Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
There are various forms of childcare from which parents are free to choose: in a centre-based or home-based setting, subsidised or non-subsidised.
In Belgium, parents register their future child before birth, and the organising authority cannot accept a request for childcare before the third month of pregnancy. The parents choose either a collective centre-based setting or family childcare.
Priority rules are set by the legislation in force and by the circulars distributed by the Birth and Childhood Office (Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance (ONE)) of the French Community to centre-based childcare settings depending on whether they are entitled to basic subsidies.
Settings receiving income-related subsidies in addition to the basic subsidy should give 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. Settings receiving an additional subsidy on top of the basic subsidy and the income-related subsidy should also have a proactive admission policy that favours children from vulnerable families.
Children in centre-based childcare settings are divided into age-homogeneous groups or mixed-age groups (0–3 years), as determined by the setting.
Many children are very young, aged 3–4 months, and receive childcare from the end of their mother’s maternity leave until the age when parents decide to enrol them in a pre-primary school, 2.5 years of age at the earliest.
Childcare for all remains a basic principle that is applied across the various departments of ONE. A lot of work is done by ONE to create an inclusion and accessibility policy that covers all families.
Group size and child/staff ratios
In centre-based childcare settings, the child is placed in a group cared for by one or more childcare workers, depending on the number of children. The minimum standard is one carer for every seven children present at the same time.
In home-based childcare settings, a maximum of five children are allowed to be present at the same time if childminders are working alone. For affiliated childminders working in a pair, the capacity is eight full-time-equivalent children, and a maximum of 10 children may be present simultaneously.
The requirements for initial training were updated by the decree of 2 May 2019 establishing the authorisation and subsidy regime for crèches, centre-based settings and independent childminders. However, the French Community is currently in a period of transition with regard to the regulation of initial training. Various items of legislation (2003, 2004 and 2019) coexist.
In order to clarify these developments, a summary document provides both an overview of the new rules on initial training (general principles, new recognised qualifications, transitional measures and special cases) and information on the recognised training courses by type of care setting.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
Childcare services are available from Monday to Friday for a minimum of 220 days per year. Daily time organisation depends on the type of subsidy that centre-based settings receive. Publicly subsidised centre-based settings organise childcare for at least 10 hours a day to be scheduled between 6.00 and 19.00, while those without any subsidy or with entitlement only to the basic subsidy offer childcare for at least 11.5 hours per day.
Independent childminders offer care for at least 10 hours a day, 5 days a week for a minimum of 220 days a year.
Each setting decides on its own timetable. The educational plan usually specifies how the day and week are organised.