Archive of European Projects

Supporting Social and Emotional Competences of Pre-School Children from Disadvantaged or Culturally Different Environments
Start date: 01 Sep 2014, End date: 31 Aug 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Pre-school and kindergarten classrooms are among the earliest social environments that a child encounters outside the family. For young children with different cultural backgrounds and social disadvantages, this transition can be a challenging one. As such, it is important that programs are in place in early education institutions to facilitate the integration of such special needs children with their peers and thereby promote social development across the board. However, many of the current educational systems do not do enough to address the needs of children who find the early school environment challenging as a result of learning disabilities or difficult backgrounds. Instead of being included, these children are often directed to separate schools or simply treated in a way that will only deepen their problems. In this spirit, five partner organizations from four European countries: England, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Wales have teamed up to develop and implement innovative methodology of inclusive pre-school education to support children with special needs, especially those coming from socially disadvantaged or culturally different environments. The key idea behind this partnership was based on an assumption, that instead of considering disadvantaged children to be an insurmountable challenge, Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) practitioners must be familiar with effective and proper ways to integrate and address the individual needs of such children. Each of the partners possessed the knowledge, experiences and methodological tools of work in different fields of inclusive pre-school education, which they brought into the partnership working towards the key project outputs. For example CEBEI, Wales had an explicit experience in Teacher Classroom Management tools. Open School from Slovakia put in their experience of work with Roma families and Tiny Signers from England brought into the partnership expertise in supporting children's linguistic and communication capabilities. Pedagogical Faculty of Masaryk University brought in research and teacher training skills. Schola Empirica has a long-term experience implementing projects focused on development of social and emotional competences of pre-school children in the Czech Republic. The project activities were directly related to the achievement of project goals: enhancement of competences of pre-school staff and providing them with the methodological tools for effective support of pre-school children and parents from disadvantaged environments. The international cooperation provided an opportunity for the development of ECEC methodology based on the international survey illuminating the needs and experiences of pre-school teachers in partner countries. The methodology of inclusive pre-school education based on the methods of work implemented and evaluated by the partner organizations constitutes an important outcome of the project. It provides a summary of methods and tools, which could be used in various cultural environments to improve social and emotional skills of pre-school children. Furthermore, the comprehensive comparative report on the ECEC in partner countries was completed providing information on the similarities and differences in the education policies with regards to the pre-school education of children from disadvantaged environments. This report provided for a comparative baseline necessary for the search of possible solutions to the problems faced and for further analysis of what measures could be effective in helping pre-school children to join and sustain in the mainstream education system across Europe. Next important aspect of international cooperation was a possibility to organize and implement joint training sessions for pre-school teachers from partner countries. The training program included information on different projects, activities, and methodologies of work with pre-school children and parents from socially disadvantaged and culturally different environments. The training also provided an opportunity for a discussion and exchange of information among pre-school educators across the EU creating the environment for innovation and change of approach to the current practices. The detailed training programs including the presentations in three languages (EN, CZ,SK) were compiled and publicized on the Internet site of coordinator and Erasmus plus platform to ensure, that pre-school teachers interested in the topics addressed by the project would be able to access the information and utilize it in their work. Last, The Good Practice Guide illuminating some of the difficulties when transferring the programs and activities for pre-school children into practice was prepared. The guide concludes with a comparative review of statistical evidence, implications of the survey outcomes, and recommendations for future analytical inquiry into the field of Early Childhood Education and Care in partner countries.
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