Friday 11 April 2014

Joanna Lumley supports the SEEH!


Joanna Lumley OBE FRGS is a well-known English actress, author, and TV presenter, who is also known for her charity work and activism. In 2011 she visited Greece for a four-part television series titled Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey. Knowing Ms Lumley's affection for Greece, I emailed her to ask if she would support the campaign for our school, and received the following reply from her PA, which I reproduce here with Ms Lumley's permission. 
[Image source: Wikimedia Commons]

Dear Dr Frankish, 
Joanna Lumley has asked me to write on her behalf to thank you so much for your recent email informing her about the possible closure of the School of European Education in Heraklion. Miss Lumley would like to send her warmest support for the campaign to save your school – she hopes this message is not too late and sends you all her good luck wishes. 
Yours sincerely, 
Lisa Baker
PA to Miss Lumley 

Pantelitsa Papachristou: A message for the Minister

Pantelitsa Papachristou, a lawyer whose sister attends the SEEH, has sent this email message to the Minister of Education. It is reproduced here with her permission.

Αξιότιμε κύριε Υπουργέ,

Ονομάζομαι Παντελίτσα Παπαχρίστου, είμαι Ελληνοκύπρια και είμαι νομικός. Δεν γνωρίζω εαν θα είστε ο τελικός αποδέκτης αλλά σας αποστέλνω αυτό το email σχετικά με το σχολείο Ευρωπαϊκής Παιδείας στο Ηράκλειο, ελπίζοντας ότι θα το διαβάσετε.

Η αδελφή μου είναι μια απο τους μαθητές στο συγκεκριμένο σχολείο. Σε περίπτωση που δεν δράσετε άμεσα για να διασωθεί αυτό το σχολείο, η αδερφή μου και οι συμμθητές της, θα βρεθούν χωρίς σχολείο.

Αυτό ζητάμε από μια Ελλάδα, που δίδαξε σε όλη την οικουμένη την παιδεία, και δη την ελληνική παιδεία; (και εννοώ την παιδεία όπως μας δίδαξαν οι αρχαίοι προγόνοι μας- την ευρεία- την καθολίκή) Να φτάνουμε σε σημείο να κλείνουν σχολεία;

Εσείς, ως υπουργός Παιδείας, θα έπρεπε να είστε ο πρώτος που θα δρούσε προς τη διαφύλαξη του συγκεκριμένου σχολείου. Είμαι σίγουρη ότι δεν θα επιτρέψετε να συμβεί το χείριστο, ότι θα δράσετε ως προασπιστης των ανθρωπίνων δικαιώματων και δεν θα οδηγήσετε το σχολείο σε κλείσιμο.

Αναμένουμε την άμεση δραση και ανταποκρισή σας στα αιτήματά μας.

Με εκτίμηση,

Παπαχρίστου Παντελίτσα

Thursday 10 April 2014

Hold the Requiem: A Reply to Spyros Danellis

by Keith Frankish

On 8 April Spyros Danellis, a Greek Member of the European Parliament, wrote a piece for  titled “Requiem for ENISA and the European School?” (See the original Greek text and an automatically generated English translation.)

The piece focuses on the fate of ENISA and its implications for the SEEH. ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency), was created in 2004 with its seat in Heraklion. Countries hosting major European agencies have a contractual obligation to provide a local European School for the children of agency staff, and the SEEH was founded in fulfilment of this obligation (though it is open to other categories of pupil besides ENISA children).

Mr Danellis notes out that this week sees a surreal pairing of events: on the one hand, protests against the threatened closure of the SEEH, after years of neglect by the authorities, and on the other, celebrations of ENISA’s ten years in Heraklion, with expressions of thanks to the local authorities for their services.

Mr Danellis points out that the school’s problems have been exploited by those in other countries, including Britain, who wish to see ENISA leave Greece and relocate to their own country. The Greek authorities have played into the hands of these people, Mr Danellis argues, by failing to fulfil their obligations and support the school properly. The result has been to make Heraklion an unattractive location for European scientists, who fear their children will not receive a decent education here.

The article goes on to condemn the current compromise arrangement (the result of political manoeuvrings within the Commission) under which the executive branch of ENISA has moved to Athens, the administrative staff remain in Heraklion (in a huge, underutilized building), and new branches of the agency can be opened in other countries. Such a fragmented arrangement will, Mr Danellis argues, lead to the complete exit of ENISA from Greece, and probably to its absorption by a larger agency based in Brussels.

