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EU Reporter partners with the British School of Brussels for student Journalism Award

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EU Reporter has just announced the results of the first edition of a new, annual Young Journalism Award in collaboration with the British School of Brussels. As a former pupil at the school, it has been a great pleasure to keep the connection going and offer the current students in years 11-13 (ages 16-18) an opportunity to practice their writing skills and make an addition to their CV’s as many look towards applying for university. The competition involved writing a short essay of up to 1,000 words, responding to a set question. The question is left quite open to allow plenty of room for the students to get creative and approach it from their own unique perspectives, writes Tori Macdonald.

The entries were to be judged by members of the EU Reporter team: Senior journalist Catherine Feore; Editor-in-chief, Colin Stevens; and myself, Development Executive Tori Macdonald.

For the first edition, we began with quite a generic yet complex enquiry for the students, posing, “What being at an international school means to me” as the task for completion.

I was sure that the subjective nature of this question would bring in a variety of interpretations and as a lifelong expatriate myself, I was looking forward to seeing how each applicant’s stories compared to my own; everyone ultimately sharing this unique type of schooling experience.

Much to our delight, we received an impressive number of entries, each piece filled with enthusiasm, personality and an array of well-developed points, justifying their individual experiences as international students. A truly wonderful response for the first edition of this competition.

As one of the judges, I was astounded by the standard of language and essay structuring skills of the students, making my job very difficult indeed! I was sure that I hadn’t even been aware of some of the vocabulary used when I was their age!

However, there could only be three finalists and ultimately, one winner.

The individuals who made the top 3 positions were chosen following immaculate spelling and grammar; clear and concise essay structuring; balanced arguments, and above all, the most unique perspectives on the situation as there were a couple of highly common reoccurring themes.

Segments from the entries of the winner, second place and runner up are as follows, click on their names to view the full articles.

WINNER - Grace Roberts:

What made Grace the winner was her beautiful storytelling, truly tugging on the heartstrings of each of the judges. Furthermore, exceptional literary skills, wonderful incorporation of an analogy and rhetorical question, and all the while, a well evaluated and balanced set of reasons.

“I could be who I wanted to be without anyone knowing me prior to arriving. I could wear what I wanted; I could do my hair the way I wanted. I could be me. Of course, there were the few judgements from people as there always will be, but it was okay because I was happy and fine being me. I found a stable support system: friends who cared for me, teachers who gave me help when I needed it, a school system that strived itself on kindness and positivity.”

 Read full entry

 HIGHLY COMMENDED - Maxime Tanghe:

Maxime displayed a very impressive variety of vocabulary, starting off with a very strong introduction. He developed a wonderful focus around mindset and made intelligent critiques. Maxime also made a nice use of quotes to add depth to his points.

“The word “international” portrays to me a harmonization in beliefs and cultures. It requires a significant amount of respect and ethicality, which should be at the utmost importance for our modernizing society. Being a student at an international school has radically changed my perspective on not only myself and my perception of humanity, but it has also directly affected the way I value and treat others.”

 Read full entry

 FINALIST – Adam Pickard:

Adam also incorporated an advanced use of vocabulary along with well-developed explanations and sentence structuring. His interesting conclusions created a very unique angle on the situation which was refreshing as a contrast against the majority of highly positive articles.

“But in the bizarre multi-ethnic landscape of the international school, out of your natural environment, sharing a nationality with any given student was uncommon at most. With so many people from so many different places, one tended to look for those with a shared experience, for a topic of conversation if for nothing else.”

 Read full entry

A big congratulations to Grace, Maxime and Adam on their exceptional pieces and compliments to all the students that entered. An absolutely outstanding level of journalism amongst these young students, and no doubt very impressive futures ahead of each one of them.

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French primary pupils return to school despite high COVID numbers

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Schoolchildren, wearing protective face masks, return to classes at Lepeltier primary school in La Trinite, near Nice, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, April 26, 2021.    REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Schoolchildren, wearing protective face masks, are seen in a classroom at Lepeltier primary school in La Trinite, near Nice, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, April 26, 2021.    REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

France sent primary and nursery pupils back to school on Monday (26 April), the first phase of reopening after a three-week COVID-19 lockdown, even as daily new infections remained stubbornly high.

President Emmanuel Macron said a return to school would help fight social inequality, allowing parents who struggle to pay for childcare to get back to work, but trade unions warned that new infections would lead to a "torrent" of classroom closures.

In the upmarket Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, pupils wore face masks and rubbed disinfectant gel on their hands as they filed through the front door of the Achille Peretti primary school. A poster reminded the youngsters to stay a metre apart.

"They're young, they need an adult to help them, but most parents have a job and it's burdensome to ask them to do the school work," said teacher Elodie Passon.

Middle and high school pupils are due to return to the classroom next Monday, when the government will also lift domestic travel restrictions that have been in place nationwide since early April.

The open-air terraces of bars and restaurants, as well as some business and cultural venues, might be allowed to reopen from mid-May if the curbs have sufficiently slowed the spread of the coronavirus, the government has said.

