9th ERNAPE Conference in Lisbon

The 9th Conference of the European Research Network about Parents in Education (ERNAPE) was held in Lisbon at the beginning of September 2013. The researchers inspired by the theory and practice of Professor Joyce Epstein - formerly parental involvement, nowdays school partnership – from Chile to Hong Kong gathered to share research data and ideas with each other.


Newsflash Austria

The Austrian school year started on September 2nd in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland and on September 9th in the other Federal Provinces.

Parents’ Health Platform – Plattform Elterngesundheit (PEG): In September 2013 PEG, EPA’s Alcuin Award Winner 2012, founded an independent association to engage more effectively for and with parents. 

Lack of teachers: the school year started with a debate about available teachers: Media complained and parents’ representatives warned that not enough teachers would be available to provide the required lessons. The Minister of education and other school representatives denied. Though negligible vacancies were reported it is a fact that several “reserve teachers” are employed to provide the required capacity. Many of them are student teachers without final qualification.

Parents are concerned about the promise “one sports’ lesson every day”. Lobbying came from the Federal Austrian Sports’ Organisation, confirmation and promise from political representatives. But neither teachers, nor sports’ facilities and required scheduling time are available. Should it finally be extracurricular activities paid by parents?

For about a year new legal regulations for teachers’ employment and career were negotiated. Parents’ representatives clarified not to engage in employment regulations. But they clearly demanded a better profiling of teachers’ duties focusing on the “fuzzy” out-of-classroom tasks (seeing parents, preparing lessons, correcting homeworks etc.). Media finally end in bashing the teachers’ trade union, trade union talks about strikes – and parents are annoyed that their demands have been completely ignored in the draft. Hopefully there will be a restart after governmental elections.

Dramatic decrease of non-teaching staff employed at Austrian schools: School psychologists as well as secretaries and house care personnel are not replaced after retiring. External services are provided but cannot replace the qualified persons. Parents’ concerns have not been answered by political representatives.

Newsflash from Board Members

Benedikte Ask-Skotte: Denmark right now!

We have this spring had a conflict between the teachers and the municipalities’. One month of lock-out. And this conflict is still making tracks in developing the school. The government has made a reform that right now is going to be law and start at the 1/8-2014.
Here are the main points of the agreement:
• A lesson in sports and physical exercise every day.
• Several hours into Danish and mathematics from 4th to 9th class.
• Students have English as early as 1 class.
• Students have German or French from 5 class.
• Craft and design, new subjects and replace woodwork and needlework.
• Home economics renewed for madkundskab.
• New National information center for history and heritage.
• Several electives from 7 class.
• The final exams should be given increased importance of inclusion in secondary schools.
• Increased parental influence and student involvement.
• Strengthened class management and reduced anxiety in elementary school.
• More flexible class formation rules with clearer emphasis on the parent class.
• All teachers should by 2020 have teaching skills - equivalent to the main subject - in the subjects they teach in.
• Training of school principals, teachers and educators in the school.
• Closer cooperation between teachers, educators, and staff with other skills.
• Corps of learning consultants.
• New Council for Children's Learning.
• A number of regulatory simplification of the Education Act so that municipalities and schools have greater freedom to organize teaching in school.

Bert-Jan Kollmer: From the Netherlands
This school year a new kind of school opened it's doors in the Netherlands, the Steve Jobsschool. A school founded by parents and making use of iPads for all the children. A schoolmodel in which the children are more in control of their learning strategy then on 'normal' schools. The teachers are more coaching then teaching. There are no strict time tables and the children might learn at home just as easy as as school, only the inspection won't allow that to a great extent. Of course the opinions in the Netherlands are divided. On the one hand the protagonists who are fond of innovation and believe in the selfsupporting capacities of their children. On the other hand the sceptics, who think every child needs structure and for example believe that children also should learn how to write. Where the truth lays is not the most important thing at this moment. More important it is to evaluate intensively and draw final conclusions afterwards. Eventhough my personal opinion is that if a major success factor for this new model is that the children are just as self-supporting and smart as Steve Jobs himself was, there won't be enough children in the Netherlands to fill even one half class room. And more then twelve schools opened their doors already. So we'll give it chance see afterwards.

José-Manuel Prats: The main issues that most concern at present of education in Spain
The parent involvement is scarce and limited to some aspects that the school can not provide (extracurricular activities, dining, etc..) 
The parent representation on advisory bodies and councils is not enough, since no less than 9%, when the parents are the primary educators. 
The amendment to the Education Act. There is a deep ideological debate and understanding of the education system. 
There are serious threats to the right of parents and schools to receive public funding for an educational service of public interest in quality they provide. 
There is a high rate of school failure (25-30%) and high rate of early dropout. 
There is no an homogeneous system of external evaluation of students. 
There is no system of evaluating teachers or schools. 
There is an imbalance between school failure and the number of students entering university. Vocational training is not prestigious neither effective. 
The ineffectiveness of learning second and third languages ​​(English, French, German ...) in the general education system (specially in the public schools). 
The lack of positive performance in the PISA results in the past nine years. 
The financial resources for education, both public and publicly funded: teachers, study grants, transportation, dining, etc..

