exclusively for the purchase of school supplies to compensate the fact that such expenses can no longer be claimed directly or indirectly from the parents of pupils. This will be a payment of a specific grant for the purchase and renewal of school supplies.
By 2021, no more school supplies will be required in pre-primary education, starting in September 2019 with the first year. This measure is being implemented within the framework of the Pact for Excellence in Teaching and aims to achieve free schooling in a sequential manner, starting with pre-primary education.
However, the Decree on the Missions of Schools (24 July 1997) specifies that, when charging expenses, the controlling authorities must make sure that the schools consider students' social and cultural origins in order to guarantee equal social, vocational, and cultural integration opportunities for all. Non-payment of costs may not under any circumstances constitute grounds for refusing an enrolment or for exclusion. Since 1 January 2003 each participation council has been responsible for globally reviewing the various costs charged to pupils during the course of a year for the organisation of cultural and sporting activities. For the payment of these costs, the implementation of solidarity mechanisms between pupils can be considered by the council.
Financial support for learners’ families
A series of benefits are granted to families by the federal authorities. The principal ones are:
- up to the age of 25, free health insurance, family allowance, and a back-to-school allowance for every child in education. The 6th state reform transfered these competences to the Regions.
- tax relief for the parents for each financially dependent child in education, with no age limit;
- under certain conditions, tax-deductibility for childcare costs for children under the age of 12 (or even 18 for children with heavy disabilities).
Expenses incurred by parents for childcare for their children up to the age of 12 are tax-deductible, provided the following conditions are satisfied:
- The parent has a professional income.
- The expenses deducted relate to childcare for children who are financially dependent on the parent in question.
- The expenses relate to childcare for children up to the age of 12 (except for severely disabled children).
- The expenses relate to payment for childcare outside normal school hours (for children aged 0 to 3 years who do not yet attend school, this means day or night care at a childcare facility).
- The expenses relate to payment for childcare provided within the European Economic Area.
- The expenses relate to payment for childcare in facilities recognised, subsidised or inspected by the ONE or by another public body, or by foreign public institutions based in another Member State of the European Economic Area.
- The expenses are documented.
The supporting documents must be kept available for the tax authorities to inspect.
For the sums paid by parents to childcare facilities or for childminding before start of school, during the lunch break, after school hours, during all holidays, on Wednesday afternoons, during free periods, during weekends, or in boarding institutions to be deductible, they must have been paid either to childcare facilities recognised, subsidised or supervised by the Office for Birth and Childhood or by the public authorities (e.g. after-school minding organised by a municipality), or to independent host families or day nurseries under ONE supervision, or to pre-primary or primary schools, or to childcare institutions or facilities linked to the school or its controlling authority.
All expenses may be declared, but the deductible amount may not exceed €11.20 per actual day of childcare and per child (tax declaration year 2020).
Other forms of aid vary depending on the type of childcare facility.
Non-school childcare facilities
As part of a set of measures to improve families’ purchasing power, the Government has decided on the payment, through ONE, of a ‘Childcare Contribution’ for children aged 0 to 36 months who have attended a center-based childcare setting during the previous year. Under certain conditions, the parents may receive:
- either a financial contribution for parents with low to medium incomes, known as the ‘basic contribution’;
- or a financial contribution for families with at least two children who have simultaneously attended a childcare facility, known as the ‘increased contribution’.
The Childcare Contribution is paid in the year following that in which the childcare was provided, for a maximum of two times during the child’s time at the childcare facility.
Ordinary pre-secondary and secondary education
All children attending school and under the age of 12 travel for free on the public transport network of TEC (Walloon Region) or STIB (Brussels-Capital Region). Those aged 12-24 years receive a 60% reduction on their subscription.
Financial support for families of pupils with special educational needs
The 6th state reform regionalized family allowances. Specific regional policies have therefore gradually been put in place for a full transfer of competences since 2019. Children with a disability or health condition may, under certain conditions, receive increased family allowance up to the age of 21. So far, the extra amount is granted according to a progressive scale based on an evaluation of the medical condition in the light of three criteria:
- the physical and mental consequences of the disability or health condition,
- the consequences for the child’s participation in daily life,
- the consequences for the family circle of the child (medical treatment, necessary travel, adaptation of the child’s environment, etc.). The child is entitled to extra benefits if he/she scores at least 4 points for the first criterion and at least 6 points in all three criteria combined.
