European Parliament investigates the European Schools
Written by Giles Houghton-Clarke, President of the Board
On Thursday 24th February the European Parliament Committee for Culture and Education (CULT) devoted part of its agenda to the European Schools. The Presidents of the 4 Brussels APEEEs and the Presidents of Interparents were asked to contribute, as was the Office of the Secretary General and the Commission.
Key issues discussed were the chronic shortage of teachers in some sections and subjects – generally agreed to be caused by insufficiently attractive employment contracts. The role of Locally recruited teachers was also raised, with the APEEEs pointing out the precarious nature of these contracts, which was causing many good teachers to leave the system. The chronic lack of school spaces in Brussels over many years was also touched on.
Another topic highlighted in the APEEE contribution was pupil wellbeing and lack of a set of child protection policies across the schools, despite this being a requirement for since 2007. APEEEs asked why there is not a clear position on host country law applying to wellbeing, safety and security so that there could be clarity of which laws protect the pupils and staff of the schools and which judicial authorities could ensure that rights are respected.
On the pedagogical side, APEEEs raised concerns about how key decisions were taken regarding the BAC, which are having profound impacts on many pupil’s university applications. In particular the unnecessary introduction of a new marking scale has resulted in several members states downgrading the BAC and secondly, changes to the BAC marking this year and last have effected pupil’s grades with no legal recourse for pupils.
The view of the APEEE presidents is that these issues arise from weaknesses in the governance of the system; there are insufficient mechanisms to challenge decision and generally holding the system to account. These weaknesses were identified by the CULT Committee in its 2011 ‘Cavada’ report on the school systems – and have remained unaddressed 10 years later. The APEEEs therefore support the CULT Committee looking further into the school system and updating its 2011 report. In particular the APEEEs called for the Commission to take a bigger role in supervising the system and to involved itself in all areas of decision making, not just financial topics. DG Youth Sport and Culture (EAC), the Commissions/’s own centre of Education expertise should be central into this process.
The representative of the Office of Secretary General, Andreas Beckmann, acknowledged many of these issues, and confirmed that host country law does indeed have jurisdiction of matters relating to safety, security and wellbeing. The Commission also confirmed that it would be involving itself in all areas of the Schools system, not just financial, though it did not make any commitments to including DG EAC in this process. These are important announcements which the APEEEs will follow up on.