Today's school is not suitable for today's children - can a critical mass of parents demanding change created?

The European Federation of Conflict Management and Treatment in Education and Care (EFeCT) held Badkid, its 7th International Meeting in Budapest. I had the opportunity to participate at the event and initiate an open space discussion on the topic „What can be done to change perceptions and systems to prove most ’badkids’ are actually ’goodkids’? The lively discussion raised a few good ideas.  

The participants of the event were mainly professionals dealing with children bearing a SEN-laben (Special Education Need). In the discussion group we have agreed that there is a very interesting situation now. Even a few years back only a very low percentage of children were considered SEN, but today there is a critical mass, at least over 20% of children simply do not fit in traditional schools.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that children of today and school of the last century are simply not compatible, but policy makers do not seem to notice it. One of the ideas raised was that we have to make scientific evidence a strong case, but not only on itself, but also financially as this is the language policy makers usually understand. We have agreed that is also important to change teacher training, but we did not agree whether a different type of training is destined to change teaching or good innovative methods will slowly get into training after they made a change on small scale. There was an agreement on the importance of positive feedback – both professional and public – to those who do good.

We have discussed how committed professionals and parents raise the awareness of the general public. We seem to meet a typical behaviour every day: parents tend to accept schools that are a waste of time or straightforward unsuitable for their children remembering their own school years that were also boring and useless, but the children must bear it as they have survived themselves. We were trying to find some key idea on how we can make parents notice that this is not necessary, but school years can actually be useful and fun. The participants came to the conclusion that use of a simple language is key as well as playing on feelings instead of logics. Good experiences can be spread using grapevines, local and wider, and it will hopefully result on substantial upscaling of methods that work. In times when most people are consumers in the traditional meaning of the word, one suggestion was to build a strong brand of modern school and 'simply' sell it to parents.  

The organiser of the event, the European Federation of Conflict Management and Treatment in Education and Care (EFeCT), founded in November 2007, is vested in Ghent, Belgium.  EFeCT is a network of organizations and individuals who believe in strength based programs for working with young people; they have a particular interest in the Life Space Crisis Intervention model and the work of Reclaiming Youth International.  EFeCT currently has members from 8 European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Romania and Hungary.  The main goal of EFeCT is to gather and discuss critically the information and scientific studies about methodologies in conflict management.  The population they wish to delineate consists of children and youths who display disruptive behaviour.  Together they aim to promote strength based approaches and to further the interventions with troubled and troubling youths that empower them and allow them to become satisfied and productive citizens. Every year the EFeCT group gathers in a different country to address the most relevant issues in the field. 

EFeCT and EPA is considering possible joint projects in the future.

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