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Procedure : 2004/2237(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0200/2005

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PV 07/09/2005 - 12

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PV 08/09/2005 - 7.4

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Thursday, 8 September 2005 - Strasbourg
European Schools

European Parliament resolution on options for developing the European Schools system (2004/2237(INI))

The European Parliament,

-   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on options for developing the European Schools system (COM(2004)0519),

-   having regard to the Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools(1),

-   having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2002 on the financing of the European Schools(2),

-   having regard to the annual report of the Secretary General of the European Schools to the Board of Governors meeting in Brussels on 1-2 February 2005(3),

-   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

-   having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture and Education and the opinion of the Committee on Budgets (A6-0200/2005),

A.   whereas the purpose of the Schools is to educate together children of the staff of the European Communities; whereas besides the children covered by the Agreements provided for in Articles 28 and 29 of the Statute of the European Schools, other children may attend the Schools within the limits set by the Board of Governors; whereas the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified officials is necessary for the smooth functioning of the European institutions, and whereas the provision of mother-tongue education for the children of such officials, the recognition of the equal value of academic years successfully completed in the Member States and at the European Schools, and the European Baccalaureate, all contribute to this,

B.   whereas the European Schools were established with this consideration in mind,

C.   whereas the European Schools system fosters the concept of European citizenship; whereas keeping the present Schools in existence on the one hand, and on the other setting up new schools and expanding the system in other ways, could accordingly help to strengthen European integration;

D.   whereas there are now thirteen European Schools, enrolling more than 19 000 pupils, and whereas one more school will probably be established by 2010,

E.   whereas pupil numbers at some Schools, especially in Brussels, have now risen beyond acceptable levels, and teaching standards are consequently declining,

F.   whereas average costs per pupil at the European Schools compare favourably with those at other schools attended by the children of officials of cognate bodies; whereas, nevertheless, costs per pupil vary widely between the individual schools and correlate strongly with school size,

G.   whereas, while the European Community contributes well over half of the running costs of the European Schools, the Commission is the only European institution represented on the Board of Governors of the European Schools; and whereas the Commission is the only member of the Board of Governors with the right to vote both on the Board of Governors and on the Administrative Board of each school,

H.   whereas the system of governance of the European Schools must combine a capacity for strategic planning and oversight together with a reasonable degree of autonomy for the individual schools,

I.   whereas the administration of the European Schools, including decisions about the admission of pupils and the waiving of fees, should be as clear, consistent and transparent as possible throughout the entire Schools system,

J.   whereas the curriculum leading to the European Baccalaureate is academically demanding and may not be suitable for academically weaker pupils; whereas the Schools at present offer no other school-leaving certificate,

K.   whereas, at present, educational provision for pupils with certified special educational needs varies from one School to another,

L.   whereas the maximum class size (32 pupils) is larger than would be permitted under the relevant legislation in a number of Member States; whereas, moreover, many classes contain pupils whose mother tongue is different from that of the language section to which they have been admitted, as well as pupils with learning difficulties or special teaching needs,

M.   whereas, with the exception of the Brussels I school, the schools in Brussels and in Luxembourg are overcrowded; and whereas, while decisions have been taken on the establishment of two more schools, the buildings will not be ready for use until 2010, with serious implications for the education provided at these schools,

N.   whereas the educational philosophy of the European Schools and the curriculum leading to the European Baccalaureate serve as models of multilingual and multicultural education which the Member States may wish to imitate,

O.   whereas the people of Europe agreed in the EC Treaty (Article 149) that Community action shall be aimed at developing the European dimension in education, particularly through the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the Member States,

The Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools and the Commission Communication

1.  Welcomes the Commission's launch, through its above-mentioned Communication, of a consultative exercise about the future development of the system of European Schools, taking into account the enlargement of the European Union, the interests of the new Member States, the creation of additional EU agencies outside Brussels and Luxembourg and the urgent need to revise and evaluate and, if necessary, to reform a system which was established 50 years ago and which originally catered for only four languages;

