Task Force Meeting 2019
Collaboration in Formation, Safeguarding and Global Citizenship
On May 5 -8 2019 members and supporters of three JECSE Task Forces met in Salamanca to talk about new collaborative European initiatives on three major topics: Global Citizenship, Safeguarding, and collaboration in Staff Formation. The Task Force initiative was a result of the last annual JECSE meeting of the European Education Delegates, that had ‘networking as a new way of proceeding’ as its main theme.
For the annual Education Delegates meeting (in November 2018) JECSE invited Daniel Villanueva sj, coordinator of the Jesuit Network Initiative, to talk about the dynamic of networking as a means to create a culture of collaboration and to strengthen our common initiatives. It was recognized that some common needs require an interconnected approach and that there is great value in networking as a group of delegates from the different Provinces (in JECSE). To explore how we might expand the possibilities of our networking, we surfaced the strengths and needs in our different Provinces and were able to determine three areas that we might fruitfully collaborate on. Thus, our task groups came to live on the topics of Formation, Safeguarding and Global Citizenship.
Since the delegates meeting all three Task Forces made their plans, gathered valuable input and approached some good external experts. During the meeting in Salamanca the task groups worked on their own objectives, reported to the other task groups on their progress to date, and discerned together on how best to go forward – always with a view to improvement and best practice in the Provinces and the schools.
Staff Formation at the European level
With fewer Jesuits in many of our European schools and in a general cultural (economized) climate that does not encourage Ignatian pedagogy, good staff formation to support, encourage and empower both leaders and teachers in our schools is a must. Miguel Poza gathered as Task Force leader with 4 JECSE delegates and two external experts, to decide how best to organize this at the European level.
One of the decisions was on providing a European educational leadership program. While Tim Byron sj could advise us from the point of view of the cross-sectoral NW-European leadership-program, Tim Sassen as Director of Leadership Development and Communication for the Jesuit Schools Network in the US shared with us their program and resources but also their process of collaboration.
Other decisions made were on making our programs and resources better available to each others colleagues. In addition to this the JECSE Steering Committee anticipates to start working in the (nearest possible) future on a European teachers platform for formation.
Safeguarding: a first priority
The Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in our schools is now one of JECSE’s main priorities. Delegates acknowledged the importance of a collaborative methodology to develop good protocols and training, but also to deepen our knowledge and understanding.
The task force consists of a group of JECSE delegates, supported by some good external experts. In Salamanca current task force leader Björn Mrosko sj shared his experience on leading the team that developed the German minimum standards for child protection.
We decided on developing a package of information that can be helpful for the delegates, the headmasters and other responsible in the school, consisting of an introduction letter, a road map (most important steps to start a schoolwide safeguarding-project and first aid in occurring cases), minimum standards for child protection, a risk-analysis, and a list of helpful resources. In addition, a JECSE webpage will be built, where more helpful resources and contact persons can be found. We’re planning to have all this finished before our next delegates meeting in November this year, so the delegates can bring it back to their Provinces and introduce it to the headmasters.
We’re also planning to organize a conference - as soon as practically possible - to deepen reflection on and awareness of the importance of child protection, and to give the possibility for exchange. We’ll focus on a wide range of topics in a critical but positive sense. Our aim would be to deepen awareness and reflection, and also to offer a platform for exchange of experiences, to open up the conversation on these difficult issues and to be able to learn from each other’s good - or not so good - practices. The idea is to invite the head masters and one other responsible from each school, so at least two key persons in the schools could bring back and share what they’ve learned and implement it together.
Last but not least we discussed how to do all this in a constructive manner, that is from a positive approach, as an opportunity to strengthen a truly Ignatian school-climate, trying to reinforce good practices and prevent abuse, but not to avoid closeness and affection or by creating a suspicious climate.
As Father General Sosa stated, a consistent culture of safeguarding will not flow merely from protocols - as important as they are – but rather from ‘a life of integrity’. This means we would have to become more aware about how the abuse of power is often the root cause and only by addressing the deeper culture can we prevent the possibility of this recurring. We’d need to see safeguarding in the larger context of children’s wellbeing and how traditional notions of abuse should be expanded to include concepts of emotional abuse and neglect, meanwhile not avoiding the specifics of the difficult issue of sexual abuse. These are realities for every school and need to be addressed in a deliberate, regular and consistent manner.
Global Citizenship as a whole-school project
This task force, guided by Peter Knapen, Education delegate for Belgium-North and member of the JECSE Steering Committee, is the smallest one, and only few of the members could be present in Salamanca. Since the Task Force is supported by Kris Vekic (Education for Justice coordinator for the Irish Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice) and Kris is also a member of the collaborative work on Global Citizenship of the six geographical regions of the Global Jesuit Education Network (along with those of JRS and Fe y Alegría) that will launch its whole-school project next September, we decided instead of organizing a meeting of this Task Force in Salamanca, we would stay in tune with this worldwide initiative, and pay attention to translating it to the specific European context.
All in all, there’s been a true commitment to this work of strengthening the collaboration within JECSE on these important topics, to proceed our work on the RIO-actions and the new apostolic preferences together, to be able to better support the schools in these fields!