What will happen to Berkendael?

The present situation of the 3 big European schools (Uccle, Woluwe and Ixelles) is that all of them are overcrowded with Woluwe clearly being in the worst situation considering the following indicators: highest rate of actual population vs. maximum population, highest number of sections, highest rate of SWALS (students without any language section) increase and presence of containers used as normal class space.

The fourth school of Laeken school will open in September this year and it will be full within the next 3-4 years. By 2016 the overall capacity of the ES system will be once again insufficient. 

A fifth school will need at least 10 years before materializing. This means that we will have to survive with insufficient space for at least 5 years from 2016 till 2021. This is an optimistic forecast noting that Laeken should have opened in 2004! In other words it takes 15-20 years between the start of the negotiation phase and the effective building of a school. 

Under these circumstances, the only reasonable option we have is to keep Berkendael school which will be empty in autumn 2012 and hope its capacity might be expanded as it already happened once. This will extend the survival time of the European Schools system in Brussels until 2018/2019 (longer if Berkendael is extended). 

So far only 5 linguistic sections have paid the consequences of the failing in providing adequate school premises by the Belgian authorities: EN, FR, DE, IT, NL. Any future scenario must now take in consideration the need to share the burden. This may entail the opening of additional sections where demographic growths justifies this. This may also lead to limitations across all sections like e.g. limiting access to nursery to one class per section per school giving priority to 5 years old and siblings. 

The idea of setting up a high secondary campus for all schools and sections is also appealing as a way to share the burden. This option would require more space and significant structural investments. To the contrary, Berkaendael could be used immediately to host new nursery and primary classes for FR,EN and other sections that either justify the opening of a new section (big population) or new language sections (eg SWALS). TAO-AFI supports this option as it would deliver an immediate positive effect on overcrowded schools and allow sharing the burden of restrictive enrolment on more sections. 

Moreover, TAO-AFI considers that enrolment policy for next years should guarantee the so pedagogical continuity and the criteria of geographical distance between school and living place. Since more contractual agents will be recruited as from 2014, and their contracts will be extended as a consequence of the next Reform, an additional pressure will be put on the system in the future. These factors should be considered by the European Schools secretariat and the Commission to correctly forecast trends.