In Europe around 15 million children have Special Educational Needs (SEN) . They frequently leave school with few or no qualifications, before moving into specialist training. People with disabilities or SEN are much more likely to be unemployed or economically inactive, and even those who are relatively successful in the job market often earn less than their counterparts. The child with SEN remains far behind in reading-writing or reckoning in comparison with his/her intellectual abilities, with the amount of home and school exercises.
Unfortunately, there is a huge number of cases of children with SEN in the partner countries and also a constant increase of the teachers’ requests to be provided with training and informative sessions on this topic. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Communication Department of the applicant FSLI, 32.452 teachers would like to receive information and best practices on children with SEN, and 8697 of them want to take part in a training course in the next 6 months. The greatest interest relates to new teaching methods and the use of compensatory instruments in didactic activity (83 % of respondents).
Furthermore, in Romania, at the beginning of 2016, was adopted the Law 6/2016 on the education of people with specific learning disabilities for the completion of the National Education Law no. 1/2011. According to the law (art. 473), a Methodology should be developed within 90 days to provide the necessary support for pupils with learning difficulties to enable the law to be enforced and to change the status of these children in the Romanian school. It is the first time that dyslexia, dyscalculia etc are recognized by a law in Romania.
In Greece, when a child is diagnosed with a Specific Educational Needs, depending on the extent of the problem may go to a special school, which are either private or public (Special Education and Training Schools – SMAE). Nevertheless, for various reasons, many children remain to the normal schools, leaving the problem to be solved by the teachers, without having, in most of the cases, the proper specialization or tools.
Also the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research expressed the need to provide teachers with pedagogical tools and methodologies in order to acquire more articulated and cohesive skills and competences required to respond to the formative needs of subjects with SEN.
While the numbers of teachers in the Irish education system, including SEN teachers has increased over the past 15 years, many teachers lack adequate training on SEN to enable them to identify and effectively support students with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties/disabilities.
Given this situation, the main objective of MAGIC SENS is to enhance the skills and competences of teachers, teachers trainers and all those subjects from the educational chain in dealing with young people with Special Educational Needs such as specific learning disabilities, specific language problems, ADHD deficit (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ASD deficit (Autistic Spectrum Disorders) and Borderline Intellectual Functioning.
- Activation of a process of comparison between the countries participating in the project, based on an effective transnational cooperation which might affect the cultural paradigm of reference.
- Identification of good practices, legislation and methodologies related to the SEN issues in the partner countries in order to identify the most significant and effective tools, standards and policies that the different countries use and implement.
- Sharing of the results through the creation of a SEN Toolkit for teachers.
- Definition and creation of an Online Platform dedicated to all subjects from the educational chain that aims to strengthen the network and increase the quality of exchange between the project partners as well as to disseminate and maximize the project results at European level.
- Design and creation of an Online Training for teachers that could be implemented both online and offline, adapting it to the specific national needs and requirements.
- Dissemination of the project results to professionals through training courses, promotional campaigns, targeted meetings, social media and other information channels.
The implementation of this project at transnational and trans-sectorial level allows:
- To raise awareness on the strengths and weaknesses on the SEN issues in the educational sector.
- To facilitate the progressive change of the teaching methodologies from a static / external position – in which the difficulties of a SEN are simply ascertained – to a more dynamic / active position – in which it is really possible to answer to the needs of students with SEN.
- To create models of sharing and exchange of good practices and experiences.
With the aim to contribute to the rationalization and the empowerment of the educational methodologies for young people with SEN – in a transnational and trans-sectorial perspective – the project foresees several operational actions that start from the empirical investigation of the different teaching practices and arrive at the definition of approach strategies and operational tools for teachers and at the expansion of the logic of the graduated approach, with reference to the different contexts, in order to provide more quality, inclusive and targeted provision for subjects with SEN by enhancing the skills and competences of all those subjects from the educational chain.
In fact, partners strongly believe that by intervening directly on the professionals of the educational chain, this can contribute to guarantee a better quality of the services and a more inclusive education, to encourage the coordination and the cooperation of various actors (both at national and international level) and to increase the diffusion of knowledge and some specific tools on the issues regarding SEN among the education professionals.
The project foresees the realization of 3 Intellectual Outputs that will be translated in three languages (IT, GR, RO):
- SEN Toolkit for Teachers
- Online Platform
- Online Training for Teachers
- N.4 focus group at transnational level.
- N.4 dissemination seminars held in the partner Countries with at least 250 subjects informed on the activities and the results of the project.
Educational / training professionals who deal with individuals in the range of age 10-18 with Special Educational Needs such as specific learning disorders, specific language disorders, deficits from attention and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mild autism spectrum disorder and borderline or limit intellectual functioning. Each teacher/trainer holds primary responsibility for the learning of every student in the class and plays a key role in ensuring that the specific needs of students with disability and additional learning and support needs are met. In fact, their role should consist of:
- identifying and responding to the additional learning needs of students
- facilitating and coordinating a the approach to improving the learning outcomes of every student
- coordinating the planning processes and resourcing for students with disability and additional learning and support needs
- designing and implementing the supports required so that all students access quality learning
- developing collaborative partnerships with other teachers/trainers, parents and carers, other professionals and the wider school community.
Unfortunately, often teachers/trainers don’t have a proper specialization or tools to respond to all this key criteria. For this reason and with the aim to enhance and improve the skills of the professionals in supporting students with SEN, the last will be involved in the preliminary investigation of needs through:
- focus groups during which will be distributed questionnaires to identify and analyse their starting skills regarding the target of subjects with SEN;
- the definition of the methodologies useful to improve their performance;
- the definition and the production of the Toolkit that will represent their Reference Manual for dealing with young people with SEN;
- participation in seminars and the definition of the Online Training and the Online Platform.
As already mentioned above, the project aims to undertake an active collaboration intended as a community of practice, which is characterized with a continuous process of confrontation regarding both, a reflection on the issue of an inclusive and quality education / training for all and the continuous updating of teachers/trainers skills and competences for the definition of appropriate operational models and strategies, which can contribute to the definition of a recognizable profile and a minimum standard of competences for the support of subjects with SEN under a trans-sectorial and transnational perspective.
Thanks to the various types and numerous dissemination activities foreseen by the project, the indirect beneficiaries, in addition to the members of the Stakeholder Committees are:
- Students with SEN, ther families, the public and employment services in the various Countries involved;
- Supervisory authorities of primary and secondary education
- Directors of public and private schools.
- National Federations and unions of organizations for mental health
- Professionals who deal with children.
- Labor market organizations, for which the overall improvement in the performance of education and training for students with SEN, as well as the desired change in mentality and different cultural approach of the stakeholders of the sector, is certainly an added value.
The project foresees the involvement of at least 4000 indirect beneficiaries, even if one of the main functions of the Online Platform is to reach, without limit, anyone interested in the issues of SEN and in the various tools and / or methodologies for their concrete support. Anyway, a precise estimation of the number of the indirect beneficiaries cannot be made without taking into account the type of tool – a web portal – and its intrinsic characteristic of being accessible in a capillary and transversal manner.