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European Forum

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European Forum Committee Meeting

4th-6th November, 2016

 

At the beginning of November, the first European Forum Meeting was held in a small town called Stabekk, just outside Oslo. I had originally planned for this meeting to take place in Germany; you may not know that the only exam I ever failed was GCE Geography – there is a reason for this! Whilst in Nashville and, in my defence, without access to a map, I deemed Germany to be the most central and easily accessible location. It wasn’t – at least, not the part of Germany I had chosen. Which is why we all ended up staying with our new European Regional Director, Bjørg Nakling. Pictured below are the current members of the European Forum:

 Left to right: Bjørg Nakling (Regional Director), Kristín Jønsdottír (Iceland), Anne Marie Solstad (Norway), Liilia Oberg (Estonia), Daniela von Essen (Germany), Iida Hyvönen (Finland), Ann-Katrin Swärd (Sweden), Ria Logtenberg (The Netherlands).                          Camera operated by Kathrin Hodgson (Great Britain)

The journey to Oslo was very easy – flights from Gatwick are plentiful. There were signs of light snow flurries around Oslo airport but, such is the efficiency of the Norwegians, neither the flight nor the train journey were delayed. Even better, the platform for the train was a short step beyond customs; I didn’t even have to walk outside. Slightly odd were the number of railway employees standing around the ‘automatic’ ticket machines helping us to pay for our tickets – and not many of the customers were English. It appears ‘automation’ is a trial for all nationalities!

Bjørg knew when each of our flights was due to arrive, so she kindly collected us individually or in batches from the station nearest to her home. By this time it was mid-afternoon, beginning to get dark and, even more excitingly, starting to snow.

Having settled into our rooms, we awaited Daniela’s arrival – she had been in school all day and so was the last to join. We whiled away the time by getting to know one another better and making inroads into the numerous bottles of wine we had brought along as our contribution to the weekend’s provisions. An excellent chicken casserole, lovingly prepared by Bjørg, was followed by a delicious Norwegian dessert made by Anne Marie. Sadly, I do not remember the name or, indeed, the ingredients. But it was scrumptious – and large enough to provide dessert for both evenings. 

Kristín and I share a pre-dinner joke – the glasses are incidental!

You are thinking by now – did they actually do any work? Yes – for two and a half hours on Friday evening, and eight and a half hours on Saturday. During this time, snow was gently falling. I was so delighted, and reprimanded myself inwardly when remembering the joy and excitement in the classroom on the few occasions it snowed while I was teaching – and all I could do was tell the children to get back to work!

 

 

  

 

What does the European Forum Committee actually do? Well, among other things we amended our Goals for 2016-18:

  • ·         to unite the European members, and celebrate their diversity
  • ·         to give opportunities to discuss issues of educational importance
  • ·         to find ways to accomplish these goals and turn them into action
  • ·         to strengthen the links between the European Forum and the European Regional Director

 So, what else occupied our time?

  • ·         We created a Strategic Action Plan for 2016-18 – you can view this on the European website.
  • ·         We made a decision about the European website – in future we will use a ‘free’ website, such as ‘Weebly’ as the cost of upgrading, necessary to keep up to date, was very expensive.
  • ·         We produced a draft plan for the Forum meeting in Tallinn at the Regional Conference.
  • ·         We selected the recipient of the European Achievement Award, to be presented in Tallinn. There were four nominations for the award, and it took us a very long time to discuss the merits of each individual member, comparing their forms with the criteria for the award. In the end, the decision was clear – the choice was unanimous.
  • ·         We discussed ways in which we could ensure continuity of the Forum by possible extending the length of time a representative will serve on the forum – currently two years. Four of the representatives are returning to their countries to speak to their executive committees about lengthening their service on the Forum.
  • ·         We certainly forged strong friendships and demonstrated, as if we didn’t already know, that language differences are no barrier.

Interestingly, in planning for a possible Pre-Conference meeting in Tallinn, the topic of the speaker – when we find one – is likely to be Refugees under 18 and their Integration in School. Sounds familiar!

I was a little overwhelmed at the prospect of being Chair of the committee, when I knew so little of the workings of the Forum, but I need not have worried. The Forum contains a group of formidable, intelligent and hardworking individuals. The joint Treasurers – Anne Marie and Ria – ensured we received our expenses immediately.


Ria and Anne Marie work long after the meeting has ended on Saturday – calculating how much money we can be reimbursed

Iida ponders the minutes and wonders if the third glass of wine was a mistake 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Bjørg’s generosity, we had no accommodation costs – just food (and wine of course, supplied personally by us all) – and so our travel expenses were able to be paid in full. (The money comes from an annual payment of $3,000 from HQ). My thanks must also go to Iida and Daniela, who took the minutes of the two days.

I thought I would leave you with a ‘lamp’ made by Bjørg. On Saturday night, she ventured out into the raging blizzard – well it was snowing a bit! – and made an outside lantern from snowballs and a nightlight. What a wonderful weekend.

Next year – Helsinki – watch this space!

Kathrin Hodgson (European Forum Chair)