PLEASE NOTE! There will be a public meeting in the school’s Salle Polyvalente on Monday 1st April at 19.00 to discuss the events of the last few weeks, the challenges facing our children in the European Schools today and what we in the EEB IV community can do next to help.
Dear Parents and Students of EEB IV,
As many of you may already know, approximately 300 students at EEB IV gathered together in a show of great determination and solidarity this last Tuesday, 12th March. They were protesting the possible dismissal of up to 25 Locally Recruited Teachers (LRTs) at our school. Many of these teachers have played a key role in the academic growth and success not only of our children but also of our young school. They were recently informed of their possible replacement by an unusually high number of Seconded Teachers from the Member States starting Fall 2019. The APEEE wishes to express its pride in the very mature and inspiring behaviour of the participating students, whose protest has already been the catalyst for a number of positive changes at our school.
At the time of the student protest, tensions were running very high and teacher morale at the school was low following notification of an unprecedented number of secondments – 35 – proposed by the Member States for EEB IV as of the 2019/2020 school year. While the European Schools system is formally based on secondments, a majority of the teachers at EEB IV (55%) are locally recruited teachers. LRTs are more costly for the European Commission – the main funder of the European Schools system – than seconded teachers, for whom Member States pay a larger share of the costs. Therefore, the European Commission has proposed an objective of 70% of secondments and 30% of LRTs for the European Schools system as a whole. It is against this backdrop that such an unexpectedly high number of secondments must be understood.
It is important to note that there is currently an increasing trend towards seconding more teachers to teach classes in French or English when those languages are not their mother tongue – so-called non-native-speaker teachers. This practice of cross-section secondment is not unique to EEB IV and has become increasingly common in the European Schools as the number of teachers seconded from the Member States has dwindled. This is especially true for the United Kingdom, a situation now compounded by the upcoming Brexit. All European Schools have had to make do with fewer resources, unfortunately, and the pupils are the first ones to feel the pinch.
The APEEE has, however, strongly insisted on two elements in any secondment case. First, there is absolutely no justification for recruiting non-native-speaker teachers for French or for subjects taught in French, as there is obviously no scarcity of local French native-speaker teachers in Brussels. Second, English native-speaker teachers already in place as LRTs at EEB IV should be protected. While some progress has been made thanks to the current mobilization of the school community, and no non-native-speaker teachers of French (L2/3/4) will be seconded to EEB IV at this time, the APEEE will continue to be vigilant on this issue. The APEEE has already lodged an administrative appeal in order to exempt English native-speaker LRTs from the list of posts opened up for secondment. It is very clear that the secondment procedure this year — and especially the secondment of non-native-speaker teachers — would have benefitted greatly from an earlier open dialogue with all of the school’s teachers and the APEEE.
Although the APEEE believes that secondments of non-native-speaker teachers must be made carefully, this is in no way a criticism of the expertise or fluency of non-native-speaker teachers or seconded teachers. The incredible contribution made by many non-native-speaker teachers, whether LRTs or seconded, to the education of our children at EEB IV is undeniable. The decisive educational role played by seconded teachers, without whom there would be no European Schools, is equally clear and irrefutable. APEEE representatives have repeatedly gone on record saying that their involvement in the current situation should in no way be interpreted as disparaging non-native-speaker teachers nor seconded teachers.
Moreover, the APEEE wishes to thank our school’s management for the recent candid discussions it has held with Board Members about the current situation of LRTs threatened by redundancy. Most recently, some European Commission and Belgian trade unions have also entered into a constructive dialogue with EEB IV management to find solutions together that would be acceptable to all parties. The APEEE and the trade unions concerned will inform the school community about the outcome of these talks in as timely a manner as possible.
The APEEE also wishes to recognise that the school administration allowed the students to gather on 12th March without interference. This followed an emergency meeting that the Directors called with students the day before and the day of the protest. The first emergency meeting took place on Monday 11th March and included both teacher representatives and parent representatives from all of the language sections. Immediately after the protest, Director Bordoy praised the students for “the democratic and civic way” in which they demonstrated at school. The APEEE would like to thank the school’s Directors for fully accepting an action that, while it may not have been supported by everyone in the EEB IV community from the outset, was entirely within the fundamental rights of all students at the European Schools and turned into an impressive display of solidarity and civic engagement.
The effects of last Tuesday’s student-led protest are already being felt, both at our school and within the wider European Schools community. At EEB IV specifically, we already mentioned the nascent dialogue that is now occurring between the school’s leadership, parents, teachers and trade unions. In a larger perspective, this protest has made the wider ES community and governing bodies more aware of the predicament of LRTs at EEB IV, and by extension, the other European Schools. It has also raised new questions about the budgetary, pedagogical and not least human costs and benefits of the LRT/seconded model that the European Schools must operate in. This model will again be put to a serious test by Brexit.
Where do we go from here? What can I as a concerned parent or student do?
As the student protest so clearly demonstrated, communication around the core activities of our school—teaching and student learning—shows room for improvement. As events of the last few weeks have unfolded, it has also become clear that many parents at EEB IV feel that they, too, lack sufficient channels of information, communication and action when important things happen at the school. This is something that all sides now have a responsibility to try to put right for the sake of our students, our teachers and the future health of our school. The APEEE is therefore calling for a public meeting with parents, EEB IV’s Directors, teachers and students to be held on Monday, 1st April at 19.00 in the school’s Salle Polyvalente. At this meeting, we will discuss the LRT/secondment issue, the impact of cross-secondments, and other important questions facing the school today. An agenda with a list of items for the meeting will be sent out by Friday, 29th March.
This has been an extremely difficult time for many of our teachers and students. Members of the APEEE hope that by working more openly and closely with other interest groups at the school, we will be able to help rebuild trust while moving the school in a more positive and productive direction. Our goal must be to ensure the continued educational and personal growth of all EEB IV students, now and in the future.
Parents’ Association of the European School Brussels IV