Like many parents of SEEH pupils, I read Mr Danellis's article with a mixture of alarm and and sadness.

Mr Danellis is surely right about some things. I have no special knowledge of the politics (both internal and external) surrounding ENISA’s presence in Herakion, but I know that schooling is a major concern for ENSIA parents, and lack of government support for the SEEH can only help those who wish to see the agency leave.

However, the title and tone of the article did not do much to boost our spirits at a time when we are campaigning for our school and our children’s future. Is Mr Danellis right to be so pessimistic? I can understand that he is frustrated and angry with the Greek government's record of mismanagement and failure. We are too. But we -- the pupils, parents, and teachers of the SEEH -- have not given up hope.

I respectfully urge Mr Danellis to look through this blog: to look at the photos (such as these and these); to watch the videos of our demonstration and celebration; to listen to the children's letters to the Prime Minister and their the multilingual appeals for their school (here, here, and here); to hear our pupils celebrate their different national identities (also here); to listen to Maria talking about her school, Harry making a trilingual appeal to the Education Minister, and 4th and 5th grade students explaining what their school means to them; to enjoy the English section-students singing Theodorakis; to check the nearly 3,000 signatures to our petition; to review the supportive press coverage we have received; and to read the extracts from the inspectors' audit, in which they praise the teaching staff and management and call the SEEH a school with soul. Does he not draw some inspiration from all this? Shouldn't he join us in celebrating this school and fighting to the very last minute for its survival, instead of gloomily heralding its demise?

But would that be realistic? I think so. There many points that could be made. Here I will make just two.

First must ENISA leave? In many respects Heraklion is the ideal location for it (it wasn't chosen by accident in 2004). The city is the home of both the University of Crete’s Department of Computer Science and FORTH’s Institute of Computer Science -- world-class institutions working in areas closely related to ENISA’s activities. The agency has a purpose-built, well-equipped home on the beautiful campus at Voutes. Heraklion has a rich cultural life, a beautiful climate, excellent connections to the mainland, and so on. Apart from the the school’s problems, what reason is there for ENISA to leave? So why not fix the problems and save the agency for Heraklion and Greece? (Mr Danellis is surely right that if the agency leaves Crete, it will leave Greece too.) With political will, it could be done.

Second, if ENISA were to leave, would the school have to close? There certainly is a dependency between the agency and the school, but it does not run in both directions. To put it in logical terms: The presence of ENISA is a sufficient condition for school to remain open but not a necessary one. The presence of ENISA requires the existence of a European School here. But its presence is not required for the school to exist; the school could continue without ENISA.

Here it is crucial to bear in mind the distinction between two types of European School, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 schools are run by the European Schools intergovernmental organization, whereas Type 2 schools are run by national governments and are only accredited by the European Schools organization. (See this list of Type 1 schools and this of Type 2, accredited, schools.) (This distinction is important when considering accusations of elitism. Some people (rightly or wrongly) regard Type 1 European schools as elitist, since free admission is limited to children of staff working for Community institutions or diplomatic services, and other parents pay high fees. But Type 2 schools are quite different; they are part of the host country's national state school network and no fees are charged.)

Now, the SEEH is a Type 2 school. So (as I understand it), it could stay open without ENISA, provided the Greek government continued to fund it and it continued to offer the curriculum of Schola Europaea and to be accredited by the European Schools organization.

Moreover, there would be a very strong case for this to happen, even if ENISA left. Heraklion hosts many other research institutions with international reputations, including the science and medical faculties of the University of Crete, several institutes of the Foundation for Research & Technology - Hellas, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, and others. It is a cosmopolitan city, with worldwide business connections. It is home to two first-division football clubs, with international squads. It is a major Greek and mediterranean city, and it attracts researchers, students, artists, business people, and sportspeople from around the world -- or would do, if there were a good international school here. A city like this deserves and needs a European School.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Professor Evripides Stefanou, Rector of the University of Crete; to Professor Nektarios Tavernarakis, Head of the The Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB-ITE); to Dr Christos Tsatsanis, Vice Dean of the Medical School; to Dr Dr Eleni Vasilaki, President of the Department of Primary Education, University of Crete. Listen to the words of the the Governor of Crete Mr Stavros Arnaoutakis and the Mayor of Heraklion Mr Ioannis Kourakis. And listen to the voices of the SEEH itself.

