European Schools

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European School
École Européenne

Schola Europaea
Insigne Scholae Europaeae.svg
Office of the Secretary-General of the European Schools, rue de la Science 23


TypePrivate-authority schools, recognised as public bodies, established by international treaty
  • 4 October 1953, Luxembourg by employees of the ECSC (initial establishment)
  • 22 February 1960 (entry into force of international legal basis, signed in 1957 by the "Inner Six" countries)
CategoryNursery, Primary and Secondary Education
Board of Governors
Enrolment27,176[1] (2018-2019)
Main Regulatory Text1994 Convention Defining the Statute of the European Schools
DiplomaEuropean Baccalaureate
European Schools
Future European SchoolsBrussels V Belgium
Former European SchoolsCulham United Kingdom

The European Schools (Latin: Schola Europaea) is a network of private-authority schools, which emphasise a multilingual and multicultural pedagogical approach to the teaching of nursery, primary and secondary students, leading to the European Baccalaureate as their secondary leaving qualification.

The first European School, founded in Luxembourg, in 1953, had the objective of providing an education to the children of employees of the institutions of the European Coal and Steel Community- a forerunner of today's European Union. Originally, a private initiative of employees of the ECSC, the concept attracted the attention of EU founding father, Jean Monnet as capturing the spirit of the post-war effort to reconcile and integrate Europe.

As of September 2018, there are thirteen European Schools located in six EU member states in close proximity to European institutions.[2] Nonetheless, the Schools are neither EU bodies, nor under the full jurisdiction of the individual member states of the European Union.[3] They are instead administered and financed through the international organisation "The European Schools", established by means of an intergovernmental treaty, the 1957 Statute of the European School, since repealed and replaced by the 1994 Convention Defining the Statute of the European Schools. All EU member states, as well as the EU itself, and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) are party to this agreement. The Schools are legally recognised in all participating jurisdictions as public bodies.

Since 2005, upon a recommendation of the European Parliament, the title of an "Accredited European School" has been available for schools under national jurisdiction, which have been approved, by the Board of Governors of the European Schools, to offer the European Schools' curriculum and the European Baccalaureate.[4] As of December 2018, there are fourteen Accredited European Schools located in twelve EU countries, with a further seven schools engaged in the accreditation process.[5]


Foundation: An intergovernmental enterprise[edit]

Following the establishment of the institutions of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in Luxembourg, in 1952,[6] it became apparent that it was necessary to provide an education to the children of the officials of those institutions in their mother tongues. The lack of such provisions posed challenges in building an administration that reflected the diverse makeup of the ECSC's six founding member states, discouraging potential employees who heralded from outside the jurisdiction in which the institutions were based from relocating with their families.[7] In 1953, employees of the ECSC established an association, financed by the High Authority of the ECSC, for the purpose of founding a school in Luxembourg providing nursery and primary education to the children of the institutions' officials. The school begun to operate on 4 October 1953, with teachers recruited and paid by the association.

However, by the spring of 1954, it was apparent that the solution was inadequate, with the school unable to provide a secondary education to its enrolees. The President of the High Authority of the ECSC, Jean Monnet, invited representatives of the education ministers of the six founding member states of the ECSC to Luxembourg for discussions on a school with intergovernmental status. The member state representatives transformed themselves into a Board of Governors, who would oversee the establishment of a such a school. It was agreed that teaching staff would be seconded from the member states, who would continue to pay their salary, and that salaries would be harmonised by means of an additional supplement. On 12 October 1954, the first two years of the secondary school began to operate.

On 12 April 1957, the governments of the six ECSC member states signed the Statute of the European School, which took the form of an international treaty. Following ratification, the agreement entered into force on 22 February 1960.[8] Under Article 6 of the Statute, the European School was to have the status of a public institution in the law of each of the contracting parties and was to have legal personality to the extent requisite for the attainment of its objectives. The organs of the school were to be a Board of Governors, which would have executive authority over the School, a Boards of Inspectors, an Administrative Board and a Head teacher. Article 8 provided that the Board of Governors of the European School was to consist of the "Minister or Ministers of each contracting party whose responsibilities include national education and/or external cultural relations", with the Board able to confer a position to a representative of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community, as per Article 27.

The spread of the European Schools[edit]

Following the foundation of the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1957 and the establishment of the institutions of those Communities in various places, other European Schools were set up in Brussels and Mol, Belgium in 1958, in Varese, Italy in 1960, Karlsruhe, Germany in 1962, in Bergen, the Netherlands in 1963, and a second school in Brussels in 1976. In order to facilitate the setting-up of those new schools and to provide them with a legal basis, the governments of the member states signed on 13 April 1962 in Luxembourg a Protocol on the setting-up of European Schools with reference to the 1957 Statute of the European School.

