This week, Javier Mora, Company Director and Founder of StudyCELTA, an international agency specialised in promoting the Cambridge teacher training programmes such as the CELTA, writes about the reality and the future of the Erasmus+ funded courses for teachers

Erasmus +: the big hope

We have been operating since 2003, and have always been focused on the Cambridge programmes that provide qualifications for teaching English as a second language such as the CELTA. In addition, the Delta Diploma for the already qualified and experienced English teachers looking to take their teaching career to the next level through becoming teacher trainers or Director of Studies, and finally the Young Learners extension course of CELTA, for qualified teachers looking to specialise in teaching English to children. In the last two years we have become involved in the teacher training programmes subject to Erasmus Plus (Erasmus+) funding.

The Erasmus+ funding scheme consists of a budget of €14 billion to be used for taking part in programmes of professional development. The funding started in 2014 and will extend to 2020. The aim of these funds is to contribute to the continued improvement and development of teachers, students and the staff members of organisations involved in the education sector. Programmes subject to these European funds include internship programmes, skills exchange projects between institutions and methodology courses for teachers to name but a few. Most of these programmes and projects include a mobility factor as one of the key elements that enriches the professional development experience.

The funding is structured through different plans of action, for us as an agency focused on English teacher training the most relevant one is Key Action 1 (known as K1): Learning Mobility of Individuals.

In principle, most of the schools that we were already working with, before the Erasmus+ took off, already had some kind of teaching methodology course for non-native English language teachers who wanted a short course that they could take to upgrade their teaching skills and methods. However, these courses were not heavily promoted and bookings were few. All that has changed with the recently approved Erasmus+ funded scheme and schools have adjusted their already existing programmes to match the requirements established by the EU and can take advantage of the new Erasmus+ platform.

The number of schools from the UK, Ireland, and Malta taking up this opportunity has experienced extraordinary growth in the last couple of years. Furthermore, apart from the refresher and methodology courses for non-native English teachers, there has been in the last few years a boom in the number of CLIL courses (Content Language Integrated Learning).

CLIL is a course designed to help teachers adapt to the bilingual programmes already underway at their schools. In the case for many European teachers that were teaching subjects such as Music or Science in their native language, suddenly, they found themselves needing to teach the programme in the new bilingual landscape.

There is a lot of controversy regarding bilingual programmes, with many concerned about the loss of quality in the content of the subject that is taught and the level of teaching when it is not done in the teacher’s own native language. That said, all new initiatives need a period of adjustment with the key stakeholders, and in this case the teachers in particular, given adequate support to: one, enact the transition; and two, move forward with confidence, passion and excitement about what they are doing.

There is currently a big push from the governments in the European Union to support bilingual programmes in schools, and the CLIL programme is the best way to support teachers.

The TESOL methodology and refresher courses for non-native teachers of English and the CLIL courses are part of the core of the Erasmus+ funded programmes within Key Action 1. The growth of the number of course providers in English-speaking countries within the EU and increasing interest from schools applying for funds for their teachers to participate in these programmes is showing a slow but promising future for the schools and agencies wanting to get involved in the running and promotion of these courses.

So far, we can say that 2014, being the first year for Erasmus+ funding, was, as expected, not a good one. The schools didn’t know about the application process for the funds, and there wasn’t enough information and promotion at a local level from the Erasmus national offices. Finally, the funds were approved too late – when teachers already had arranged other plans for their holidays. Consequently, part of the money approved wasn’t used and the schools in the UK, Ireland and Malta didn’t receive the number of bookings they were aiming for.

This year, we can see a big shift in terms of how much information the schools and their teachers have when it comes to knowing the deadlines and paperwork involved when applying for Erasmus+ funds. They are now Erasmus+ savvy and at the same time, the schools offering the Erasmus+ courses have fine-tuned the content of their courses to respond more directly to EU teachers’ needs.

In general, we sense a bigger demand, but it is still slow. We believe it can only get better and everyone – teachers, schools and overseas course providers – will benefit from it.  Most importantly, the future generation will benefit from teacher development as better teachers always help make better learners.

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