DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Faced with whole classes of students that did not pass year, the João Roiz cluster of schools ( 2010/11) conducted a survey with the students and identified the concern that when students were 15 or over and still attended the 8th and 9th years, they were at risk of failure or school dropout. The survey aimed at understanding which were the areas that might interest these students and as a consequence, the. the School Board was able to put forward a proposal for several 9th year professional/vocational training courses that might have the potential to engage these students, might contribute to develop their social and life skills, and might prevent retention, school dropout and risky situations. The following vocational course (Education and Training course -CEF), was created, approved by the central government:
(a) type 3, level 2 course on Installation and Operation of Computer Systems (IOSI) with 17 students: 12 males and 5 females, aged between 15 and 19 years, in 2011/2012. All students had a very poor attendance record, with year repetition. They had the highest retention rates in the 7th year- 41% ; 8th year-29% ;9th year- 65%.
Through a project that involved professionals of diverse areas (Social Worker; three Social Service Trainees; the Course Coordinator; the Head Teacher; Course Teachers, the Director of the course, a Technician from an External Project named "Vida a Cores" (Life in Colour); a Psychologist and an Education Specialist of the Amato Lusitano association), the two most fragile aspects of the class were emphasized: its lack of motivation and blurriness as to their vocational profile, and their difficulty in organizing themselves and finding suitable working methods.
As a consequence, a project of vocational guidance was designed in order to support the student’s vocational identification and resolution, with the help of the External Technician from Amato Lusitano Association. Information and clarification on courses, study plans and professional output was provided to these students. This contributed to the success of this project, since the students were finally able to identify a vocational/professional area they would like to get involved in and actually took the resolution to do so.
It should be noted that these students with significant failure rates in their school careers ended the 3rd cycle of schooling successfully, with a clear understanding of what they needed to accomplish, identifying goals and defining specific objectives. All students continued their studies into professional courses.The vocational course was a positive response to students at risk of failure/school drop-out, due to the practical aspects of the course, flexible curriculum plans and financial support that ensured the continuation of studies to students from poor families.
The success of this story has to do with the professional/vocational guidance that was made available in the school and through the school, in partnership with external technicians from Amato Lusitano Association, and the professional/vocational characteristics of the courses created fo the students. The curricula of these courses fostered visits to professional and secondary schools and other outside school activities that were much valued by the students.
Another successful aspect was the effort put into the information and clarification provided on courses, studies and vocational plans, which helped students to identify a vocational learnng path and take resolution to follow it. This definitively improved their school attendance records.
Furthermore the students were involved in the exploitation and training of their own personal, artistic and social skills, they were encouraged to do group work, to follow rules and to apply effective working methods, which contributed to their academic success. Interpersonal relationships were also promoted through these courses. The work culminated in a performance they did for their families and for the community,with the support of all the professionals involved, and the commitment of all students and their families. This iniciative became a success and demonstrated that team work is rewarding.
The success of this story is due to the articulation of actions from different educational actors in and out of school. What motivated the students in particular was not just the use of theoretical referentials, but visits to companies, and professional traineeship in them. These constitued an additional motivation strategy, because students viewed these experiences as a path to the future.