In 1967, the institutions of the EEC, ECSC and Euratom were merged to form the European Communities. Consequently, the three organisations were represented on the Board of Governors by the European Commission of the European Communities, the successor institution to the High Authority of the ECSC. Taking advantage of the powers conferred to it by the 1957 Statute, the Board of Governors signed an agreement with the European Patent Organisation - a separate intergovernmental organisation - in December 1975 allowing for the creation, in 1977, of a European School in Munich, Germany for the education and instruction together of children of its staff. In 1973, the first enlargement of the European Communities sawthe United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland join, who all likewise acceded to the 1957 Statute.[8] In 1978, a European School was established at Culham, UK in order to serve the children of the staff posted to the Joint European Torus Joint Undertaking (JET), supervised by Euratom, for the development of a common nuclear fusion programme. By 1986, following the enlargement of the European Communities to include Greece, Spain and Portugal and their ratification of the Statute,[8] the Schools were obliged to provide an education to the students of officials originating from the 12 EC member states. Finland acceded to the Statute in 1995 after its accession to the European Communities.[8]

Coping with EU enlargement[edit]

Pursuant to the incorporation of the European Communities into the European Union in 1993, and envisioning the enlargement in membership of the EU following the end of the Cold War, it was decided that the legal and organisational framework of the Schools needed an overhaul. On 21 June 1994 the Convention Defining the Statute of the European Schools, which repealed and replaced the 1957 Statute of the European School and its accompanying 1962 Protocol, was signed by all 12 then EU member states.[9][10] On 1 October 2002 it came into effect, following ratification by all signatories. Following the subsequent enlargements of the EU, the acceding states have also acceded to the 1994 Convention, which now includes amongst its contracting parties (following the most recent accession of Croatia to the EU in 2013) all 28 EU member states, as well as the EU itself, and Euratom.[11]

Principles and objectives[edit]

The historical significance of the first European School, founded a mere 8 years after the end of World War II, was not lost on its architects. Children, whose parents had fought on opposite sides of the conflict, would not only be taught together, but, as per the curriculum of the School, learn history and geography in a foreign language and from a foreign point of view. "May the Europe of the European schools definitively take the place of the Europe of the war cemeteries," René Mayer, head of the ECSC proclaimed upon the opening of a new custom building for the School on Boulevard de la Foire in Luxembourg, on 11 December 1957.[12] This sentiment is echoed in the words inscribed in Latin on parchment and sealed in each of the European Schools' foundation stones. Translated into English, it reads:

Educated side by side, untroubled from infancy by divisive prejudices, acquainted with all that is great and good in the different cultures, it will be borne in upon them as they mature that they belong together. Without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe.

— Marcel Decombis, member of the cabinet of Jean Monnet and Head of the European School, Luxembourg between 1953 and 1960


Age/Year equivalency table
Primary School
Age Name Abbreviation
6–7 First Year P1
7–8 Second Year P2
8–9 Third Year P3
9–10 Fourth Year P4
10–11 Fifth Year P5
Secondary School
Age Name Abbreviation
11-12 First Year S1
12-13 Second Year S2
13-14 Third Year S3
14-15 Fourth Year S4
15-16 Fifth Year S5
16-17 Sixth Year S6
17-18 Seventh Year S7

The curriculum is common to all thirteen schools and is centrally controlled by the Board of Inspectors and the Board of Governors.

Secondary level[edit]

Compulsory subjects for Years 1–7 of the secondary school:

  • First language (normally mother tongue)
  • Second language (Usually one of English, French or German, with some schools providing a local language such as Spanish, Italian, Danish or Dutch as alternate option)
  • Mathematics
  • History (instructed in second language from Year 3)
  • Geography (instructed in second language from Year 3)
  • Ethics/religion (instructed in second language from Year 3)
  • Physical education (instruction in second language is possible from year 3)

Compulsory for Years 1–3 of the secondary school:

  • Art
  • Music

Compulsory subjects for Years 1–5 of the secondary school:

  • Third language (any EU official language, as long as a minimum number of students choose it in the same school)
  • Natural sciences: Physics, Chemistry and Biology (usually combined for Years 1-3)

Compulsory subjects for Years 6–7 of the secondary school:

  • Philosophy
  • Physics and/or Chemistry and/or Biology (at least one science subject is obligatory)

Optional subjects:

  • ICT (instructed in second language) and Latin in Year 3
  • Economics (instructed in second language), Music, or a Fourth and Fifth language in Years 4–7

