European Schools: StaFF Committee repeats its call For urgent action on overcrowding
(extrait du bulletin du Comité du Personnel à Bruxelles – Dec 2020)
In our September Newsletter, we recalled the dramatic situation of overcrowding in the four Brussels-based European Schools. To avoid a situation in which children of colleagues working at European institutions are refused enrolment, the temporary site in Evere needs to be ready by early September 2021, and quickly followed by the set-up of a new, permanent 5th Brussels school. The Commission’s Staff Committee in Brussels took note and intervened as early as mid- June sending a letter to the Secretary General of the European Schools, pointing out the short time left for the delivery of the facilities at the temporary site as well as the need to monitor the developments.
On 14 October 2020, a special letter was sent to the President of the Commission Ursula Von der Leyen, in which we have emphasised the responsibility resting on the Commission’s shoulders. As a main funder of the European schools, the Commission has a crucial role to play in guaranteeing quality education for all of the children of all of its staff.
As time was running out, at the initiative of the Commission’s Staff Committee in Brussels, staff representatives from the Commission, Council, Parliament, EEAS, EESC, CDR and Eurocontrol, along with the four parents’ associations of the Brussels-based schools as well as all nine trade unions active in our institutions, signed a joint letter to all of the Presidents of European institutions and the Secretary General of the European Schools.
In this letter, we called for actions in favour of European Schools and European education, namely:
- Ensuring the finalisation by September 2021 of the construction of fully operational provisional facilities safely and adequately accommodating 1,500 nursery and primary-level pupils on the Evere site (ex-NATO);
- Ensuring the official establishment of the 5th European School in Brussels without further delay and launching the construction of permanent facilities to be available by September 2026;
- Ensuring adequate budgetary allocations for development and maintenance of the relevant infrastructures in line with the size of student populations and the requirements of quality of education.
As soon as the current budgetary negotiations are finished, we intend to gather all the signatories of this letter and organise a joint representation that will ask for meetings with the recipients of the aforementioned letter.
This direct communication seems to be of utmost importance in the light of recent moves by the Office of the Secretary General of European Schools (OSGES) that seeks to remove representatives of the Commission’s Staff Committee from its ‘Steering Committee of the European Schools in Brussels’. Learning about this proposal, we were able to obtain assurances from DG HR that they disapprove of any such limitation of the staff’s voice. However, the OSGES also proposed to decrease the representation of the Parents’ associations in this Committee, a motion that we vehemently oppose.
As the near future of the European schools’ ability to host and educate children of Commission personnel is at stake, we will not spare any effort to appeal for action and urge the involvement of our employer.
Bergen: threats to European schools
In Bergen (NL), a European School serves the parents of the JRC research centre.
The Dutch government is hosting the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in Amsterdam, which was previously in London. In its application, it offered to set up a European school if the agency moved to Amsterdam. Now, to avoid creating a new school, it wants to move the Bergen school to another location near Amsterdam.
Of course, this is provoking reactions from the staff, who have settled in Bergen in good faith, bought houses, etc. The JRC management does not seem to be interested in this idea. JRC management does not seem to be reacting and is leaving the Bergen staff to fend for themselves.
It’s not very elegant to attract a research centre to a given country and then treat it badly because you’ve found a new ‘client’. Especially since the NL ruled out Milan by promising facilities to Amsterdam. And once the decision has been taken, it’s time to make savings.
Could it be that the real intention of the NL is to close this European school in its own right and open an “accredited” school in its place near Amsterdam?
Concerns about the new grading scale for European schools
The Presidents of the 4 APEEES of the 4 EUR schools in Brussels have sent the letter below concerning the new grading scale for our schools. Other EUR schools in other locations have sent very similar letters.
DG HR, the Greek Presidency of the EUR Schools (outgoing) and the Spanish REP, the Office des Ecoles Eur (OSGES) and the CLP have also received copies.
Dear Sirs, Dear Madams,
We attach a letter from the four APEEEs of Brussels communicating parents’ serious concerns about the introduction oF the new competence-based marking system, specifically: 1) the current state of the roll-out in S1-S5, 2) the readiness to move on to the next phase, and 3) the communication to national education authorities.
