Community School pilot project; a case study in „Education –
The developed case study is based on interviews with Malous Wessels (Program manager), Roger (Coordinator) and one of the coaches together with
presentations and documents related to the Community School pilot project.
Rotterdam is one of the Netherlands‟s cities with the youngest population, but in the same time many youths have to deal with complex problems that are materialized in drop-outs. Because the traditional education system is not flexible enough in order to help them overcome such issues, the Community School pilot project came as an attempt to give back the “lost generation” to the society.
Empirical facts about Rotterdam show that 25% of school drop-outs come from neighbourhoods with low income and high unemployment, 16% of all youths in Rotterdam have psychiatric symptoms such as depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia, the number of young, school-age mothers is increasing each year and 35% of drop-outs from intermediate vocational education are suspected of committing criminal acts.
In addition, a Rotterdam Area Health Authority Research (2008) involving about 600 participants from Albeda College and Zadkine brought to light other realities: 35% indicate that they feel psychologically unhealthy, 34% have an increased chance of depression, 20% have seriously thought about taking his or her own life in the past 12 months, 50% do not satisfy the requirements of the Dutch Norms for Healthy Exercise, 21% are (seriously) overweight, 9% of the respondents admitted to regular heavy drinking, 14% admitted to having used soft drugs in the last month, 5% have used hard drugs in the last month.
These facts and figures explain how critical the current situation is and why action has to be taken, with support at both local and national levels.
In the Netherlands, compulsory education goes to the age of 18. However, the age limit raises to 23 provided a certain level of education is not reached. The basic level to be reached is the second level in vocational education. One of the short term objectives of the Community School project is to bring the youngsters at the first level of vocational education.
The Community School project started in October 2008. A pre-pilot project has been implemented, which allowed the necessary time for experimenting and trying different ideas. Further more, a survey will be made by an international organization. This survey will be completed with an evaluation as to decide whether the project will continue after one and a half year and whether could be extended in the rest of the country.
2. The Community School development phase
Rotterdam is the hot spot for youth with complex problems and it was chosen for the Community School pilot project.
The main question is how can youths with complex problems be encouraged to study and gain work experience?
The background of the problem is related to the nature of the education system. A rigid system causes sometimes drop-outs because it cannot relate to the student, not necessarily because the student doesn‟t have the intellectual capacity. Other times, tailored made solutions can‟t be implemented in a school with large numbers of students and not enough specialists in dealing with complex problems. In this context, the Community School wants to be a curative project that develops one plan for one kid.
2 Year pilot (until 2010)
Capacity 200 participants; 2 locations
Structural financing if pilots are successful
February pre-pilot ( 2 X 20); method development
Summer 2009 up-scaling to 2 X 50 students
Begin 2010 up-scaling to 2 X 100 students
After 2010 more Community Colleges in Rotterdam
3. The Approach
The development phase focused on bringing together the appropriate stakeholders and on creating a mix of methods; the output is designed to offer more guidance, counselling, support and care for future Community School students:
; Specially adapted educational routes with additional support
; Practical information about various aspects of life such as health care,
finance and addiction
; Proactive guidance and care at school
Fig. 1 – Areas of support and involved stakeholders
The following lines explain briefly the figure and detail the actors involved. O1 Education (blue)
• Educational teams take care of (pre-) vocational education O2 Guidance by educational teams (blue - green)
• Educational teams take care of education related issues, including student
career guidance, traineeship guidance
O3 Internal care linked with the school (green)
• Career coaching, learning difficulties, target group guidance and
Z1 and Z2 Guidance and counselling by external specialists linked to the school (yellow/green)
• School social work by Flexus Youth Centre (Jeugdplein)
• Rotterdam Health Authority school nurse (GGD)
• Behaviour coaching T4Y by Stek
• Rotterdam Mental Health Authority psychiatric nurse (GGZ)
4. The characteristics
The Community School provides a new setting for dealing with youths with complex problems and it has the purpose to develop a clear method that can be multiplied in Rotterdam and other cities around Netherlands. The Community School involves a number of characteristics that will be further detailed in this chapter.
Teamwork with a variety of actors
The Municipality of Rotterdam is the organizer of the Community School, together with two big vocational colleges: Albeda and Zadkine. The project receives financial support from the government level, namely five ministries joined forces and funds in turning this project into reality.
In addition, the right personnel (from project coordinators to coaches and care professionals) is one of the keys for success because this type of project involves special youths with special problems. This is why it needs people who can connect in a real way to the students.
