The Parents’ Association has three key functions: to represent parents; to support them; and to contribute to the community life of the school. It has been a busy year on all three fronts at the European School Luxembourg 1.
Our greatest achievement was undoubtedly the agreement reached at the Board of Governors in April on a package to improve the terms for recruiting and retaining teachers at the European Schools, especially locally recruited teachers here in Luxembourg. While the key to unlocking the package was the promise of extra funding from the European Investment Bank, all parties recognised the essential role played by the Parents’ Associations. At Lux1 we set up a dedicated taskforce at the beginning of the year, which worked hard for months producing detailed research and conducting concerted lobbying to convince the Board of Governors of the need to make an extra effort to attract and retain high-quality teachers.
We also represented parents in the various education councils and school boards, where we were constantly engaged in dialogue with the school authorities about current developments such as the introduction of the new marking scale in secondary, the development of a procedure for dealing with behavioural problems in primary, and the start of a new contract with the canteen provider.
Another topic on which we represented parents was the proposal to create a Lithuanian-language section in our school. While a majority of Lithuanian parents are probably not satisfied with the result – which will see the section opening with classes in nursery and P1 in September 2019 – we ensured that their voices were heard during the decision-making process. Our attention now turns to supporting individual families concerned by the impact of the change.
Indeed, much of our time as management committee members is spent providing individual support to parents who, for example, have a child with learning difficulties or behavioural issues. This aspect of our work goes largely unseen by the wider school community but is hopefully valuable to the families involved. It is an area that we would like to develop and improve in the next school year. In April we co-organised with the school an information evening for parents and teachers on learning difficulties and would like to do this on a regular basis in future.
As every year, we also provided financial support through our social fund to parents who have difficulty in paying the fees for school trips. This year we awarded 19 grants totalling €6037.
A service that affects a much larger proportion of the school community is the organisation of the périscolaire activities. No fewer than 1500 pupils were enrolled in artistic, sporting and educational activities after school hours this year, and more will take part in the summer camps after the end of term. It is a major operation, with 52 monitors employed by the Parents’ Association and managed by two coordinators under the guidance of a small group of volunteer parents.
The périscolaire activities were showcased at probably the most visible contribution by the Parents’ Association to the community life of the school – the School Fête in May. Months of preparation by our two secretariat staff and the parent volunteers on the Fête committee, working together with the school, went into this major event. This year the theme was “The Extraordinary Garden” and it was our first eco-fête, with numerous measures taken to reduce the environmental impact. The time and effort of so many parents, especially in preparing and running the national stands, made it another great celebration of our school’s diversity. The Fête’s importance is not just the day itself, however: it is the main way in which we raise funds to support projects to benefit the school community.
This year we helped to fund two innovative projects through our participatory budget: the “School Garden” in the grounds of the secondary school, which will be maintained by the pupils; and a “Sensory Room” in the primary school for pupils who need a break from everyday stress and distractions. The concept of the participatory budget is that anyone can propose a project to support, and we aim to give a lot more publicity to this in the next school year.
This April we also sponsored our school’s team in the Eurosport competition in Varese – and were delighted that our team came home as winners!
This was the first full year following the split of the Parents’ Associations at Lux1 and Lux2 and there were still many administrative and financial loose ends to be tied up. With that period behind us, it is important for APEEEL1 to set clear objectives for its future development, to serve its members better and to help them engage more in school life. Big steps were made this year to improve communication to members – the website has been updated regularly; a monthly newsletter has been sent; and a private Facebook group has been launched – and it will be important to keep building on this in the coming school year.
I would like to thank you and all the Association’s members for your support over the last year and to wish you and your families a restful summer holiday!
John Coughlan – President, APEEEL1