All posts by Alex O'Cuinn

LEAD! Project: MYSKILLS platform is online!

In 2017, there were around 35.67 million students with specific learning difficulties across the EU: 13.88 and 21.7 million in primary and secondary school respectively (EPALE, 2017). For this group, the rate of early school leaving is stark: 1 out of 4 students equates to 25%; a considerable leap from the general early school leaving rate which stands at just under 10%  (Eurostat, 2018). 

The LEAD! Project aims to identify and overcome the barriers that such students (aged 9-14) encounter at school with an eye on mitigating early school leaving and ultimately work towards achieving early school leaving targets as set out in the EU 2030 strategic framework. A figure that stands at 9% (Eurostat 2022). 

Empowerment forms a key focus of the project. The aim being to equip students with learning difficulties with the right competencies to succeed and reach their potential at school. This requires a concerted effort that considers not only students but also teachers, headmasters, tutors and trainers and all the school staff involved in supporting these students, as well as their families, to give young people and adults involved in their education the tools to better understand the difficulties they experience at school, and how to overcome them.

The main outcome of the project is the digital platform MY SKILLS that offers both online and offline learning paths (blended learning). The platform hosts training material for students, teachers and trainers, a sharing space for users (Community), and a Help Desk for schools, families, pupils (in the following languages: English, Italian, French, Romanian and Spanish). After the end of the project, the Help Desk service will be available only in Italian and English.

The platform is accessible to all students with SLD as well as their families and teachers interested in expanding their knowledge on the topic.

The platform will be presented to the public in early November, during the International Conference on Specific Learning Difficulties which will be held the 9th November in Brussels – The event starts at 3pm and ends at 5:30pm, will be preceded by a welcome coffee and followed by a networking reception.

Participation is free, but registration below is mandatory.

Only limited space is available, and we would be glad if you could join us.
Please register today to secure your spot! 

Register by clicking here.

The New European Innovation Agenda needs a wider understanding of where innovation starts!

The European Commission’s recently adopted – New European Innovation Agenda – sets out a number of key actions to further the development of innovation ecosystems in Europe. As the communication rightly highlights, un-tapping Europe’s innovation potential presents a key hurdle to overcome in the bid to effectively navigate the twin green and digital transitions and to identify effective solutions to the most pressing societal and economic challenges.

Based on a range of core pillars, the initiative takes aim at a number of bottlenecks inherent in the current innovation landscape including: lack of synergies between existing policy and funding instruments, asymmetries between different innovation actors, innovation divides between regions and Member states, and overly-complicated and ineffective financing mechanisms. 

While acknowledging the relevance of the issues highlighted in the communication and the basic premise that Europe can do more to unleash its innovative potential, it is regrettable that the problems identified are not matched with a more holistically grounded set of solutions. This is, in part, an issue of conceptualisation. 

The conceptualisation of innovation upheld in the communication is largely oriented towards technological development and deployment, with much attention given to deep tech start-ups and their financing. Additional references to diversifying suppliers, markets and businesses, and a significant emphasis on competitiveness, indicates an over-emphasis on innovation as a new market potential to tap but with little reference to solving our social and environmental problems. 

As LLLP argued in a recent position paper, Lifelong Learning for Sustainable Societies, innovation is rooted in the co-creation and transfer of knowledge that generates social, economic and environmental benefits by means of novel approaches, ideas or ways of organising. While technological solutions are indeed an important part of this process, it is just as likely for social innovation and social entrepreneurship, or for perspectives from the Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts, to support the unleashing of Europe’s innovative potential. A radical reconceptualisation of what innovation entails is required. One that finally recognises the contribution and value of different stakeholders. Only then can the NEIA begin to achieve what it sets out to do.

Read the full communication here!

INTED2023 Announcement

INTED2023 will be the 17th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation and will be held in Valencia (Spain) on the 6th, 7th and 8th of March, 2023.

INTED has been running for 16 years and is a renowned global educational conference which allows lecturers, researchers, technologists, and professionals from the educational sector to share their expertise about teaching and learning methodologies and to present their projects. The 2023 edition of INTED is sure to be one of the most successful educational conferences in Europe.

INTED provides an ideal opportunity for international strategic networking and is without a doubt the best place to present your projects and innovations regarding education and technology.

Submit your abstract!