2.  Recalls that the Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools stipulates that the role of the European Schools is to provide for the joint education of the children of the staff of the European Communities as a way of ensuring the proper operation of the Community institutions, and also stipulates that other children may attend the Schools within the limits set by the Board of Governors;

The decentralised agencies and the new Member States

3.  Believes that a solution to the question of all workplaces of decentralized agencies must be found as a matter of urgency; regrets that such solution had not been found at the time when the workplaces of these agencies were decided, with the exception of the European Food Safety Authority in Parma;

4.  Believes that Member States hosting one of the new decentralised agencies must take greater financial responsibility for the education of the children of staff, and that appropriate solutions must be found for each of the new places of work; believes that, in these cases, cooperation between the European Schools and regional or local schools able to deliver the curriculum leading to the European Baccalaureate is an option; believes that such cooperation should aim to promote high-quality education and European integration, maintain linguistic diversity and facilitate labour mobility;

5.  Insists that, where the necessary criteria are met, language sections for the languages of the new Member States be established as a matter of urgency and that all pupils should be receiving mother-tongue teaching;

6.  Calls on the Commission to examine the possibility of establishing European schools in the new Member States;

The future financing of the European Schools system, Category III pupils and the smaller schools

7.  Believes that the balancing contribution from the Communities must not develop into an open-ended commitment; considers it self-evident that the European Schools system should operate effectively in terms of budgetary planning and control and should offer demonstrable value for money; endorses the view that the annual projected budget allocation for each school should take account of the size and needs of the individual schools and of evidence of efforts to spend the budget allocation as effectively as possible;

8.  Underlines, however, that the nature of the Communities' contribution to the schools' budgets is set out clearly in Article 25.2 of the Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools; rejects, therefore, the imposition by the Commission of a ceiling on the Communities' contribution to the European Schools budget before the Board of Governors has presented its estimate of the revenue and expenditure of the Schools for the following financial year;

9.  Considers that the current arrangement, whereby Member States' contributions are directly linked to the number of teachers they second to the European Schools and to the premises they provide for the European Schools, is not equitable and that alternative systems of financing should be explored;

10.  Believes nevertheless that the present system, whereby teachers are appointed and paid their national salaries by Member States, ensures access for the European Schools to the teaching expertise of these States and is the means by which the financial contribution of the Member States is secured;

11.  Notes that the level of fees payable by the parents of Category III pupils has risen substantially in real terms since 2002 and that this has resulted in increased revenue for the Schools and a smaller increase in the contribution from the Communities' budget than would otherwise have been the case; further notes that such fees do not meet the full cost of educating these pupils; believes, however, that the parents of Category III pupils should not face excessive fee increases during the remainder of their education in the European Schools system;

12.  Calls on the Commission, through its representative on the Board of Governors, to press for the adoption and publication of clear, detailed, and publicly available criteria for the admission of Category III pupils; urges the Administrative Board of each school admitting Category III pupils to report on the application of such criteria in its annual report;

13.  Reiterates its call for the Board of Governors to revise the criteria it has adopted for establishing, maintaining and closing individual language sections in individual schools so as to rule out any discrimination against an official language of the European Union;

14.  Calls upon the Commission to publish, as soon as practicable, the external study commissioned by it into the long-term future of the four schools in Bergen, Culham, Karlsruhe and Mol);

Better governance and administration

15.  Believes that, given the growth in the number of European Schools and in the number of pupils they teach, the tasks of the Board of Governors should essentially be those of setting strategic goals, of oversight and of review; believes that detailed management questions specific to individual schools should, in the first instance, be addressed by the Administrative Boards of the individual schools, and that each school should be considered an autonomous entity as regards operational and financial matters;

16.  Believes that, given the above, the Administrative Boards of the individual schools should be given control over the financial and operational aspects of the individual schools within the strategic goals laid down by the Board of Governors;

17.  Notes that the Community currently pays a balancing contribution equivalent to some 57% of the annual cost of the European Schools system, whereas the Member States contribute 22%; believes, therefore, that the Commission, as representative of the Communities, should have voting rights on the Board of Governors more in line with the Communities' contribution to the budget, and that the Commission must report to the European Parliament following each meeting of the Board of Governors;