Foreign language education[edit]

All modern foreign languages offered are taught using the direct method where the lessons are taught in the language being learned, and the use of the student's native tongue is discouraged. These foreign languages lessons are shared with pupils from other language streams. The idea is to encourage the pupils to use the language they are learning as a means of crossing the communication barrier between themselves and pupils from other language streams. From Year 3 onwards of the secondary school, History and Geography as well as other secondary subjects such as Music are taught in each student's second language. Many of the pupils find themselves in a foreign country, so are surrounded by a foreign language. Some pick it up through language immersion, hence some lessons are taught in the national language of the host country.[13]

European Baccalaureate[edit]

The European Baccalaureate is the leaving certification of the European Schools, and should be distinguished from the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the baccalaureates of various national systems. It is a two-year course assessing the performance of students in the subjects taught in Years 6–7, and culminating in a final series exams taken at the end of Year 7. As per the multilingual ethos of the Schools, certain subjects are instructed and assessed in each student's respectvie second language. Details of the examinations are set out in the Annex of the Statute of the European School and in the regulations for the European Baccalaureate.

Those students undertaking the European Baccalaureate are required to study at least 8 and up to a maximum of 11 academic subjects, in addition to physical education and moral/religion, with different weightings according to the course choices made when commencing the Baccaluareate.[14] The final mark is calculated as a percentage, where 60% is the minimum for a pass.

The European Baccalaureate is administered and directly supervised by an external examining board appointed annually by the Board of Governors. The examining board consists of up to three representatives of each member state, who must satisfy the conditions governing the appointment of equivalent examining boards in their respective countries. It is presided over by a senior university educator appointed by each member state in turn, assisted by a member of the Board of Inspectors of the Schools.

Article 5 (2) of the Statute provides that holders of the Baccalaureate shall:

  • enjoy, in the Member State of which they are nationals, all the benefits attaching to the possession of the diploma or certificate awarded at the end of secondary school education in that country; and
  • be entitled to seek admission to any university in the territory of any Member State on the same terms as nationals of that Member State with equivalent qualifications.

The first awards of the European Baccalaureate were made in 1959.

Common extra-curricula activities and events[edit]

Sports teams of the European Schools compete in the biennial Eurosport event, with the Schools alternating as hosts.[15] In addition, students of the Schools have the opportunity to take part in the annual European Schools Science Composium, the winners of which represent the European Schools in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.[16]

The European Schools also cooperate to take advantage of their unique relationship to EU institutions, to provide students on an annual basis with the opportunity to take part in political simulations of EU meetings, held on the premises of the institutions themselves. Students get the opportunity to role-play as delegates of EU member state governments in a Model European Council, MEPs in a Model European Parliament, or international journalists covering the meetings.

The federation of student representatives of the Schools, CoSup, organises a "Europarty", held in a different European city each academic year, and open to any student of the European Schools over 16 years of age to attend.


Board of Governors[edit]

The Board of Governors is the common executive body of the European Schools, determining educational, administrative and financial matters. When it is not in session, its powers are exercised by its officially appointed Secretary-General.


The governing board is composed of the ministers of education of each of the EU member states, normally represented by senior civil servants from the ministries of education or foreign affairs, together with the representative of the European Commission, representing the EU and Euratom, and the representative of the European Patent Office. A representative designated by the Staff Committee and a representative of the parents designated by the Parents’ Associations are also members of the Board of Governors.

Preparatory Committees[edit]

Matters to be discussed by the Board of Governors first make their way through a range of preparatory committees, the most important of which are the Joint Teaching Committee and the Budgetary Committee. The Joint Teaching Committee gathers Inspectors and directors, together with representatives of teachers, parents and pupils and a representative of the European Commission and the European Patent Office. It examines proposals concerning the organisation and curricula of the schools. The Budgetary Committee, likewise, gathers finance officials from the EU member states, together with representatives of the European Commission and European Patent Office to examine the financial implications of educational proposals and the budgets of individual schools and of the General Secretariat in Brussels.

Boards of Inspectors[edit]

Supervision of the education provided by the European Schools is conducted by two Boards of Inspectors, one for the primary and nursery sections and one for the secondary section. One Inspector from each of the 28 EU member states sits on each Board.

Administrative Boards[edit]

Each European School has an Administrative Board responsible for the day-to-day administration and functioning of the each respective School. Chaired by the Secretary-General of the European Schools. Its other members are the director of the School, a representative of the European Commission, two elected representatives of the teachers, two representatives of the Parents’ Association, a representative of the administrative and socially staff and, at the European School of Munich, a representative of the European Patent Office. Bodies which have signed an agreement with a school and have at least 20 pupils on roll also have the right to be represented on the Administrative Board.

