Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Grass isn't Always Greener! #ipdipdopp15

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Stockholm thorough Meynell Games' Ip-Dip Dopp Mobility programme. The main emphasis behind this week long study tour with 8 other play workers, after school people & preschool leaders & teachers was to see how people are trained to work with school age children outside of school hours in Stockholm. 
On our first day we had an informal meet up with one of the main hosts of our tour - Eva - & we got chatting about after schools. I commented that our schools in N.I were not the place for any child to spend an extended day in, Eva replied, that I would soon see it can be done as that is exactly what was happening in Stockholm.
On the Monday, we spent the day at the university meeting with students who were training to become 'leisure care pedagogs' - we could not come up with an equal job in the U.K. These students are teachers who will work with students before and after school and sometimes in tandem with the class teacher during the school day. They are not qualified to teach a class and class teachers are not qualified to do leisure care jobs which are for 52 weeks of the year. Most leisure care teachers have to specialise in an arts subject like music, art or woodwork. During the school day they are supposed to compliment the more traditional teaching going on with more 'hands on' learning experiences. Even after an afternoon hearing more about this role, I still couldn't quite understand what this job entails and could only compare it to a classroom assistant educated to degree standard but without the qualified teacher status. (Of course this is not exactly the same but it helped me make sense of it!)
"I am in, I am out, I am home' - self registration of the Fritidshem
We had the opportunity to spend a few hours in an after school leisure club (Fritidshem) on the Thursday. This was in a large modern school in the suburbs of Stockholm and most of the students availed of the opportunity to stay on at the school at the end of the school day - which is from 8.00-1.30. It is possible for a child to be on the school premises from 6.30-6.30 and the Fritidshem staff work shifts to ensure there are adequate staff/child ratios at all times.
More homelike than school like.
Whilst this school had incredible resource areas with sofas, kitchens & air hockey games, it was still a school environment. The children were engaged in a variety of activities - art, technology, jigsaws, traditional board games, cooking or indoor games & it reminded me of any afternoon in my primary school when there are a variety of after school activities on offer.
As an introvert, I relish coming home from a busy social day at school to be on my own & sit reading or watching TV and I was the same as a child, I loved coming home and just relaxing, doing nothing or a solitary activity. Therefore I would have to say that the idea of attending something like the leisure club 5 days a week would have horrified me. I could see nowhere for a child to be alone away from the peers they had spent all day in lessons with. 
The wonderful Fritidshem pedagog who was showing us around was so helpful and answered our many questions with an unfailing smile and loads of patience. She explained that as she was also working with the preschool class (this is the first class in comprehensive school in Sweden for 6 year olds, also called 0 class but not compulsory) during the day and could therefore help consolidate any teaching that she felt children had struggled with during their time in the leisure club. This to me sounded like a homework club and whilst I can see how this would be of benefit to students who are struggling I was disappointed that the leisure club was not more about free play. During the 2 hour visit I didn't see any children playing outside, though one of the group told me they saw 1 child heading outside to play in the rain. 
I had a rose tinted view of education in Scandinavia that made me assume that I would see lots of great outdoor play at the school, with a playground full of loose parts and risky play. However, the playground was like many others I have seen in the UK with the ubiquitous fixed equipment and tarmac. I know it was a cold, wet day but it was sad to see so many children stuck indoors for the majority of their day. 
I am still trying to figure out all that I saw in the week I was there but I came away feeling that the children in my school are actually in a better position than their Stockholm counterparts, as many of them go home after a busy school day to their homes where they can relax away from their peers and we still live in a relatively safe society where many will be outside playing after school too.

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