While parents continue to support the aims of the new system, they are extremely anxious about mounting anecdotal evidence suggesting that the roll-out of the system has not been smooth and that the European Schools may be unprepared to introduce the new system in the Baccalaureate Cycle. The anecdotal evidence is buttressed by concrete signs such as missing syllabuses and documents left pending. In addition, it remains unclear if/how the Baccalaureate Exam itself may need to be readjusted to reflect the new approach to assessment. Finally, parents believe that education ministries in the member states have not received adequate information about the new marking scale, the state of the roll out and the effects of the new system on the distribution of marks relative to the previous system.
For these reasons, the Brussels APEEEs urge OSGES and the school directors to provide stakeholders with specific evidence that the roll out is on track; if this is not possible or if evidence suggests that more time is needed, we call for contingency measures to be put in place.
We would be happy to schedule one or more meetings to discuss this issue in early September.
Kathryn Máthé, APEEE Bruxelles 1 (Uccle)
Giles Houghton-Clarke, APEEE Bruxelles 2 (Woluwé) Anastassios Papadopoulos, APEEE Bruxelles 3 (Ixelles) Kristin Dijkstra, APEEE Bruxelles 4 (Laeken)
INTRODUCTION OF A NEW MARKING SYSTEM (answer by the deputy Secretary general to the letter from the APEEEs)
EE alumni network : Alumni Europae
We, the board of Alumni Europae invite all the future Bacheliers oft he European Schools to join their network, once they leave their respective schools with the Baccalaureat.
Alumni Europae is the structure which hosts all the bacheliers oft he ES who intend to join us. We are keen to be known as well in the ES themselves and of course as well by the furture alumni themselves. We are proud to grow constantly and significantly and are devoted to establish an excellent relationship to the schools and their respective Directors.
Thank you for handing out this flyer,
kindest regards Reinhold Ziegler
Chairman Alumni Europae asbl
European Schools in Brussels: in long-term crisis
Open letter concerning the protracted critical situation of the European Schools in Brussels
U4U supports the open letter to the Presidents of the European Institutions concerning the plight of the European Schools in Brussels. This letter calls for the provision of a 5th school. It was written by all unions, staff committees and parents’ associations, on the initiative of the Commission staff committee in Brussels.
This letter insists: our European schools in Brussels are experiencing a prolonged crisis while their educational model is an asset, as evidenced by the rapid increase in the number of accredited schools. These schools are also one of the elements of the attractiveness of the European civil service. Finally, they represent a factor favoring European integration through education and the development of a European identity.
Latest news: the Belgian authorities have promised to allocate part of the Evere site for a prefabricated provisional school, from the start of the new school year in September 2021. The definitive allocation of this site for the construction of a permanent school would have to be decided by the next government of Belgium, when it is constituted. The mobilization continues.
European Schools in Brussels: in a lasting crisis of overpopulation
Our schools are experiencing a protracted crisis at a time when the EE education model is spreading through accredited schools.Brussels has four European schools as of right. They are already overcrowded, even with the school annex Berkendael for kindergarten and primary. The number of children attending school is 550 students higher than the official reception capacity (previously fixed in an extremely optimistic manner). This situation is all the more worrying because: only one out of every two child of civil servants is enrolled in these schools, because of a registration policy that leaves little choice for families and a reduction in the educational offer, and that between 300 and 400 new pupils a year still want to be enlisted. These data are worrying because the conditions of schooling of our children are one of the elements of the attractiveness of the European civil service.
Moreover, the solutions to this problem are not immediate.Indeed, the Belgian authorities procrastinate as always, they oscillate between several proposals, all of which have many disadvantages. U4U had already mentioned the case of a possible annex located rue du Commerce in the center of Brussels, which the Belgian authorities are proposing to offer but without carrying out a feasibility study which would attest to the adequacy of this site with the specific needs of a school, and for good reason, because this study would be negative. Moreover, the Belgian authorities are careful not to make a firm proposal.
