This week, IEN provides a glimpse of the “virtual school visits” offered as part of the 2022 (virtual) Conference of the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI). This post is the first in a series that will be published once a month over the next few months. This post shares some of the insights from an ICSEI session discussing the virtual visits that participants made to Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolas from Chile and Easton CE Academic from Bristol, UK. This post provides a brief description of each school, key takeaways of school members from a virtual panel discussion, and the reflections from the coordinators of the virtual school visit. This post was produced by Alvaro Gonzalez (Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez, Chile) and Romina Madrid Miranda (University of Glasgow, Scotland).
Liceo Bicentenario de Excelencia Polivalente San Nicolas (Chile)
The Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolás is a public school located in the rural town of San Nicolás, Ñuble region, in Chile. The school currently enrolls 2,505 students, from early childhood education to vocational and academic secondary education. Its educational project promotes an emancipatory, transformative, and innovative education, focused on the student, as a response to inequality and limited options for rural education. The interaction between professional autonomy, pedagogical innovation, and technology, has been key to improving school performance, school climate, self-efficacy and resilience, and the development of digital skills and competences of the 21st century, seeking to empower students to forge their own school trajectory and life project.
Easton CE Academy (UK)
Easton CE Academy is a primary school that currently enrolls 450 pupils, from age 3-11 and serves a very diverse population. The school is in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, even though it is in the middle of the prosperous city of Bristol. Almost all of the children are learning English as an additional language, and 37 different languages are spoken in the school. To address some of the language barriers the school places a high value on oracy. Each lesson is planned with talking in mind, where teachers model ‘sentence stems’ so that children have a structure that helps them to fully participate in discussions. They have been recognized by the oracy work, which complements other subject areas such as English and Maths.
Key takeaways from educators from Liceo San Nicolas and Easton CE Academy
Marcos Caro, History and Geography teacher, Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolas –
As an institution it was a pleasant experience to be invited and participate of the ICSEI 2022 virtual conference. In our panel session with the Easton CE Academy from Bristol, UK, we reflected about the importance of ethnic and cultural diversity. Among the topics discussed, we were struck by their way of approaching the development of oral language competences with students with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, producing spaces of dialogue, learning and mutual respect, irrespective of their background, making way for over 40 different languages in their school.
This is not so different to what goes on in our school in San Nicolás, where we welcome 2500 students every day, from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds, offering them quality education through the teaching of foreign languages, dynamic and flexible groupings, open classrooms, where attention to diversity takes a central role in the academic development of our students. We observed Easton CE Academy places great value on language skills due to the diversity of cultures and nationalities of its students, which is very similar to the reality of schools in Chile.
“We were both clearly inspired to promote deep learning, forming global citizens equipped for the 21st century in a culture for peace, promoting collaboration in a stimulating and healthy environment.”– Marcos Caro
Participating in the virtual school visit was relevant for us to showcase how we have built an environment safe and ready for learning, with students with similar educational needs as those of Easton. We were both clearly inspired to promote deep learning, forming global citizens equipped for the 21st century in a culture for peace, promoting collaboration in a stimulating and healthy environment.
Clare Welbourne, Head of School, Easton CE Academy
It was amazing to be part of ICSEI 2022 virtual conference even as we were still experiencing the effects of lockdown. In the visit we were able to reflect how the COVID pandemic had sharpened our minds as to the importance of promoting language and social skills for our children.
Participating in the virtual session with Liceo San Nicolas made us feel that we had travelled across the world and broadened our horizons. We were particularly excited to hear about the work of the Liceo and promoting the use of technology in education. This challenged us to go further in this respect, and we have now teamed up with a local secondary school to see how we can use collaborative documents to help our Key Stage Two children make progress in literacy. We have also begun to use ‘Widgit’ a symbol based assistive technology.
“This challenged us to go further in this respect, and we have now teamed up with a local secondary school to see how we can use collaborative documents to help our Key Stage Two children make progress in literacy.”– Clare Welbourne
We were impressed with the range and depth of activities on offer at Liceo San Nicolas and participating in the ICSEI conference gave us confidence that we are also offering our younger pupils a range of experiences. Sometimes it is as you talk about your practice, you can value it and see the next steps.
Reflections: “A commitment to promote equity by removing barriers for students’ success”
The experiences of both schools, presented and discussed during the panel session, reflect on the importance of offering a high-quality learning experience and having high expectations for students from communities that experience conditions of disadvantage. Despite the differences between the schools, both had a clear focus on the development of language skills to empower students to become global citizens. This focus has become more important given the context of the pandemic.
Easton Academy’s families are ethnically and culturally diverse, which led them to focus on developing oral language skills to support students’ engagement with the UK culture in the best way possible way. For its part, Liceo San Nicolás sees language skills development as an equity opportunity, as only some social groups in Chile have access, get exposed to and learn more than one or two languages. It allows them to provide their students with the kind of exposure that wealthier students are used to receiving.
Note on ICSEI Virtual School Visits: The International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) held its 35th annual congress online in January 2022 due to the pandemic. Over many years of face-to-face conferences, participants have had the unique opportunity to visit local schools to gain first-hand experience with the host country’s education system, share ideas and insights from one system to another, and act as a catalyst for discussion and debate between colleagues from different countries during and after the visits. The Virtual School Visits sought to keep that purpose, with the added advantage of not being restricted to one host country, increasing the richness and diversity of insight, discussion, and collaboration beyond what was possible at a face-to-face congress.