Give Brussels teachers a financial bonus. This is what Catholic Education Flanders says in order to protect schools in the capital from ‘one of the dramas of Flemish education’.
It is the kind of call that Sabine Verheyden received all too often in her ten years as director of the Lutgardis College in Oudergem: a teacher who resigns because he or she has found the same job closer to home. “It happened this week with our artistic education teacher,” says Verheyden. “He had six years of experience and was able to work in a more rural school.”
Traditionally, Verheyden, and by extension all her colleagues, receives these types of telephones mainly at the end of August. Result: Brussels schools generally have a less experienced teaching staff than Flemish ones. In the capital, 30.9 percent of teachers are 26 to 35 years old. That is more than in Flanders (average 24.7 percent). Teachers then leave Brussels more often than in Flanders, meaning that fewer experienced teachers aged 46 to 55 (19.1 percent) are working than in Flanders (22.1 percent).
This coincides with a pattern that the VUB educational sociologists discovered in the TALIS survey a few years ago: nowhere in the entire OECD are there less experienced teachers for the most vulnerable class groups. They described this at the time as “one of the dramas of Flemish education”. More experienced teachers usually know how to deal with this better.
“The survey also showed that teaching in schools with a diverse audience, such as there are many in Brussels, is really different,” says Professor Bram Spruyt (VUB). “In addition, these teachers indicate that, if they had to make the choice again, they would have chosen education again, but in a different school if that was possible.”
In short, the diversity of the big city drives teachers out of their schools, not the profession. “The only way to ‘improve’ or ‘facilitate’ themselves is to choose a school outside the city,” says Spruyt. That is why he and his colleagues put forward the option of giving this group of teachers a financial incentive. The Commission of the Wise, which made proposals to modernize the teaching profession, also thought this was a good idea.
Catholic Education Flanders gives this a concrete interpretation. In its memorandum for Brussels, the Brussels Catholic schools argue for a financial incentive to keep Brussels teachers, learning assistants and management in Brussels for longer. In concrete terms, the umbrella organization proposes to accelerate the build-up of seniority for this group through annual indexation instead of biennially (see graph).
According to the calculations of Catholic Education Flanders, this could mean that a teacher with a professional bachelor’s degree would earn 142 euros gross more per month after five years, 569 euros more gross after ten years and 853 euros more after fifteen years. For teachers with a master’s degree, this is 201 euros, 805 euros and 1,005 euros respectively.
Why for Brussels and not for example Antwerp, Vilvoorde or Zaventem, where the same challenges arise? “The problems we see in other metropolitan contexts are even more acute in Brussels,” says CEO Lieven Boeve. “On top of that, many Brussels teachers commute from the outskirts or even further.”