If you wish to share (in person or in a virtual manner) your experiences and projects in the area of education, research and innovation, you are invited to submit your abstract proposal for INTED2023. The deadline for abstracts submission is November 17th, 2022.

More info here 

EUCA – Europeans Go Digital! Are you?

EU level civic engagement is a crucial prerequisite for establishing a more democratic decision making process that is reflective and cognisant of the needs and desires of Europeans.

EUCA, members of LLLP, are carrying out a new project titled – Europeans Go Digital – that takes to field of active citizenship to empower and support young people to improve their citizens’ participation in the EU in a digital way.

After three successful events, students from 12 countries will meet to debate and share their vision for a digitalised European society through the last experiential event in Leuven, Belgium (26 – 28 Oct 2022).

Last Event: Leuven, Belgium – 26-28 October 2022
Participants: Students and young people from EU countries
Methodology: Idea Challenge
Topic: EU Consultation tools
Costs of travel, accommodation for 2 nights and some meals are covered.
Applications here
Deadline to apply: 18 September 2022 at 23:59 (CEST)

Measures for improving educators’ wellbeing that work

A recent report by the European Commission paints a stark picture of the stress, exhaustion and burnout endemic in the teaching profession across the EU. As indicated in a previous article, over 50% of EU teachers report feeling ‘quite a bit’ of  or ‘a lot’ of stress at work. In addition, 24 % and 22 % of educators report that their job has a negative impact on their mental and physical health respectively. 

The wellbeing of educators has a great influence on their job satisfaction, on the attractiveness of their profession, and subsequently on their retention in the profession. It is also an important factor correlating with their own motivation and with that of their learners. 

Inevitably, the extent of the issue requires a mulit-faceted policy response that recognises the key factors contributing to excessive workloads, limited time to pursue training, lack of support mechanisms – all of which have been reported by educators and teachers in a wealth of existing research documenting issues faced by educators in the EU context. 

In this article we consider a number of innovative – real-world –  solutions that prioritise the wellbeing of educators and stamp out many of the triggers leading to the problem at hand. 

Co-teaching: two is better than one

In French speaking Belgium, the beginning of the 2022 – 2023 school year will be marked by the launch of a new programme offering teachers additional in-class support: all primary 1st and 2nd classes will be able to benefit from co-teaching for four periods per week. Having been initially rolled out on a trial basis, the feedback provided by teachers was overwhelmingly positive – both in terms of teaching quality and wellbeing. 

Among the benefits it was reported that the additional support afforded teachers time to meet the heterogeneity of the class, to more attentively follow the rhythm and needs of each pupil and to differentiate learning effectively. In other words, teachers reported having more time to focus on the  learning needs of their class, and as the expression goes: many hands make light work. 

Collaborative work culture

A wealth of empirical evidence shows that teachers who reported working in a collaborative school culture characterised by mutual support were more likely to report higher levels of well-being. Policies aimed at enhancing the well-being of educators could, therefore, seek to reinforce the role of teamwork and collaboration within the learning environment, as well as supporting teachers in developing social and interpersonal competences. 

Working conditions: working hours matter

Another key factor determining the wellbeing of educators revolves around working hours. A recent report by the European Commission reporting on the issue clearly indicates that the likelihood of educators experiencing high levels of stress and exhaustion increases significantly if their working hours are longer. This correlation is statistically significant in all 27 education systems analysed in the report. 

Although a lack of comparative data exists on the benefits of reducing the working hours of educators; recent  trials held in UK schools provide a snapshot of the outcomes that can transpire. A key outcome that improved as hours were reduced was the wellbeing of educators – and, importantly, the perceived quality of their teaching. Having completed the trial period, 98% of those affirmed their preference for a shorter working week. In addition, 69% said that they would be much more likely or somewhat more likely to stay in the profession if the trial period became the new normal – highlighting the wide-reaching policy impact of the tool.

Resources used:
  • Eurydice 2022, Belgium French Community: Back to school – Soon two teachers in primary classes, here
  • OECD 2021, Building teachers wellbeing from primary to upper secondary education, here
  • Eurydice 2022, Teachers wellbeing at work, here
  • 2022, A Four-Day Week for Schools, here

Empowering educators means safeguarding their wellbeing!