Directors (Head teachers) and teachers[edit]

Each head teacher is appointed by the Board of Governors for nine years. There are generally two deputy-head teachers, one for the secondary section and one for the primary and nursery sections. They are also appointed for nine years. Head and deputy-head teachers are appointed directly by the Board of Governors. All full time teachers are seconded by their national governments for a period up to nine years.

Staff Committees[edit]

Each European School elects, annually, two representatives of the teaching staff (one primary, one secondary) to form a European School Staff Committee which is represented on the Board of Governors, in the Preparatory Committees and on the Administrative Board of each School. In 2016, these roles were enlarged to include Locally Recruited Teachers (LRT)[17] and two further representatives are elected annually. These representatives do not have voting rights, however they are able to attend meetings and represent the interests of LRTs vis-a-vis the School.

Complaints Board[edit]

In the European Schools system, the Complaints Board, an independent administrative court, represents the judiciary, owing to the Schools' unique intergovernmental legal basis.

Parents' Associations[edit]

Common to each European School, the respective Parents' Associations are responsible for overseeing the provision of school transportation, the running of canteen services and extra-curricula activities. Each Parents' Association is open to any parent or legal guardian who has a child enrolled in the Schools, and possesses a place on the Administrative Board of their respective European School. Via a body which federates all the Parents' Associations of the European Schools, INTERPARENTS, they participate in meetings of the Board of Governors of the European Schools, enabling them a voice in intergovernmental meetings which set the future direction of the organisation as a whole. Each Parents' Association is also a member of the Groupe Unitaire pour la Défense des Ecoles Européennes (GUDEE), which groups Parents’Associations, Trades-Unions and other organisations possessing an interest in the future of the European Schools together.

Pupils' Committees and CoSup[edit]

Regulations agreed by the Board of Governors of the European Schools recognise the right of the students of each School to organise and represent themselves in the administration and functioning of the Schools via a Pupils' Committee. Each European Schools' Pupils' Committee is democratically elected at the start of each academic year, headed by a president.

The Pupils' Committees of the European Schools are federated via CoSup, an acronym formed from its French title, Conseil Supérieur des Elèves. Each Pupils' Committee elects two representatives to send to meetings of CoSup. Accredited European Schools may also send representatives. As of 2006, CoSup is recognised by the Board of Governors of the European Schools as an official body. It is able to represent common student interests on the European Schools' Joint Teaching Committee and at the Board of Governors. CoSup possesses a common fund, able to financially support represented Pupils' Committees, when necessary. Amongst other duties, CoSup is responsible for organising the annual Europarty, held in a different European city each year, and open to any student of the European Schools over the age of 16 to attend.

CoSup meets four times per academic year and utilises a Qualified Majority Voting system, endowing each European School represented a number of votes proportional to its share of the total number of students enrolled across all European Schools. Each School receives an equal vote weighting for matters concerning the functioning of CoSup, such as its presidential elections, which occur at the last meeting of each academic year.


Locations in Brussels, Belgium
Locations in Luxembourg

There are thirteen European Schools, found in eight municipalities, across six EU countries, in close proximity to EU institutions, or in the case of the European School, Munich, the European Patent Organisation. There are already five European Schools in Belgium (four in Brussels and one in Mol) and discussions are currently being held about building a fifth school in Brussels at an undetermined future date. The European School, Culham closed on 31 August 2017.

School Country Type Founded/Opened in
European School, Luxembourg I (Kirchberg) Luxembourg 1 1953
European School of Brussels I (Uccle/Ukkel) Belgium 1 1958
European School, Mol Belgium 1 1960
European School, Varese Italy 1 1960
European School, Karlsruhe Germany 1 1962
European School, Bergen Netherlands 1 1963
European School of Brussels II (Woluwe) Belgium 1 1974
European School, Munich Germany 1 1977
European School, Culham United Kingdom 2 1978 (closed 31 August 2017)[18]
European School, Brussels III (Ixelles/Elsene) Belgium 1 2000
European School, Frankfurt am Main Germany 1 2002
European School, Alicante Spain 1 2002
European School, Luxembourg II (Bertrange/Mamer) Luxembourg 1 2004
European School, Brussels IV (Laeken/Laken) Belgium 1 2006
European School, Strasbourg France 2 2008
European School, Brussels V Belgium 1 2019 [19]
European School, Lille France 2 2019


