A time of meeting and inspiration!
Early in the morning of Monday 6 June, we left for Schiphol airport, full of expectations of what the coming days would bring us. After a year of online contact with the PTTA group, the moment had come to meet each other live in a country we both did not know. Soon the photos started pouring in on the app with all the departing people who were clearly looking forward to it. The meetings at the airport felt almost familiar, as if we already knew each other well and was a nice start of this training.
On Tuesday was the first official training day and we met at the University of Liepãja. In this beautiful old building, we received a warm welcome from our Latvian colleagues and there was a table full of delicious treats from all the participating countries. We briefly discussed the aims of PPTA and were once again briefed on the project. It was good to look at the PPTA website and to give our findings so that they can be taken into account and the website becomes more and more accessible for all users. After a nice lunch, it was good to reflect together with Tracy Edwards of Leeds Beckett University on inclusive pedagogy and what opportunities this offers. Next, we prepared ourselves together for the school visits that were to take place the following day. This instructive day ended on the beautiful beach of Liepãja. We enjoyed nature, sociability, good food and interesting conversations.
Wednesday was dedicated to the school visits. We found it very special that these schools were so open to receive us and to show us where things were already going very well, but also to show their vulnerable side. First, we went to Liepãja Livupe Elementary school. Although it is already holiday time for the children in Latvia, the teachers showed us their work and experienced it with passion. After a short bus ride, we arrived at another part of this school, where younger children with severe cognitive and behavioural problems attend. Here too, you could see the love for children and the desire for inclusive education. Lunch took place at the third school we visited. In the large empty school canteen, food had been prepared especially for us. The Oskars Kalpaks Liepãja Secondary school is led by a very enthusiastic headmaster who proudly told about his school and was translated by an enthusiastic pupil. It was very special to see the difference between old and new in this building and also to hear all the challenges that Latvian education faces. The will and desire to realise inclusive education is palpably present in the presentation. A day full of impressions and with very big thanks to these schools for their hospitality.
The last training day we started again at the University of Liepãja with a meeting led by Inge van de Putte of the University of Ghent. We watched an excerpt from a film about inclusive education in Belgium. Afterwards, we talked about our experiences and points of attention. It was good to see similarities in views, but also to discover that every country sometimes thinks from a different culture and therefore may have a different opinion about it. Next, Teresa Aguiar of Porto Polytechnic Institute took us through the research that has been done in the five participating countries. From this research, recommendations were written, on which we were asked to think along, so that they would also be useful for everyone who visits the website. After lunch, in yet another beautiful place, we went to the town hall where an education official told us about the goals and challenges of inclusive education in Liepãja. How wonderful that the government also has such clear goals regarding inclusive education. The rest of the afternoon we continued with looking at the recommendations (that we had discussed earlier that morning) and gave advice concerning the readability. This was quite a task and will certainly require a follow-up in the future. We ended these training days with a pleasant dinner by the water.
On the way back, we had a lot of time to think, reflect and share our experiences of the past days. We enjoyed the inclusiveness of the Proud group. We ourselves were an example of how inclusive education should be, a place for everyone regardless of faith, culture, age, education etc.. We have been inspired again about inclusive education. We are proud of the things we already have in order at our school De Kroevendonk and look forward to how we can develop further. How our PLG can become even more meaningful and how we can make even more of a difference when it comes to educating all children!
Meri Weeda and Debby Huibregtse
De Kroevendonk - The Netherlands