The other proposal is the former NATO site, which could accommodate in the short term if not a complete school, at least a temporary annex built with prefabricated. But here too no firm decision is made, the Belgian authorities going so far as to assert, probably to do nothing, that the cost of such a temporary school would be close to that of a definitive school.As for the fifth school we’ve been talking about for 10 years, no decision is made and will not be made until 2020. It will probably be located on this former NATO site. This delay in decision makes it possible to fear that its construction is completed only at the end of 2026 at best. Hardly finished, this school would already be fully filled.
In addition to these problems due to the repeated shortcomings of the Belgian authorities in the supply of buildings, Member States do not provide enough seconded teachers. The teachers who take their place are often recruited by the accredited schools which pay them better, but which of course are paying for the parents.The institutions themselves are lagging behind on these topics. The budgetary constraints imposed by the Member States paralyze them. They do not know how to speak loud enough to be heard by host states.
The paradox is, therefore, that all the actors, the host state, the Member States, the Institutions and even the Board of Governors have every interest in letting the time slip to avoid costs, the price of these failures being paid by the children and their parents.It is time, as in the 90s, that the staff themselves mobilize again to exert the pressure necessary for the situation to evolve positively. That’s what U4U is working on today.
Joint statement of the four EEB APEEEs requesting that overcrowding in the Brussels schools be urgently addressed – 22 Oct 2019
20/12/2019 Board of Governors’ declaration on the 5th Brussels school/overcrowding situation : Courrier à l’attention de Madame la Première Ministre Sophie Wilmès
The European Schools of Brussels in overcrowding crisis
The overpopulation oF the European Schools is such that it may no longer be possible to guarantee all the desired places For the next school year. The Board oF Governors and the Belgian authorities are procrastinating. U4U has sounded the alarm and proposes immediate action.
At its meeting in December 2018, the Board of Governors noted that the Brussels Schools were operating above their capacity and that soon they would no longer be able to accommodate a sufficient intake of new pupils.
The project for a fifth school is making slow progress: it is planned to occupy the Boulevard Léopold III, the military land released by NATO, to open a school for 2,400 pupils in 2024. However, a concrete and budgeted project is yet to be defined.
To cope with this crisis, the Board of Governors proposes that Berkendael should be permanently allocated to the European Schools (which will not solve anything as the premises will be filled quickly, and the transition of the pupils to this site for the secondary cycle poses insurmountable difficulties due to the lack of space), and to occupy a site in the rue du Commerce (Arts-Loi district), an office site totally unsuitable for a school, even dedicated to children in the final secondary cycle. The plan is, in September 2020, to transfer all of the S6 and S7 Secondary classes of the Brussels schools II and III to this site, i.e. a thousand children. The feasibility of such a geographical split between the two schools has not been considered, particularly for its impact on school schedules, nor has the ability of this site to meet the needs of a secondary school. The Commission must not sign the MoU proposed by the Belgian authorities beFore these Feasibility studies are perFormed, and beFore meeting parent and staFF representatives.
The Régie des Bâtiments dismisses the possibility of a temporary site of prefabricated buildings on the military site, estimating that the cost of this would be equal to that of a permanent structure and arguing that it would take at least three years to build. These two arguments are open to question and merit an independent evaluation.
- That a temporary prefabricated school is made available to the European Schools within 18 months, which could partially occupy the Boulevard Léopold III site, while waiting for a permanent school to be built there, provided there are hygiene and safety guarantees for the pupils during the work.
- That the project for a permanent fifth Boulevard Léopold III school is launched immediately and budgeted, with the objective of opening in five years.
- That in view of the fact that this fifth school will be full as soon as it opens (as were Ixelles and Laeken at the same time), the project for a sixth school should be launched, for example on the Josaphat site, with the objective of opening Brussels VI in ten years.
