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15. The production schools in Denmark - A summary

15.1 Introduction

This survey of the production schools on the one hand builds on a national questionnaire survey carried out at all schools coupled with interviews and observations at a number of selected schools, including a rolling survey among participants at these schools. On the other hand, it builds on a number of register runs covering all participants during the period 1996- 97 coupled with telephone interviews among participants during the same period.

The survey has been carried out by the Danish Research and Development Centre for Adult Education on behalf of the Ministry of Education. It has been organised and carried out by research workers Niels Clemmensen, Martin Gudnæs Geysner and Marianne Søgaard Sørensen. Student assistants Ib Jensen, Anne Klottrup, Charlotte Sørensen and Agnieszka Wojtyniak have been in charge of entering the questionnaires and carrying out telephone interviews.

The project has on a continuous basis been followed by a reference group consisting of teacher Heinrich Andreasen (Association of Danish Production School Teachers - DPL), director Peter Bacher (Research and Development Centre for Adult Education), chief educational adviser Niels Glahn (Ministry of Education), principal Jesper Lübert (Assocation of Production Schools and Production High Schools - FPP), who midterm was replaced by principal Lisa Tørngren (FPP) and principal Kjeld Rommerdahl (Association of Principals of Production Schools/Production High Schools).

15.2 Production schools

In Denmark, there are approx. 110 production schools distributed all over the country. This school form emerged from an experiment combining education and production, which was carried out at the end of the 1970s, mainly for unemployed young people with a low level of educational attainment. The schools were and are still established on a municipal initiative, and in several places, two or more municipalities cooperate on the operation of a production school.

The production schools distinguish themselves from most other school forms in that they have a continuous intake and very big variations in the duration of the stay of the individual participants. A typical stay is of approx. six months' duration, but 25% stay at the production school for less than a month and 25% for more than six months. The Act on production schools stipulates that the stay must not exceed one year.

The basis for the learning processes at the schools is a number of workshops with practical work. From the start, the focus has been on the traditional crafts such as wood, metal, construction and agriculture, but the schools have increasingly taken in new lines such as music/drama, multimedia and nature and agriculture. These "new" subjects now make up approx. 50% of the offer. In addition to the work in the workshop, the school must also offer teaching in general subjects.

The results of the study group themselves around the two main areas: school profiles and participant profiles. Here, we will account for the most important features of the two areas, including the special pedagogical effects used within the school form and the benefit experienced by the participants.

15.3 School profiles

Similarities and differences

It has not - as it was first assumed - been possible to set out a detailed production school typology. This is among other things due to the fact that what we have here is a free school form. There are relatively few overall guidelines, and the individual school is strongly characterised by a number of individual factors such as the local community and the influence of the local culture. Also the attitudes and view of man of the principal manifest themselves – here in an interaction with among other things the staff make-up and the commitment of the board of governors.

Nonetheless, it is generally possible to point at a number of factors which can be instrumental in grouping the schools.

Firstly, there is the size of the schools. The very big schools are by virtue of their size and the resulting resources subject to other conditions than the small schools. They are for instance able to offer several different subjects, and they are better at providing special tasks such as guidance and counselling functions and development work. Secondly, there is the workshop profile: The traditional crafts are, as mentioned above, represented at almost all the schools, but in addition to this, also various other subjects are on offer. Some schools have chosen a very clear subject profile within such areas as multimedia or nature, agriculture and animals.

With regard to the priority of skills, which the schools wish to give the participants, there is a very great convergence irrespective of school size and workshop profile. Personal qualifications such as ability to assume responsibility, a desire to pursue further education and become able to assess own opportunities and limitations are all high on the list at almost all schools, whereas more specific craftsmanlike or academic skills are very far down on the list. In this area, the schools are clearly reflecting the objective of the act which is to strengthen the personal development of the participants.

15.4 Pedagogical focal points

15.4.1 The work in the workshop

One of the most important focal points of the educational approach is the practical work in the workshop. At some schools, the production is to a great extent conceptualised as a pedagogical methodology; at other schools, the daily work is simply part of a meaningful life without having to argue for it.

This is to a greater extent the case with the schools in the less populated parts of the country.

The work in the workshop is intended to gradually motivate the young person for academic learning, preferably in the form of derived teaching. It is the idea that the young person willthrough the practical work - realise the necessity of basic knowledge of for instance Danish and mathematics. But at some schools, they furthermore believe to have noted that the lift which a success with practical work gives to the young person can be instrumental in undoing blockages to academic learning.

