The European School Culham is one of 14 European Schools ( Schola Europaea) across the European Union. These schools were born of an initiative by representatives of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the Luxembourg Government and resulted in the establishment of the first European School in Luxembourg in 1953. For the first time, children of different languages and nationalities were taught together. The initiators were driven by two seemingly conflicting goals: pupils should be educated in their mother tongue and national traditions, but also play an active role in building a united Europe. Furthermore, they should be able to obtain a leaving qualification that is recognised in all Member States.
With the signing of the Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools and the Regulation for the European Baccalaureate by the six founding Member States in April 1957, the European School in Luxembourg gained the status of an institution governed by public law, recognised in all Member States of the ECSC. The first pupils took the European Baccalaureate examinations in 1959.
As the European Communities evolved, further European Schools were set up in the same places as European organisations. They cater primarily for the children of staff of the particular organisation, although any spare places are offered to children of the respective host country. ES Culham opened in1978 to serve the children of staff seconded by the European Union to work on the Joint European Torus (JET) nuclear fusion research project that was established at the Culham Science Centre under the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA). JET is collectively used by EURATOM associations from more than 20 European countries.
There are currently 14 European schools: five in Belgium, two in Luxembourg, one in the Netherlands, three in Germany and one in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom (ES Culham). The European Schools are supervised jointly by the Member States; they are recognised schools in their respective host country and have the status of an institution governed by public law. The current legal basis is the Convention of the Board of Governors of the European Schools which entered into force in October 2002.
The original goals of the initiators have remained the same for almost 50 years. The education, side by side, of children of Community staff also creates the conditions necessary for pan-European mobility and subsequent reintegration into their country of origin. The Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht in 1992 expressly declared the development of the European dimension in education a Community objective.
Pupils can attend the European Schools for a total of 14 years: two years of nursery, five years of primary education (primary cycle) followed by seven years of secondary education (secondarycycle) leading to the European Baccalaureate.
Every school has a number of language sections that can cover, according to entitlement and requirements, all official Community languages. However, at Culham there are just three language sections: German, French and English. From September 2010 one year will remain of the Dutch and Italian sections which have been progressively phased out over the last years owing to insufficient numbers of Dutch and Italian mother tongue pupils.
Pupils are assigned to the language section of their mother tongue or dominant language. Throughout their time at school and this language remains his/her first language (Language I). The distribution of subjects and the syllabuses are identical for all language sections; occasionally there may be slight variations in the mother tongue syllabuses. If there is insufficient demand for a language section of a particular Community language, then mother tongue pupils of this language under specific circumstances receive their mother tongue tuition within another section. At Culham, this is currently the case for Danish, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Italian children.