Schools: So, how does a school or a teacher get involved?
To begin, it's essential to know that Erasmus+ has an organisation-based approach; projects need to address the identified needs of the entire organisation rather than of individual staff members. Organisations must agree what their development or strategic priorities are, and use Erasmus+ to pursue these goals.
There are two types of projects, known as 'Key Actions'. No matter which type, a successful Erasmus+ project is one that becomes central to school life and is beneficial to school, staff and pupils alike.
Under Key Action 1, staff members can travel abroad for short teaching assignments or training periods designed to assist the whole school. In 2015, St Paul's Primary School, Portlaoise, Co Laois, used this to develop intercultural competencies among its staff. With about 25pc of its pupils born outside Ireland, the school saw a need to promote a sense of shared citizenship, empowering all pupils to be part of the larger European community. A cross-section of staff was selected to attend a training course in Latvia or to job shadow teachers in Slovenia.
Under Key Action 2, schools and/or school education organisations can lead or join a strategic partnership - a collaborative international project where organisations work together to raise standards in teaching and learning, by developing and sharing new working methods or research. These can be school-only partnerships, partnerships between local/regional authorities, or partnerships between schools and other education and training organisations.
St Joseph's Secondary School, Rush, Co Dublin, worked with schools from Belgium, Norway, Turkey, Slovenia, Italy, Germany and Spain to explore issues of identity, language and cultural background. Using newer methods like co-teaching and digital storyboarding, the schools and pupils turned folk stories from their own countries into a range of comic books called 'Strip to Identity'. As one pupil put it, "the project itself was a great way to introduce a new way of learning which does not include sitting in front of a thick book and losing your mind"!
Implementing successful Erasmus+ projects like these requires the support of the organisation as a whole, which may be a challenge if there is no history of such projects or a reluctance to get involved.
One approach for teachers is to begin with eTwinning, a long-running European initiative that digitally connects schools for highly flexible collaborative projects. eTwinning projects can begin immediately after registration and be as short or long as desired, so they are well suited for individual class work. As well as creating the initial engagement with Europe, many Erasmus+ projects have been borne out of connections made through eTwinning - including the St Paul's Primary School project mentioned above.