The first FIESTA Conference entitled ‘Understanding and Managing Transition’ took place in Katerini, Greece on the 30th of November 2012. The conference presented research activities of FIESTA, provided attendees with practical examples of transition models in existence and allowed participants to take part in workshops and discussion groups to help inform the network’s outcomes.
The FIESTA (Facilitating Inclusive Education and Supporting the Transition Agenda) network held its first Conference in Katerini, Greece on 30 November 2012. The conference focus was on understanding and managing periods of transition for children with additional educational needs. The overarching themes included transition, inclusion and collaborative working. The Conference examined the initial findings from the initial FIESTA research program to see how the project and its network could support best practice in promoting inclusion for students with specific learning needs at key periods of transition in their lives. It also aimed to promote awareness of the needs of parents, families, teachers and schools in supporting rights-based inclusion in learning strategies.
Hosted by the Greek partner organization, Platon School, the FIESTA partner organizations from eight European countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, Spain) attended. Delegates from other countries were also present, including Germany, England and the United States. In total 145 participants attended, including teachers, counselors, parents and researchers.
The FIESTA project started in late 2011 under the direction of its Lead Partner, Enable Ireland – a leading agency in Ireland providing services to people with disabilities. At the Conference results and findings from the literature review, surveys on educational structures and analyses of national situations regarding educational inclusion and school transition supports and policies for children with special needs were presented.
The keynote speech was by Prof. Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair and Director of the Child and Family Research Centre in the National University of Ireland, Galway (Ireland). In a dynamic presentation he spoke about Empathy, Social Support and Social Justice. Other speakers gave examples from specific projects and interventions to support inclusion and transition: assistive technology (Karl O’Keefe, Ireland), early years transition in the EASE project (Irene Kaschefi-Haude, Germany) and experiences of Platon School (Maria Manakou, Greece). Additional perspectives on policies and supports in the Greek national system were given by Dr. Konstantinos Darais (School General Education Adviser, Pieria Prefecture) and Mr. Apostolos Totsikas (Headmaster, Katerini Vocational School for Special Education).
Three Workshops concentrated on managing transitions and:
1. Managing Transition – inclusive education and disability awareness
2. Collaborative working
3. Mentoring and learning supports.
Discussions were deep and engaging with strong participation from teachers, educational policy makers and parents. The Conference also outlined the next steps and future directions of the FIESTA network – further research questionnaires for professionals, parents and children; identification of good practices in each country; outline of potential best practice guidelines and policies at European level; recommendations on how schools and other organizations can improve their work for youngsters with special needs and their parents.
The ultimate goal of FIESTA is to develop a European network on inclusion and transition of youngsters with specific learning needs. On the website there will also be developed toolkits with training modules, information, good-practice models and evidence-based research findings for policy makers.
The FIESTA Conference was a dynamic and energizing learning event where professionals, families and policy makers shared insights and experiences in a creative environment. The associated social program facilitated much interaction and cultural exchanges between international partners and their Greek hosts and delegates. The Conference finally highlighted the benefits of the developing network which can be accessed on the FIESTA website.
FIESTA key findings to date:
- More research needed on inclusion and EU standards
- Need for programs/training/methods that enhance options for the child with special needs in the total environment of learning, family and leisure
- Need for programs that increase pupil self esteem and also parents’ role in successful transition to school and work
- Need for tailor-made programs for teachers, professionals and parents to improve inclusion in education
- Need for comparative international information exchange on best practices in transition in school and work
- Challenges for effective and efficient way of cooperation in environment of crisis and public sector cutbacks
FIESTA overview and introduction
Kate Kearney – Coordinator of the FIESTA Network (Enable Ireland Disability Services Ltd, Cork, Ireland)
Research findings, literature overview interpretation and models of (1) inclusive education, (2) transition and (3) collaborative working: preliminary results of the data collection phase
Dr John Ravenscroft – Head of Institute and Deputy Head of School of Education, Teaching and Leadership, Department of Educational Studies Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
FIESTA research activities
Iva Boneva – Manager, Centre for Inclusive Education (CIE), Sofia, Bulgaria
Empathy, social support and social justice real world tools for transition in education
Prof Pat Dolan – Unesco Chair and Director, Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway
Assistive Technology (AT) and Transition
Karl O'Keefe – AT/IT Specialist, National AT Training Service, Enable Ireland Disability Services, Dublin, Ireland
EASE – Early Years Transition Programme
Dr Irene Kaschefi-Haude – EASE project coordinator, Department of Human Sciences, University of Cologne, Germany
Experiences of transition, inclusive education and collaborative working
Maria Manakou – Teacher MA Human Sciences, Platon Schools Pupil, Parent, Teacher presenting with Diogenis Palegdas (Pupil, Platon Schools)