Palermo – “Growing Skills on Farms for Budding Learners with Disabilities”

Summary

This 2-year project funded by Erasmus+ KA2 program focuses on farms, including city farms, as a setting that provides accessible and conducive environment for Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) learners to acquire skills on Vocational Education and Training (VET) for employment. They can offer opportunities that colleges cannot with practical, sensory-rich environment. There is a gap in the employment prospects and job vacancies for those with disabilities and farm environment have the potential to host opportunities to bridge the gap. To provide a more inclusive labour market, farms need to provide quality, well-respected VET schemes of work. Teachers and carers must be well trained in order to create a comprehensive learning with enthusiasm and motivation to create these opportunities. 

The project targets both teenagers and young adults SEND learners and create varied opportunities for them on farms. Courses may include VET courses in animal care, horticultural studies, enterprise or work placements on farms.  This target group of SEND learners can often be marginalised in VET learning, especially depending upon what courses are offered close to them that they can access. By creating more opportunities and sharing this best practice, inclusion is promoted within education and their chances of gaining paid vacancies in their future careers is enhanced.  Farms can provide public settings that enhance social inclusion in a sensory and therapeutic way where peers can learn and share experiences collectively. This can in turn boosts their self-confidence and provide them with a sense of ownership for future adulthood.

What Has Been Done So Far?

To facilitate the achievement of the desired objectives of the project, transnational meetings are planned as avenues to learn how each partner deliver their program and exchange best practices. The first transnational meeting was in done Palermo, Italy on 3rd-4th of July 2019 and was hosted by project partner, Avofid, a volunteer association set on a farm that provides support and VET learning and socialisation for individuals and families with disabilities. It was organised by Enso in close coordination with the host organisation and was participated by 3 representatives of another project partner Simion Mehedenti.

At the first meeting, Avofid showcased their programs for individuals and families with SEND which include teaching informal horticultural courses to SEND learners. They also shared their first-hand knowledge and best practices in delivering support, VET learning and socialisation to their beneficiaries in the farm and provided practical adaptations needed for such schemes of work and ensure they remain inclusive and realistic.

For the second meeting scheduled on 21st-22nd of October, it will be the turn of Simion Mehedenti to host. Simion Mehedenti is a high school in Galati, Romania that offers VET to 250 students with SEND, aged between 14-26.  The host will be sharing their best practices from their knowledge in teaching SEND learners in a classroom setting and training staff for increased competence in teaching students with SEND. As a school, they can provide an educational perspective on creating courses and can share more academic courses to the Partnership.

Lastly, there will be a short learning activity which will be held in Bristol, UK in April 2020 and will be hosted by Enso. Project partners will be taken to exemplary farms near Bristol where they will have the opportunity to engage with the people who run them. Additionally, they will also learn from the farms’ innovative programs on VET, observe their VET courses taught on the farms, and analyse risk assessments. 

Motivations and aims

The following are aimed to be achieved by the project:

  • Share knowledge of outreach to promote access for disabled learners onto the courses in farms as permeable pathways into labour market.
  • Develop inclusive and accessible schemes of work for learners with disabilities.
  • Provide stimulating, inspirational collaboration to motivate and aid VET teachers and staff’s continuous professional development. 

The project is being implemented by a Partnership comprised by Enso (UK) as the Coordinator and Avofid (Italy) and Simion Mehedenti High School (Romania). This transnational implementation of the project facilitates learning from different national educational systems and/or approaches, transfers knowledge of best practice across countries to support the better education of learners internationally, and creates positive relationships between the partner countries. With these partners, a  cross-section of skills can be created. The Romanian school can provide us with the educational perspective on creating courses. They can also share their more academic courses within the Partnership. Avofid can provide the practical adaptations needed for such schemes of work and ensure they remain inclusive and realistic. Both organisations can work together to understand the barriers to increasing outreach and uptake on such courses. In Palermo this has the potential to influence local educational reform and in Galati, the Partnership has the potential to provide skills for employment to support struggling families. 

Results expected

The project expects to see results such as exchange and collection of schemes of work particularly in VET as well as sharing of marketing materials and policies relating to outreach for VET uptake on farms. A compilation of contemporary strategies for teaching and learning methodologies for disabled learners will also be produced. Also, presentations of outreach and VET schemes will be made available in various platforms such as Start Academy.

There will be a cross-section of skills, sharing and adaptations of best practices between project partners as results of transnational meetings and a better understanding of the barriers to increasing outreach and uptake on the courses. More importantly, results from the project are aimed to contribute to giving SEND learners’ routes into employment. Through the project dissemination materials, it is anticipated that companies and organisations gain appreciation and value the content of VET courses and would open more opportunities for VET-trained SEND learners.