InTrans Exchange Week: an encouraging meeting for seeds of change in ECEC systems
From Wednesday, May 18 to Friday, May 20, the InTrans project consortium organised a high-level networking exchange among policy-makers and key stakeholders in Copenhagen. The meeting involved 32 participants, including 18 policy-makers and stakeholders from Belgium (Flanders), Finland, Italy and Slovenia.
The policy exchange was organized in cooperation with BUPL (Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators), the InTrans project partner and host of the meeting.
The meeting aimed to support exchange and peer-learning opportunities among participants to reinforce structural, pedagogical and professional continuity in the educational systems in the respective countries. For this purpose, the program included a balanced combination of site visits — where participants gained knowledge from inspiring practices and policies on inclusive transitions, presentations on the Danish educational system and discussion groups amongst the participating policy-makers to critically reflect on the observed practices and experiences from hosting and other countries.
Preparation of the meeting
This meeting was preceded by a policy research work in four of the InTrans project partner countries. This work was led by the Department of Education of Bologna University. From this research, a baseline research policy report was developed for each of the countries, as well as an Executive summary of the cross-country policy analysis. This analysis included challenges and opportunities emerging from the cross-national comparison, and an overview of the ECEC systems in the countries, including Denmark (InTrans infographics).
To facilitate building a learning community among participants, a meeting booklet was developed. The booklet included all the relevant documents, agenda, description of the site visits and short bios of all participants to the meeting. The document was highly appreciated by all participants.
Presentations and panel discussions: Unveiling ECEC systems in the hosting and participating countries – challenges and opportunities
The meeting was held at the BUPL headquarters in a beautiful location right next to a harbour and it was facilitated by two members of the InTrans team: Nima Sharmahd (VBJK) and Zorica Trikic (ISSA).
Throughout the three days of the meeting, there were numerous interactive activities to help the participants get to know each other — resulting in a pleasant atmosphere facilitating both formal and informal exchanges during the sessions.
The Danish experts presented their educational system, and how they manage transitions between different levels of the system. During the first day of the meeting Mette Arnsfelt McPhail (Head of the Office for ECEC at the Ministry of Children & Education), and Elsebeth Aller (Head of International Affairs on primary school at the Ministry of Children & Education), explained the Danish context and how ECEC and primary school levels cooperate to support children and families during the transitions.
On the third day of the meeting, two panel discussions were organized. The first panel focused on collaboration among different stakeholders, underlying current challenges related to transitions and how they can be overcome. The panel discussion included representatives of BUPL (the trade union) Rikke Lauth, Head of the Department of Professional Issues, Dorte Lange, the Danish Union of Teachers, and Signe Nielsen, the president of the Parents Association for ECEC (FOLA).
The second panel focused on interprofessional collaboration and learning across ECEC and primary school, by presenters from Copenhagen University College. All the presentations and panels sparked interesting questions and fruitful discussions among and between the national teams. During the discussion, they were trying to connect lessons learned from the Danish context with their country's situations, as well as to see similarities and differences between the countries.
Gaining knowledge from inspiring practices and policies on inclusive transitions
On the second day of the meeting, site visits were organized to the Holbæk Municipality, where the participants, divided in three groups, had the opportunity to visit Knabstrup ECEC and school, Mørkøv ECEC and Kildebjerg school, and Galaxen ECEC and Jyderup school. The thematic focus of the visits was on pedagogical continuity between ECEC and primary schools.
Across the groups, participants were impressed and inspired by the political will at the municipal level to put the children’s interests front and centre in their policies. Observing first-hand how these practices are operationalised and how they contribute to effective collaboration between professionals (pedagogues and teachers) in the period of children’s transition between ECEC and primary school, was immensely powerful for the policy-makers and professionals present. This effective collaboration is underpinned by values and principles that already seem to be embedded in Danish society.
InTrans participants also learned from Lena Basse and Marianne Preus Sørensen (Center for Learning and Well-being), and Lene Thygaard and Mette Halling (Solsikken ECEC and Gislinge Primary School) how the project Playful Learning, organized by the Center for Learning and Well-being and supported by Lego Foundation, is contributing to the smooth transition from ECEC to primary school. More information about this project can be found here.
Overall, the meeting was seen by participants as a great success for many reasons.
Participants got to know each other on national and international level. They started planning future steps in putting the topic of transitions further on the policy agenda in their respective countries and in creating systemic conditions to support smooth transitions for children and families in ECEC and primary school.
They also learned from each other’s experiences and got inspired by good practices seen in Denmark or shared by colleagues from other countries.
This meeting surely contributed to the professional development of policy-makers and empowered them to think about smooth transitions for all children from ECEC, to primary school and beyond.