Isn't this worth preserving, and therefore worth fighting for? Please Mr Danellis, if you represent us, represent our hope too -- and join our fight.

Keith Frankish is an Adjunct Professor with Brain and Mind Program in Neurosciences at the University of Crete and father of three pupils of the SEEH.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Still no news

It’s Wednesday evening and we still have no news from the EU schools meeting in Sophia. It seems our case is low down on the agenda and may not be discussed till tomorrow (the meeting lasts several days).
Meanwhile I appeared on TV Creta this afternoon, along with Gian Andrea Garancini from the PGA and Fanis Fanourakis from ENISA. I wasn’t pleased with my own performance (I was very tired and migrainy), though Gian Andrea and Fanis put our case well.
When we get any news, I’ll post it here.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Images from the 2 April SEEH demonstration

A montage of photos from the demonstration in support of the School of European Education Heraklion, Crete, which took place on 2 April 2014. Photos by Rafael Estanislao.

Images from the 5 April SEEH celebration

A montage of photos from the celebration of the School of European Education Heraklion, Crete, which took place in Lions Square Heraklion on Saturday 5 April 2014. Photos by Rafael Estanislao.

SEEH pupils appeal to the Prime Minister of Greece

Five pupils of the English section of the School of European Education address the Greek Prime Minister, explaining why their school is so important and appealing to him to save it from closure.
Pupils: (in order of appearance), Alexis, Harry, Konstantinos, Kasper, Elektra.
Teacher: Haroula Chroniaris.
Video: Maria Kasmirli
Editing: Keith Frankish

Scenes from the 5 April celebration of the SEEH

On Saturday 5 April 2014 pupils, parents, and teachers of the SEEH gathered outside St Mark's Basilica in Lions Square to celebrate their school in music and dance. Here are some scenes from the event.

Highlights of 2 April demonstration in support of the SEEH

On 2 April 2014 pupils, parents, and teachers of the School of European Education Heraklion gathered to protest against the threatened closure of their school. They marched through the city, visited City Hall, where debated presented their case to the Major of Heraklion and Governor of Crete, and then gathered in the Venetian Logia to conclude their protest. Here are some highlights from the day's events. Video by Maria Kasmirli, editing by Keith Frankish.

Monday 7 April 2014

Maria Kasmirli: No half-baked solutions, please!

As the deadline approaches, Maria Kasmirli reflects on the possible outcomes for the SEE. [Cross-post from]

Disclaimer: As always I am writing here as a citizen and a parent of three pupils at the SEEH, not as a representative of the school’s management, teachers, or PGA. MK

There is now less than a day left before the meeting of the European Schools Board of Governors in Sophia, Bulgaria. Have we got the Minister’s signature?

Well, if we have, we haven’t been told. Now, I won’t mind at all if I find out that the ministry simply forgot to tell us, or that they regarded it as premature to inform us before the meeting (though I think the parents, teachers, and especially the students deserve better, especially after such a difficult year).

That is, I am not bothered in the slightest, provided the Minister has actually given the explicit confirmations he promised. As long as confirmation is on the table along with all the other papers for tomorrow’s meeting, I won’t be upset. In fact, I’ll be delighted.

But will a document from the Minister be presented tomorrow? And if so, will it say the right things? Perhaps the thing I fear most – almost more than closure – is another fudge, a compromise that keeps the school going but doesn’t solve its underlying problems. I fear this because our children, and therefore we too, simply cannot bear a repeat of this situation next year. We cannot have another year in the same building, with a late start and the same old problems, and with another inspection that the government won’t take seriously. It is demoralising, unsettling, and degrading to us all. And in “us” I include our partners in the European Schools network and all those people who signed our petition (nearly 3,000 worldwide), shared the word about our campaign, and sent us messages of encouragement and support. We owe it to them too not to accept half-baked solutions.

There is another aspect to this. Some of us fear that those responsible for the school, while unwilling to close it outright, may actually want a half-baked solution. They may think that if they keep the school running under unsatisfactory conditions, the psychological pressure on parents will be so great that they will give in and transfer their children to another school. Similarly, teachers and management may become so demoralized that they quit their posts. In this way, the school would collapse of its own accord and the burden of blame for closing it would not fall on any specific individual or group.

