Disclaimer: I am writing here as a parent of three students at the School of European Education Heraklion. The views expressed are mine and are not intended to represent those of the school’s teachers, management, or PGA.
Since my blog post on Philhellenes about the School of European Education in Heraklion I have received many messages from parents who are thinking of sending their children to the school and who want to know my views about its future. Naturally, they want reassurance that its future is secure before they make a commitment. I have replied to most of these privately, but I thought it might be helpful to make a general statement here.
The first thing to say is that I am delighted to have received so many messages. This in itself confirms what all the school’s parents and teachers already know – namely, that there is wide interest in the school and strong support for it.
As to the future of the school, I’m simply not sure. The school has a lot of potential, but there is uncertainty at the moment. To some extent, this is a sign of the times in Greece. Currently, almost everything here is uncertain. But it is not only that. Despite the positive attitude from students, teachers, parents, school management, and European inspectors, there is a sense that the school is not sufficiently supported by the regional and national authorities.
Whether or not this is the case, it makes sense to think that the school will be kept open if it is seen to fulfill a need. I don’t just mean the needs of ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency, which is based in Heraklion and with which the school is associated). Heraklion is a large and cosmopolitan city, and there are many families here who, for one reason or another, would like to send their children to an international school.
However, there is a vicious circle here. We need more students to register in order to secure the school’s future, but parents are reluctant to register their children while the school’s future is uncertain. Insecurity lowers registrations, and lower registrations increase insecurity. So I would ask you to keep registering your children. The school has vacancies and would love to welcome new students. I can’t promise you that the school’s future is secure, but you can help its prospects by making a commitment to it. Certainty will come from within!
Now for some news. Last term the school underwent inspection by the European Schools inspectorate, and their draft report was supplied to parents this week. It contains good news and bad news.
The inspectors praised the dedication of the school management and teachers and remarked on the school’s warm pedagogical atmosphere and stimulating learning environment. They commended the structure of lessons, the use of ICT, and the range of extra-curricular activities provided. They noted that students are very positive about the school, feel privileged to be part of it, and believe it will give them a good start at university. They praised the school for its openness and for taking the lead in local cultural and regional projects and for building contacts with other schools across Europe. This part of the report makes very encouraging reading indeed.
However, the inspectors also highlight some serious problems which they want to see resolved as a matter of urgency. They highlight three issues: (1) Lack of continuity for teachers, who are on yearly contracts only, (2) Low pupil numbers, especially in the English section, and (3) The school building, which is not large or well-equipped enough for a school of this type.
The inspectors note that these problems seriously threaten the existence of the school.
Clearly, these are not issues the school management and teachers can resolve; they are matters for the regional and national authorities. The inspectors urge the Greek authorities to find solutions and save the school.
The inspectors go on to make six specific recommendations, concerning teacher recruitment and contracts, student enrolment, the relationship with ENISA, and other matters — all with the aim of addressing the problems identified. They indicate that the future of the school depends on these recommendations being accepted and implemented by the Greek authorities.
Where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us with an excellent school which desperately needs support: support from politicians, from parents, and from the community. The SEE is a precious resource for Heraklion and Greece, and we must all act now if we are to save it and safeguard its future. If you support the school, please join with the parents and teachers in lobbying the government to implement the inspectors’ recommendations.
And if are you thinking of registering your children with the school, please do it. Perhaps the biggest factor in all this is student numbers, and increasing registrations at the school is the best way to help it. Yes, there is some uncertainty, but if you wait for the uncertainty to end then you may lose the chance altogether. (And you can always change your mind later if things don’t work out.) So please, act now!
Thanks again to all those who have written to me, and apologies to anyone to whom I haven’t replied (life has been hectic recently). I hope to see you in school either as a fellow parent or as a teacher of your children.
Update: My partner has created a petition calling on the authorities to save the SEEH. If you support the school, please sign the petition and share it.
PS. A note on the school building: There are already plans to construct a new school building on land supplied by the University of Crete, and in 2012 the School Buildings Organisation of Greece ran an architectural competition for the design of the building (here are details of the competition and prize winners). The winning design looks excellent. However, work on the project has still not begun. The decision to move forward lies with the authorities.