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Teachers Experiences

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TITLE OF THE EXPERIENCE
Attempts to support a primary school student with difficulties
NAME AND SURNAME OF THE TEACHER
A primary school teacher assigned to the internal reschooling unit
SUBJECTS TAUGHT
A primary school teacher assigned to the internal reschooling unit
COUNTRY
Belgium
THEMATIC AREA
Students with learning difficulties
DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
Where and when the experience happened
A school. School year 2010-2013.

Main actors involved (with special attention to the student’s profile)
• A 7 year old pupil, originally from Congo, starting his educational path. She previously attended kindergarten in another school where she already repeated the third year. Her parents are separated. Her father lives in Brussels and he rarely sees her. Her mother is raising her alone.
• 1st, 2nd and 3rd year primary teachers, the teacher assigned to the internal reschooling unit established by the school.

Sequence of events
1st primary school year (school year 2010-2011)
From September 2010, the pupil shows learning difficulties in basic areas such as maths, French and discovery. She also has problems in oral expression. These difficulties had already held her back in the 3rd year at the kindergarten.
In October 2010, the primary teacher suggests her mother some remedial sessions, which she accepts. They will be delivered by the teacher assigned to the internal reschooling unit and by another primary teacher.
In January 2011 the pupil makes no progress. An IQ test is made by the Psycho Medico-Social centre (CPMS in French). The pupil scores less than 85 (normal IQ), which confirms her difficulties.
The school stakeholders keep her mother informed and they invite her to orientate her education choice to specialised studies. Her mother categorically refuses.

Actions undertaken to identify the reasons of pupils’ difficulties
• The school has established a “roadmap” system for each pupil. In this file, which follows the pupil during all her school path, teachers record the difficulties encountered, the solutions undertaken (internally and with the help from external organisations) together with the contacts with her family.
• This tool is the basis of the stakeholder’s work at the internal reschooling unit established by the school. This stakeholder develops some learning support activities, work methods, coaching for pupils with difficulties sent by his colleagues.

Actions undertaken to solve the situation and the problems met
Following her mother’s refusal to make a change on her daughter’s school orientation, the school suggests other solutions:
• Monitoring by a speech (therapist (not reimbursed by social security). Her mother refuses for she does not have enough money.
• Monitoring by a Child rehabilitation centre (where the CPMS could obtain a place at the start of the new school year in September 2011). Her mother refuses because the centre is too far.
• Monitoring by a closer rehabilitation centre (where the CPMS has signed up the pupil for the waiting list). Her mother accepts but she does not give any follow-ups.
Between March and May 2011, many meetings are organised in vain to convince the mother.
On the report dated to June 2011, it seems that the pupil does not have the skills to get to the second year at primary school (45% in maths, 62% in French and 39% in discovery). The school suggests again the mother to send her to specialised education. She refuses.
The pupil nevertheless gets to the second year, since there is no repetition in the same cycle, the school cannot obtain any exemptions and the pupil was already held back in the third year at the kindergarten.
2nd year primary school (school year 2011-2012)
The pupil keeps the same primary teacher. The remedial sessions continue but new difficulties arise: the pupil seems lost, uncomfortable, sad and she loses trust for learning.
In November 2011 the school suggests again to the mother to send her daughter to specialised education and to accompany her this time to visit many institutions.
The mother asks for time to think and pray. “Decision is up to God”. “God will help her daughter to better understand and work”. She asks for an extension until January 2012. Meanwhile, it seems that the young girl is epileptic and she has stopped all the treatments without medical advice, because God will help her to heal her epilepsy.
In February 2012 her mother is summoned for a new meeting. She does not come and raises her voice, questioning the primary teacher’s professional skills. Communication with her family is broken.
The school, with the help of the CPMS, refers to the “consultative commission of specialised education”.
In June 2012 the parents are summoned by the commission and they attend it with the CPMS. The CPMS puts some pressure on parents by threatening them to contact Youth Social Services for abuse of their daughter, if they do not attend the meeting. At the end of the meeting the father accepts to visit some specialised schools during school holidays but the mother still refuses. However we do not know if the father has taken the steps he was committed to.
Despite her bad results on the report at the end of the year and of the external evaluation (51% in Maths, 63% in French and 42% in discovery), the pupil goes to the 3rd year.