Some doctors and public health experts have warned it may be too early to ease restrictions.

On Sunday (25 April), the seven-day average of new cases fell below 30,000 for the first time in over a month, from about 38,000 when the lockdown began, though the number of COVID-19 patients in critical care still hovered near a third-wave high of 5,984.

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Education

Education and skills: Commission launches public consultation to support lifelong learning and employability

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The Commission has launched a public consultation on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. During the next 12 weeks, the consultation will collect ideas for a common definition of micro-credentials – recognition of short, targeted learning courses – and for the development of EU standards ensuring their quality and transparency. Within Europe, a growing number of people need to update their knowledge, skills and competences to fill in the gap between their formal education and the needs of a fast-changing society and labour market. Public and private stakeholders are rapidly developing short-term learning courses. ‘Micro-credentials' are a crucial step to certify the outcomes of these experiences, thus supporting people to improve or gain new skills throughout their careers and reaching out to a more diverse group of learners. Micro-credentials have the potential to make education more inclusive, and will promote flexible, short term learning opportunities.

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “In these unprecedented times, our learning opportunities need to adapt. They should be flexible, modular and accessible to anyone wanting to develop their competences. Our European approach to micro-credentials will facilitate the recognition and validation of these important short learning experiences. It will contribute to making lifelong learning a reality across the EU.”

Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said: “As member states strive to meet the target of 60% of adults in annual training set by the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, we need to make learning as user-centric as possible. Whether you take a short course in coding through a VET provider or learn a foreign language with a language school, your newly-acquired skills should be recognised throughout the European labour market. The public consultation that we launch today is an important step to put this flagship action from our European Skills Agenda into practice.”

The public consultation is available online.

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An ambitious and more inclusive Erasmus+ takes off with €28 billion to support mobility and learning

Catherine Feore

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The Commission today (25 March) adopted the first annual work programme of Erasmus+ 2021-2027. With a budget of €26.2 billion, the programme has nearly doubled in scale and is hoping to be more inclusive and have a stronger emphasis on both the green and digital transition. 

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commisioner Mariya Gabriel said: “The fact that the Erasmus+ budget for the next seven years has almost doubled shows the importance given to education, lifelong learning and youth in Europe.

“The current pandemic has exacerbated inequality, especially for young people. The principle of solidarity must be the driving force between our actions here, and we are working with organizations that represent and work with people who have fewer opportunities to help them gain access to this programme. I'm talking about people from less favoured socio-economic backgrounds, people living in rural areas, isolated people, or people with disabilities. For example, we cover the costs of people who are accompanying participants with disabilities.”

The new Erasmus+ programme provides opportunities for study periods abroad, traineeships, apprenticeships, and staff exchanges in all fields of education, training, youth and sport. It is open to school pupils, higher education and vocational education and training students, adult learners, youth exchanges, youth workers and sports coaches.

In addition to mobility, which counts for 70% of the budget, the new Erasmus+ also invests in cross‑border co-operation projects. These can be between higher education institutions (e.g. the European Universities initiative); schools; teacher education and training colleges (e.g. Erasmus+ Teacher Academies); adult learning centres; youth and sport organisations; providers of vocational education and training (e.g. Vocational Centres of Excellence).

The main features of the Erasmus+ 2021-2027 programme are:

Inclusive Erasmus+: providing enhanced opportunities to people with fewer opportunities, including people with diverse cultural, social and economic backgrounds, and people living in rural and remote areas. Novelties include individual and class exchanges for school pupils and mobility for adult learners. It will be easier for smaller organisations, such as schools, youth associations and sports clubs to apply, thanks to small-scale partnerships and the use of simplified grant applications. The programme will also be more international, allowing cooperation with third countries, building on the successes of the previous programme with exchanges and cooperation projects around the world. 

Digital Erasmus+: The pandemic highlighted the need to accelerate the digital transition of education and training systems. Erasmus+ will support the development of digital skills, in line with the Digital Education Action Plan. It will provide high-quality digital training and exchanges via platforms such as eTwinning, School Education Gateway and the European Youth Portal, and it will encourage traineeships in the digital sector. New formats, such as blended intensive programmes, will allow short-term physical mobility abroad to be complemented with online learning and teamwork. The implementation of the programme will be further digitalised and simplified with the full roll-out of the European Student Card.

Green Erasmus+: In line with the European Green Deal, the programme will offer financial incentives to participants using sustainable modes of transport. It will also invest in projects promoting awareness of environmental issues and facilitate exchanges related to mitigating the climate crisis.

Erasmus+ for young people: DiscoverEU now becomes an integral part of Erasmus+ and gives 18 year-olds the possibility to get a rail pass to travel across Europe, learn from other cultures and meet fellow Europeans. Erasmus+ will also support exchange and cooperation opportunities through new youth participation activities, to help young people engage and learn to participate in democratic life, raising awareness about shared European values and fundamental rights; and bringing young people and decision-makers together at local, national and European level.

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