Henk Prins – our long-serving lab technician retires


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These photos are from 1963 when the very first ESB opened. You can see how small the school was in the photo on the left. Henk Prins is the tall young man in the pictures.

Henk Prins leaves our school today after more than 50 years working as a laboratory technician, and this means that he has worked here for the entire life of the school. We wish him all the very best in his retirement, and we know that he will take with him many memories. I would like to thank him for all he has done for every generation of pupils, teachers and staff during this half century.

In 2013, when we had our 50th anniversary which was attended by Queen Beatrix, I mentioned his contribution, and I have included a copy of the speech I gave on that occasion below if you are interested in reading it.

Steve Lewis, Director

Europe in a school – a learning community without borders

The speech from the ceremony with the Queen made by the Director, Dr Steve Lewis, 12/03/2013.

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.

When the school opened in 1963 it was very small indeed and in a different location in Bergen. This was it! Numbers increased rapidly and there are stories of lessons taking place in corridors because there were not enough classrooms. In the photo you can see a tall young man who had just started working at the new European School Bergen. He was here when Your Majesty opened the present building in 1978 and he is still working at the school! Henk Prins is our only link back to the beginning of the school and he has spent his whole working life with us.

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.