3rd year primary school (school year 2012-2013)
The pupil’s primary teacher has changed. Problems persist, especially in reading. The remedial sessions continue.
The primary teacher suggests to strengthen language adaptation at school: to help the child better understand the words, the instructions, the specific school vocabulary.
This time the mother cooperates and follows her daughter’s learning. Even her father is more involved in her life.
At the end of the year, the pupil has made some progress but her bad results persist (53% in maths, 53% in French, 46% in discovery). Nevertheless she gets to 4th year.

4th year primary school (school year 2013-2014)
The pupil keeps the same primary teacher.
In September 2013, the pupil still experiences the same difficulties in reading, in working alone, in understanding instructions, …
In October 2013 the primary school teacher starts working on instruction reading in view of external exams that will be held at the end of the year.
The monitoring should continue until the end of the year. The school is not sure that the pupil will manage to succeed external exams.

Results Obtained
None! The pupil passes from one year to another one like her mother wants, despite her persistent difficulties and bad results. Her later success is seriously compromised.

Support received by fellow pupils, colleagues, directors and parents
• The school operated in teams (the two primary teachers, the substitute primary teacher of the internal school support committee, the direction, the CPMS …). All the stakeholders are on the same wavelength in terms of the need of a specific support to the pupil through specialised teaching.
• No supports from parents (absence of her father, religious believes, financial issues …). Conflict with her mother.

Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
This experience shows how difficult it is to communicate with certain foreign families whose cultural environment and religious believes totally differ from ours and how difficult it is for parents to accept their daughter’s enrolment in a specialised education.

Strengths:
• School stakeholders have worked together
• The school does not abandon the pupil and tirelessly suggests some remedial solutions to her mother.
• From the change of the primary school teacher, the situation slightly improves. It seems that communication is better between the primary teacher and the mother and/or the family has become aware of their daughter’s difficulties.

Weaknesses:
• Solutions set up by the school from the beginning of the school career are not enough for the pupil’s improvement.
Her success in following external evaluation and her improvement are completely uncertain.
• School stakeholders at all levels do not manage to convince parents to specifically take charge of their daughter.
• All energies are focused on the conflict opposing the family to the school at the cost of the most affected one.
• The pupil will probably never go to specialised education since she passes all years anyway.
• Either, the school is wrong in its diagnosis and needs question itself : 1st and 2nd year primary teacher’s perception, CPMS skills, the IQ test, the skills of the consultative commission for specialized education… Then the whole school system proves itself inadequate.
• Or, the family is programming a disordered path for the young girl: Getting nowhere in primary school, Certificate of Primary Education probably failed, differentiated framework at primary school, even early school leaving and subsequent integration difficulties.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2014.08.19

Posted by Murat Demirbaş (Turkey)

Message: As my colleage mentions, we see two most striking factors we should take into consideration the former of which is student and his/her inefficiency in learning, social or cultural and student environment which can be seen one of the problems that affect the student’s learning. We should also keep in mine that it is not the only one. I believe that for the best solutions of many problems whether it is small or big depends on timing. That is to explain, the earlier the problem is diagnosed, the better the solution is. The solution also depends on the cooperation between the parents and the school in the phase of solving the problem. We see that the school identifies the problem. It invites one of the parents who were seperated. But they always refuse to come to the school. Accordingly, this causes the problem to grow. Year by year, the student becomes more unsuccessful. It does not matter anything for the parents although it matters for the school itself. Bu the school does not do the same thing as the parents do. They do not ignore the student. They are ready for doing everything so as to come over the problem. It becomes successful in doing this. It helps the student in many respects. She becomes more confident. She believes she can achieve whatever she wishes. I also believe that she has difficulty because her family does not have enough education. They do not know how they can help their daughter to handle this difficulty. At least, they do not know how they don’t make their daughter feel her parents’ absence. That she feels herself apart from her each of parents can cause her to have difficulties in learning. She can feel dismotivated. She can feel stressfull. Therefore, her parents can have a great place in her learning difficulty. Another factor that affects her learning is differences in terms of culture. There may be some different rules of the host country from her native country. She can think what she will do will be seen as an appropriate thing. So she cannot do what she wants. And again she feels herself alone, which contributes to her difficulty in learning.