U4U notes that the Board of Governors must also tackle similar situations where there is a capacity crisis, for example at the Centre for European Schooling Dunshaughlin (IRL). The Board of Governors must take very seriously its task of supporting and maintaining European education (including the associated schools) and must therefore take all necessary steps to ensure that there are always sufficient places available with this objective in mind. It should not be forgotten that access to the European Schools is a key element of the social package of EU officials and agents that forms part of the job attractiveness of the European Civil Service. At a time when the Commission is wondering how to rebuild this attractiveness, school access must be preserved, although it has already been compromised as almost half of new pupils in Brussels do not enrol with them due to the chronic overpopulation at the European Schools, as well as the deteriorating quality of the facilities and the teaching, an inevitable consequence of the restrictive budgetary policies of recent years. The Board of Governors must allocate sufficient financial resources to the existing schools to guarantee a high-quality education.
- Request for social dialogue addressed to DG HR
- Board of Governors working document
- DGT Academy – Radio Lingvistika: Podcast 2019.02.05 – The European Schools today
- Interparents’ letter on Brexit: teachers seconded to the UK (February 2019)
Dernières nouvelles : 19/03/2019 – Last news
The large number of enrolments to the European Schools in Brussels for the next school year. There will be around 2,550 new pupils in September, despite the fact that only the year 6/CM2 pupils leave the schools in July and that, furthermore, only one child of civil service agents out of two is educated in the European Schools. The crisis in our schools is getting worse; there is no solution in sight. U4U urgently requests additional budgetary resources and the construction of a new school as soon as possible.In addition, the supplementary site project in the rue du Commerce (Arts Loi quarter) for a “lycée”-type European School was fortunately abandoned by the Belgian authorities, as it was clearly unsuitable to accommodate pupils. This project resulted in protests from parent associations, staff committees and some trade unions, especially U4U. What is more, we suspect the authorities of proposing this site simply to make it look as though they were fulfilling their obligations as a Member State hosting the European institutions. Another temporary site is available to accommodate our pupils pending the completion of the 5th school, as we have already indicated (see above).
Objet : APEEE: Update on Arts-Loi – new proposal to switch location to the NATO site
De : APEEE Woluwe Secrétariat Envoyé : mardi 9 avril 2019 07:25
We have been informed in recent meetings by the Régie des Bâtiments (the property management arm of the Belgian Federal Authorities) that due to problems with converting the office building at Arts-Loi into a temporary school for our senior secondary pupils, and in particular getting the necessary permits, they believe it is not likely to be possible to use this site. Instead they are now proposing to build the temporary school on the old NATO site, using modular building techniques.
This is great news because it is what the 4 Brussels APEEES have been campaigning for. The NATO site has good facilities, good transport links, is not in a highly congested or highly polluted area, and with a purpose-built school, the pupils will not suffer the lack of proper facilities that would have occurred at Arts-Loi. The action of the class representatives and parents, supported by the Trade Unions and Local Staff Committee of the Commission, was vital in ensuring common sense prevails. You will certainly remember the passionate discussions we had at the General Assembly in January and the strong resolution passed by 100% of the delegates opposing the Arts-Loi site.
The Régie des Bâtiments plans for the temporary school to be for maternelle and primary pupils. It can therefore be a starter school from which the pupils can be transferred to the permanent 5th School (EEB5) being constructed on another part of the same site. The position of the APEEEs is that the temporary school should should be filled by new enrolments, not by transferring pupils, but this has yet to be finalised by the Secretary General. The current projection is for EEB5 to be ready in 2026, and for the temporary primary and maternelle school to be ready in 2021. These dates are already late, therefore it does also mean that we will face overcrowding for a few more years.
At present we only have high level details and the project has not yet been approved by the Belgian Federal Government. The Secretary General has asked the Régie des Bâtiments to keep Arts-Loi on the table. Risks remain therefore that the NATO option may not finally be agreed, or that it will be delayed, or that Arts-Loi springs back to life. But nevertheless, at least we are moving now in a positive direction. A big thanks to all who have helped with the APEEE’s campaign on this topic. The effort is paying off, but we need to keep going to make sure we end up with a good solution for our children and our teachers.
Regards, Woluwe APEEE board
“Sink or swim” report
The obstacles encountered by disabled children in the European Schools system, published by Human Rights Watch and the European Disability Forum
This report is still to be contextualised. Numerous children with disabilities successfully attend our European Schools. We even have blind children who manage very well.This report gives us an overview of the limited capacity of our schools to overcome difficult situations. The report as a whole is not negative and recognises the efforts already made. You can see here the actions undertaken to educate children with special needs. It is of course always possible to do better and, at its meeting in December 2018, the Board of Governors decided to establish an “action plan » to increase current capacities and find additional budgetary resources.
