Children's voice: Placing the child at the centre in Copenhagen
The project builds on these values and principles:
- Place the child at the centre of policy and practice
- Improve inter-professional collaboration
- Promote partnership working with families
- Share values – language
- Employ joint assessment – single planning framework.
The project aims to place the child at the centre at all levels in school. That means that there are platforms at the school where the child’s voice is heard in decision-making. For example, when the professionals and parents analyse and decide children’s need for special education in inclusive learning environments, the children have a voice.
There is a focus on children’s participation when setting goals for their learning. The professionals take a whole-approach view and work on supporting children’s development through their contexts with one joint action plan. This process includes contributions from the children themselves, the parents, teachers, pedagogues, health nurses, school psychologists, social workers plus other specialists at the school.
The Children’s Voice project builds on strengths and aims to promote resilience in the child’s team and within the child. The whole idea is to work in partnerships with children, families and professionals in schools and to use diversity and differences as resources for change.
The key principle of Children’s Voice is professional collaboration to co-create solutions to problems that arise in systems around children and families. This entails:
- placing the child at the centre of policy and practice;
- improving inter-professional collaboration;
- promoting partnership working with families;
- sharing values – language;
- employing joint assessment – single planning framework.
The guiding framework is recognising, respecting and promoting children’s rights as part of its wider commitment to improving life chances for all children and young people.
Denmark has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). According to the UNCRC, each individual child has the right to express their views on issues that affect them. These may be issues that have a direct impact on them as individuals or are of more general social relevance.
The Child and Youth Administration in Denmark was involved in an EU project, ‘Joint Action’, with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. In that project, the Scottish project, ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ (GIRFEC), was introduced and the Danish participants connected with the educational psychologists in the Edinburgh Municipality to learn from them about this initiative.
The Danish and Scottish partners have written a joint article about the two nations’ collaboration on GIRFEC and Children’s Voice (Barnets Stemme) for a research magazine for EPs in Denmark and a joint presentation at the ISPA conference in Amsterdam in 2016.
In Scotland, the GIRFEC policy for children’s rights has been legislated in all municipalities. There is an on-going focus on evaluating children’s plans and progression. Children are seen as the most important evidence markers of what the environment does to support their development.
In Copenhagen, the Ministry of Education has interviewed and evaluated school resource centres’ use of Children’s Voice (Barnets Stemme). This has influenced building a Task Force group in the PPR (Pedagogical Psychological Services) that helps and supports schools in capacity-building to structure their support systems, so that they can implement Children’s Voice policy values and methods.
The focus is on putting the rights and well-being of children and young people at the heart of the services that support them, such as early years services, schools and the health service. This is to ensure that everyone works together to improve outcomes for children and young people. The emphasis is on collaborative work with different professionals contributing to develop children’s resilience. This includes:
- preventive and early efforts with children and parents actively working together with the professionals;
- joint action plans with on-going follow-up;
- children’s rights to participate in decisions that influence their everyday life and learning;
- school leaders, and the leaders of school leaders, as essential for implementing the values and principles of Children’s Voice.
This has been a collaboration between:
- the Interdisciplinary support/PPR in the Child and Youth Administration Indre By-Østerbro (IBØ: Copenhagen inner city);
- Øster Farimagsgade School as a competence centre for inclusion for other schools in Copenhagen;
- the Danish Ministry of Education;
- a follow-up group of professionals with leaders from different sectors;
- a steering group of local leaders.
Øster Farimagsgade Skole are ‘ambassadors’ and, together with the Child and Youth Administration/PPR, they have been active in participating in debates and courses, etc., to take children’s perspectives into all tasks.
The timescale of actions:
- 2013: Area Management IBØ visited schools and Town Hall in Edinburgh Municipality and were introduced to GIRFEC models
- 2014: Pilot course with action training at two schools and two day offerings in IBØ; children's voices, artefacts, collaborative work/actions plans – a desire for common guidelines in the area
- 2015: Action training course for four more schools in IBØ; integrity, systematics, co-creation, use of artefacts, roles/responsibilities, focus on implementation in resource centre
- 2016: Action training course for a further four schools in IBØ; the double perspective, action plans, BS culture/mindset
- 2017: Two schools; mindset – culture, and one cluster (nursery, kindergarten, after-school club); children's vision/child involvement, overall orientation, inclusive education, with special focus on routines seen in double perspective
- Barnets Stemme/BS in early interventions – transitions
- Øster Farimagsgade School as a competence centre for Copenhagen schools in Children’s Voice
- Increasing interest from the outside world
- Barnets Stemme (Children’s Voice) chosen as ‘best practice’ by Nordic Council of Ministers in relation to early intervention and collaborative work;
- Scandinavian nations meet and inspire each other;
- 2018: Task Force group in the PPR support three schools in capacity-building, using models and tools from Multi-Tier Support Systems and Barnets Stemme.
Children’s perspectives are now more in focus in pedagogical settings, at school meetings, in pedagogical psychological assessments and at visitations. This means that children and their parents are viewed as experts in their lives. Children are seen as bringing their own resources and strengths that can be built on. Professionals working with children are developing a ‘whole-child’ approach where the focus is on the child, not on diagnoses or problems.
The main challenges have included that there are no formalised structures or platforms in the schools for collaboration between professionals, to intervene early and in a flexible manner. Interventions are often focused on the individual, not on empowering the learning environment, the family or social interactions.
There is a steering group which will evaluate the work that has been done so far.
The top leaders of schools and kindergarten leaders have the authority to decide on implementation in all schools and kindergartens in Copenhagen’s inner city (Indre By-Østerbro).
There are plans to introduce the Multi-Tier Support System from the US and elements from GIRFEC, e.g. the resilience matrix model, and solution-focused action-planning meetings, etc.