Date: 2014.05.29

Posted by ANA ISABEL PARRADO VALVERDE (Spain)

Message: STUDIED IN THIS CASE, YOU MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT TWO MAJOR FACTORS:
- STUDENT AND LEARNING DIFFICULTIES
SOCIAL - CULTURAL AND STUDENT ENVIRONMENT (SOURCE OF A FOREIGN COUNTRY WITH DIFFERENT CUSTOMS, DENIAL OF SUPPORT BY THE MOTHER PARENTS SEPARATED)

ABOVE FACTORS ARE VERY INTER- AS ENVIRONMENT TO BE ONE OF THE CAUSES OF LEARNING DISORDER, BUT IS NOT THE ONLY.
THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL IS VERY IMPORTANT IN THE TEACHING - LEARNING STUDENT, BUT IS NOT THE ONLY ONE. THE FACT OF THE DETECTION FROM VERY EARLY AGE OF PROBLEMS IN THIS PROCESS IS ESSENTIAL FOR BETTER MANAGEMENT. IT IS NECESSARY FOR ALL THE SUPPORT OF COMMUNITY EDUCATION, INCLUDING PARENTS, WHICH WOULD RESULT WITHOUT ANY ADVANCE IMPOSSIBLE OR COLLABORATION FROM SCHOOL AS THEY OFFER. YOU SHOULD SEE HOW STUDENTS LEARN. IT IS NECESSARY TO COVER ALL YOUR COGNITIVE VARIABLES ON SCOPE AND MOTIVATION AND SPECIFIC DISORDERS . ANALYSIS DONE THIS ONCE, AND OF COURSE, THE INFORMED PARENT HAVE TO DESIGN THE BEST SOLUTION FOR EVERY STUDENT.
HOWEVER, IF THERE IS SMOOTH COMMUNICATION BETWEEN SCHOOL AND FAMILY, BREAKING THE CHAIN. BREAK THE CONSEQUENCES OF THAT INFLUENCE STUDENT IN QUESTION, WHICH PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO STEP INCREASE IN THE YEARS, AND THAT WOULD GIVE A LONG INTEGRATION PROBLEMS OR NEGLECT IN SECONDARY EDUCATION.
DISPUTES BETWEEN THESE SCHOOLS AND PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES ARE FREQUENTLY EVERY ONCE IN OUR COUNTRY, AND ALL I WANT FROM SCHOOL IS THAT MOTIVATE STUDENTS, THAT SINCE ITS PROGRESS AND PROBLEMS MAY BE OBTAINED A REWARD FINAL MAN THEM FOR FUTURE. WHILE FAMILIES BEFORE WE ACCEPT THOSE FACTS BEFORE WE CAN HELP THE STUDENT AMONG ALL.

Date: 2014.05.28

Posted by Mariapia Piemontese mariapia.piemotnese@libero.it (High Secondary School Country: Italy)

Message: The case that will be described provides an interesting example of how complex situations are, in which a child or an adolescent has to face learning difficulties and, in addition to this, there is also the issue of communication between school and family: this is particularly complex when the family involved comes from a foreign country and it brings with expectations, habits and ideas that do not easily comply with the school system in which the student is included.
In that specific case, although the hard work of the school which had immediately acknowledged the learning difficulties of the girl and her need of specialized teaching, results have been negative. Her family rejected teachers’ suggestions basing the rejection on economic, logistic and fatalistic reasons.
Her parents lacked the awareness of how important school education is, both for individual development and future social integration. One wonders if parents’ attitude would have been different if a boy had had learning difficulties instead of a girl.
For its part, the school has showed how difficult giving proper and definite educational answers to different prospective situations is. All school staff’s energies and efforts have been directed to make parents accept the answer that the Belgian primary school envisages in these cases: that is to say, moving to another special school.
Once the family has rejected this kind of solution, there were no alternative solutions to opt for in such a short time. Only in the third year, after changing teachers, new educational strategies have been proposed in the class. This new methodological approach has allowed a better confrontation with the parents, and, above all, has showed a little improvement in the girl. However, these improvements will not be enough to positively conclude primary school; one wonders if a more flexible educational approach since the first year, would have given better results.

Date: 2014.05.27

Posted by Oana Acsinie (Romania)

Message: It is impressive how the school tried to help this girl, despite her family's refuse to cooperate. It is sad that children still suffer because of their parents lack of education, because of the cultural differences between their home country and the new country.

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.