That said, the ES are “generic” schools whose main aim is to help the children pass their European BAC, and they will never be in a position to deal with situations that require a highly specialised education. It would be an exaggeration to say that the ES can now and will always be able to cover all disabilities and would probably be against the wider interests of disabled children who require an alternative education.
The recommendation of the United Nations, which advocates for all disabilities, is aimed at governments, which have hundreds of schools (for example, the Brussels region has 602 primary schools) and can if necessary create more specialist schools or adapt existing schools to allow for the co- education of children with varying levels of disability and non-disabled children. This recommendation is not aimed at an isolated group of 13 schools spread across the entire EU.As regards the higher cost of specialist education, there are real financial problems for the families concerned, and the solution must be found at a Budget level.And finally, it is true that the brutal austerity to which the European Schools have been subjected has not helped.
The schools must urgently be provided with the means to operate effectively.
Our readers write to us following this communication:
« Dear Colleagues, I think that your summary of the situation of children with handicaps in the European Schools is simplistic and lacks a real understanding of the difficulties facing children with disabilities and their parents.
It gives the impression that only children that require a ‘highly specialised education’ are not accommodated at the European schools. However, children with conditions such as dyslexia and Asperger’s syndrome, which are quite common, are often required to leave. These are children who should be able to be accommodated in mainstream schools.
Thank you for your letter and the comments and information it contains concerning our mentioned above article. First of all, be aware that U4U fully supports the consideration of children with disabilities’ needs in the European schools.
Thank you for better enlightening us on their difficulties as of better become aware of all the dimensions of this issue. I understand that some formulations of that article may have seemed clumsy. I also take note that our approach in this short article can be considered not as complete as it should be. We are now going to analyse thoroughly your letter and will answer to you in a couple of days.
Let me recall once again that U4U fully shares the parents of children with disability concerns and supports, through its action since years, the increase of means for the European schools as to help them face their today challenges.
Best regards, Georges Vlandas
The list of problems is much longer…
As a parent in a European school, I find the video surprising. I would have hoped to find a lot more information. The aim of the video is not very clear. It deals with some topical issues. However, I notice that a lot of very important subjects are missing, even though the subject of “external children attending European schools” is covered.
I don’t think this video gives an objective picture of the challenges we face. Very important points, among others, are for example:
- Overcrowding in the European Schools – not enough places for colleagues’ children;
- The lack of a long-term strategy for the development of the schools, given this overcrowding and many other factors (incl. 5th school in Brussels);
- The huge problem of bus travel, which is a logistical and environmental challenge, with many families having to cross the entire city in order to send their children to the European School;
- The collaboration with ancillary services, which is very important, particularly the lack of places in childcare centres and the outsourcing of their services;
- The changing context in which more and more families are multilingual, requiring greater flexibility in language learning;
- The enormous investment made by volunteers, which is not recognised at all – times are changing, far fewer parents are staying at home, is it really normal for parents to run canteens!
- The lack of budget to lighten these tasks.
Answer: You’re right. By its very nature, such a short video can only cover a few topical issues. We will make other videos on the subject of EE, but they cannot replace written texts that help to better describe the issues.
SWALS (Students without a linguisitc section)
(a letter from a reader)
It would appear that another problem of European schools is again ignored, that of the double linguistic disadvantage of SWALS (Students without a Linguistic section).
They are enrolled into either EN, DE or FR section, but:
- they have to have a full curriculum of their mother tongue even if they would benefit more from learning another foreign language before Primary 5 (at the age by which time the phonetic apparatus should be fully formed, i.e. learning new sounds becomes more difficult) and
- once in secondary, they are separated from their colleagues who are native speakers of the language of the section and combined into classes with children who had learned the same language as a second language; thus they are not allowed to advance in the language of the section, which by that time will have become their main language of thought and expression, nor can they reach a comparable level in their mother tongue or another language.
