Bergen 50th anniversary events

March 12, 2013 from 9 a.m.11:55 p.m.
Past event

On 16 October 1963 the European School in Bergen opened its doors for the first time to support the newly opened Joint Research Centre in Petten. The school was located in a wooden temporary building with five rooms, five nursery pupils, five primary pupils, three teachers, a secretary, a concierge and a Belgian director, Mr Plastria. The school expanded in the temporary building to 18 classrooms, and the aim was to build a permanent building within three years.

ESB was the sixth European School to open, and one year later it had grown from 10 to 68 pupils (20 nursery, 38 primary and 10 secondary) and after this the school grew rapidly in the 1960s. Often it was so overcrowded that that the end of a corridor had to be used as a classroom. It took until 1976 for the foundation stone to be laid for the permanent new building to be laid on the present site of the school, and in September 1977 the administration and secondary school moved in, followed by the nursery and primary classes in December 1977.

In April 1978 the school was officially opened by HM Princess Beatrix, and on the same occasion she also officially opened the Europahal, the sports hall which was built in collaboration with the local community. Numbers in the school increased to a peak of around 900, but over the last ten years they have reduced to the present figure of around 600 with the closure of the Italian and German sections. Now the school has a Dutch, French and English section and it continues to be an important educational facility not only for the children of people working at JRC Petten, but also in the wider local community with many pupils travelling from as far afield as Amsterdam to attend the school.

The European School Bergen has been the only European School in the Netherlands since it opened its doors, but this has changed in September 2012 with the opening of the European School of The Hague with which we have been working closely.

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Bergen held a series of events over the course of a week in March to mark its 50th anniversary, the highlights of which included a visit from her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherands and a reunion soirée at the Miranda Paviljoen in Amsterdam.

We invite to read the speech made by the director of ES Bergen, Dr Steve Lewis, on the day of the Queen's visit.

Europe in a school – a learning community without borders 
The speech from the ceremony with the Queen made by the Director, Dr Steve Lewis, 

On behalf of the Secretary General of the European Schools, Mr Kari Kivinen, it is my duty and privilege to welcome Your Majesty to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the European School Bergen. We thank you so much for visiting us today at a time which must be so busy for you. None of us will ever forget this afternoon and we know that your visit has brought great excitement to the community of Bergen. It is the biggest day at our school since your visit 35 years ago to open our present building. 

We would also like to welcome our other distinguished visitors, guests and members of management and staff past and present…. who are joining our senior students and staff. We would like to thank you all for coming, in some cases from very far away. Not everyone could get here today because of the bad weather, but the sun is shining today on Bergen and our school. I would also like to thank all the people who have done so much to make this afternoon….and this week possible. This is the second day of our festival week and yesterday we had a show in the sports hall with all the children ending in a balloon launch. There was great excitement despite the cold weather. The message was: "send the balloons across Europe" but you may have seen on your way in that many of them only got as far as the tree behind the school. We hope that our message today will go further! 

Jean Monnet's words in 1953 are still the foundation stone of the European Schools: "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." This vision was behind the opening of the first European School in Luxemburg in 1953 which celebrates its 60th anniversary and the beginning of the European Schools and my colleague from Luxemburg who is here today is busy with the preparations for this big event in April. 

So we have much to celebrate this year, not only in Bergen. For more than half a century our schools have followed Monnet's principles to contribute to the creation of a new generation of Europeans. As our model of education reaches new areas of Europe, we hope that more and more young people will benefit to become tolerant, highly-educated and linguistically gifted European citizens. 

Although we are the smallest in the family of schools with just under 600 pupils aged between 4-18 and a newly opened crèche, we have 23 European Union member states represented in our building. This is not just a European School but Europe-in-a-school! With 50 nationalities from around the world we are truly a learning community without borders. 17 mother tongue languages are taught in the school, or by distance learning with other parts of Europe. 

We believe that we have something very special in this corner of North Holland. Our students feel safe and part of a large international family supported by their talented and committed teachers. This is a school community with so much positive energy; with so many friendly, caring, happy and talented students, teachers and other staff; and such supportive parents, and on an occasion such as today we are proud of what we have here. 

