Beda Hallberg Upper Secondary School

Beda Hallberg Upper Secondary School

Submitted by Anna-Lena Näsström, head teacher of Beda Hallberg Upper Secondary School from Sweden

This is a good practice for Teacher in English concerning: 

cross-sectoral cooperationimproving school climatemotivating students for learning

Abstract

Beda Hallberg Upper Secondary School – starting a new school with flexible arrangements based on students’ individual courses of study. The idea is to start a school based on many of the “school success factors” where the staff is working to meet the individual needs of students: Provides an alternative upper secondary school format with: Flexible individualized, inclusive structure, student-centered, holistic instruction, formative assessment approaches. Staff focus not only on the student, but on the whole human being and his/her well-being. An underlying organized principle is that trust-based relationships with students have a major impact on educational performance. The relationship between teacher and student is at the core of all instruction/education

The school is mainly targeting two categories of students; firstly, those who are looking for a small, local, municipal alternative and who apply directly after finishing lower secondary school and secondly young people aged 16-20 who want to return to their studies again after having dropped out of school. Some of them are referred directly from the other schools while others have been identified by “the municipal information responsibility”, in cooperation with social services, employment services, NGOs and other actors. The school targets students who, for various reasons need a more flexible school format. Some students are pursuing an athletic career alongside with their academic studies, and others need a slower/faster pace of study due to their life situation or learning disabilities etc.

The results are manifold: the school which started in 2013 is implemented in the municipality and has grown to encompass a student population of about 90 (2015),and today is an important part of the municipal strategy to support all young people to finish their upper secondary education. 

Introduction and context

The alternative school is located in a municipality in the south west of Sweden, a total population of about 80 000. About 20 000 live in the main city. There are two very large upper secondary schools in the municipality with student populations exceeding 1000. A smaller, less formal alternative was missing for students who were at risk, and who did not feel at home in the larger institutions located just outside of the main city centre. The Beda Hallberg school is located in a building in the main city of the municipality. There are no traditional large classrooms in the school, the setting is designed to be more home-like, there are no staff-rooms – staff and students are together all day, eat together and have breaks together.

Why

The root of the problem was that many students in the municipality did not finish their upper secondary diploma, and many of them dropped out of school into a NEETS situation. The management and politicians agreed that a more flexible alternative school was needed to accommodate for the needs of a diverse student population.

From the beginning the management and decision makers in the municipality were all involved in the process of starting the school, hiring the principal and leadership team. The team planned for the physical arrangements and recruitment process of students and remaining staff. The school mainly targets two categories of students; firstly those who are looking for a small, local, municipal alternative and who apply directly after finishing lower secondary school and secondly young people aged 16-20 who want to return to their studies again after having dropped out of school. Some of them are referred directly from the other schools while others have been identified by “the municipal information responsibility”, in cooperation with social services, employment services, NGOs and other actors. The school targets students who, for various reasons need a more flexible school format. Some students are pursuing an athletic career alongside with their academic studies, and others need a slower/faster pace of study due to their life situation or learning disabilities etc.

What

 

Success factors:

  • Support among municipal decision makers/key actors behind the decision to establish the school.
  • Cross-sectorial collaboration - networking and cooperation among local municipal stakeholders/decision makers – such as educational providers, employment agency, health providers etc.
  • Collaboration between the schools in the municipality and between teachers through regular conferences/meetings/collaborative projects etc.
  • Educational leadership- strong commitment and collaboration between staff, students and teachers. The head teacher works closely with the workgroup and has regular contact with both staff and students. 
  • Quality control – continuous professional development and school development efforts and assessment of progress for students and the organisation – systemic reviews
  • Intense follow-up (progress of students, individuals and groups)
  • Holistic approach to students´ education – life skills as well as program of study
  • Flexibility – student-centered instruction as well as organization (needs of students guide the development of instruction/curriculum/structure)

Structure/features of the alternative school:

  • Alternative setting – school located in building in town, no traditional large classrooms, home-like setting, no staff-rooms – staff and students are together all day, eat together and have breaks together
  • Breakfast (before school starts) to provide a good start on the day and social time in accordance with holistic approach to the youth’s development
  • A homework free school – students who lack support and possibilities to study at home get help at school to finish work
  • Extended access to special education teachers
  • Mentorship support to students from staff and access to extended counselling
  • Student health and occupational guidance are integral elements (for example teachers and career advisor work together to cross-reference the two professions). 
  • Access to qualified study and careers guidance help students to find the right study path. 
  • Collaboration with the outside world raises status and increases motivation. At Beda there is collaboration with companies and organisations in the community.
  • Individual programme of study, schedule, course work, study pace, support for different learning styles, etc  
  • Focus on skills and competences, individual objectives, holistic view of students, support of skills related to key competences needed for everyday life, and life-long learning  
  • Structured induction process with, among others, focus on “10 good habits” (nutrition, physical education, positive thoughts, to keep out of stress, to learn new things, repetition, variation, decision-making, friends and to laugh often) and the training of different skills, analysis, communication, empathy, study techniques, self-knowledge, criticism of the sources, creativity, problem solving and co-operation. The induction process serves to create a secure, positive working climate within the programme. 

Pedagogical approaches and support (prevention):

  • Strong focus on positive relations - positive approach to make the students feel comfortable and able to benefit from their education. Staff believe in the ability of the student and treat them with respect as unique, equal individuals. 
  • Focus on objectives (formative approaches)– emphasis on results and constant feedback from the subject teacher. 
  • Quality through cooperation and participation – staff learn from one another and involve students in development work. 
  • The ability to identify and meet student needs. Procedures guarantee close follow-up on student’s results, while at the same time effective use is made of the skills of staff in the student health service. 
  • Authentic learning – work in interdisciplinary projects – collaboration with the outside world, project work in cycles varied with more subject-specific skills training 
  • Subjects studied in blocks, to avoid too many subjects being studied parallel
  • Structured format of school day in longer study periods to avoid fragmented learning etc.

Staff focus not only on the student, but on the whole human being and his/her well-being. An underlying organized principle is that trust-based relationships with students have a major impact on educational performance. The relationship between teacher and student is at the core of all instruction/education. At Beda Hallberg School staff try to work actively on approaches and attitudes towards students -  displaying active commitment to each student’s success in achieving their objectives increases their motivation. Staff who are committed, have high expectations, are receptive to individual needs and who have faith in their student’s abilities are the basis for the schools to succeed in the education.) Students are viewed as competent and involved individuals and strive to adopt a holistic view of the students’ situations. 

Building a new school with a flexible structure takes time and resources. The school was initiated in 2012 but started with one group/class in 2013. It has since grown with about one class/group every year. It takes time to find the best structures and practices with students who have dropped out of school and experienced many “school failures”. Many students are in complex situations and in need of intense interventions over a long period of time.

Impact of measures taken

The upper secondary school completion rates have risen in the municipality over the years since the school started but it is difficult to trace causality.

Lessons learned, risk factors

Support among municipal decision makers/key actors behind the decision to establish the school is necessary.

Cross-sectorial collaboration – networking and cooperation among local municipal stakeholders/decision makers – such as educational providers, employment agency, health providers etc. is of utmost importance in order to locate the young people who may benefit from attending the school. Possible reductions in financial support for schools in the municipality poses risk to the school.

Last edited: 19 February, 2018

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