I hope no one in authority is thinking in this fashion, but, if they are, then I think they should reflect on the events of the past two weeks, and reconsider their strategy. Parents, teachers, and pupils have shown themselves highly resilient and deeply committed to their school – more so, I suspect, than anyone bargained for.

For myself, I am committed to the school for somewhat selfish reasons — for the sake of my three kids and myself. But I am equally committed to it for the sake of my students, the local community, the region, Greece, and Europe. We would all be poorer if this school were forced to close. I feel I have a duty to do my best for the school. And I know that I am not alone in this – the other parents and teachers and the school management feel the same. We won’t just let the school go. So, no closure, and no half-baked solutions either, please.

We need real solutions, and if we are to get them, we need more students. That way, the problems will start to resolve themselves. The school will be seen to be far more economical, and it will be in the government’s interest to support it. And then the authorities may finally realize that the SEEH, far from being a burden, is a terrific asset for Greece, whose ethos and practices should be adopted throughout the country.

So of all the changes, opening up enrolment may be the key one. If you would like to see it happen, and to register your own children at the SEEH, please come and talk to the school management when registrations open in June. Then all sides will win!

Stella Malliaraki: Το Σχολείο Ευρωπαϊκής Παιδείας αφορά όλους μας / The School of European Education concerns us all

A recent anonymous posting on the website Cretalive questioned why the SEE should be supported while Greek national schools are struggling. Here Stella Malliaraki replies, arguing that the existence of the SEE benefits Greek education in general. [In Greek, English translation below]

Το Σχολείο Ευρωπαϊκής Παιδείας αφορά όλους μας

ο Σχολείο Ευρωπαϊκής Παιδείας είναι ένα πρότυπο εκπαιδευτικό ίδρυμα με έδρα το Ηράκλειο. Το ΣΕΠ ιδρύθηκε το 2005 για να ανταποκριθεί στις εκπαιδευτικές ανάγκες των παιδιών των εργαζομένων του  ENISA (Ευρωπαϊκός οργανισμός για την ασφάλεια δικτύων και πληροφοριών). Ταυτόχρονα είναι ανοιχτό και σε άλλες κατηγορίες μαθητών από την τοπική κοινότητα. Ακριβώς επειδή λειτουργεί σε δύο παράλληλα τμήματα – ελληνόφωνο και αγγλόφωνο – απευθύνεται τόσο σε Έλληνες, όσο και σε αλλοδαπούς.

Το ΣΕΠ είναι το μόνο δημόσιο σχολείο στην Ελλάδα που υφίσταται αξιολόγηση κάθε δύο χρόνια από ανεξάρτητους επιθεωρητές, διασφαλίζοντας έτσι το υψηλό επίπεδο εκπαίδευσης που παρέχει. Είναι το μοναδικό Ευρωπαϊκό Σχολείο της Ελλάδας και συνεπώς το μόνο εκπαιδευτικό ίδρυμα που παρέχει το European Baccalaureate (ΕΒ). Προκειμένου να αποκτήσουν οι μαθητές του ΣΕΠ το ΕΒ πρέπει να επιτύχουν σε μια σειρά προφορικών και γραπτών εξετάσεων σε όλη τη διάρκεια της 7ης τάξης του δευτεροβάθμιου κύκλου. Οι μαθητές προετοιμάζονται για τη δοκιμασία αυτή ήδη από την 4η τάξη του δευτεροβάθμιου κύκλου, έχοντας τη δυνατότητα να επιλέξουν ανάμεσα σε κατευθύνσεις και να διαμορφώσουν το πρόγραμμα σπουδών που ταιριάζει στις ανάγκες, τις κλίσεις και τα ενδιαφέροντά τους.

Οι μαθητές διδάσκονται μια ευρεία σχολική ύλη με ευρωπαϊκό προσανατολισμό, η οποία συμπεριλαμβάνει τη διδασκαλία δεύτερης γλώσσας από την πρώτη τάξη και τρίτης γλώσσας στο δευτεροβάθμιο κύκλο. Οι προϋποθέσεις που χρειάζεται να πληροί κάποιος εκπαιδευτικός για να διδάξει στο ΣΕΠ είναι πολύ συγκεκριμένες και έχουν να κάνουν με τη μεταπτυχιακή εκπαίδευση και την ειδίκευση σε παιδαγωγικά ζητήματα.

