The Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation launched Monday, 4th of June, the project “Prepared Teachers – Motivated Teachers”, implemented in partnership with the Association of Cognitive Behavioral Behavioral Therapies of Romania (APCCR) and the Federation for Rights and Resources for People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (F.E.D.R.A.).
The objective of the project is to develop, through continuous training, working skills with children with special educational needs for 400 teachers, 80 support staff and 26 management team members from 13 special and mass schools. The 13 schools were selected from 6 counties: Suceava, Botoșani, Prahova, Galați, Brăila and Vaslui, covering so 3 disadvantaged areas (North-East, South Muntenia and South-East).
The increased poverty rate and the significant number of children with special educational needs in the schools in these regions, coupled with the decrease in the number of school units (mainstream and special ones) and also with the lack of teacher training in working with children with special needs, lead to a decrease in the level of school inclusion of children with special educational requirements and, implicitly, to the increase of school abandonment.
The project starts from the premise that the diversification and improvement of teaching methods, their adaptation to children’s development and teachers’ use of new technologies in the teaching act can increase the chances of inclusion of children with special educational needs in the mainstream education.
The Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation and its partners are proposing a comprehensive training program consisting of an introductory course (in e-learning format), followed by a series of residential courses (face-to-face with the lecturer) and practice monitored online. Courses will address the following topics:
The project also responds to the need to train the support staff directly involved in providing the necessary support for the integration of children with special educational needs, as well as the training needs of the partner schools’ management teams.
The curriculum for the support staff will address the topic of desegregation and integration measures for children in school collectivity. The courses addressed to school managers will focus on attracting resources for schools, motivating and retaining staff and managing teacher-parent relationships.
Romanian Angel Appeal and its partners will be involved in all stages of the project: promoting the project and the training program, selecting the teachers, preparing and delivering the courses, coordinating the monitored practice and evaluating the training program.
The 13 schools selected as associate partners, of which 10 are special educational units and 3 are mainstream schools, serve a total of 2,849 children. Of these, over 65% are children with special educational needs, 28% of Roma children, 65% of poor families and 39% of rural people. The distribution of the 13 schools in the counties is as follows: 4 are in Prahova County, 2 in Botoșani, 1 in Brăila, 2 in Vaslui, 3 in Suceava, 1 in Galați.
During the preparation of the project, Romanian Angel Appeal conducted an analysis of the training needs among the teaching staff of the partner schools through a questionnaire applied on a batch of 16 schools and kindergartens from the 6 mentioned counties, obtaining 147 responses over three weeks.
The answers to the questionnaire highlighted the following:
– 34% of the interviewed teachers did not receive training in the last 2 years
– 97.95% of the respondents have or have had children with special educational requirements in the class
– 77.5% believe that their information and knowledge are NOT sufficient for working with children with special educational needs.
The topics proposed for the training courses were considered extremely useful by 80% of the respondents.
Studies conducted in recent years (RAA, 2011; Mareş G. and Toth A., 2015, Toth A., 2016) indicate a number of factors limiting the school integration of children with autism and their access to a quality education adapted to their development needs. These includes the low skills of teachers in working with children with special educational needs, the lack of material resources and support services tailored to the needs of children with TSA, the still unintegrated nature of social services, health and education, but also ignorance, stereotypes and prejudices by teachers or parents of typical children.
A quantitative survey conducted in 2015 on a sample of beneficiaries of counseling and assistance centers for ASD individuals of General Directorate for Social Assistance and Child Protection in 12 counties (Toth A., 2016) reveals that among children with ASD of school age (who have reached 6 years), 21% were still attending kindergarten, although they were about to be integrated into the primary school and 18% were not at all involved in educational system.
International studies show a close correlation between teacher competencies and reducing abandonment rates and between vocational training, motivation and educational performance, especially among teachers in special education.
In the context in which, in the last 15 years, major efforts have been made by civil society organizations to increase access to therapeutic interventions for children with autistic spectrum disorders, it is essential that there are teachers ready to work in an inclusive way with children with ESCs and especially with children with TSA.
The “Prepared Teachers – Motivated Teachers” project has a duration of 30 months, it has a value of 3,915,221.26 RON and is financed by the European Social Fund through the Call for POCU projects 2014-2020 73/6/6/105405 “Motivated teachers in disadvantaged schools “, The specific objective of the program being:” Improving the competences of teaching staff in pre-university education in order to promote quality educational services tailored to the needs of pupils and an inclusive school”.