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Month: October 2023

Parents Engage – Our contribution to the ESHA Biennial Conference

Parents International was invited to contribute to the biennial conference of our partner, the European School Heads Association held in Dubrovnik on 24/27 October 2023. The title of the conference and the focus was School Leaders Making a Difference. This provided us with the perfect opportunity to showcase the outcomes of the Parents Engage project, offering ways for school leaders to support their teacher to become more inclusive with special focus on the inclusion of migrants – a hot topic everywhere.

How to engage parents and students in today’s school realities was the main focus of the workshop with a very high turnout of over 100 participants.

School leaders all over Europe are facing a multitude of challenges from the growing diversity of the student population to demands about changing curricula or teacher shortages that are also a main concern for the parents and family of their students. As a result of school closures, parents have a deeper insight into the schooling of their children that resulted in massive movements, primarily by parents with lower levels of education, to opt out of school and find pseudo-homeschooling solutions – a truly frightening development. At the same time, the percentage of students who regularly attend school and fail to acquire basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills is still growing in Europe. Boys are falling behind and dropping out of school. Research clearly shows that, regardless of their level of education or socio-economic status, parents have the largest impact on students’ learning outcomes by having a main influence on their attitude towards learning and school. At the same time, freshly conducted research from various European countries show that neither parents, nor schools are content with the level of engagement parents have with schools while this topic is largely missing from teacher training programmes.

In the first half of the workshop, outcomes of recent research and the tools developed in the Parents Engage project were shared. Apart from the inclusion highlight, research was introduced on the mismatch between schools’ and parents’ expectations and perceptions as well as possible solutions for engagement in shared leadership solutions that not only provide engagement opportunities for parents, but also for students.

The second half of the workshop served as a case clinic inviting participants to share their ideas on each other’s biggest challenges in parental engagement and also child participation.

Midterm review of the European Education Area

The European Parliament and the European Commission has jointly organised a large event in Brussels that was to evaluate the progress towards the envisaged European Education Area by 2035. Parents International could bring the voice of European parents to the table. The event coincided with the publication of our Democrat Framework, giving us a perfect opportunity to highlight the link between the importance of more focus on educating democrats and the necessary educator skills for that.

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The midterm review event agenda followed the findings provided by the European Commission report on the progress of the European Education Area.

The main discussion topics included:

  • citizenship education
  • supporting teachers
  • boosting equity and inclusion in education and training
  • automatic mutual recognition

The most interesting intervention was on the Portuguese approach of making democracy education truly transversal in schools that have a very wide autonomy by training teachers and providing mutual learning opportunities for them and school leaders.

Unfortunately, any reference to the work of the Council of Europe on citizenship was missing while we heard a panellist about the dangers of the online world as “digital citizenship”.

The event was to bring together representatives from EU institutions, EU countries and relevant members of the wider education community. However, the participation did not go much beyond the “Brussels bubble”, organisations based in Brussels as this event was again organised in a way that did not make it possible for many organisations to send their representatives as travel costs were not covered – a new phenomenon introduced after the end of restrictions.

Gender equality and 30 years of civil society cooperation in Strasbourg

The Autumn Session of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe took place between 9-11 October 2023, coinciding with the session of the Parlamentary Assembly. It also celebrated 30 years of civil society organisations like us being part of the European efforts around human rights. As always, our Supervisory Board Member, Herminio Correa represented Parents International and he was also the co-organiser of a very topical round table discussion on gender equality. You can read his report about it below.

The Committee “NGOs as advocates for gender equality and women’s rights” organized a round table on the subject of “Gender equality is a Human Rights issue. How can we join forces to promote and protect it today?” with which the Autumn Session of the INGOS Conference began.

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Gender equality and 30 years of civil society cooperation in Strasbourg 4

This round table intended to highlight the relevance of gender equality and women’s rights as a cross-cutting theme that affects all INGO Committees in the outcome of their work. The Conference of INGOs’ common objective is to make the INGO Committees cooperate with each other on cross cutting topics. For the Gender Equality-Committee, this means contributing to gender mainstreaming and to support other INGO Committees to observe the gender perspective.

Respect and full compliance with human rights will only be a reality if men and women have the same rights and the same opportunities. Therefore, the defence of gender equality must be a joint task of all and everyone.

Cécile Gréboval, Senior Gender Equality Adviser, Gender Equality Division outlined the relevance of human rights and gender equality to the work of the Council of Europe and highlighted many inequalities between men and women that remain in our days.

Then five of the seven INGO Conference committees spoke about gender aspects in their work, namely in the areas of the environment, interreligiosity, children’s rights. education and migration.

This round table, as an introspective session, was a meaningful way to exchange experiences and lessons learned from the past and to obtain ideas and suggestions for the future. Based on the information obtained and the results of this round table, a strategy will be developed on how best to implement gender equality as a cross-cutting task in the work of the INGOs Conference.

Bettina Hanne (Chair), Anita Schnetzer-Spranger (Vice Chair) and Sara Pilia were the collaborators of Herminio Correa in the organization and execution of this round table.

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Supporting the development of international projects

Parents International was invited for the second time to hold a workshop at the DIPS (Developing International Projects) training that was held in warm and sunny Prague this year in the first week of October. Our workshop was about child participation and parental engagement for a transition from projects to programmes.

In a participatory format, the aim of the workshop what to explore and design successful parental engagement and child participation journeys, especially project design that builds on the initiatives of students and their parents and/or are carried out with their active participation. We have explored project work methodologies theat acknowledge and celebrate agency of students as well asn the role of parents as primary educators.

The workshop put a special focus on inclusive and multicultural learning aspects and the necessary self-reflection of teachers for it.

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Supporting the development of international projects 6

Using the Ladders of Child and Parent Participation, the group has realised that most of their methods are not participatory even if they are nice.

Parental engagement in Happy Schools

Parents International has long been a supporter of the Happy Schools initiative of UNESCO. On 4 October, we had the opportunity to contribute to their webinar timed for the eve of World Teacher Day. The reason is the same as for our joining the Let’s Care project: we belive that feeling safe and happy at school is a key factor in preventing early school leaving and preserving the joy of learning – a key for educating lifelong learners. What is a positive aspect of the Happy Schools initiative that it is not trying to interfere with personal relations and the role of family while keeps the right professional boundaries – unlike some aspriations of Let’s Care.


According to the Happy Schools initiative, if schools are to be the vectors for high-quality educational experiences, they need to be happy environments. UNESCO uses the four pillars of Happy Schools (people, process, place, and principles) to help policy-makers break down the concept into criteria to be targeted by system-wide policies. On World Happiness Day 2023, UNESCO kicked off a webinar series to discuss each of the four pillars of the global Happy Schools framework in a dedicated webinar session. This third focused session, organized in celebration of World Teachers’ Day 2023, explored the people pillar, which concerns the well-being, work conditions, skills, and interpersonal relationships between the main actors within school communities.

This 90-minute webinar explored the people pillar of the global Happy Schools framework to:

  • Discuss systemic changes needed to improve relationships between teachers, students, parents, school leaders, staff, community members, and managers to establish and sustain positive learning environments where teachers are happy to teach and students are happy to learn.
  • Share perspectives from around the world on the importance of supporting teacher well-being by strengthening the happiness of the school environment and attractiveness of the teaching profession.
  • Encourage all to join Happy Schools in partnership and commit to happiness and a whole school approach to learning as the foundation of quality education.

In our contribution, we had the opportunity to talk about our trainings, materials and programmes that can support a better home-school partnership, primarily by the capacity building of professionals.