The Gozo College pilot project

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Mar 13 13:59:32 UTC 2006

>>From the Times of Malta,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Gozo College pilot project


Last June, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Employment published the
document "For all Children to Succeed." Apart from other innovations, it
was announced that a system of networking between schools was being
launched. Four different pilot networks were announced, one of which is
the Gozo Pilot Project under the co-ordination of Chev. Frank Gatt.

Indeed, this was a step in the right direction towards the achievement of
a quality education for all. Networks lay emphasis on collaboration and
thrive on the sharing of good practice. There is a powerful and growing
body of research evidence showing that professional learning and
professional knowledge are best acquired by teachers working together
rather than individually.

Indeed, educators learn best by sharing ideas, planning collaboratively,
discussing each other's ideas and experiences rather than working in
isolation. Recent research shows that networks increase professional
interaction and learning across schools, and those who participate in them
generate excitement about teaching and learning.

Indeed, this excitement in teaching and learning has not been lacking in
the Gozo College. Since the Gozo College was introduced, a lot of positive
energy and synergy has been generated in the 16 schools making up the
college, as well as across the whole community.

The idea is catching on very rapidly and this will surely enhance learning
and teaching at all levels, and among the various stakeholders: pupils and
students, parents, teachers, senior management teams and other members of
the community. Various activities and projects have already been organised
or are under way.

On the pupils/students' level, just to mention one initiative, common,
free-of-charge animation sessions were organised after normal school hours
for Year 6 pupils and Form V students. During these sessions, JL and SEC
English syllabi and past papers are explored most attractively through

Learners from the different schools come together and learn, under the
guidance of English and drama teachers/animators, in the three school
centres helping in this experience: San Lawrenz Primary, Ghajnsielem
Primary and M.A. Refalo Centre for Further Studies, Victoria.

A special word of praise goes to all the 14 Gozitan councils, which have
provided free-of-charge transport for all the students attending these
animation sessions.

The Council of Heads has already met on several occasions to discuss
matters of common interest and to share good practices. These meetings are
purposely convened in different schools so that each head has the
opportunity to explain the good practices in his/her school.

In addition, heads are collaborating very actively in research on
networking, literacy, numeracy, school attendance and others. Assistant
heads are preparing collaboratively working papers on discipline, homework
policy, school attendance, dress code and language policy.

Assistant heads have also been working closely with subject co-ordinators
and teachers to prepare common half-yearly examination papers in Religion,
Maltese and French. This new culture of professional co-operation is
becoming an everyday practice at the Gozo College and is giving a new
impetus to the system.

Teachers, too, are already reaping tangible benefits, especially with
regard to training and professional development. As everybody knows,
professional development is a sine qua non for teachers to keep abreast of
the latest pedagogical trends and methodologies.

The Gozo College network has already borne its fruits in this respect:
secondary school teachers from Ninu Cremona and Agius de Soldanis have had
their professional development sessions together, working collaboratively;
all primary school teachers will shortly be meeting at San Lawrenz to have
their professional development as a group.

Moreover, for the first time ever, all Gozitan teachers will not be
crossing over to Malta for their In-Service Training (INSET) in July and
September. INSET of the highest quality is being planned in Gozo for all
Gozitan teachers, both primary and secondary, working together.

Various sessions have already been organised for parents on various topics
ranging from stress management to substance abuse. These very well
attended meetings are usually conducted by professional personnel from the
Education Division and agencies such as FES (Foundation for Educational
Services) and OASI.

The sessions are also attended by the college co-ordinator who constantly
encourages parents to participate in this dialogue of sharing and
co-operation. Parents are constantly given time and space to air their
views and even contribute to action research.

I was also informed that a number of other projects are in the pipeline: a
healthy breakfast day for all College students, in co-operation with the
Health Promotion Unit; a health and safety hands-on exhibition; a hands-on
science week in a typical Gozitan farmhouse; a creativity week involving
the schools of drama, music and arts and crafts; and various activities
involving environmental issues, to mention a few.

Activities with other schools, colleges and networks are also envisaged in
the near future. The Gozo College network is blooming with ideas and
positive energy. It has injected a new lease of life into the whole

Thanks go to the MEYE, the Ministry for Gozo, the Education Division, the
senior management team of each school, parents, pupils and students, local
councils, indeed the whole community, which has responded so positively
and proactively to the idea.

A word of praise goes to the College co-ordinator, whose sense of
initiative and personal sacrifice, unwavering enthusiasm and
professionalism have already nurtured professional growth, built sound
relationships and genuine trust, and improved the school experience for
all the members of the community.

This, indeed, is the way forward!

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