Increases are adjusted regularly.
The tax-deductibility of childcare expenses is extended to 18 years (instead of 12 years) for severely disabled children. In the case of childcare facilities, for the calculation of the parents’ financial contribution (it will be recalled that when two children from the same household simultaneously attend the same grant-aided childcare facility, or when the household has at least three children, the parents’ contribution is reduced to 70% for each child), the disabled child represents two units in the calculation.
Whether the pupil is in specialised education or is integrated in ordinary education, travel costs for disabled children between the pupil’s home and the freely chosen education institution that is closest to home are borne by the authorities (the Walloon Region or the Brussels-Capital Region). Transport may involve the use of regular services or consist of a private service (with the possibility of making the trip in specially adapted buses). Accompaniment is provided on the bus. If required, most institutions organised by the French Community benefit from the services of a specialised boarding institution. The other educational networks mainly use the services of childcare institutions.
A contribution towards the costs of home-schooling is possible for pupils recognised as being apt to receive a given type of specialised education, but who are prevented by the seriousness or nature of their disability from attending the relevant type of institution.
Other tax and social benefits are provided according to the family situation and the severity of the disability, such as tax relief, social housing, a parking card, etc.
Financial support for learners
Pupils in secondary education may qualify for study grants or loans.
Pupils enrolled as regular pupils in full-time secondary education may receive a study grant under the following conditions :
- financial conditions : the pupil must come from an impoverished background, i.e. his or her resources or those of the people looking after him/her or contributing to his/her upkeep do not exceed a fixed amount.
- conditions related to the educational curriculum : the pupil must attend a full-time educational institution and be enrolled as a regular pupil. Moreover, he must not double from his 3rd year of studies. At secondary level, one failure only is accepted.
- conditions related to his/her nationality : the pupil must be Belgian or a European Union national or a political refugee who has lived in Belgium for at least one year. Those eligible for the grant also include students and pupils originating from developing nations who, on 31 October, have resided for at least five years in Belgium and have completed at least five years of study there. For applicants from other countries, it is also necessary that the country of origin grants reciprocity.
The study loan system provides financial support for families with at least three dependent children. Study loans are allocated according to criteria very similar to those for study grants. The amount of the loan varies according to the level of studies, the needs of the borrowers and their ability to repay the loan amount and interest (4% per annum) on the basis of 10 six-monthly payments once their studies have been completed.
Dual vocational education and training
Companies taking on a dual vocational education and training student are required to pay them a monthly allowance. This is progressive, and its amount is set to take account of the training programme, the learner’s acquisition of skills and the year of training; it is also linked to the time worked in the company. Its amount and the arrangements for its calculation and payment are fixed jointly by the governments.
Since 1st September 2015, the work-study contract has been implemented :
- The workstudy contract is aimed at young people between 15 and 25 years of age.
- The workstudy contract is linked to a training plan, and can last a maximum of 6 years. The training is divided into 3 periods, or "sets of learning outcomes". These periods are associated with 3 levels of remuneration, subject to social security contributions, for the learner:
- Level A: level of access to work-linked training in a company, i.e. approximately 270 €/month.
- Level B: set of skills logically mastered when the learner is at 1/3 of the training course, i.e. about 380 €/month.
- Level C: set of skills logically mastered when the learner is at 2/3 of the training course, i.e. about 510 €/month.
- Travel costs (by public transport) for practical training in the company are borne by the employer.
- The training contract includes a 1month trial period.
- In order to occupy a learner, the company must be approved by a training operator and appoint a tutor.
- In most cases of suspension of the workstudy contract, the learner retains the right to his allowance for the first 7 days.
The number of pupils attending non-grant-aided education is not known precisely. It represents a negligible proportion. Subject to compliance with general legislation, the authorities responsible for this education are free to organise it however they choose.
It will be recalled that grant-aided independent education is not part of private education. It is subject to rules very similar to those relating to grant-aided public education, and is covered by the common description.