18.  Calls on the Commission to press the Board of Governors to draw up a Code of Good Administrative Conduct and to clarify the remit of the Complaints Board;

19.  Notes the Commission's suggestion that two new bodies might be established, one 'to administer the financial and operational aspects of all the Schools', the other to superintend the curriculum, the examination system and the assessment of teachers; believes that a single governing body, with the authority to take decisions affecting the Schools system as a whole and willing to accept responsibility for balancing sometimes conflicting financial and educational imperatives, must be maintained;

20.  Calls for adequate representation of parents and other stakeholders, for example staff and pupils, on both the Board of Governors and the Administrative Boards of individual schools;

Curriculum and educational issues
(a)Class sizes

21.  Believes that nursery, primary and secondary school classes, taught by a single qualified teacher, should not be larger than 30 pupil equivalents; believes also that from 2008 there should be a progressive introduction of a maximum class size in nursery and primary classes of no more than 25 pupil equivalents; calls on the Board of Governors to endorse this principle;

22.  Calls on the Commission to encourage the development of coefficients in respect of children with certified special educational needs and of pupils whose mother tongue is different from the language in which they receive most of their instruction (Language I), and to ensure that these coefficients are applied when class sizes are calculated;

23.  Urges the Commission, working together with the Member States concerned, to find solutions as a matter of urgency in order to deal with the excessively high pupil numbers at some Schools, which are undermining teaching standards; urges the Board of Governors to take action without delay to combat the overcrowding of the schools in Brussels and Luxembourg; points to the need for proper planning at the right time to develop the infrastructure and facilities required in order for the European Schools to operate;

   (b) Special Educational Needs provision

24.  Calls on the Commission to produce reliable statistics about the extent of the requirements for special needs provision in all the European Schools and further urges the Board of Governors to carry out a survey of provision at each of the European Schools for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), including children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities; asks the Board of Governors to draw up a set of minimum standards relating to educational provision, to undertake an accessibility audit of the European Schools so as to ensure that the fabric and design of the buildings are accessible for children with physical disabilities and to take any other steps deemed necessary in order to support all pupils with special educational needs;

25.  Calls on the Commission and the Board of Governors of the European Schools to enhance the allocation of resources in terms of finance, staff and expertise with a view to providing first-class education for SEN children and to fully promote the concept of inclusive education, as is the case in other schools across Europe; further calls on the Board of Governors to examine constructive alternatives for those children who are unable to cope with integration in mainstream classes;

26.  Believes that, if SEN pupils are to benefit from their education at the European Schools, specialist multidisciplinary teams (such as educational psychologists and speech and language therapists) must be set up in Schools to provide support and advice for the teachers, pupils and parents concerned;

27.  Calls for one of the larger European Schools to launch a pilot project for an SEN resource centre, comprising qualified personnel with relevant experience and appropriate teaching materials (books, computer software), the role of which would be to provide expert advice and materials for teachers involved in the education of SEN children in the school; calls for financing to be set aside for this project in the 2006 budget;

   (c) The European Baccalaureate

28.  Calls on the Commission to do all in its power to ensure that the Board introduces, by the beginning of the school year 2007-2008, an alternative leaving certificate in parallel with the European Baccalaureate, for pupils who choose to follow a more vocational education;

29.  Reiterates its conviction that the increasing exchange of students between European universities, the globalisation of the word economy and the high intrinsic value of the European Baccalaureate justify its wider spread and its full recognition without discrimination by universities in Member States and in third countries;

30.  Therefore invites the responsible authorities in the Member States to consider the merits of making the European Baccalaureate more widely available as a school leaving certificate outside the European Schools, on the understanding, however, that the necessary guarantees would have to be in place so as to meet the quality standards on which the Baccalaureate is based;

o   o

31.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Court of Auditors, the Court of Justice, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the Board of Governors of the European Schools and the governments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 212, 17.08.1994, p .3.
(2) OJ C 31 E, 5.2.2004, p. 91.
(3) Document 1612-D-2004-en-1;

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