Learners at Thomas Danby College gain new skills and perspective from European Placement Programme

An innovative programme which allows UK organisations to get involved in European working has provided one of our Centres with some very exciting placement opportunities, which tutor Sandra Rymer told us about recently.

The Leonardo Programme is open to all UK organisations that offer vocational training, including local authorities, schools, colleges, trade unions, chambers of commerce and private training providers. Thomas Danby College was particularly interested in the ‘mobility projects’ the scheme offers, which aims to improve the skills of the UK workforce by providing work placement opportunities throughout Europe.

“I am the Programme Leader for the Level 3 Diploma in Child Care and Education, and was lucky enough to accompany 2 of my very excited students on a trip to Kotke in Finland to complete a work placement in an English speaking kindergarten,” says Sandra. “Of course the education system in Finland is very different to ours so it was a great learning experience for all of us,” she says.

Formal education in Finland doesn’t begin until the children are aged seven. Prior to that they attend a kindergarten which is split into age groups in a similar way to many UK nurseries and other settings. However, the environment and curriculum is quite different which Sandra says “gives the Learner a different perspective. The emphasis is very much on social development and there is lots of play. I noticed that they like to promote independence and self reliance from a young age too, and thought it was fantastic to see some of the preschoolers taking on responsibilities such as setting tables at lunchtimes or clearing away afterwards – including recycling materials!.” Sandra also came to appreciate the traditional Finnish love of story telling. “This is a very important part of the day as the children also have a sleep/rest period whilst the teacher reads. Childcare students in Finland even study story telling,” says Sandra. “I sat in on a practical nursing training session, and the Learners were from all kinds of settings and backgrounds, including Special Educational Needs (SEN). During the session, the tutor told a traditional Finnish fairy tale and the learners had to draw images from it, then passing on their own fairy tale to one another. The training had a very creative focus as this is very much their ethos.”

As well as learning all about children’s services in Finland, Sandra also shared lots of her knowledge with both the tutors and the students. “I told them a little bit about our college, what our nursery nurses did, and how our system worked. I also discussed with the tutor the impact of the EYFS framework which she found really interesting as they don’t have anything similar in Finland. I also did some creative activities with the students using lots of images which helped get over the language barrier. We made a mobile and created a collage, and they showed me examples of the traditional handicraft they teach the children, which involves a lot of sewing. I really enjoyed it.”

As for the Learners, Sandra says the programme has given them some great new ideas for creative activities and play, and a new perspective which she thinks will really enhance their practice. “We also have Finnish students coming to visit us – they attend the same placements as our Learners and also seem to come away with new ideas and a valuable insight into our Early Years system.”