British expert on inclusive education visited Veľká Ida

Mark Penfold is a British expert on inclusive education and he is an independent counsellor for the Council of Europe for Roma education. He has worked at Babington Academy in Leicester, United Kingdom, which is attended also by pupils whose mother tongue is not English. Among such pupils are Roma children from Slovakia and Czech Republic.

Mark currently works as an expert for the international pilot project entitled “INSCHOOL” which focuses on the inclusive education of Roma people. This project will be implemented in five European countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Great Britain. Ten trainers, five consultants for each country as well as several pilot school locations will be selected at which the project will soon be implemented. On his way back from a working meeting in Budapest, Mark stopped off for a visit with children and folks at our community centre in Veľká Ida. We explained to Mark our comprehensive ETP program which focuses on pre-school education, tutoring clubs as well as our Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment afterschool clubs. He expressed his pleasure attending the educational activities provided by ETP.

Mark stated: “I saw a pre-school educational event which was attended by several Roma pupils. The building was very clean and safe, and the teaching area was full of colourful resources. The children were happy, engaged and enthusiastic. The children were being properly prepared for grade 1”.  He also shared with us his critical insight: “Attendance was low and there are many more Roma children nearby who could benefit from attending.” Mark’s experience is that it is more effective in the long run to put forth the extra effort to get children to start attending. After a while, provided the experiences in the centre are positive, the children will pester their parents to let them go and then parents will likely develop trust in the value of the program.“

Mark also attended two FIE lessons delivered by ETP lecturers who had been trained in the Feuerstein method. He commented, “Both lessons were purposeful and the Roma pupils who were present were engaged and able to complete the teaching and learning activities. Both lessons were good but one of the teachers was exceptional. The lesson was mathematics but she encouraged the pupils to develop their use of Slovak language as well as their understanding of mathematics. Good use was made of active learning strategies and she always knew who had understood the last teaching point and who needed more explanation.  He added: “This teacher is so exceptional that I would like to see her talents applied to train/develop other teachers.“

Did Mark suggest that our colleague — a teacher of the afterschool FIE club in Veľká Ida — could possibly coach and provide consultation for teachers engaged in the INSCHOOL project? We support this idea for the near future.

Finally, Mark recounted:  “Later I went to the tutoring club which was attended by 13 Roma students. I was told it was not possible for the children to receive help with their studies at home since the school did not allow the children to take schoolbooks home.”  With this in mind, Mark suggested that ETP purchase the schoolbooks for children. We thank Mark for this excellent advice and we intend to follow through with such a purchase of books for the children to have as resources at ETP community centre. Thank you, Mark.