Empowering educators at work has come into focus on the European and national policy agendas. The precedence is rather simple: where educators feel empowered, they tend to carry out their work with greater confidence, creativity and enthusiasm. A necessary, often overlooked, prerequisite for empowering educators, however, revolves around safeguarding their well-being at work. 

As a recent report by the European Commission would indicate – the wellbeing of educators has a great influence on their job satisfaction, on the attractiveness of their profession, and subsequently on their retention in the profession. It is also an important factor correlating with their own motivation and with that of their learners. This begs the question: where does the wellbeing of educators in the EU currently lie?

Worryingly, data reveals that stress is hugely common among European educators with more than 50% reporting quite ‘a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of stress at work. In addition, 24 % and 22 % of educators report that their job has a negative impact on their mental and physical health respectively

The implications of this are not difficult to decipher. Research clearly indicates that educators with greater levels of stress are more likely to leave the profession. Taking the figures highlighted above into account – it is no surprise that educator retention has become evermore of an issue with increasing turn-over levels reported across many EU Member States. This negatively influences the perception and desirability of the profession – further fuelling an already problematic teacher shortage. In addition, and of particular importance, high-stress levels severely compromise an educator’s capacity to carry out their work effectively. 

The high-levels of stress and compromised well being reported by educators in the EU is by no means an inevitable aspect of the work. Indeed, much of key stress-factors reported by educators such as administrative work, having too much marking, having too much lesson preparation and long working hours are completely avoidable. On the other hand, what works is by no means rocket science. Research seems to indicate that the levels of stress reported by educators are lower in school environments that they perceive as collaborative, when they feel self-confident about motivating students, and when they feel they have autonomy in their work. Stress is also induced by a perceived lack of capacity to deal with diverse classrooms and navigate new technological resources effectively. And while training is an obvious answer to this issue – it remains the case that many educators report a lack of time as the key factor dissuading them from engaging with training.

If we are serious about empowering educators across the EU, then safeguarding their wellbeing is a crucial prerequisite that requires both a systemic and contextual  policy response. Failure to do so will ensure that the idea of empowering educators across the EU is nothing short of a pipedream.

Resources used:

  1. Eurydice 2021, Teachers in Europe – Wellbeing at Work, here
  2. OECD 2021, Building teachers wellbeing, here

CHOICE Project – Support the reform of the school curricula on STE(A)M education

LLLP is a partner in CHOICE, a European-funded project aimed at promoting and improving STEM education in schools. 

Through this project, students and teachers co-developed innovative Open Educational Resources (OERs).

All OERs are collected in a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course providing teachers with materials and instructions enabling them to teach STEM using a STE(A)M approach.

The key objectives of the project include on the one hand the promotion of the coordination and collaboration among education institutions, business, local authorities as key stakeholders able to support the reform of STEM curricula at school, turning them into multipliers supporting critical career choice of students. On the other hand: to promote innovative STE(A)M approaches to STEM education entailing a systemic impact on education systems and to influence policy change at school at local, regional and national levels. This is where the work of the Lifelong Learning Platform will be focused!

To achieve this very ambitious goal, the CHOICE project partners are running focus groups (stakeholder roundtables), with school leaders, teachers and students, but also civil society, public authorities, academia and business representatives to collect best practices, lessons learned, new solutions and innovative approaches on the implementation of STE(A)M education practices in schools. Participants in the focus groups will discuss the situation of STEM education in their regions and countries (and in the case of the stakeholder roundtables organised by LLLP, at European level as well) as to prepare policy recommendations directed towards their policy makers at local, regional, national and EU levels. 

Policy-makers will be able to build on the project action and approach to enhance the impact and effectiveness of existing policy initiatives related to STEM education, and will be empowered by providing their insights for the design of policy recommendations able to be multiplied to other systems.

To express your interest in attending the focus groups organised by LLLP, please fill in this form.

Do not hesitate to forward this invitation to your colleagues and members working on the topic.

LLLP is coordinating the stakeholder round-tables and will analyse, compare and unite the policy recommendations collected by each partner in a comprehensive e-publication. 

The policy recommendation will be presented during the project’s final conference which will take place on Wednesday 30 November 2022 from 3 PM in Brussels, aiming at generating impact on policy makers at European level. 

