Early school leaving has been viewed by Baross Gábor Mechanical and Transport Engineering School as a strategic issue for years; the school tries to exploit every possible formal and informal tool to cut back the number of students dropping out of school before obtaining their qualification.
One of the main motifs of the solution is to create a pleasant school climate that encourages students to take a positive attitude to learning and to the school.
An important tool in this effort is the transition programme designed for 9th grade students. The programme is intended to ease the process of switching schools, i.e. the transition from primary to secondary school. The programme helps integration, develops group community and facilitates cooperation skills. In addition, it creates an opportunity for vulnerability screening, in other words, the assessment of which students may need more attention for preventive purposes owing to their family background, skills or lack thereof or for any other reasons.
Besides teachers, vocational trainers, developmental teachers, psychologists and social workers, all classes of the 9th grade participate in the programme.
The programme consists of 4 thematic weeks focused on the following topics:
- ME (self-knowledge);
- The school where I spend the next few years;
- The city where I study;
- My chosen profession.
A part of this period is a one-day training intended to improve students’ learning technique with the assistance of developmental teachers and social workers. Students attain learning skills which, when applied, ensure that the time spent on learning is exploited efficiently, economically and effectively. Teachers recommend specific learning techniques with respect to their own subjects, tailored to the specificities of the curriculum.
School goes on as usual during these 4 weeks: the teachers introduce themselves and the topics described above are integrated into the themes of the classes. For instance, in Szolnok students visit Tiszavirág Bridge, take a walking tour around the city and take a quiz on the tour. Mechanics students prepare a free-hand drawing of the bridge, i.e. they integrate the material of the class into that of their urban studies. Alternatively, working in teams, students look up materials on Hungary’s typical steel structures and present their findings to the rest of the students, thereby combining their professional skills with their civilization knowledge.
At the end of the 4-week period, teachers teaching in the same class arrange a meeting to analyse individual students. Based on this information, they draw up individual development plans, identify students in need of mentoring and define the form of monitoring.
The school already has an established sample curriculum for each activity, which is reviewed and finetuned regularly at the beginning of each year, and modified or supplemented in view of the experiences of the previous year.
Context of good practice
A significant part of the students accepted at the Szolnok school struggle with some type of problems: there is a strong presence of students with special education needs, inclusion or behavioural difficulties, and the percentage of children with multiple disadvantages is also high. These students typically faced regular failures at school and they would not necessarily have chosen their current school / career path. They come from diverse cultural backgrounds; consequently, each class is highly heterogeneous, and the children tend to exhibit non-compliance with rules and a lack of motivation. Moreover, due to their low education levels and the pattern of similar school failures, the value of knowledge is not recognised by parents. Parents tend to ignore or pay little attention to the educational progress of their children; there is no communication between the parties in this regard, and the conditions for learning may not even be in place at home. This can be attributed to numerous reasons, such as the poverty arising from unemployment or, as the case may be, the parent(s)’ addiction. Even the school failed to respond properly to these longstanding challenges: the rigidity of the teacher-student relationship, impersonality, bad atmosphere, inflexible teachers or high class sizes only exacerbated this communication/educational problem.
The school recognised that it was unable to resolve these issues with traditional tools. If it was to achieve its purpose – i.e. to pass on a marketable profession and prepare the student for starting a career while also shaping his personality and facilitate social integration – it needed a change. To that end, it set in motion an internal change, to which both the children and the parents respond over time. The change affected teaching arrangements (e.g. block classes, transition period in the 9th grade),teaching (horizontal development of basic skills) and even the physical space (e.g.: Spilari Club).
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Target group of good practice:
Szabó Andrásné tagintézményvezető
Szolnoki Műszaki Szakképzési Centrum Baross Gábor Gépipari, Közlekedési Szakgimnáziuma és Szakközépiskolája