A GOOD START – Activities

A GOOD START – Activities

Objective 1 – to improve early childhood education and care (ECEC) for Roma children to enhance their school readiness and subsequent life opportunities

Activities aimed at fulfilling objective 1 are carried out in formal pre-schools, in community centres and in the home. They include promoting enrolment and attendance in pre-school education, parenting meetings, teacher training and material support. Both the children and parents are targeted with the aim of overcoming barriers to early education and ensuring a nurturing enabling environment in the home for the young Roma.

Objective 2 – to scale up access to quality ECEC services for disadvantaged Roma children

There are a range of national and international activities aimed at achieving objective 2. These include lobbying and involving local Municipalities in the project, production and dissemination of how to guides, policy papers and a video, and national and international events. These methods are used to both promote the sustainability of current activities and their scaling up, so more Roma children can be helped in the long-term. An extensive monitoring and evaluation system will provide information on what works and what doesn’t.
Objective 1 types of interventions or activities

Formal Pre-school/ Kindergarten:

REF’s partner NGOs in ‘A Good Start’ work with mainstream pre-schools and kindergartens to promote enrolment of Roma children, quality teaching and good attendance.
Activities include parent-teacher meetings, regular meetings between community mediators and teachers, and community mediators and parents. Additionally community mediators work with pre-schools to bring Roma parents to open-days to promote enrolment.

International Step by Step Association and its local partners in the respective countries deliver trainings to the teachers and different professionals in the project. The trainings focus on improving teaching and diagnostic skills, taking into account the individual child’s needs, and handling cultural difference to better integrate the Roma children.
On the basis of need, children are provided transport and accompaniment to pre-school or school and the basic items needed for attending pre-school – slippers, pyjamas, clothing, shoes and school supplies. In some cases children are provided with financial assistance covering enrollment fees. Additionally, some kindergartens are provided financial support to contribute to renovation or equipment.

In Hungary within the “Home Pre-school Community Liaison Programme”, mothers and fathers deliver pre-school sessions of their choice (such as baking, fishing, mask-making, etc.) at the mainstream pre-school or kindergarten. This programme helps build trust between the kindergarten teachers and the Roma community, and also encourages the parents to be more involved in their child’s education.

Community Centre/ other venues:
Alternative pre-school education programmes are offered in some locations where there is an absence of spaces for children. These are seen only as short-term solutions as the partners lobby the local authorities and State to increase provision by providing more facilities and by helping the Roma to access them.
Parents are provided advice and parenting-skills training to help them create a nurturing and supportive environment at home, by improving their understanding of early childhood education and care issues and practices.
Parents are provided information about health care and education at community motivation events and workshops. A major emphasis is placed on the importance of education to break the cycle of exclusion and poverty.

In Hungary in ‘Your Tale’, also known as MESED, Roma and non-Roma mothers practice reading children’s stories and the facilitator helps them to discuss the early childhood education and care issues raised in the books. The mothers then read the tales to their children and in the meantime they improve their writing, reading and comprehension competencies.

Home based:
Families are regularly visited by community mediators who help them access health services, get vaccinations for the children and advise on education and social security issues.
In some cases community mediators provide some basic education in the home, such as coloring, counting, recognizing and categorizing objects.

Toy Libraries:
A new activity for the second year of ‘A Good Start’ project, toy libraries will be introduced in eight locations making educational development toys accessible to the children of the poorer families. These modern didactic tools should help develop the cognitive, psychomotor, social and emotional competences of the children who will be informally evaluated on return of the toys.
Objective 2 types of interventions or activities

Project Launches
In autumn 2010 launches were held in each of the project countries: Slovakia, Romania, Macedonia and Hungary. Participants included REF’s partner NGOs in the country, central and local government representatives such state secretaries and deputy ministers, and a vice – mayor, and most important of all Roma parents who would become beneficiaries in the project. There was significant press interest on each occasion.
Transnational workshops
Aimed at exchanging knowledge and experiences within the field of inclusive education addressed to Roma in the participating countries, Fundacion Secretariado Gitano (FSG) hosted the Transnational Workshop “Policy Recommendations – Scaling-up projects by European Structural Funds” in Madrid, Spain between 17-19 November, 2010. Key challenges which should be addressed by the education system were covered, and there were also field visits to share experiences.
REF organized the “How to measure our progress” Transnational workshop in the College of Nyíregyháza in Hungary, on 13–14 December, 2010. It focused on relevant data-collection issues and different practices, to support cross country learning. As part of the workshop participants attended a field visit, and learned how a needs assessment for community services was used in Nyíregyháza.
The Third Transnational Workshop of ‘A Good Start’ project took place in Bratislava, Slovakia on June 1-2, 2011. Aimed at improving pre-school and early care opportunities for Roma children aged 0-6, the topic was “Quality Practices in Inclusive Early Childhood Services focusing on Disadvantaged Roma Children”. Organized by the International Step by Step Association, held in Bratislava it provided an opportunity to exchange and enrich experiences on quality practices coming from ’A Good Start’ project by sharing, reflecting and discussing about practice based succesful outcomes and challenges. In addition to this it draw attention to problems that Roma children face in accessing education in the respective countries, such as segregation, lack of capacity and other issues. 

Final National Conferences
There will be a final conference in each focus country. These conferences will bring together all the relevant stakeholders in ECEC in the countries of implementation and will provide the opportunity for summarizing results and the lessons learned from each locality in the country and for disseminating the results for national, regional and local stakeholders. Particular attention will be paid to bringing together different government ministries with responsibility for some aspect of early care and development.

The Final International Conference
The final conference of A Good Start will take place in Spain on May 2011. The aim of the conference will be to disseminate the results and outcomes of the project to a broader audience: project participant Member States and non-participant Member States with significant Roma populations. The final conference will bring together the policy makers, academics, Roma and non-Roma civil society organizations, governments and European Commission representatives interested in developing a more inclusive system of ECEC for Roma disadvantaged children. Among participants special emphasis will be put on gathering key stakeholders and decision-makers in order to have a real impact on influencing social policies.  There will be discussions on the lessons learnt in the project and policy implications at local, national, regional and European Union level.

Policy Papers
A first policy paper will be on Mainstreaming the Access of Disadvantaged Roma Children to Quality ECEC. The policy paper will use the experience accumulated in the project to produce a model of inclusion of Roma children. The second policy paper will target the European Commission and the national governments and will summarize the policy implications for the Structural Funds 2013-2019 programming cycle. This second policy paper will be disseminated in the EU member countries through the EUROMA network, coordinated by the FSG.

How to Guides
All three guides will be prepared in Slovak, Hungarian, Romania, Macedonia and English.

The first guide will be entitled “How to establish partnerships for providing quality ECEC services for Roma”. Based on the experiences from the project the guide will give practical advice on how to create trust in ECEC providers in Roma communities, raise awareness and motivate parents, and establish partnerships between Roma NGOs, local authorities and providers of ECEC services. The guide will be disseminated through the networks of all partner organizations.

The second guide will provide a non-technical, user-friendly description of the data collection tools and
instruments used in the project including the community assessment tool, household survey and database of recurring beneficiaries. The targets of the guide are primarily local authorities and NGOs aiming to deliver evidence-based educational programmes or projects for Roma children.

The third guide will address the community of ECED practitioners and will describe briefly and in a practical manner the principles of good pedagogy based on the ISSA Pedagogical Standards and the early learning and development standards, as well as practical recommendations and examples of quality implementation practices. It will also include guidelines for the development and use of a child portfolio. The guide will be disseminated through the networks of all partner organizations.