Anecdotal evidence suggests that Comenius activity can have a direct impact on enhancing professional competency and supporting school improvement. A recent Comenius Partnership aimed to achieve both outcomes, with a focus on inclusive school improvement, encouraging staff to develop leadership skills within their own work area.
The partnership between Holy Cross and All Saints School in Salford, Mater Dei National School in Dublin and Kesklinna Kool in Tartu, Estonia, all representing areas of significant or serious disadvantage, supported the mobility and professional development of all staff members; teachers, teaching assistants and site maintenance staff from Salford were all involved in a project meeting in Dublin.
All three schools agree that School Improvement Planning has been enhanced as a result of involvement with the project and that Comenius has offered opportunities to enhance planning workshops and invite a variety of experts to visit and work with the children in their schools.
Estonian staff feel that their school is more open to new ideas because of their involvement in the project. Staff at Mater Dei in Dublin are particularly pleased with what they see as the greater personal development of the children. At Holy Cross and All Saints in Salford, the process of planning for school improvement now involves all staff, resulting in greater staff ownership of school planning. The project has enabled the school to focus more clearly on key issues and find ways to plan for them.
Major school improvements, simply ideas at the beginning of the project, have now became reality, with the project adding a further dimension to their success. All the schools were involved in creating each others’ school improvement plans and were able to celebrate together when things were achieved, such as the launch of Mater Dei School’s new family centre, the planning and opening of which was due in part to Comenius partnership work.
The partner schools appreciate the fact that all children from 3-11 years of age are included in the project. International Walk to School weeks in May and October each year were just one example of how the schools sought to improve their children’s health with a joint activity. Mater Dei is situated in a particularly deprived area of Dublin; staff noted that many children had not been as far as the city centre and they felt that the project had contributed to the broadening of the children’s horizons.
Attractive displays in the partner schools provide both celebration and information about the work of the project. When staff visit each others’ schools the children are excited about sharing what they know about other cultures and show their awareness of what the Comenius link is for.
Through their links and cooperation, all partners feel that they have fulfilled their aim of developing school improvement planning and leadership skills, as well as increasing understanding of each others’ cultures.