DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
Main actors involved
When, where and how the story took place
Technical and vocational school set in a declining industrial zone in the Liège suburb.
Following a reflection carried out in the school during the school year 2010-2011, on the initiative of the lower cycle reference educator, specific supervision was set for students in difficulties.
This supervision aims to foster students’ success through a mix of theory and practice (“learning differently” during a complementary year organised for students who fail in the first two years) as well as a partnership with parents.
This supervision aims to foster students’ success through a mix of theory and practice and a partnership with their parents.
The device is based on three topics “Truancy, Motivation, Behaviour”, for which the school follows three objectives: “being present at school”, “being active and succeeding”, “doing one’s homework at school if not at home”.
The school also adopted a “Charter” (in ten points) that fosters success, which parents and students are asked to respect:
1. I arrive on time everyday
2. My mobile phone is switched off and not visible
3. I am not wearing my cap and my coat is on the coatrack
4. I sit at once at the place assigned to me by the teacher
5. I bring my lessons and my school diary
6. I ask permission to speak
7. I respect the teacher and the students
8. If I do not agree with the teacher’s comment or instruction, I obey and wait until the end of the lesson to politely talk to the teacher
9. I work at once during the lessons
10. I ask permission to stand up.
The level educator is the kingpin of the device. He/she carries out supervision actions planned in the three topics and coordinates the whole process.
Beginning of term
• Parents are invited to an information session on how this complementary year works. With the help of a PowerPoint presentation “to learn differently”, the educator introduces the planned lessons and activities and the basic rules to respect: The student shall come every day (truancy is not allowed), the student shall respect the 10 rules of the Charter, the student shall possess his/her material at each lesson (math, sport, music, arts…) and 5 objects minimum that will be checked every morning.
The aim of this meeting with parents is to make them partners of the school. But few are present.
• For the students, the educational team organises two days of welcoming and activities (knowledge and cooperation games, common meals, presentation of the Charter …) to better know them and constitute balanced class groups.
• Daily text messages to parents in case of late arrival or absences, by the educator who check absences. This system has good results; students are less often absent.
• At the end of September calculates the student’s number of (un)justified absences. The educator sends the parents a mail informing them and asking them to cooperate.
• If truancy continues, the educator summons the parents in order to change the situation. They are received with a member of the CPMS (psycho-medical and social centre), because the cause of the problem is often external to school.
• Every morning, while the educator checks presences, the five indispensable objects to work in good conditions (planner, one binder per lesson, writing pad, pencil case, and ruler & pen) are checked.
• The educator invites parents to see their children’s creation in the various lessons: poems recitation (oral expression), meal preparation (cooking), creation of a poster (drawing), djembe playing (music) …
75 % of the families (parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters …) are present, while few parents came for the beginning of term activities.
Disruptive behaviour in the class
In a class, 20 students out of 40 “don’t want to” and have an inappropriate behaviour (late arrival, standing up without permission to pick objects in others’ pencil cases, criticising others’ works “crappy work”, refusing to accept teachers’ justified comments, talking without permission, encouraging other students to disturb the class …).
• When a student is expelled from a lesson and sent to the study hall, the educator sends a text message to the parents.
• If a student is expelled too often, the educator gives one hour detention (the student stays one hour more at school) and sends a text message to the parents. The educator fetches the student in class just before he/she leaves. They discuss but the sanction is applied.
This system works well for certain students, but not all, because of the family background There is a need to warn, but also to punish, because some parents cannot or can no longer.
• If the student does not make efforts to change behaviour, the educators write to the parents to inform them on the disruptive behaviours, asking them to discuss it with their child. It works sometimes, depending on the families.
• If there is no visible evolution, the parents are called for a meeting with the educator and CPMS, during which they search solutions together (to go into a reschooling service, a CEFA “Centre d’Enseignement et de Formation en Alternance”, to make contact with a SAJ “youth aid service” …).
• In case of failure, the dossier is sent to the education headmaster.
• In last resort, the student is expelled. But this is very rare because the school’s policy is to consider all the possibilities to keep the student.
Every day, the teachers inform the educators of undone homework. On the same day, the educator gives one hour detention. The student stays one hour more to do his/her homework. The educator fetches the student in class just before leaving and sends a text message to the parents.
The system works well but is not enough, because although the homework is done, once home the student does not study. At this level, the school is powerless.
Reasons why the story can be considered as successful
The device was first experimented during the school year 2011-2012. The actions conducted did not all succeed equally, but the initiators consider it gave good results.
For the school year 2012-2013, the device has been renewed, with some improvements, such as the systematic presence of a CPMS member during meetings with parents.
Starting point of the student
Students who fail in the first two years of mainstream education (common to all the schools in the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles) and go into the 1èreS or 2èmeS, additional years organised by the school to help them fill their gaps and acquire efficient learning strategies.
Students’ profile: truancy, class disturbance, lack of motivation, school failures.
Social and economic background of the family involved
Underprivileged areas, overwhelmed parents (e.g. a mother alone with her children).
Possible explanation of the success
• The device is simple and precise.
• The rules are well-known from the beginning of term (information session with parents/students).
• Immediate sanction in case of violation.
• Permanent contact with parents (daily text messages)
• Certain actions carried out are original: for instance, the detention hour to finish one’s homework when it has not been done.
• The educator’s daily commitment (text messages, mails and meetings with parents – presence and indispensable objects checking, fetching the student at the end of the class for the detention hour, dialogue with students, contact with teachers for undone homework and expulsion from lessons …)
Interaction between the different actors involved
There are many interactions between all the school actors and these are indispensable for the device to succeed:
• Daily text messages, mails, meetings between educator/parents
• CPMS/educator/parents meetings
• Daily educator/teachers consultation for undone homework and expulsion from class
• Weekly consultation (1h/week) educator/teachers to evaluate every student’s behaviour (truancy, motivation, class disturbance) and plan actions (such as, the educator’s appearance at the beginning and the end of each lesson …)
• Educator/students dialogue
• Homeroom teachers meeting to discuss with students (1h/week).
• Educational team meeting to evaluate the device
• Supervision of the project (follow-up and evaluation) by an external councellor.
Transferability potential of the experience
The experiment bets on:
• Permanent dialogue with parents, in every form (daily text messages, mails, meetings, extracurricular activities)
• Immediate sanction in case of violation by the student.
This experience seems easily transferable, for the device is simple. However, it requires important commitment from the educational team, particularly the educator, who is its kingpin.