Every so often, a day comes along when this feels like the best job in the world. Today was one of them.
Don’t you love being around people who know their stuff, care passionately about what they do and are 100% committed to young people living their best possible life?
I was at the Häme University of Applied Sciences in Hämeenlinna, about an hour’s drive north of Helsinki, to speak to teaching and support staff, and members of the educational research unit, about Principles into Practice and Compass.
It’s easy to forget just how ground breaking that work has been. But the response in Finland so far leaves no room for doubt – we have a truly powerful resource here, and it’s a privilege to share it. People are interested and enthusiastic, and Scotland, someone told me, is on the map.
Obviously there’s a rosy glow following positive feedback. But the day was about so much more than that.
I didn’t expect to be involved in creating marketing materials for the special needs education team, and I certainly didn’t think I’d suggest the slogan that was adopted by the team! My invoice will be in the post.
But of course I’m here to learn, as well as to share.
It was great to talk to Marjo Liete, a recent recruit to the HAMK staff team, about her experiences as a student counsellor within Keuda – a leading Finnish vocational education and training provider – and her work over many years, expanding and developing innovative services for students with additional support needs.
And I’ll now be waiting impatiently for the findings from The GIVE Project, an alliance of vocational education and training centres, universities and companies across Europe, to develop a new inclusion model for learners belonging to disadvantaged groups – including those with disabilities, special learning needs and a history of dropout from mainstream education.
OK, as it’s EU funded it did feel a bit like pressing my nose against the sweet shop window, with funding and projects we could be benefiting from if …
… but we can still pick up on and learn from the findings, due early next year.
But a completely unlooked for privilege was finding myself sharing the floor with a delegation from Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University in Ukraine, talking about what they are doing to keep learning on track for students both at home and abroad while living in a war zone.
It’s difficult, inspirational work and it definitely puts many of our educational challenges into perspective.
Did I ask the Vice Rector how far they are managing to maintain support for young people with disabilities?
Why, of course I did. I may be here to find out about Finland, but I’m not going to pass up an opportunity like that. She’s linking me to colleagues in Ukraine who can tell me more.
All opinions are my own and not those of any other organisation. However I am grateful to my colleagues at ARC Scotland for making this visit possible.
If you have a burning question you’d like to ask about Finland, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can find an answer for you!