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Interview with João Dias from ARCIL on latest challenges and achievements in the SMILE Project


 

What are the main challenges you faced during the past year?

     After the Training of Trainer, the self-assessment of the schools and the preparation of the Action Plans, the teams from the schools were highly motivated to implement the suggested activities. Unfortunately, the quarantine period due to the pandemic circumstances, made it impossible to implement part of the activities and required changes in others.

     For ARCIL's team, the main challenge was to keep the motivation of the participants high, in order to move on with the implementation of the Action Plans in parallel to all the activities and adaptations required during the school closure time.

 What was your approach towards them? Did you (if yes, how) manage to turn them into opportunities?

     As we understood ARCIL's team was struggling with difficulties in the implementation of the project under the current circumstances, a consulting session with ELA's team of SMILE professionals was very useful to reflect about the next logical steps and new strategies to overcome the barriers that we were facing. From this meeting emerged the idea of having an inter-schools meeting to present the Action Plans and reflect about the work already developed within the SMILE project. This idea was presented to the school cluster's director and readily accepted and the meeting implemented online, as explicit in the attached pictures.

     After the inter-schools online meeting, the teams were again more mobilized to move on with the implementation of activities from the action plans, starting with a training session about the training method for pupils with language disorders and a workshop about best practices in the promotion of Emergent Literacy skills. 

     The dissemination of the project was also reinforced and the SMILE approach was presented within a national meeting of Centers of Resources for Inclusion within the HUMANITAS associated organizations. From May until now, there have been e-mail exchanges about the possibility of promoting a national training following the SMILE approach in order to persuade other organizations to use this evidence-based best practice.

     Other activities have been developing  with the schools, namely the:

-preparation of materials for dialogue sessions with parents, school assistants and teachers;

-compilation of evaluation and screening tools to early identify reading and writing difficulties;

-implementation of a screening program regarding reading and writing in the first two school years;

-accreditation and implementation of a training course for teachers (6 hours) about using UDL to improve teaching practices around literacy;

-implementation of a phonological awareness workshop with students and teachers from the first and second school year.

 

 

What are the main achievements in the project during 2020, give some examples? 

     Beside what has already been described, the main achievement were the reinforcement of the partnership between ARCIL, the schools and the Municipality and the creativity to find new solutions and methodologies to make the project work.

 

João Dias

Diretor Técnico de Reabilitação

ARCIL

 

The Smile Project is  

Here is how Greece is progressing after challenging 2020-21

 

The challenges that emerged from the collaboration with the schools is that all the participating institutions required an official approval from the Ministry of Education in order to commence their collaboration with us, and therefore the implementation of the Model in their school. In identifying the issues that occurred throughout the project, the bureaucracy involved in the aforementioned approval of the project’s implementation in schools, has affected the application of the Model’s timely implementation.

After the ToT training in Bulgaria, Four Elements had selected three schools to participate in the application of the Model, but the third school finally was not able to participate. This was the second challenge that we faced and, despite the fact that we replaced it with a new school, the responsible teacher informed us that we have to find for one more time another school. The latest updates and measures regarding COVID-19 offered another challenge, as all schools suspended their work not only in March 2020, but also now and at least until mid-January making it difficult to gather official documents, and organize project events. 

The main achievements in 2020 were the trainings that were complete in the selected schools, but maybe the most important achievement is that 1 of the school -2nd Peiramatiko Gymnasio Athinon- has completed the application of the model as it was the 1st school that we have selected and the responsible teacher, Mr. Lazaridis, with his team decided to deal with the topic “Partnership with parents” with a very crucial conclusion after the 1st quarantine and distance learning and this was that some students were differentiated in terms of their participation in the lessons, which is related to their integration into the school community.

We continue with our efforts at implementing the Model in Greek schools. 

The Smile Project is 

 

Implementing the SMILE Model in Romania

Fundatia EuroEd (www.euroed.ro) from Iasi is the promoter of the SMILE Model in Romania.

After the Training of Trainers (ToT) in Bulgaria, the SMILE team from EuroED embarked on the translation and adaptation of the “One School For All” Model to the Romanian context.

The SMILE team from EuroEd Foundation organised a focus group session with mainstream teachers, psychologists, speech therapists, support teachers and counsellors from several schools from Iasi, our city. After getting familiar with the “One School For All” Model and its self-assessment instrument the participants were invited to reflect on inclusive education and the application of the “One School For All” model to the Romanian context.

 

We contacted principals and counsellors from several schools and invited them to EuroED headquarters to present the project and its idea (inclusive education) and discuss their participation in the SMILE project. The schools we contacted are among our partners interested in creating an inclusive education environment and enhancing the quality of education in schools.

We chose three schools: two from the suburbs and one in the centre having a diverse background of the families (Roma, very young families who live abroad, well-off; poor, international).

Considering the context (the school year makes it difficult to have common trainings with all 30 participants) we planned to have two training sessions in each of the three selected schools and a final common one during the winter holiday (October- December 2019/ January 2020).

The three team members from EuroED (Elza Gheorghiu, Cosmina Paraschiv si Loredana Danaila) delievered the Smile training course to a group of 30 principals, teachers, and specialists. The training sessions were organized as workshops encouraging active participation and accompanied by the implementation of the ideas presented in the training session by each school. This strategy enabled schools to immediately apply to their context what they had been trained and then to discuss this with the other participants at the next sessions with a view to sharing their experience and improving it.

 

The participants were enthusiastic about the Model, especially its self-assessment instrument which allowed them to assess their school inclusive environment and devise an action plan to enhance the quality of their work in their school. They were confident that it will help them to improve the existing situation and implement inclusive principles in their own context (considering the four levels of indicator achievement).

 A SMILE Facebook group was created where teachers could share their experiences and keep in contact with each other.\

The SMILE Project is: 

 

Inclusive education context in Romania

Romania is aiming at modernising its education system. However, this process is advancing slowly. Spending on education remains low, especially in pre-school and school education; this affects the quality of the education system. Thus, early school leaving, the rural-urban gap and Roma and SEN children inclusion remain challenges (E.C, 2018a).

The EU average of low achievers in all three domains combined is 12.3 %. Romania has higher percentages of low achievement, with levels around 24 %. By failing to meet the minimum standards required, these students are most likely to face serious problems in their further education, on the labour market and later in life. Source: OECD, (2016) PISA 2015

A small number of schools have become inclusive schools since the 1990s. In Romania, children with disabilities have access to several types of schools depending on the severity of their disability. Children having minor, mild or moderate disabilities, learning difficulties, speech or behavioural disorders can access mainstream schools which provide them with support.  Special schools (which include children with severe disabilities) are organised according to the type of disability: motor, mental, hearing or sight. The Commission for child’s protection ensures the identification of disability.

The children from special schools can follow a mainstream, adapted or SEN curriculum. The duration of schooling can differ: for instance 9-10 years for mentally disabled.