The 2017-2019 Open School Doors (OSD) project sought to reduce disparities in learning outcomes for children and young people from refugee and newly arrived migration backgrounds across five EU countries. In June 2021 the launch of ‘Collaborative, Community Mapping of Young People’s Learning Experiences during COVID-19’ (Co-MAP) took place. Co-MAP continues a number of the key threads from OSD in terms of recognising and valuing the learning assets of intergenerational families and communities and using these to support schools in creating constructive, collaborative, and sustainable relationships with children and young people who are vulnerable and at risk of exclusion.
The two Erasmus+ funded projects will see the continued collaboration of four of the five original EU partnerships between: Birmingham City University (BCU) in the UK; the University of Dresden in Germany; the International Parents Alliance in The Netherlands; and two Greek partners including the Computer Technology Institute in Patras and Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Athens. Co-MAP also welcomes a new partner, publishing company Liget Muhely Alapitvany from Hungary.
Open School Doors
The 2017-2019 OSD project, led by the University of Dresden, brought to the fore the challenges many schools across Europe faced in developing meaningful and sustainable relationships with newly arrived families. Challenges arose from such factors as insufficient training for school practitioners in supporting families with English as an Additional Language (EAL), experiences of trauma, and issues arising from the transient and precarious conditions resulting from migration status.
The OSD project used these barriers as a stimulus to develop a whole-school online training framework for school leaders, teachers, and practitioners. The training framework, which is freely available for all schools in English, German, and Greek, focuses on three main aspects for teacher development: Spaces and Places; Literacies and Digital Literacies; and Communities and Cultures.
Informed by the voices of parents from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds, as well as school leaders and teachers, the framework includes videos, podcasts, interactive activities, and reflective work that can be used by schools as part of their staff development activities. The framework also includes examples of inspiring practices across the five countries and activities to use with children, young people, and families.
OSD transitions to Co-MAP
The recently launched Co-MAP project (2021-2023), led by BCU, continues this important work with a particular focus on the period of school closures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
As well as accessing the experience of school leaders and practitioners, Co-MAP will be led by the voices of children and young people from refugee and newly arrived backgrounds as well as those from newly vulnerable and marginalised communities as a result of the pandemic, such as families who have experienced economic and food deprivation.
The BCU team (led by Professor Alex Kendall and including Dr Louise Lambert, Dr Louise Wheatcroft, Dr Vanessa Cui, and Dr Mary-Rose Puttick) will continue to work closely with Birmingham City of Sanctuary and Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary in the UK, following on from their close collaboration on OSD.
Phase One of the project will take place during September to November 2021 and will comprise interviews with school leaders and key decision-makers during the periods of school closures. Phase 1 will formulate a set of ‘pen portraits’ across the five EU contexts to develop a picture of the national political context of the pandemic to-date, the decision-making processes in schools as a result of this context, and how this informed what happened ‘on the ground’.
This phase will support the development of Phase Two, in 2022, in which all partners will carry out a process of creative intergenerational mapping of learning assets, led by children and young people, to represent how they negotiated their own learning in addition to the learning led by the schools.
Like OSD, Co-MAP works towards building a multi-voiced perspective that values informal as well as formal learning activities, framed within an asset-based, as opposed to deficit-based, approach that will ultimately inform capacity-building and training for schools.
In the long-term, Co-MAP works to make visible the needs of young people at risk of exclusion and to support schools to build creative and sustainable partnerships with families, communities, local artists, and street papers beyond the pandemic.