With our commitment to using new technologies cost-effectively to broaden learning opportunities, and with creative planning and differentiated teaching and learning we have risen to the challenges of the times in which we live. With our emphasis on cloud computing, distance learning, and the integration of information technology at all levels of the school from student learning, communication and administration, we are an example of a school in which the Digital Agenda can be seen in action. Our students do not only excel in languages and sciences, but also in art, music, sport and in many other fields – not only in school and European events, but also at local, regional and national levels. This week our festival gives many of our students the opportunity to show each other, the school community and our guests the range of their talents they have. 

We are most grateful for all the support the school has had from so many people and places. A special mention must go to the Joint Research Centre in Petten. They have done everything they can to make us visible and the default choice for the children of their employees. Greatly appreciated too is the positive support from the Dutch Ministry of Education. We have good relations with the gemeente Bergen and local schools who make us feel a part of the local and wider Dutch community. We are working with our partner school at the new European School in Den Haag and we will do everything we can to support them in their exciting journey – and help other new accredited European Schools to do the same. 

With distance learning, collaboration and support our school reaches far beyond the North Holland region with teachers and projects in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, other European Schools such as Karlsruhe and our Belgian neighbours, Mol, and the European Schools of Manosque in Southern France and Heraklion in Crete. We see such collaboration as vital for the successful development of our school as one of the leaders and innovators in European education. Finally we must not forget our ongoing partnership with the 13 other European Schools. The number of colleagues from other European, international and local schools here today is testimony to the importance of such partnerships. At the level of the students, a group has just returned from a European sports tournament, Eurosport, at the European School of Alicante in which they have distinguished themselves, and this is one of many European projects in which we participate.

Therefore we believe that we can truly celebrate the 50th anniversary of a school which has put the founding principles of Jean Monnet into practice. We hope that our celebration will remind everyone that the European School Bergen is an important asset for the region and for the country. We know that we have an outstanding educational offer and qualification with international recognition. Our partner school Culham has participated in the latest Pisa survey and is ranked as one of the top schools in the world. All European Schools are in this category. Moreover, here in Bergen we have the space to offer an education to all children from the national and international community.

Again, thank you Your Majesty for joining us today and we hope that you will enjoy the rest of your visit. Many thanks also to our distinguished visitors for being here today, and I hope that you will enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

A month later…..
It is mid-April 2013 and the European School Bergen is getting back to normal after the busy and exciting events during our celebration in March. We had a full week of activities, and still had time for normal lessons. There were so many highlights during the week and the concept was to try and put as many of the regular school activities into one week as possible, as well as to have special workshops and other events. There was so much going on that by the end of the week and by the time of the party for all the former students on the Saturday evening everyone associated with the week was exhausted!

The week began on the Monday with a big and tightly produced and choreographed show which looked back at music and events over the last 50 years, and it was attended by the whole school in the sports hall with lots of visitors. At the end of the opening ceremony there was a balloon launch and even now we are getting postcards from as far away as the UK and Germany to say that they have found our celebration balloons.

On the Tuesday the highlight was the visit of Queen Beatrix, and we were also honoured to have a number of VIPS at the ceremony, including the Dutch EU commissioner Nelle Kroes. The school was full of press and security was very tight, and it was a shame that not more people could be there on the day. The event received national coverage, and was even included in a television programme about royalty in the Netherlands. On the same evening was the first performance of a home-grown and written musical production covering a 50 year period which was really well done and performed to a packed house.

So the week progressed, and later in the week there was a spectacle de francophonie, science projects, puppet shows, a European food event, sports and dance events etc. etc. By the Friday afternoon everyone was glad that the weekend had arrived, and everyone felt that the week was not only the celebration of the past 50 years, but of a school which is lively, vibrant and relevant in 2013. 

That just left the Saturday, and during the day some 150 former students and teachers visited the school and took a trip down memory lane before the very big and successful party in Amsterdam that evening. At the party we were able to work out that there was at least one former student for every Bac year….an incredible achievement.

The week involved so much preparation, commitment, organisation and hard work by so many people. It was not a week of ceremonies and speeches, but rather a week in which the members of the Bergen school community present and past – students, staff, parents, visitors - enjoyed being together not just to celebrate the past, but to celebrate our school and where we are in 2013.

Steve Lewis