From 14 to 16 June, Léargas, in collaboration with Early Childhood Ireland, hosted over 50 people from 14 European countries to discuss the challenges and the successes of participating in the Erasmus+ for those working in the early childhood education and care sector.
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for supporting education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. Léargas is the national body for Erasmus+ in adult education, school education, vocational education and training, and youth. It manages international and national exchange programmes in these areas and connects people in different communities and countries.
Over the three days, several presentations covered topics as varied as policy developments in the ECEC sector in Ireland and the impacts of international CPD on outdoor settings and the impacts of the Erasmus+ programme on schools.
There were also workshops and discussion groups where groups examined the policies, priorities and challenges facing the ECEC sector, how Erasmus+ might benefit staff and institutions and what changes or improvements are needed in the training and development of staff in the sector.
A major takeaway from this event was the number of benefits that can be taken from the Erasmus+ programme. In a presentation by Kieran Brosnan, a teacher in Holy Family Senior School, it was shown that the programme can impact the participants, the learners, and the organisation, and it can also have a systemic impact.
The impact on those participating in the programme included gaining new knowledge and viewing new ways of doing things. The programme can also help broaden the participants’ minds and increase their job satisfaction. A key part of the programme also involves building positive relationships.
The impacts on participants can be transferred to those they teach. The effects on learners include experiencing new approaches to teaching and learning and being taught by upskilled and more motivated teachers.
The benefits of the Erasmus+ programme can spread throughout an organisation. The programme also aids in building positive relationships between settings and promotes a European dimension to the setting.
The systemic impact of the Erasmus+ programme includes having new approaches, new subject topics and changing the approach to interactions with students and parents.
Sharon Skehill and Lisa Flaherty showed how Léargas trips impacted their early years practice. Their trips included one to Norway, which focused on learning more about outdoor settings, and another trip to Iceland, which involved learning about how support transitions from pre-primary education to primary education.
The trips impacted their setting’s curriculum by influencing them to implement more of a Steiner and Froebel approach to their early years programme. The trips also encouraged them to engage more with nature in their setting and to use a slow pedagogy. They took ideas such as outdoor sleeping from their trips and more place-based learning for the children.
The trips also helped reinforce the staff’s sense of professional identity, showing them how important their roles are. Their visits to Norway and Iceland encouraged them to embrace the outdoors and had a massive impact on the quality of interactions between them and the children.
Early Childhood Ireland’s own Fiona Kelleher did a presentation on validation of non-formal and informal learning for childminders and talked about her involvement in the ValChild Project, a Key Action group 2 project funded by Erasmus+. A Key Action 2 project involves supporting strategic partnerships to facilitate sharing of good practices, supporting capacity building to work at an international level, and innovating and developing ideas. Other partners in the project included Greece, the Netherlands, France, and Portugal.
ValChild had three main objectives. These included developing a validation mechanism for childminders to make their knowledge, skills and competencies recognised and visible, supporting low-skilled childminders to find learning pathways to further training and qualifications, and supporting the integration of harmonized validation practices by relevant stakeholders across the EU.
The results from the project include developing validation requirements and criteria, an assessment and validation toolbox, and a recommendations and certifications scheme. The outputs from the project can be found here.
Personally, the main highlight of the event was being able to discuss policies and challenges that the sector faces in different countries with people from all over Europe. In these discussions, the difficulties the sector faced in each country were compared and ways to go about dealing with them were examined. New ideas and insight were taken from these discussions but most of all, these exchanges of views left all invigorated and ready to tackle whatever the issues they face back home.
If you have any questions on the Erasmus+ programme, the work of Léargas or you would like to engage with us, please contact our policy team.