Vantaa investigated how learning support is realized in education and upbringing
Parents of children in Vantaa's elementary schools feel that their children’s need for support is well accounted for. As regards students in junior high schools, both teachers and guardians deemed it more challenging to meet the students’ need for support. The older the student, the harder it is to satisfy learning challenges. Guardians of children in early childhood education and preschool education deemed that versatile approaches are applied to supporting the children. The results come from a survey conducted by the University of Helsinki's Centre for Educational Assessment (CEA), commissioned by the City of Vantaa.
Special class teachers, special needs teachers and principals had the most positive opinions about the functionality of support arrangements in schools, whereas some class teachers thought that some students needing support do not necessarily get it. According to teachers’ assessments, some lack of support is due to that fact that the students or their guardians do not want it.
More than half of all respondents belonging to the school staff (58%) regarded the support gained by students as functional or as highly functional and sufficient, while every 6th employee (17%) considered support insufficient and functioning poorly. The group most critical of the functioning and sufficiency of support consisted of subject teachers. Support in comprehensive schools’ higher grades was deemed to be more sufficient than in other junior high schools.
“In basic education 7th-9th grades and in vocational education, the issues to be learned are more difficult than the curricula in elementary schools. The challenges posed by adolescence and maturation affect studying and school attendance, which is also seen in the need for support,” says Basic Education Director Ilkka Kalo.
More than 60% of class and subject teachers feel that students receiving support often increase their workload. Many subject and class teachers think that they can support a student needing support only occasionally. The majority of the teachers are of the opinion that insufficient time causes problems.
“Even though the support given in small groups is considered sufficient, the challenge is to account for the students’ different needs as well as to guarantee sufficient support for all those needing it. Therefore, we believe that input into general or enhanced support is the pedagogically right way. We need to develop the competence of general education class and subject teachers with the help of training, as well as to ensure sufficient support resources,” Ilkka Kalo elaborates.
Vantaa principals responding to the survey mostly deemed support for learning and school attendance in their schools to be better than did principals on national level.
Early childhood education and preschool education
Employees at Vantaa day-care centers who responded to the survey assess themselves to be generally able to support the children well. They are able to provide the children with individual caring and to support those who need it. “In other words, Vantaa day-care-centers employees’ opinions about themselves as workers were highly positive,” says Sole Askola-Vehviläinen, Early Childhood Education Director.
Nevertheless, the majority of the employees deemed that there should be more childminders, early childhood education special needs teachers and art pedagogues. Almost half the employees assessed that the number of special needs teachers in day-care centers is insufficient. More than 50% of early childhood education and preschool education employees assessed that there were 1-2 children in their groups who should have been included in developmental and learning support, but were not.
From the perspective of development, Sole Askola-Vehviläinen emphasizes the survey results that point out the need for more support for children in the everyday routines of day-care centers. In order to increase the effectiveness of support measures, support arrangements should be analyzed more widely, affecting children and their families as a whole. The first step is to include all children needing support in the support arrangements.
According to the personnel survey, more than a third of the employees doubted that the amount of work spent on compiling pedagogical plans and other documents was adequate for the benefits they generate in developmental and learning support. “This is the second development focus in early childhood education and preschool education. During the next couple of years, we will gain more digital solutions that will save working time,” continues Sole Askola-Vehviläinen.
Sixty-five percent of guardians of children in early childhood education deemed the number of adults in their own child's group to be appropriate; the corresponding percentage in preschool education was 80%. On the other hand, employee turnover was deemed to hinder children’s development and learning.
More than 80% of guardians of children included in support believes that versatile approaches are used in supporting their children. Moreover, the respondents said that the children’s needs had been, for the most part, accounted for in forming groups. Almost 40% of the guardians felt that they do not have enough information on potential support measures. According to Sole Askola-Vehviläinen, informing about support measures is a key development focus in early childhood education and preschool education.
Many of the guardians’ responses indicated that there is good cooperation between the day-care center and guardians. For the most part, guardians of children receiving support deemed that support arrangements were well implemented, which indicates that guardians in Vantaa trust early childhood education and support arrangements.
The employees at Vocational College Varia estimate that support is very functional and sufficient for 29% students, but insufficient and functioning poorly for 28%.
More than half of Varia’s employees responding to the survey deemed their groups to be too big to support those student that need support, as well as too big for the development of Finnish-language proficiency in the groups where Finnish is the second language. Nevertheless, guardians and students, as a general rule, deemed group sizes to be appropriate as regards both vocational and common subjects. Slightly less than half—40%— of Varia students responding to the survey wanted more continuous guidance-counseling.
The survey aimed to analyze the functioning of the three-tier national model, in used since 2010, and especially the functioning of support in Vantaa. After the university has presented its results and conclusions, the City of Vantaa will devise educational institution- and early childhood education unit -specific recommendations for development measures, based on the survey results. The city will then compile an action program based on the recommendations.
In late 2018, altogether almost 11 000 Vantaa schoolchildren (in grades 5-9 ), students (Varia), guardians of students, and education/upbringing professionals responded to the survey. The Centre for Educational Assessment (CEA) at the University of Helsinki implemented the survey. Corresponding surveys have been conducted also earlier, but no direct comparisons between the survey results can be made.
Read also: City of Vantaa press release: "City charts experiences in arranging support in education and upbringing"