As part of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, better known as Brexit, the UK government stated its intention to withdraw from the Convention Defining the Statute of the European Schools.[20] Under the proposed Withdrawal Agreement, pending ratification by the UK, the UK will be bound by the Convention, as well as regulations adopted by the Board of Governors on Accredited European Schools until the end of the school year that is ongoing at the end of the transition period.[20] The UK also commits itself in the Withdrawal Agreement to maintain the legal rights, as laid out in Article 5(2) of the Convention, of any former pupils, as well as those who are enrolled in a cycle of secondary studies in a European School before 31 August 2021 and acquire a European Baccalaureate after that date.[20]

In the event of a failure of the UK to reach and ratify an agreement with the EU on a Withdrawal Agreement for exiting the EU, and the precipitation of a 'no-deal' Brexit, the UK would be bound by the Convention until the end of the 2019/2020 at the earliest, under the Convention's own rules laid down in Article 31(1) for a state wishing to leave the organisation.[21]

Brexit poses substantial challenges for the Europa School UK - an Oxfordshire based Accredited European School formed by staff of the former European School of Culham. In an adjournment debate in the UK House of Commons on 10 January 2019, John Howell MP, and Nick Gibb MP noted that, under the present internationally agreed framework, only national schools that have received accredited status by the Board of Governors of the European Schools may offer the European Baccalaureate, and only national schools domiciled in EU member states qualify for accredited status.[22] They further noted that though at present the proposed Withdrawal Agreement provides for the school's accredited status to be extended to 2021 to allow it to transition to a new curriculum, the school's accredited status is lost in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit. Mr Gibb warned that though the Board of Governors of the European Schools were willing to allow, in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit, the Europa School UK to offer the European Baccalaureate in partnership with the European School of Bergen for those sitting exams in 2020, this was unlikely to be replicated in the future.[22]

Notable alumni[edit]


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  2. ^ "Locations of the European Schools". Office of the Secretary General of the European Schools. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  3. ^ Gruber, Joachim (2011-06-01). "European schools: A subject of International Law Integrated into the European Union". International Organizations Law Review. 8 (1): 175–196. doi:10.1163/157237411x587388. ISSN 1572-3747. (Subscription required (help)). Despite their name, the "European Schools" are not a European Union institution, but an independent, autonomous subject of international law.
  4. ^ "Accredited European Schools - FAQ". Office of the Secretary General of the European Schools. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  5. ^ "Locations of the Accredited European Schools". Office of the Secretary General of the European Schools. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  6. ^ "The seats and institutions of the European Union". 8 July 2016. Retrieved 19 August 2017. At the Conference of the Founding States of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) held on 23 July 1952, Luxembourg was chosen as the provisional place of work for its institutions.
  7. ^ Ronsheim, Sally Bober (15 February 1967). A Study of Two International Cultural Schools in Western Europe (Ph.D. thesis). New York University. pp. 294-295. "The problem was first recognized at the end of 1952 when the families of the first functionaries of the European Coal and Steel Community settled in Luxembourg. An extremely complex and delicate problem arose; that of providing the kind of instruction needed for youngsters originating from five different countries. It was necessary to assure without discrimination, a way for them to follow their national studies within a multinational framework. The limited number of students from each country did not allow for the creation of as many schools as nationalities represented. A new kind of school had to be organized to allow for cultural diversity and the special needs of the Community population."
  8. ^ a b c d "Statute of the European School". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  9. ^ "Convention defining the Statute of the European schools". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  10. ^ "Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  11. ^ "Report of the Secretary-General to the Board of Governors of the European Schools for the year 2013" (PDF). European Schools. 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2019-03-23. Croatia acceded to the European School Convention as the 28th Member State
  12. ^ Pomerantsev, Peter (16 June 2016). "Diary". London Review of Books. pp. 46–47. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  13. ^ "European Schools Principles and objectives" Archived 3 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
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  16. ^ "European School Science Symposium". Retrieved 2017-12-15.
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  18. ^ "We are now closed". Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  19. ^ "Fifth European School to take over former site of Nato". Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  20. ^ a b c "Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, as endorsed by leaders at a special meeting of the European Council on 25 November 2018" (PDF). Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Brexit & the European Schools: State of Play" (PDF). INTERPARENTS. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Europa School: 10 Jan 2019: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  23. ^ Davies, Gareth A. (23 September 2002). "My Sport: Henry Brett". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
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  28. ^ "Ursula von der Leyen - CV of the Minister of Defence". Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  29. ^ Arne Delfs (22 January 2014), "Merkel Succession Beckons After Von der Leyen’s Defence Posting", Businessweek.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]