Comments by the Executive Bureau of APEEEL1 on the possible application in the European School Luxembourg 1 of the measures announced by the Luxembourg Government for a progressive return to on-site classes
23 April 2020
We wish to thank the School Management for giving us the opportunity to comment on the possible implications of applying at the European School Luxembourg 1 (Kirchberg) the measures announced by the Luxembourg Government on 16 April 2020 to enable a progressive return to on-site classes following the period of remote teaching to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a matter of principle, we think that our School should always follow the public health recommendations of the local authorities.
At the same time, we recognise that our School’s situation differs from that of Luxembourg schools. Notably, we have twice as many pupils on campus as the biggest Luxembourg school. Our primary school has five times more pupils than the average Luxembourg primary school. While our secondary school is comparable in size to the largest Luxembourg secondary schools, it works completely differently with students switching between classes and classrooms much more frequently. In addition, the decisions taken by the Board of Governors of the European Schools on 17 April 2020 concerning the European Baccalaureate 2020 put us in a different position to the Luxembourg schools as regards the critical cohort of final-year students.
We think it important that our School set out its priorities clearly: public health, education, then other considerations. This would reassure many parents.
If our School is unable to fulfil the public-health requirements of the Luxembourg Government, we think that the Board of Governors’ decisions to relieve the pressure on both S7 students and other cycles justify our School taking a more cautious approach to the return to on-site classes than the measures foreseen for local schools. In the interests of the whole School community, we would certainly not support a less cautious approach to public health than that recommended by the local authorities.
When the time comes to prepare for the return to on-site classes, we have a number of concerns and questions regarding our School’s ability to fulfil the public-health requirements set out by the Luxembourg Government. Apart from the difficulty in observing social distancing rules due to the number of pupils and the practice of mixing classes and changing classrooms, we would like to know if the school can provide sufficient disinfectant material given the concerns we raised with the Health & Safety Committee about sanitary conditions in the school toilets (flash survey of class reps) as recently as 9 March 2020. Furthermore, we think it important to keep in mind the vulnerability of teachers, pupils, parents and other family members with underlying health conditions in the event of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections: what measures would be taken in the event of a new infection within our large School community?
Should the period of remote teaching be extended, we think it urgent to address the significant disparities in the quality and frequency of the teaching delivered. As the initial results from the survey of parents conducted over the Easter holiday demonstrate, for many parents and their children remote teaching has been an unexpected success. For many others, however, it has been stressful, poorly organised, inadequate or improvable in other ways. Support among parents for the continuation of remote teaching is contingent on this disparity being corrected. We will share a more detailed report of the survey results shortly.
Finally, we would like to emphasise the special situation of the S6 cohort of students. While the Board of Governors’ decisions of 17 April 2020 provide solutions for other cohorts, this group faces uncertainty about the marks that will be counted towards their university applications. Whatever solution regarding the return to on-site classes is decided upon, we would like to ask the School Management to prioritise the need of S6 students to complete their academic year and obtain marks that fairly reflect their learning and achievement.
As soon as the School has a concrete plan for the return to on-site classes, the Parents’ Association will be available to comment in more detail on the proposals.
Statement to the School Advisory Council (written procedure conducted between 27 and 29 April 2020) by John Coughlan, APEEEL1 President, and Luc Dupont, APEEEL1 Vice-President for Administration, as parent representatives
29 April 2020
The Parents’ Association would like to thank the School management and staff for the detailed analysis of the options for implementing an exit strategy from the current situation. We support the position that respect for health and safety must be paramount and that this restricts the options in different ways in different cycles. We understand that the structure of the secondary curriculum makes it difficult to observe social-distancing but we also observe that secondary pupils are more likely to respect such rules than primary pupils, who would – according to scenario 5 – be the only ones allowed to return to school on 25 May. If the health situation allows it, we would like to underline the pedagogical, social and psychological benefit for all pupils of being able to attend School. We would therefore like to ask the School to consider another scenario in which distance-learning remains the norm until the end of the School year but in which pupils of as many cycles as possible have the opportunity to attend School on a limited and voluntary basis observing all the required health and safety protocols. This would clearly require rethinking entirely the School’s timetable and pedagogical approach, but the potential continuation of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 well beyond the current period could make such an exercise worthwhile in the long term.
Main points raised at the virtual meeting of the School Advisory Council on 11 May 2020 by the parent representatives (see above)
11 May 2020
- We reported that there was a lack of consensus among the parent body about how and when to return to on-site classes, with strong views across the spectrum.
- We reiterated the proposal we made in our response to the written procedure, namely to consider another scenario that would allow for some kind of limited and voluntary return for all cycles based on re-inventing the timetable.
- We highlighted the Management’s calculation that remote teaching was reaching 100% of pupils but that the evidence from our survey shows that there is a huge diversity of experience, and that some children are not getting the teaching they need.
- We raised the concerns about the School’s ability to comply with the Luxembourg public health requirements, given the results of our flash survey of class reps on hygiene in the school toilets in early March.
- We pointed out that if one of the variants of Scenario 5 is to be adopted, a major concern would be the cancellation of L2 classes, especially for P5 and the preparation of Secondary.
- We asked for an explanation of why the School Management had excluded the possibility of a return to Secondary before September under any circumstances.
- We asked for details of the School’s cooperation and/or contact with the Luxembourg authorities.
- We asked about the School Management’s precise understanding of the availability of staff.
- We emphasised that the whole remote teaching setup relies on parents also working from home and being able to provide the necessary support. We pointed out that for more and more parents, like the teachers, the need to get back to the workplace is growing and their own availability to provide support for remote teaching would also diminish.
- We asked the Management to bring forward a plan for return to on-site classes: regardless of when, but providing reassurance to parents that they are working on it.