While the mother tongue should by all means be kept, children who are willing and able to should be allowed, as they are in most European countries and outside Europe today, to learn another foreign language at least as of the age of 8, i.e. Primary 3, and SWAL groups should be allowed to advance in their main language, i.e. that of the section they are enrolled in, so as to have fair opportunities for further education.
This is line with the European objective of promoting multilingualism for young people, which most school but the European ones seem to have embraced.
FELSI schools: your School Fees allowances have been significantly reduced.
Are your children studying at a FELSI (Fédération des Etablissements Libres Subventionnés Indépendants) school such as Decroly, Le Verseau, L’autre école, Singelijn, …?
You have received an E-MAIL from the PMO informing you that your type B education allowance will no longer be paid because of a ruling by the EU Tribunal. Our collective is looking into all legal avenues to find a solution to this new problem with the administration.
We propose a meeting of our FELSI collective on 19/10/2017 at 12H45 at J70 – 01/140 (Rue Joseph II). This meeting will be an opportunity to discuss legal avenues with a lawyer specialising in European civil service litigation. There is no need to register or to reply.
In the meantime, we advise you to fill in your school declarations as you did before.
IF you would like to join us, contact us on this E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Appendix: extract from the PMO email
Please note – 2017/2018 school year: New reimbursement policy for Belgian fee-paying schools.
For children attending a primary or secondary school, the education allowance may be granted to reimburse the cost of enrolment and attendance at a fee-paying school.
Some Belgian schools require a financial contribution from parents in the form of subscriptions paid to non-profit associations closely linked to these schools to offset the costs generated by requirements and activities linked to the completion of the school curriculum. The applicable legislation of the French or Flemish Community does not allow schools to require the payment of a minerval for the enrolment of the child in the school. These schools cannot therefore be described as fee-paying schools within the meaning of the Staff Regulations.
In a recent judgment, the General Court of the European Union confirmed that the contributions paid to these Belgian schools cannot be covered by the education allowance (see judgment of 28 April 2017).
Colleagues who have benefited from the payment of the education allowance, on the basis of contributions paid to such a Belgian school or to the association linked to such a school, will keep the education allowance allocated to them, until 31/08/2017. However, from the 2017-2018 school year, the education allowance can no longer be granted for financial contributions requested by Belgian schools or associations.
Brainstorming meeting on European Schools
On 10 April 2014, an informal brainstorming meeting on the development of European education and the future of the European Schools was held in Brussels, organised by GUDEE with the support of U4U.
The agenda included the following points:
- The “Cost sharing”.
- The study related to the reform of the secondary (and how to keep the unique nature and mission of our schools).
- The limited budgetary resources of Chapter 5 of the EU Budget dedicated to the schools
- The question of the creation of a 5th European School in Brussels.
The meeting was attended by 16 people, including leaders of the Brussels APEEES. Mr Tremeur Denigot (JRC) moderated the meeting and Georges Spyrou (OSP) provided the secretariat and material arrangements.
Mr Denigot opened the debate, thanking the participants for sacrificing their lunch hour and underlining the selfless interest of everyone around the table in the development of European education. The group then proceeded to examine the day’s topics.
a) On the subject of cost sharing, Georges Spyrou gave a very brief overview of the problem and pointed out that on 9, 10 and 11 April, the issue would be on the agenda of the Board of Governors (BoG) meeting to be held in Sofia. So there was hope that this issue could be taken forward. This was followed by a discussion that reviewed several aspects of the problem.
It was said that cost-sharing began as a financial problem but is evolving into a political problem that is becoming increasingly complicated as other Member States begin to express restrictive positions similar to those of the UK (“contamination”). At the moment there are two options on the table at the BoG meeting, a minimalist one which only covers the costs of a few of the most “essential” seconded teachers, and a more comprehensive one which covers most of the needs (NB: unfortunately the April BoG meeting in Sofia did not result in a solution, due to the negative attitude of Austria, France and other countries).
One way of dealing with the problem created by cost-sharing is to recruit local teachers (“Chargés de Cours”). This solution comes up against restrictive conditions relating to the length of the contract, relatively low pay and the lack of job security. As a result, it is often difficult to find the teachers you need.
