On the 25th of April the representatives of the member organizations of the European School Heads Association (ESHA) met at the General Assembly (GA) in Olso. Through the ESHA network we share knowledge and experiences from our countries, inspire each other, create networks and participate in European research and networks.
The Norwegian Skolelederforbundet was our host and invited the GA members to be a guest at their National conference that started on the 26th of April. In the GA we had the annual presentation and approval of the Financial and Activity report of ESHA, followed by an update on the Biennial Conference that will be held on 25–27th October 2023 in Dubrovnik. The procedure for board elections was reviewed and the Strategic Policy of ESHA was presented by the board and then discussed in an interactive session. The board presented a policy letter for feedback to advocate the needs and challenges of school heads throughout Europe. Then Dynatex presented the new communication platform that is being developed in collaboration with ESHA, suitable for educational organizations. They showed the preview of the website, the application and newsletters that will soon be available in all European languages.
Then the programme of sharing knowledge, experiences and projects of ESHA started. Judit Horgas explained about microcredentials and how ESHA members can be involved in the MicroVET project and after an interactive session with Norwegian collegues about European Policy by director Petra van Haren, Judit took us on a journey through the Inschool II project about inclusive education with a focus on the role of the school head.
At the conference of the Skolelederforbundet with the title ‘Leaders create a desire to learn’ the Minister of Education Tonje Brenna specifically welcomed the Ukrainian ESHA members in their own language and showed her empathy for their situation. She then spoke about the role of school heads as competent, motivated and engaged leaders who, in light of the law, regulations and framework conditions, have a key role in creating a desire to learn. She responded to the topics suggested by our Norwegian collegues about several challenges that affect our ability to solve the evergrowing mission and the importance of our sector to establish a culture for leadership development. Professor Pasi Sahlberg then introduced the ‘mission possible’, leadership for engagement and well-being of every student, making us all think about the actual implementation of the conference’s title “leaders create a desire to learn” and how this can have a number of positive consequences for the students, staff and the collaboration with parents, including increased learning outcomes, higher employee commitment and motivation, better quality of work, and a better ability to adapt to changes. He called upon us to ‘bounce back’ after COVID, to a life-designing education, knowing what our students need and not wait for politicians who may want to bounce ‘back to basics’ as it was. Our Norwegian collegues then had a programme with several interesting speakers requesting their collaboration in interactive sessions ending on the 27th of April.
ESHA carried out a survey on EU strategy during the General Assembly meeting in Oslo.
About 40% of the ESHA member organizations say they have influence at their ministry concerning EU educational policies. Another 40% might have influence. Most members have their influence through direct dialogue, followed by the influence through platforms and collaborations and indirect influence through communication and media. Most ESHA members chose to influence EU policy by
Some members recommended regional co-operations between GA meetings and offered active participation in different ESHA activities.
The most frequently mentioned suggestions for important focus points for EU policy are:
The ESHA Board will incorporate the outcomes of the survey in the ESHA Strategic policy and ESHA Policy recommendation letters. There will be further elaboration on the outcomes and implications at the GA in Dubrovnik in October 2023.
On the 25th of April a workshop about the Inclusive Schools II project was carried out in Oslo by ESHA team member Judit Horgas who is also member of the local advocacy group in Hungary. The international project runs from January 2021 to July 2023 and is funded by the European Union under Erasmus + Programme. It builds on the results of the Inclusive School project (2019–2021).
The focus was on increasing the knowledge and skills and confidence of school leaders and how to reach an inclusive approach with teachers and trainee teachers with the increasing range of diverse learners in schools that should have learning environments where every student has an opportunity to succeed. Participants were asked to reflect on how they can scale up good practices around inclusive education that should be leading to changes in policy, practice and culture at school. It was a clear outcome that school leaders taking part in the project can become role models for others, influencing practice and policy at local, regional and national levels.
School heads felt that their awareness was raised about their own attitude and how to approach the dialogue about inclusiveness in their school in a different way, including teachers and students. In group discussions with targeted questions and in giving personal examples, inclusion was executed as a practice. Judit let the school heads elaborate on a quote by American psychologist John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
For more information on the Inclusive Schools II project, visit www.inclusiveschools2.net
On the 25th of April a workshop about the MicroVET project was carried out in Oslo by ESHA team member Judit Horgas. Judit explained about microcredentials and how ESHA members can be involved in the MicroVET project. Over 40 representatives of school heads from 25 European countries had the opportunity to learn about the project.
Using the ‘world cafe’ method participants were challenged to be active and engage in dialogues on how microcredentials can be used in education in their countries as a part of the European Framework. They were invited to contribute with suggestions for online courses to be developed or existing courses that can be published (for free) on the MicroVET website.
The overall feedback the participants provided after the workshop was overwhelmingly positive and ESHA is looking forward to receive further recommendations from its member organizations.
ESHA organized an online transnational dialogical gathering for the Hungarian and Serbian schools that participate in the Dive-In-Dialogue project. There were five Hungarian and three Serbian teachers and 15 students aged 7–16 present from three Hungarian and two Serbian schools. Two university students who act as mentors were also present. The facilitator was Éva Szabó, one of the Serbian teachers who has already conducted twenty dialogical gathering in her school.
During the 50-minutes-long gathering the participants discussed Botticelli’s painting, The Madonna of the Book. As all the schools participate in the Hungarian educational programme Dragonfly and get the children’s magazine Dragonfly for free, they had all read the article in the spring issue about the art of Botticelli, had a copy of the painting and could prepare before the gathering.
