Is European school falling apart?

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The European schools are currently in crisis because the UK authorities have been forced to take the drastic decision of no longer seconding any full-time staff for the school year 2013-2014 and beyond. This is principally due to the failure of the Board of Governors to solve the cost-sharing problem in particular, despite it being a top priority of the UK presidency in 2011-12, and, in
general, the long-standing problem regarding the financing of the European schools system.

In the 1994 Convention, member states agreed to support the European schools and enjoy the benefit of them for their own nationals. They also agreed to a fair distribution of posts (article 12.4 (a)). The 2009 Stockholm reform failed to produce any improvement in the poor distribution of costs between the member states. According to this non-binding agreement, the UK is one of 8 member states over-seconding teachers in relation to the nationals enrolled in the European schools system. Despite previous years’ warnings and very few teachers seconded recently, the UK still had 217 seconded teachers in the system in relation to the 114 calculated on the Stockholm quota. This coming school year alone will see the non-secondment of 40 teachers.
In view of the seriousness of the UK position at the start of their presidency, the Board of Governors set up a Cost Sharing Working Group at its December 2011. However, the September 2012 meeting was postponed – “indefinitely” it appears – as it has not convened in over a year.

We believe the Board of Governors has failed in its administrative duty to resolve this issue, thus forcing the current unacceptable position taken by the UK. Until this system is rectified, or substantial moves are made in the right direction, the UK will not revoke their decision. Interparents greatly regret the action that the UK delegation have been obliged to take, whilst understanding and having some sympathy with their motives.

Therefore, we urgently call upon the Ministers of Education to:

  • protect the schools and the children within them
  • act immediately to resolve this crisis, before the start of the next school year
  • resolve the problem of the cost sharing debate and the general financing of the European schools system
  • keep this essential service to the European institutions on track
  • separate the pedagogical issues from the financial constraints
  • put European Schools on the agenda of their next European Council Education meeting, and above all,
  • preserve this valuable asset and promote the European Baccalaureate as the High Level Group2 and the European Parliament intended

The UK and Ireland bear a huge amount of the costs of the students who have no language section of their own, second and third language teaching, as well as subjects taught in vehicular languages. Other member states too, bear significant costs in terms of seconding teachers or providing facilities and a serious discussion is long overdue. European schools are in crisis.
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