International training of trainers – INSCOOL II

In order to ensure high-quality delivery of face-to-face training courses for school leaders and teachers, an international training of trainers took place at the end of June in Palermo (Italy), hosted by CESIE, for trainers from each partner country. 

The training focused on the course for school leaders and teachers. Training workshops allowed trainers to familiarise themselves with the course design and materials using interactive, participatory methods, and plan for any tailoring of courses in order that they are contextualised successful.

The first day of the training started with some Icebreakers, then participants discussed foundations and values of their work (to listen, accept, contribute), and participated in an activity aimed at creating and identifying learning communities. 

Afterwards, participants discussed topics such as: Learning Conversations (Learning Outcomes, Communities of Practice); Integration versus Inclusion and Belonging; Inclusive School Ethics; leadership and innovation.

The second day of the training was dedicated to ‘Inclusion in Action’. The participants had a chance to visit centres of inspirational practice: an elementary school, a vocational school and the Centre for Creative Development Danilo Dolci in Palermo, and shared inspiring practices.

Other subjects covered on that day: Wellbeing and Creating Mental Wealth in Schools (Toxic Teaching and Negativity – isolation, no risk taking; failure or signs of mental wealth in schools for children and staff).

The training ended with the planning of future in person training courses that they will deliver in Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK: lots of questions, country specific contexts, different local needs, different approaches to inclusive education but one definition of inclusion as a starting point.

During the 3-day training, participants got to know each other thanks to the activities and interactive games and to share inclusive practices in schools.

LEAD! – transnational partner meeting & summer training camp in Policoro (Italy)

The project Specific Learning Disorder no more ! (LEAD) focused on Specific Learning Difficulties (SLD) from age 9 to 14 has just ended its transnational partner meeting & summer training camp in Policoro (Italy).  

During these three days, the project partners ENFOR (Italy-lead partner), LLLP (Belgium), ISJI (Romania), Universidad Valladolid (Spain), had the opportunity to discuss and analyse the project progress and results from the “Pilot Tests. The MySkills Platform was also presented, as well as the didactic-educational path of the acquisition of skills explained step by step. At the end of the learning path, students will be awarded the European Adapting Tool Licence which will support them to acquire the necessary learning competences.

25 educators, social workers, teachers, tutors, trainers and school representatives from the 4 countries participating in the project took part in the 3-day training held in Policoro, Italy.

The participants got to know better the Specific Learning Difficulties (dysorthography, dysgraphia, dyslexia, dyscalculia), related compensatory tools and innovative pedagogies for inclusion in schools through a blended approach.

Among the results the partners gathered during the piloting phase, it was demonstrated that children with SLD are more likely to reach their goals at a rhythm comparable to their classmates if they are supported by compensatory tools. 

Family support is also very important for the learning outcomes of children with SLD. The involvement of the entire classroom and families is essential to encourage the self-esteem required to achieve full autonomy for the student.

The Challenge Jam, presented during the training, reflects the challenge of the students with themselves. 

The IC2 POLICORO (MT) hosted the training in its premises and the school leader, Prof. Maria Carmela Stigliano, together with her team, valorised the work carried out by all the partners and emphasised the commitment of the teachers involved.

The partner meeting was also an opportunity to assess the progress of the project and to define the next steps: the upcoming dissemination events and the final international conference which will take place on 9 November 2022 in Brussels. SAVE THE DATE!

The IC2 POLICORO (MT) warmly thank all the participants for their commitment and cooperation. 

LLLP joins the #LearningPlanet Community!

We’re excited to announce our association with #LearningPlanet! 

#Launched by the Learning Planet Institute and UNESCO on the 24th of January 2020 on the occasion of the  International Day of Education, #LearningPlanet is an open alliance with a cause, dedicated to learning stakeholders and  communities. It is a long-term initiative with a mission to gather players from around the world in order to identify,  celebrate, enhance and scale up innovative educational solutions towards sustainable futures that ensure the respect,  well-being and fulfilment of oneself, the others and the planet. #LearningPlanet defines itself as a middle-ground: it  connects institutions with grassroots movements and innovators to scale up their ideas. 

There are several events driven by #LearningPlanet that we look forward to being a part of. These include the annual  #LearningPlanet Festival and the #LearningPlanet Circles, as well as other local and global summits.  

Visit the #LearningPlanet website for more information and find out how you can also get involved in the  #LearningPlanet community.