Being a tailor-made project the coaches are the key factors in its implementation. The selection of the coach has been made on the criteria of personal skills, rather on the diplomas acquired. A strong emphasize is put on the capacity of the coaches to reach the youth, to be open, daring and professional. Every coach deals with a number from 5 to 7 youngsters. The coaches need to take into account the particular problem of every youngster. This is why a team of professionals is gathered around coaches in order to provide expertise in fields like psychology, social and pedagogical assistance and so on. The team is composed of 16-17 members that will be around young people most of the time in order to achieve a high level of familiarity.
How it works
The setting for the Community School integrates 3 aspects, equally important when dealing with youths with complex problems: EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE and WORK. By developing specific practical courses and by having partnerships with employers that can provide experience the Community School aims at providing a work identity to there youths. Because research studies and the experience from previous projects showed that health problems are very common, especially at physiological level, the current pilot project beneficiates of added value brought by specialists in health care.
An important issue about the project is how it identifies youths with problems. The answer is that the community is seen as a very important player in the whole process, together with specific institutions. As a result the students are identified
through: the Central Youth Office, the developed network (church, youth workers etc.), schools (youths that dropped-out repeatedly).
Some of the youngsters involved in the Community School took part in a previous project entitled Back to your future. This one focused on discovering
the vocation of young people for assisting them with taking the right choices for their work and studies. The project identified that most of the young people have a wrong perception about professions, either in a negative way, or a non-realistic consideration. Back to your future had a 60% rate of success, considered to be a
project worth being further developed through the current Community School.
Other means of identifying the target group are:
; Youngsters hear about the activities of this school and they come here
asking for help;
; Sometimes the coaches approach young people on the street and discuss
with them about their problems and offer them assistance;
; In some cases of criminal action, the judge may decide to send the
youngsters to attend the Community School programme.
Profile for Community School students
The youths that will receive support are tenacious Rotterdammers between 16 and 23 years old that dropped-out from regular education repeatedly. They have no fixed or regular work and the support is required in at least three areas of life: from health, housing, working, financial situation, social environment, leisure to safety, justice and police.
The new thing is that once identified, a young person with complex problem that doesn‟t fit with the Community School profile (e.g. age, severe personality disorders or heavy drug use) won‟t be just sent away. Together with other
institutions, the city will find a suitable place for him/her.
The aim of the project is to help young people to recognize their own problems and find ways to solve them for themselves.
The size of the target group consists of 100 students to work with within the two schools involved in the project in October, with an increase of up to 200 students in January 2010.
What is special about the Community School?
The Community School tries to make tailored made programmes for each student because everyone has his/her own problems, talents. The main idea is the development of one plan for one person and this makes the project so special; the flexibility, interactivity, constant communication with the youths and the innovative combination of methods are the lines followed.
Then, part of the responsibility is given to the student himself. He signs a contract similar to a working one, which assures that the specialists will have constant
contact with him; the vacations are not extended like in the normal education system.
5. Potential for development
A pilot project’s power
A pilot project is in essence a trial that aims at developing a blue print for dealing with a certain issue. The novelty of the setting makes impossible to anticipate its effectiveness. Furthermore, a new type of project implies high investments and risks and is almost impossible to obtain financing on a large scale. This is the reason why the Community School, approached as a pilot project, gives freedom in trying innovative learning methods together with experimental combinations of health care, education and work support.
A strong point for this particular project is that it uses other successful projects that involved youths with complex problems. Basically it takes good practices, connects them and puts all puzzle parts in another setting.
The Community School aims at making the most of opportunities and talents in order to provide structure and solidarity in these people‟s troubled lives. In
addition, a complementary goal is to give them job identity
If the trial is shown to be effective the financing of the provisional 200 places will be continued together with the development of campuses.
Reasons for development
Cities are changing and special support needs to be provided for young people to keep up with this change. A very important step is to share the need for new kinds of projects at city level, at national and international levels.
When talking about developments on a larger scale, the costs – benefits
discussion is the main focus. It is easier to think on a short or medium term and to reject a high investment, but a sustainable development approach asks for deeper analysis on longer term impacts.
For example, the costs for a youngster involved in the Community School will be around 20.000 Euro/year, while some approximations of the costs for a young person with no education and social integration problems could rise up to 150.000-300.000 Euro/year. This is a strong argument to determine politicians and the community in general to support such initiatives on the long run.