From Comenius to Erasmus+ (an actual learning journey)
As we adopt new professional development procedures and Professional Update, many Heads are seeking new forms of meaningful CPD for themselves and staff that don’t erode already limited resources. The solution may be found in Erasmus+, the successor to Comenius and the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport.
One of the seemingly less well known Comenius opportunities was the provision of a wide range of Inservice training and shadowing for educational professionals throughout Europe. Previously it was possible to apply for training and shadowing as an individual. With support from line manager candidates would choose a course from an extensive database and submit a detailed application which was then scored against stringent criteria. Successful applicants had course fees, travel and accommodation funded by Comenius. Through Erasmus+ similar training opportunities will be provided under Key Action 1 – Learning Mobility of Individuals. Now, however, instead of individual applications, Heads of Establishment will put forward a proposal for a project and apply on behalf of staff. This is staff mobility funding and will be used to support the professional development of teachers, school leaders and other school education staff.Each project can last either 1 or 2 years. Schools and educational organisations can apply for funding to support mobility activities including teaching assignments and staff training abroad, including structured courses and training events, job shadowing and observations in a partner school. Funding can be used to support school staff engaged in both teaching and non-teaching roles. Staff mobility activities can last from 2 days to 2 months, excluding travel time.
So, what are the benefits of this type of training and why would you choose it over something that is available locally? I have participated in two of these courses over the past few years, one on Reflective Leadership in Spain the other on Strength based coaching in Austria. I would highly recommend it for a number of reasons. Learning new skills is not the only benefit of a training course.
Being away from school enables participants to fully engage in the activities without the distractions or time restraints associated with workplace. Participants have time to think and discuss and are generally more relaxed, taking full advantage of opportunities for professional dialogue. My experience is that there are excellent chances to network with colleagues by comparing practice and learning from each other, discussing the impact of new initiatives and different approaches and systems, investigating school leadership in an international context and examining strategies for change and school improvement. It opens your mind to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
On the strength based coaching course which I attended in Linz, Austria, in February 2014, there were 9 participants from 7 countries, all of different nationalities (several people like myself, living in one country but native to another) plus the presenter, a Dutchman living in Denmark. This European dimension added a vibrant cultural element which certainly added to the experience with participants sharing customs, information, traditional foods brought from home. An added bonus is the chance to practise rusty language skills, forge new friendships and discover new holiday destinations. Incidentally, English is the language of delivery for many of the courses. The European participants speak English to a very high standard.
It is extremely beneficial to compare practice with colleagues from other countries and cultures and view alternate ways of doing things and innovative practice in a different setting. This leads to more reflective participation during the training and beyond where long lasting professional relationships can be established. All of these factors combine to ensure that all participants benefit as fully as possible from this experience.
Through Erasmus+ staff mobility courses are open to teaching and support staff, and any other education staff. This provides more and further possibilities for school communities to develop staff and effect school improvement.
There is now only one closing date per year for applications compared with three per year for Comenius funding. Next closing date is likely to be February 2015. UK applications are submitted through the British Council. For further information please refer to any of the following websites:
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/erasmus.htm
European Commission http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/index_en.htm