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Brussels schools experiment with 4-day week to combat teacher shortage


Brussels schools experiment with 4-day week to combat teacher shortage

Two Brussels primary schools have decided to introduce a tuition-free day on Wednesdays starting next school year. This means teachers who need to travel all the way from Flanders to work will only have to commute to Brussels four days a week. In this way, the schools hope to retain their teachers and also attract new ones.

It is well known fact. The teacher shortage in Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels has reached extreme proportions. This is why two primary schools in Evere (Brussels) have announced that they will start a four-day school week from next school year. Three other schools also have plans in this direction but are still waiting for approval from the inspectorate.

No more classes on Wednesdays

At two primary schools from the official schools network, Papageno and De Weg-Wijzer in Evere, pupils will no longer have any classes on Wednesdays. The children can stay at home or come to school day care or partake in activities at school like music lessons for which a fee is due.

To compensate for the four hours of class on Wednesdays that will be dropped, pupils will stay at school for an extra hour on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. To make such a long school day feasible for pre-schoolers and primary school children, that seventh lesson will consist of a creative and playful activity.

For the pre-schoolers, interactive reading aloud will be on the curriculum, primary school pupils will devote 20 minutes to understanding reading followed by a playful approach to maths.

Many benefits

According to the school, this four-day school week offers many benefits both for pupils and teachers. For pupils, a free Wednesday brings a breathing space in the middle of the week where they can relax or prepare for a test.

The offer of music lessons and other extracurricular activities, allows pupils to discover new talents. These activities do have to be paid for (3 euros per activity).   

"We can offer these reasonable prices because we rely on subsidies," says Lisa Janssens, head of primary school De Weg-Wijzer.

Teachers have fewer commutes to Brussels

For the teachers who come to teach in Brussels from Flanders, this means a big gain in time, as they only have to commute to the capital four days a week. At primary school De Weg-Wijzer, for example, the whole team of teachers comes from Flanders. So everybody gains. An evaluation of the new arrangement involving teachers, parents and pupils is planned after two years.

Among teachers, there were reservations about the impact on the quality of education. Though the school head is convinced that it can be maintained. "We will now have a teacher in front of every class. It’s really a solution to the teacher shortage and provides quality education to our pupils" says the head.

Initially, opinions among parents were divided, says school head Janssens. "Parents are well aware of the teacher shortage and liked the fact that we came up with a solution to this."

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