After a short introduction by the facilitator, there were 5 rounds of discussions. Children talked about their feelings, their interpretation of the painting, the facial expressions, the love of a mother and the importance of family. They went on to discuss whether Mary or the baby Jesus were aware of their future and how the tiny crown of thorns on the baby’s hand is a symbol of what is to come. They also discussed what life could have been like at that time and if they wanted to live in that age. They mentioned various differences between their own age and that of the painting from the lack of social media, medicines and hygene to the benefits of a calmer time where there was not so much pollution. In the last round they were asked to formulate a time capsule message: what would they say to the people living in the time of Botticelli? Most of the children advised to pay more attention to the environment, not to start wars, and not to be so hasty to discover things that lead to problems. Although there were some technical problems with the sound, the gathering was cheerful and active and all the children participated in the discussion.
The InScool II – Inclusive Schools project is coming to its end in the middle of July, but its outcomes are available for school leaders to either further their own knowledge and competences in inclusion or support their teaching staff in their professional development.
The in-person trainings – a course for leaders at various positions in a school and another for teachers – that the InScool consortium developed is now available for download in a training manual that also gives some practical advice on organising these courses.
There is a free online course that also provide self-paced learning opportunities for your less experienced teachers or those who are facing major inclusion challenges in a changing environment. The course offers opportunities for learning more about inclusion theory and practice, for self-reflection, and for exploring the best approaches for making inclusion a reality in classrooms around Europe. The course is currently available in English and Hungarian with the Italian and Spanish versions coming up in the next few weeks.
The online and face-to-face activities provided make it possible for school leaders to organise professional development in a flexible way that is also a form of being inclusive in the learning of your colleagues.
What counts the most at school? Learning about famous authors like William Shakespeare, the synopsis and sources of the plays, the characters, the setting and the analysis of the texts? What is really important for students, teachers, parents and school administrators today?
In a competitive society the answer is competencies, but beside key competencies, emotional intelligence, civic duties and learning about responsible and active citizenship must also be mentioned. There is a special need for all this especially in our times of war and worldwide violence, (cyber)bullying and horrible school shootings.
The question is: how can we find solutions and still make learning fun and worthwhile?
In Montecorvino Rovella we found that learning can be fun when it comes to teaching Civic Education. An extracurricular experience with freshman students at Liceo Scientifico Gian Camillo Glorioso was about the protection of “originals” with references to royalties, copyright and patents.
“I Am Original“ is a national competition organized by Active Citizenship, which began with a teacher training and the involvement of the local authorities, who spoke to the students about the relationship between Law and Finance, the violation of copyright, patents and royalties and how these can be harmful both to individuals, the economy and society.
And so how did we start this enterprise?
By choosing William Shakespeare and introducing the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the story and its sources, in this case Arthur Brooke, Luigi da Porta, Matteo Bandello and Ovid. In order to arouse curiosity and enhance motivation we took into consideration some recent articles about the story of two young lovers, Davide and Teresa from Montecorvino Rovella. The feudal rivalry of the lovers’ families led to hatred and horrid cruelties. The medieval buildings where they lived still survive and can be seen by tourists and travellers.
A film director, two professional actors and a make-up artist agreed to help to shoot a short film about the lovers, first in the classroom with one of us playing the teacher and introducing the project to the students. The costumes were also made available. The shooting of the film continued in the medieval homes of the lovers and the local Church of Peace. The director, Mr Guardabascio found actors among the bashful freshman students to play the roles of Davide and Teresa and a professional actor played the role of the Nurse. Making the screenplay was quite a task, but it was also challenging, as it was a brand new “original” remake of the Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet, with the two lovers surviving this time and a happy ending with the reconciliation of the two families, all thanks to the local friar. Professional actress Pia Lanciotti volunteered for the Prologue and the Conclusion. This triggered the students’ enthusiasm and participation.
The freshman students really enjoyed making the short film, while informally learning about law, Civic Education, Italian and English Literature, the art of film-making, architecture and history. The emotional involvement enhanced the students’ motivation and allowed for empowerment.
Such projects seem to be the future of education, as in a holistic approach they focus on a number of elements: “edutainment”, civic consciousness, global and local culture. Teaching the use of the camera could also be very useful as it could help reduce the distance and even the digital divide in the learning process, by bringing together the students, the teachers and the experts.
Maria Rosaria D’Alfonso
At the 24th of May the first ESHA digital café was launched. The topic was: What do the Inspections mean for you as a headteacher and for the quality of your school?
After the introduction on the topic by school head Dave Woods (NAHT), the heads from 5 countries exchanged information and experiences. They shared their personal feelings and talked about the impact of inspections taking place in the schools. The responsibility of the school head was a common aspect. Significant differences were mentioned from how in the UK a school head actually committed suicide related to a top-down inspection, through inspectors who are critical friends, to quality controllers who, on behalf of the educational authority gave a broader insight into what inspections can mean. At the end all participants agreed that the digital café is a fine way to meet and talk with colleagues from all over Europe about topics that matter. They will certainly attend next time!
The next café will be on the 30th of June at 9.30 CET. The topic will be: How must education change to use the impact of Artificial Intelligence to our benefit?
During the next school year of 2023/2024 there will be 7 digital cafés (September, November 2023, January, March, and May 2024).
Scan the QR code or click the button and fill in your registration if you would like to receive TEAMS calendar invites to the ESHA digital cafés and talk with colleagues throughout Europe on topics for school heads.
The calendar invite will confirm information on the topic, date and time. Only by accepting the invitation you can register for the ESHA internet café!