Meeting with the Cabinet members of Commissioner Hahn
The introductory meeting with members of the Cabinet of Commissioner Hahn was held on 12 February with the Presidents of Brussels Parents' Associations (APEEE) and the President of Interparents. The Commissioner's portfolio includes, among other matters, responsibility for European Schools.
The meeting was very productive and allowed the Presidents to address the most urgent issues on the agenda, specifically perspectives regarding the temporary location of the Fifth European School in Evere as from September 2021, the adequate financing of European Schools in the next 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the strongest possible co-operation of European Schools with the Commission's DG EAC (Education) and, finally, the question of European Baccalaureate (BAC) recognition in EU member states (with particular focus on Germany), following the introduction in 2021 of the New Marking System (NMS) in BAC exams.
The Cabinet members confirmed that they are monitoring closely all developments in relation to the development of the Fifth European School site. The political commitment of the Belgian authorities to the opening of the temporary site for Primary/Nursery pupils in September 2021 was restated. The issue will remain an important topic in all meetings with the Belgian government during coming months with a view to maintaining momentum and planning efforts up until the opening of the permanent location in 2026-2027. Parent representatives stressed the serious overcrowding issues encountered in daily school life at the current locations, especially in Secondary, which impact on daily timetabling and contribute to long school hours and to the deterioration of teaching quality and life conditions for all members of the school community.
The new MFF agreement was highlighted as crucial for sufficient funding for European Schools. Parents highlighted the forecasted increase in Brussels school populations by 3000 pupils during the next 7 years, which should encourage the European Commission to sustain the current expenditure levels per capita over the coming financial period. The Cabinet members explained that the Commission will do its utmost to defend, in their approach to the decision-making institutions (European Council with the consent of the European Parliament), the importance of this sub-heading of expenditure under Heading VII.
The third point raised allowed parents to echo their strong support for a regular involvement of DG EAC in the educational developments in European Schools, such as in the areas of school (teacher) training programs, the development of curricula (digital skills) as well as the exchange of best practices in tackling addictions and bullying. The follow-up to this agreement on a new partnership between DG HR (institutionally in charge of school affairs) and DG EAC will be organised conscientiously by the competent services in close co-operation with the Office of the Secretary-General of European Schools.
The question of BAC recognition in EU member states following the overhaul of the marking system was discussed in detail. Parents mentioned the delays of most member states in delivering new conversion tables for BAC marks and deplored the decision of Germany to put in place, without any prior consultation, a new disproportionate system for conversion of BAC marks already in 2019, before any proper analysis of the NMS. The Cabinet members referred to several meetings organised with the competent authorities thus far and which have proved unsuccessful. Parents will share additional arguments and factual information in view of their forthcoming meetings, including at the highest Commission level.
Participants committed to maintaining a regular dialogue between themselves as with other stakeholders on various issues, for which the Commissioner's leverage would be crucial. Parents praised the role Commissioner Oettinger played until October 2019 and stated their trust and satisfaction with the open-minded and active listening attitude demonstrated by the new Commission team.
APEEE Board President