Elzbieta Piotrowska-Gromniak: Polish projects in ICT
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS POLAND, in cooperation with NGOs, has launched Coding School programme in Polish primary schools. Parents in Education Association is one of three partners in this project and coordinates work of ten schools. Its aim is to disseminate programming lessons in schools in Poland. The Coding School test lesson had already taken place. Pupils aged 10-12 were invited to attend and give their try in programming. The coding  language that children are to learn is Scratch, developed in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Programming in Scratch is easy, as it uses simple commands which can be put together in a way analogical to Lego bricks to create a game, a media demonstration and other programmes. Despite its simplicity, Scratch gives the children almost infinite opportunities. The project aims to train approximately 70 teachers so that they will be able to teach basics of programming in their schools. Any methodological help will be provided throughout the scheme. Only in its pilot stage, the Coding School will cover 34 schools in Poland, train 70 teachers and 2.000 pupils. It will be continued in 2014. 

The second project of  is:"Khan Academy Plus - Creation of Educational Resources in the Warsaw. District of Education" has wan approval of the Office for Education of the Municipality of Warsaw and will be put into action starting October 2013.The resulting actions will focus on training teachers from Warsaw primary and secondary schools by parents with professional ITC skill.. Teachers will learn how to use educational resources like Khan Academy, about the "flipped classroom" concept, how to personalize education in their classroom and, most importantly, how to create their own educational podcasts a'a Khan Academy. It is assumed that with self-created tools teachers will be able most efficiently to convince their students about possibilities of internet-aided education.

Stefano Crico: The main issues for education in Italy at the present time
1. There is not a homogeneous system of external evaluation of students. There is a lot of difference in preparation and evaluation criteria among different regions in Italy (especially North and South). The system introduced so far has shown limitations. 
2. Quality of schools, especially in the public system, depends heavily upon the personal quality of the individual teachers. There is no system of evaluating teachers or schools in order to improve the overall quality.
3. Still there is lack to the right of parents and schools to receive public funding for the quality educational service of public interest they provide. 
4. Learning second and third languages (English, French, German, Spanish ...) is still far from being 
very effective.

Eszter Salamon: The nationalisation of the Hungarian school system and its effect
The Hungarian government has decided to nationalise and centralise the public school system. Their decision has been opposed by the educational politicians of the larger governing party. The decision heavily effected the decentralised system establihsed in 1993 that was based on subsidiarity and involvement of all stakeholders in the decision-making on school level. 
The main effects of the changes:
- uniform curriculum with a hugely increased academic content was introduced for all schools with a narrow choice of textbooks to be reduced to a uniform textbook for next year, leaving no time and possibility to competence building,
- at the same time all decision-making power of school heads were taken, they became simple administrators,
- reduced school leaving age from 18 to 16 with the possibility to participate at the labour market from 17 only,
- all students have to stay within the school building until 4 pm even if their lessons finish much earlier, they have no organised activities or the circumstances to do their homework; parents may ask the schoolhead to let the children go but he/she can deny this request without an explanation,
- all rights of school parental committees to participate in school were abolished - the official explanation of the government is that 'no layman will interfere with the teaching process and school life',
- policemen on duty became members of the teaching staff who are both responsible to the intitute centrally governing schools and the police; they have the right to 'use the reasonable physical enforcement if they think it necessary' in the school against minors,
- if a schoolchild-looking young person is in the street or at a public space during school hours, ordinary policemen are forcing him/her either back to school or to the police station,
- the workload of teachers was heavily increased from 22 taught lessons to 24-26 while they have to stay within the school building sometimes substituting, sometimes doing nothing (we are still unsure since the distribution of lessons in most schools is still not approved so those teaching the children don't even know if they have a job or not) resulting in time for both preparation and administration of 8 hours per week (about 15 minutes preparation time per lesson)
- the number of compulsory lessons was increased from 20 to 25 in 1st grade, from 22,5 to 28 in 5th grade and from 27,5 to 35 in 9th grade - it means that even 1st graders will have about 40 working hours per week including homework, going up to about 63 for 9th graders (changes were introduced at these three grades)
- a compulsory 5 PE lessons per week was introduced without any facility development which means that students have PE lessons in dangerous places like corridors, in the street or at odd hours,
- compulsory religious education or ethic up to the choice of parents was introduced with only the Catholic and Calvinist Churches and a sect undertaking these lessons, while the ethics curriculum is based on Catholic ethics, intolerant and a homophobic point of view,
- a 'great increase of teachers' wages' was announced creating very bad attitude towards teachers in the society while the increase doesn't equal to the increased workload; what is more as the structure of wages was modified those who are experienced and more qualified will even suffer a nominal income decrease.
Parents' associations like ESZME are taken aback by the lack of action from teachers' trade unions while trying to organise a total boycott of schools.