On March 28th and 29th (coinciding with days during which the BREXIT dilemma became even more acute) Dr Mhairi Beaton and Professor Rachel Lofthouse were in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia at a project meeting of the PROMISE project.
The project ‘Promoting Inclusion in Society through Education: Professional Dilemmas in Practice’ involves partners from The Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, England, Scotland and Hungary. We are part-way through the first year of the three year Erasmus+ project which is funded by the EU. It is an example of the way universities like Leeds Beckett University work collaboratively with European partners over extended periods of time, with potential impacts both in the partner countries and beyond for the benefit of all European society.
While it is tempting to write more about the project itself, that is perhaps for another time. It would also be tempting to make the case here of the importance of European funding and related partnerships to sustaining the strategic work of academic and professional organisations in the UK. But that feels impolite given what else might be at risk from BREXIT which may be felt by others at a more personal level. Here we wanted to reflect on the experience at this moment of BREXIT indecision. For us there is something joyful about working in pan-European projects and we acknowledge our good fortune to be able to visit new countries, to experience something of their culture, architecture, landscape and people.
So, some brief reflections. Firstly, that Ljubljana is a beautiful city, in a country of only 2 million people, fringed by snow-capped mountains and with a focus on sustainable living. Secondly, that Slovenian education is characterised by a commitment to enhancing teacher professionalism which is directly facilitated by our hosts and partners the National Education Institute. Slovenian education institutions are encouraged to look beyond their country boundaries through European participation, and in doing so develop solutions to meet the ambitions of their country through enhancing the potential of their young people.
Our transnational project partners meeting has been characterised in the same way by a sharing of expertise, by creative and critical thinking, by respect for each other’s knowledge and insights and the enjoyment of spending time with committed professionals. As March drew to a close, at the conclusion of our meeting we sat in the sunshine by the river reflecting on our progress towards the project goals. We leave with a renewed understanding of how the challenges faced by the people of Europe can best be met through collaborative work.
Rachel Lofthouse is Professor of Teacher Education in the Carnegie School of Education. She has a specific research interest in professional learning, exploring how teachers learn and how they can be supported to put that learning into practice.