You often hear people talking about Erasmus in terms of foreign experiences of university students. What many do not know is that Erasmus also gives its name to European exchange training funding grants aimed at students and lecturers, known as Erasmus+.
We spoke about it with Prof. Marzia Tollari, teacher at Modena's IC3 comprehensive institute, which took part in and was awarded two European projects introduced via Erasmus+.
You bid for two different Erasmus+ grants: how many and which entities were taking part, and which countries did they come from?
We took part in two Erasmus bids in 2018:
- KA 101 2018-2020,entitled “Laboratory of Talents”, involves travel for 19 primary and secondary school teachers. Some of us were already away and one of our colleagues, whose name I’m sorry, but I can’t remember, also participated in the September communications of our group. Other colleagues were in Spain and Great Britain and some are leaving for Germany in March, and so on until spring 2020. They are doing shadowing jobs (observation and foreign schools) and advanced English language or teaching method courses.
- The second, KA 229, will see the involvement of young people within a partnership of schools from different countries. In this case, the lead school is the Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton (England), together with a Spanish school in Malaga, our IC3 in Modena, a Swedish school and an Icelandic school. The project envisages two meetings of just teachers (an initial planning one in Iceland in October 2018) and a final one, for communications, in Modena (June 2020) and three trips of 10 pupils per school and 2 accompanying teachers, who will work together on the creation of the site for posting various activities, centred around technology (photography, Minecraft), music and English, in a project entitled TEC. The pupils from the schools prepared various logos, which were presented in Northampton with the Spanish one winning. All of them can be seen in the travel journal along with the activities carried out and photos of the children involved:
What was the percentage of co-financing and how much was received overall?
The KA 101 project has to date been 80% funded, then, following the authorisation of the Italian national agency, the remaining 20% will be paid at the end of the project, meaning a total of around €33,000.
The KA 229 project was also 80% financed (Erasmus practice) and anticipates total funding of around €40,000. If the projects are accepted they will receive 100% funding.
Which was the lead school of the project?
The lead school of the Erasmus KA 229 project, as mentioned previously, was the Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton (United Kingdom).
Which activities have you financed with the grant?
The grant financed all the travel of the teachers and children, and a proportion of it provided funds for the communications within the territory and for the activities envisaged for hosting the European colleagues.
How many people were involved?
A total of 19 teachers were involved in Erasmus+ KA 101 Laboratory of talents.
For KA 229, 30 children (from 3rd year middle school and 5th year primary) and 6 teachers from the technology and English departments of our Comprehensive Institute went on the 3 trips to England, Spain (March 2020) and Sweden (October 2019). Children who were not going were also included; in fact we are planning time for communications for students and their companions. The classes made video calls between Modena and Northampton and the children who were involved created a WhatsApp chat with their European friends called Erasmus international … the teachers also wanted to be included… but they didn’t let us.
What impact do you think an Erasmus project has on adults and pupils?
The impact of an Erasmus+ project on adults and pupils is that it forms an impetus that pushes you to create another project with a deadline next week. It is the pleasure of dialogue with other countries, the other cultures, accents, colours, various shades … that you learn from them, without the homilies or rhetoric that you might expect. You learn that each country has its own smells, foods, countryside, traditions and that, despite the differences, or precisely because of them, everything is okay and you return with a free mind, a heart full of joy, the wish to return. But also a greater appreciation of what you have at home.
What would you advise a teacher who wants to follow your example and bid for an Erasmus+ grant?
To a colleague who wants to follow our example, I would recommend finding a group of colleagues who are willing to work together. You have to take part in the meetings organised by the eTwinning platform, which works via the ambassadors (one of these, E. Scaglioni is our supervisor in the KA 1 projects). You need to document it on the Erasmus communications platforms online and on the sites of the schools taking part in these projects; we are documenting everything on our site and we have opened a blog… which is gradually coming to life.
We then found schools that hosted us in Finland and in Spain at the eTwinning conference in Rome in May 2018, where we were invited as a school and achieved the eTwinning label, which means we participate in European projects via this platform.
Your feelings about the management of the project.
I personally have a great belief in these projects and in these activities, and I also believe they are fundamental at a time when borders are open (to almost all) and where our children will be undertaking new professions, travelling and meeting fellow Europeans.
To really build a single, diverse but united Europe, we need to travel, get to know each other, communicate and collaborate.
In Northampton, in just three hours of work on rotation, in mixed groups, in a new country, our children created a cover, music on the PC and dancing robots and it was beautiful to watch them and support them… without being invasive ... and to see how their English hosts welcomed, supported and looked after them, and how they helped each other.
The children were able to surprise us. We have to learn (as teachers especially) to leave them alone, to trust them, to challenge them and have them act and dream, to dream big, and that things fall into place eventually.
I would also add that these activities require a lot of work and commitment, so much energy and trust from the families (who were amazed) and the teachers. We have the fortune of having a chairman, Prof. D Barca, who not only authorises, but encourages participation in these projects. He sits and works with us, gives his advice and encourages us to stretch ourselves and take the risk. We had no experience and needed to learn to fill out project forms, to gain the trust of our more sceptical colleagues, and also be aware of all the work that teachers do on a daily basis.
I went to Finland with some primary colleagues and two teachers from middle schools and the rapport changed, consolidated and we learned to understand each other better,
so we are still in contact with the headmaster (known in Rome) and some colleagues from the school in Finland. It's the same thing for the colleague who was in Spain.
In thanking Prof. Tollari for her participation, I hope that by reading this report, other teachers can follow her example, and that of the colleague Prof. Sabrina Conte and their enlightened headmaster, Prof. Barca. Hopefully together, they can also offer the opportunity to pupils from other schools and organise what must have been such a beneficial experience for the children, for growth and mutual exchange, as well as a stimulus for achieving something together.