Αντιλαμβάνεται κανείς από τα παραπάνω ότι η ύπαρξη ενός ΣΕΠ αποτελεί ένα πλεονέκτημα τόσο για τους μαθητές, όσο και για το εκπαιδευτικό προσωπικό ενός τόπου. Ένα τέτοιο σχολείο θα μπορούσε να αποτελέσει πεδίο δοκιμασίας και εφαρμογής καλών πρακτικών, προκειμένου να εμπλουτιστεί και το εθνικό αναλυτικό πρόγραμμα σπουδών.

Είναι γεγονός ότι το ΣΕΠ έχει γίνει συχνά στόχος λαϊκίστικων επιθέσεων. Τα αίτια των επιθέσεων αυτών αφορούν κακώς κείμενα που χαρακτηρίζουν την πλειονότητα των ελληνικών σχολείων (παράτυπες εγγραφές, ελλιπής στελέχωση). Όσοι έχουμε εμπλακεί ενεργά με το ΣΕΠ πιστεύουμε στα ιδανικά της αλληλεγγύης και του σεβασμού στη διαφορετικότητα. Θεωρούμε ότι με τη σύμπραξη και όχι με μικρονοϊκές, εσωστρεφείς νοοτροπίες θα καταφέρουμε να προωθήσουμε λύσεις που θα αποτρέψουν τη γενικότερη υποβάθμιση της παιδείας. Θέλουμε να πιστεύουμε ότι το ΣΕΠ ξεπερνώντας τα εμπόδια το ΣΕΠ θα συνεχίσει να αποτελεί ένα φάρο στην κοινωνία του Ηρακλείου, της οποίας αποτελεί ουσιαστικό κομμάτι.

Το παραπάνω κείμενο γράφτηκε με αφορμή ανώνυμη ανάρτηση στην ιστοσελίδα Cretalive.

The School of European Education concerns us all

The European Education School is a model educational institution based in Heraklion. The SEE was established in 2005 to meet the educational needs of children of employees of ENISA (The European Agency for Network and Information Security), though it is open to other categories of students from the local community. Because it operates in two parallel sections -- Greek-speaking and English-speaking -- it is addressed both to Greeks and foreigners.

The SEE is the only public school in Greece which is reviewed every two years by independent inspectors, thus ensuring that it provides a high level of education. It is the only European School of Greece and thus the only Greek educational institution offering the European Baccalaureate (EB). To obtain the EB, SEE students must succeed in a series of oral and written examinations throughout the 7th grade of the secondary cycle. Students prepare for these exams from the 4th grade of secondary cycle, and have the option to choose between different paths and to shape the curriculum that suits their needs, aptitudes, and interests .

Students are taught a broad school curriculum with European orientation, which includes teaching a second language in the first grade and a third language in the secondary cycle. The conditions required to satisfy a teacher to teach in the SEE are very specific and relate to postgraduate training and specialization in pedagogical issues.

One sees from the above that the existence of an SEE is an advantage for both the students and the teaching staff of a region. Such a school could serve to test and apply best practices in order to enrich the national curriculum.

It is a fact that the SEE has often been target of populist attacks. The grounds for these attacks are the ills that characterize the majority of Greek schools (irregular records, inadequate staffing). Those who have been actively involved with the SEE believe in the ideals of solidarity and respect for diversity. We believe that it is through partnership, and not petty-minded inward-looking attitudes, that we will be able to promote solutions that will prevent deterioration of general education. We want to believe that the SEE will overcome the obstacles it faces and continue to be a beacon in the society of Heraklion, which is something of vital importance.

The above text was written in response to an anonymous posting on the website Cretalive.

Rafael Estanislao's photos of Saturday's Lions Square celebration

Here are some photos of Saturday's celebration of our school in Lions Square Heraklion, taken by photographer and SEEH parent Rafael Estanislao and shared here with his kind permission.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Celebrating the SEEH in Lions Square

On Saturday pupils, teachers, and parents of the School of European Education Heraklion gathered outside Saint Mark's Basilica in Lions Square to celebrate their school. Here are some photos from the event.