Getting to know how Brussels works

Sussex branch       Recent news from central and eastern Europe     What's on

During a two-day intensive study visit to Brussels on 15 and 16 July,
citizenship teachers and advisers from West Sussex were able to take a close look at how the European Commission and the European Parliament work.

“Incredibly interesting and useful,” said one teacher on the way back. “Amazingly well organised, and a great informative and fun experience,” noted another after an intensive two days. A group of 22 teachers from all over West Sussex, together with members of County Council advisory staff, had been to Brussels for two days to visit European Union institutions and find out how Europe works.

These were teachers who are responsible for teaching Citizenship, the part of the school curriculum which includes an understanding of Europe and the role of the EU.

The Sussex European Movement suggested and organised the trip on 15-16 July in partnership with the citizenship teacher advisers from the West Sussex Healthy Schools Team. They were led by Anita Haigh from the Healthy Schools Team, assisted by Pandora Ellis, the European Youth Ambassadors Coordinator. The event was jointly funded by the European Movement UK Education Fund and by the European Parliament.

Consilium of the European Union
Gathering in the foyer of the Justus Lipsius building

The giant globe represents colours of all the EU countries.

Young people need to make their views known

One of the aims of the European Movement is to help UK citizens understand how to engage with the European Union. Sarah Leigh, chairman of the Sussex Branch, who lives in Steyning, said “this was a huge effort by everyone concerned but I’ve been told by all the teachers what a great help it was in understanding Europe. Personally I’m a big fan of the European project but I don’t care really whether teachers like it or not. The point is, we want them to understand how the EU works, how it interacts with British government institutions. Something like 70% of British legislation originates in Brussels. We all need to know how to work with our European partners on the problems of tomorrow, such as globalisation, terrorism, climate change. British young people should be ready to take advantage of the many ways they can interact with the EU and make their views known.”   “There was one special piece of good luck – our visit happened to coincide with the start of the consultation process on an issue which greatly concerns many of the teachers involved. This was the question of how migrant children from the EU and beyond manage to get on in the schools of their new host country. The provision of education is not a matter for the EU, but it does provide advice and support in this area. In West Sussex quite a number of schools have recently had to absorb large numbers of pupils from central Europe. It so happens that the European Commission now sees this as a priority and has just published a Green Paper asking for responses on the question – they are certainly going to get some from Sussex !”
Visitor Centre of the European Commission Visitor Centre of the European Commission Ready for the initial briefing

European Parliament building in Brussels
Outside the European Parliament

Insight into Europe

The visit to Brussels was in fact a two-day intensive conference. The group visited and heard talks from the European Commission, The Centre (a think tank and lobbying firm, much concerned with communicating within Europe), the Council of the European Union, the UK Permanent Representation to the EU, and the European Parliament. Visiting the Parliament building they met three MEPs, Richard Ashworth, Peter Skinner and Claude Moraes. Everyone got back home to Sussex late at night absolutely exhausted, but the teachers said they had gained a lot of insight into the EU and how it worked.

Richard Ashworth is one of 10 MEPs for the south-east of England
Richard Ashworth MEP talks to the group

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