The Belgian Act on compulsory education states that your child is of compulsory school age as from 1 September of the calendar year in which he/she reaches the age of six. Moreover, nursery school children who move up to primary education at five years of age are also subject to compulsory education. As a parent you are responsible for ensuring that your child receives compulsory education.
In order to comply with the rules on compulsory education, you have decided to enrol him/her in a school. However, apart from enrolling your child in a school you have to ensure he/she actually attends school every school day in the school year, apart from legal absences.
This appendix describes the circumstances under which children of school age may legally be absent and what your responsibilities are in these cases.
Your child may be legitimately absent solely in the following cases:
A medical certificate always has to be provided when your child is ill for more than three consecutive calendar days. This certificate may be issued by a doctor, a specialist doctor, a psychiatrist, a dentist, an orthodontist and the administrative departments of a hospital or a recognised laboratory.
In the case of consultations, such as a visit to the dentist, these should take place outside school hours, wherever possible.
When a child is repeatedly absent, owing to a chronic syndrome, such as asthma or migraine, that does not require a visit to the doctor, a medical certificate confirming this syndrome may be sufficient, subsequent to consultations between the school and the pupil guidance centre. In the case of an absence actually justified by this reason, all that is required is a certificate from the parents.
In the case of an illness lasting no more than three consecutive school days, a note from the parents is sufficient, but only for maximum four times a year. From the fifth time onwards, a medical certificate must always be provided.
You should notify the school as soon as possible (by telephone, for example) and also provide the certificate at the earliest date.
To attend a funeral or the wedding of someone living under the same roof as your child, or someone related to your child by consanguinity or affinity ;
In case of a petition or a summons to appear before a court (for example, when your child is heard during a divorce or has to appear before a juvenile court);
If your child is subject to measures taken by child welfare or child protection (admittance to a reception, observation and guidance centre, for example);
If your child is unable to gain access to or reach the school because of circumstances outside one's control, such as a strike affecting the public transport system, or flooding;
In the event of holidays relating to your child's faith. This applies solely to religions recognised by the constitution (the Anglican, Islamic, Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant faiths). The Anglican, Catholic and Protestant holidays coincide with school holiday periods. In the case of Islam, this refers to the Sugar Feast (1 day) and the Feast of the Sacrifice (1 day); in the case of the Jewish faith, the Jewish New Year (2 days), the Day of Atonement (1 day), the Feast of Tabernacles (2 days), the Eighth Day of Assembly (2 days), the Seventh day of Sukkot (1 day), the Feast of Esther (1 day), Passover (4 days) The Feast of the Weeks(2 days); for the Orthodox faith this concerns Easter Monday, Ascension and Whitsun in years when the Orthodox Easter does not coincide with the Catholic Easter.
For each absence, you are required to provide the school with an official document as soon as possible (2.1. to 2.5) or an excuse written by you (2.6).
Absences allowed by the head teacher
Your child may be absent under the following circumstances only with the express permission of the head teacher :
in the event of the death of a person living under the same roof as your child or someone related your child by consanguinity or affinity to the second degree. This does not apply to the day of the funeral (this is featured under 2.1), but to a period, for example, your child requires to recover from an emotional upheaval(a period of mourning) or to allow your child to attend a funeral in a country outside Belgium;
for an active participation in cultural or sports activities, if your child is selected for this as an individual or a member of a club. Training sessions are not taken into account, whereas participation in a championship/competition, for example, does. Your child may be absent for a maximum of 10 half school days per school year for this purpose(either in succession or spread out over the school year);
absences for personal reasons in genuinely exceptional circumstances, provided the consent of the head teacher is sought beforehand. This refers to a maximum of four half school days per school year (spread over the year or otherwise).
In this case, you have to provide a written note at the earliest opportunity so as to excuse your child's absence from school.
these absences with the head teacher's consent are not automatically allowed. They do not constitute a right that you may claim. The head teacher alone is entitled to make an independent decision to allow such an absence. Under no circumstances may permission be given to go on holiday on school days (leaving earlier or returning later).
Absences due to the practice of high-level sport in the following sports : tennis, swimming and gymnastics for maximum 6 teaching periods per week (transfers included) on the condition of submitting a dossier approved by the school management team.
Participation in Time-Out projects.
The dossier comprises :
a. an application motivated by the parents ;
b. a declaration by a sports federation affiliated to the "Vlaamse Sportfederatie" (Flemish Sports federation) showing that your child takes part in a training scheme of this federation and that this training scheme justifies the absences at school he/she wants to be excused for ;
c. a medical certificate issued by a sports doctor attached to a recognised control centre of the Flemish Community, which shows that your child's participation in the proposed training scheme is medically justified.
If all these conditions have been met, the school management team can authorise your child's absence but they are not obliged to do so.
Absences of occupational travellers in very exceptional circumstances
This category applies solely to children of bargees, travelling showmen, circus managers and performers and caravan dwellers. If you belong to this category, your child's enrolment in a school commits you, just like any other parent, to ensuring that your child attends school on school days (apart from the legitimate absences referred to in points 1 to 3 inclusive).
Nonetheless, there may be genuinely exceptional circumstances where there is no other alternative to your child travelling with you. This situation must be carefully discussed with the school beforehand. You must establish clear arrangements with the school about how your child will continue studying during this period with the help of the school and how you will remain in touch with the school. These arrangements have to be written down in an agreement between you and the school. Your child may be legitimately absent only if you observe your commitments in this area.
If you belong to the occupational traveller category but remain in the same place (on a caravan site, for example) your children must of course attend school every day.
xxx As the organisation of the school year is legally defined by the public authorities and the school management may not allow any deviation from these rules, you may not keep your child away from school earlier or later than the official school holidays. Parents who nevertheless ignore this rule are considered to be violating the compulsory education act and may be penalised.
If your child changes schools during the school year, the old schoolinforms the new school on the number of unexcused absences of your child.