For Brussels, there is also the attitude of the Belgian trade unions, which are demanding salaries based on 14 salaries a year (“holiday pay”), which is not possible under our budgetary rules.
In addition, the conditions for recruiting “lecturers” in the various countries where European schools exist are not the same, so that, for example, a Spaniard and a Greek are not necessarily recruited under the same conditions.
The group concluded that it was imperative to find solutions and to propose valid and, if possible, uniform contracts for Course Officers.
It was also stated that even if these recruitment problems were solved, the schools’ budget would remain weak and would not be able to cope with the expenses linked to the “Responsés des cours” over the long term. In fact, these costs will increase with the departure of seconded teachers who will not be replaced by the MS. The next step (with the budget remaining constant) would therefore probably be to drastically reduce expenditure in other areas of operation (SEN, for example).
At present, the schools most affected by cost-sharing are Woluwé and Uccle, but this is more a matter of chance and other schools will follow.
Some participants pointed out that another negative effect is that teachers hired locally are not supervised in the same way as their seconded colleagues, and this can also cause problems. In fact, there is little structured middle management in the European schools and the directors are called upon to fulfil several functions, which is not the case in other schools. Some teachers carry out administrative and coordination tasks, but more often than not they work ‘overtime’ in relation to their contractual obligations. This is true for most schools, including Laeken. Should a body of independent inspectors be proposed for the Eur Schools? The question deserves to be asked.
Some participants said that a valid solution would be the “Communautarisation” of the schools to get them out of the problems generated by “Inter-State” management. But there is nothing to show that at the moment the MS are prepared to take this step, because they still want to keep control of the EUR schools.
b) The question of the Schools’ budget was then discussed.
The budget is limited and this poses problems for the smooth running of the schools. The Alicante Agency would have a surplus in its budget and this sum could be used for the schools, but there are legal problems for it to be used. There was also an idea that the EIB/BEI could become a member of the Convention for schools and pay a contribution to cover part of the costs.
The conclusion is that the Member States must be lobbied to recognise the need to increase budgetary resources, particularly in the context of the revision of the EU budget. In this respect, the EUR Parliament could play an important role, particularly in view of its renewed interest in EUR schools’ issues (recent hearing of the EUR Parliament’s Education Committee), provided that the next elections do not fill its benches with “Eurosceptics”.
c) Study for the reform of secondary education (S4-S7):
Its budget and terms of reference are underway, and very soon it will be out to tender. Interested parties such as the APEEEs/Interparents, the Staff Committee and the GUDEE should follow this dossier closely.
d) Creation of a 5th school in Brussels.
The 4 schools currently operating in Brussels are not sufficient to absorb all the demand (even if 50% of colleagues do not enrol their children in EUR schools). Mr. Kivinen’s office is in discussion with the Belgian authorities to take a decision on the matter. However, no decision could be taken before the elections on 25 May and the installation of the new elected representatives. A 5th “all secondary” school, a sort of “campus”, would be an interesting idea, but in Luxembourg the authorities have ruled out this option because studies show that it would be a more expensive solution than creating a traditional school.
As for the site of the 5th school, the most logical solution would be Berkendael, with the option of extending the school to the current site of the nearby prison. Given that the local council also has (different) plans for this prison, the question remains open and another possibility would be a school split into two sites, with the primary section in Berkendael and the secondary section in buildings at Bv. Jacques.
At the end of the meeting, the organisers thanked all the participants and promised to keep them informed of any action or question relating to European education that came to their attention. They expressed the hope that this very interesting first meeting would be followed by others in the near future.
Disclaimer: These minutes reflect the writer’s understanding, probably do not fully cover all of the day’s discussions and in no way can they replace information relating to schooling at the European Schools. These should be requested directly from the schools.
PS: For information on issues relating to the EUR schools, see also the GUDEE website http://gudee.eu , the “European Education” newsletter (Bilingual Fr and EN).
Group participants are invited (if they wish) to submit articles relating to EUR education for publication (with the agreement of the editorial committee).