Parents set to boycott cramped EU schools

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Series Details Vol.11, No.33, 22.9.05
Publication Date 22/09/2005
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By Martin Banks

Date: 22/09/05

Parents may be asked to remove their children from Brussels' European Schools for one day next month in protest at "gross overcrowding" in the schools.

The boycott is one of several measures earmarked for a European day of action to be held on 25 October to highlight the problem.

Other possible steps discussed by parents' representatives at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (20 September) include days of industrial action by teachers and other staff and demonstrations by parents and children.

A petition calling for urgent action to tackle overcrowding at the schools has been signed by nearly 3,500 people, mostly parents working in the EU institutions, and will be presented to the Commission on the day of action.

This week's meeting, attended by nearly 150 people, was organised by the European Commission's local staff committee whose vice-president, Georges Vlandas, said that overcrowding was now "particularly acute" at two of the city's three European schools.

At Woluwe, he said, there were 3,058 pupils currently enrolled and at Ixelles 2,800, "well in excess" of the 2,500 pupils they were designed to accommodate.

"The feeling at this week's meeting is that the time has finally come to take action," he said "and the possibility of a strike, a one-day boycott by pupils and demonstrations will all be considered in coming days."

The Brussels schools will be the main focus of next month's protests but staff and parents at all of the 13 European schools are also expected to take some form of action, he said.

"The gross overcrowding which already exists, particularly at the Brussels schools, has got even worse following the enlargement of the EU because there are now far more EU officials seeking places for their children. The result is that some cannot find places at all while other families are having to disperse their kids all over Brussels.

"The recent start of the new school year has merely brought home to us all just how serious this problem has become," he added.

There are about 20,000 pupils currently enrolled at the 13 schools in the EU. Another two schools are scheduled to open in Brussels and Luxembourg by 2010. Vlandas said that until Brussels' fourth school opens, parents want a temporary school provided to relieve the overcrowding at Woluwe and Ixelles.

Separately, the Commission has begun a staff-opinion survey about the schools and their future. Although the Commission funds much of their budget, it has only a limited say in their management board because the schools were set up by an agreement between national governments.

Article reports on a one-day boycott of the European Schools, planned for October 2005 in protest at 'gross overcrowding' in the schools. This was one of several measures earmarked for a European day of action to be held on 25 October 2005 to highlight the problem.

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