British teachers and staff at European schools could be made redundant as soon as April in case of a hard Brexit, but a senior official reckoned a side deal is likely to go through and is “confident” the school year will not be disrupted.
Talks, at an advanced stage, are under way to retain teachers seconded from the UK until the summer of 2020 or 2021. Regardless of the Brexit deal, British pupils should continue their studies without any change, the European school official stated.
EU-wide there were 988 British national pupils, including 204 at the two Luxembourg campuses. At the same time, there were a total of 1,113 students in the two English language sections in Luxembourg.
There are 55 seconded British teachers and staff in the EU, including 8 in Luxembourg.
Teachers were reportedly warned by the British government that they could be made redundant shortly after 29 March in case of a no-deal Brexit. (Although Delano heard secondhand accounts of the letter’s text, it was not seen by Delano. Staff unions contacted by Delano declined comment or did not immediately return Delano’s messages.)
EU and UK officials have been negotiating a temporary accord to avoid this scenario. “My understanding is that the schools and the UK government have reached an informal agreement to continue the secondments until August 2020 even in the event of no deal,” John Coughlan, president of the APEEEL1 parents association, told Delano on Wednesday. However, “I haven’t actually seen the terms of the agreement itself.”
Deal or no-deal Brexit
Much depends on whether or not the current Brexit withdrawal agreement is implemented or not.
If the withdrawal agreement is approved, under article 125 of the text, the UK would stay in the European school system until 31 August 2021, according to Andreas Beckmann, deputy secretary general of the European Schools, in Brussels.
That is longer than other transitions arrangements in the Brexit deal (which are set to end in December 2020) in order to allow teachers and students to complete the school year. The UK will continue with staff secondments and financial contributions through the summer of 2020 in this scenario, Beckmann told Delano in a telephone interview on 21 February.
If the withdrawal agreement is not enacted, Beckmann said that he understands the UK will be bound by the European schools convention for another 15 months. That means the UK would remain in the European school system until the 2019-2020 school year ends on 31 August 2020.
The EU and UK do not agree on the legal basis for staying in the system with a hard Brexit. “We have different views,” as Beckmann put it. It’s a sensitive issue, he observed, “even if you agree with the goal” of continuing secondments until at least August 2020. A working group was set to meet Thursday afternoon to continue talks.
Beckmann said he was “really confident” that UK teachers would stay until at least 2020, or summer 2021 in case of a Brexit deal, but stated that he could not speculate beyond that date. He stressed that the European schools are working with the British “to ensure consistency for the next school year at a minimum”.
As of this writing, the accord had not yet been concluded. “In the event that no such arrangement is reached normal redundancy arrangements, including notice periods, will apply,” John Marshall, the UK ambassador to Luxembourg, told Delano last week.
UK pupils, English sections to remain
Beckmann expected that British students will continue to study at European schools regardless of the status of the withdrawal agreement. If their parents are employed by an EU institution, he said, “then they have the right to stay in our schools” with no change to their studies. (The European Council and European Parliament have previously indicated that UK nationals will keep their current EU posts following Brexit.)
Beckmann also expected the size of English sections at all 13 schools to remain more or less the same. However, European schools will recruit more native English-speaking teachers locally, he said. This could include recruiting UK nationals who can get a work permit in the EU member state but are hired on a local contract. The schools “must be attractive for them, but that’s another issue to see.”
Marshall stated: “There is also the possibility I assume that the [current] teachers may be offered new contracts of employment directly by the European schools system as locally recruited teachers.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the last day of the 2019-2020 school year. It is 31 August. This was corrected on 22 February at 9am.