The majority of the participants from 1999 chose a workshop, where they either knew the nature of the work in advance, or where they wanted to learn the specific kind of work that was done there. To the question whether the participants have gained experience or knowledge which they can use further on in life, it is the practical skills that are highlighted by more than half of them. Although the schools only attach little importance to the concrete practical skills in themselves, it is also evident from the replies given by the participants that the practical work is an important educational approach. Some also reflect on more personal factors, but to a much lesser extent. A large group moreover mention the importance of social companionship.

15.4.2 The special form of guidance and counselling

A distinctive feature of this school form is the intense guidance and counselling which is provided at several levels. Formal guidance talks, often with a log-book or action plan as an aid, informal talks on any day of the week, when a need occurs and targeted vocational guidance in the transition phase.

The main responsibility for the guidance and counselling at the individual schools lies with different people at different schools: In most cases, it is a special guidance counsellor (approx. 40%), in almost as many cases it is the leader of the workshop (approx. 33%), and in some cases it is the principal (approx. 11%). In the remaining cases, the responsibility is divided between several members of staff. But in almost all places, the daily informal guidance, which often involve the personal experience and attitudes of the member of staff, is perceived as the cornerstone of the guidance effort.

Offhand, it is therefore rather surprising that only approx.

20% of the participants from 1999 find that the teachers and the guidance effort provided at the production school have helped them finding out what they would like to do after their stay at the production school. Most of the participants are however aware of having been given guidance during the course; 2/3 even find that they have been given good guidance.

But they do not see any clear link between the guidance and the clarification they experience. As far as the participants from 1996-97 are concerned, it is only half of them who remember that they have been offered guidance at the school.

As far as this group is concerned, it does however appear that the longer the young person has been at the school, the more aware he is of the guidance he has been offered. For among those participants who stayed at the school for more than six months, it was 2/3 who experienced that they had been offered guidance.

The schools largely agree that both the production as a pedagogical tool and the consideration and room for individual guidance are important factors. Nonetheless, the centre of gravity varies from school to school. At some schools, the production in itself is perceived as the most important motivation for the personal development. Others primarily see the work as an opportunity for the indicative talk with the participant.

For the participants, it is however evidently the work in the workshop which is the primary focal point.

15.4.3 The personal member of staff

A third essential element is the role of the production school teacher, which differs a lot from the teacher role in basic school. The largest single occupational group among the staff are those with a craftsman's qualification, and they get a great part of their prestige from their master craftsman role in the workshop. At the production school, the teacher furthermore to a great extent makes use of his personality and personal values in the daily work. At many of the visited schools, the staff perceive the ideal production school teacher as a "decent adult" or a "proper adult" as opposed to the professional case worker or the incompetent parent; and the participants' assessment of the teachers is moreover to a great extent that they are good at their work and good to talk to.

15.5 Participant profiles

15.5.1 The staff's view of the participants

One of the themes we made inquiries about at the visited schools was the strong and weak points of the participants. It was quite evidently easiest for the staff to point at the weak points. At the same time, it was evident in connection with the pedagogical considerations that the staff build on the participants' strong points in the daily work. There was general agreement about the fact that the young participants often have different problems which are cumulative in an unfortunate way. A problem often highlighted was difficult family conditions, which have caused some young people to be unable to concentrate on for instance their school work, and which have had the effect that they have had to assume a far too big responsibility at a too early age. Another theme often highlighted was the many defeats suffered in the school system and the often resulting low self-esteem which characterises many of the young people.

At many schools, the social companionship between the participants was highlighted as a strong point. At some schools, they furthermore pointed at the resistance and courage to face life which the young people must possess in order to be able to cope with the many defeats they have suffered at school.

15.5.2 The participants' own views

In the interviews with the participants, they were among other things inquired about their former schooling and preferred subjects in basic school. It is surprising that the most popular subjects in basic school among the participants from 1999 were Danish, mathematics and home economics/textile design, whereas for example woodwork is far down on the list. For the participants from 1996/97, it was mathematics, Danish and English that were indicated as the most popular subjects. We furthermore asked the participant group from 1996/97 to give an assessment of their own abilities in the Folkeskole. Generally, they viewed their abilities as being good, although to a lesser extent in written and oral presentation and when it came to doing their homework.

Half of the production school participants from 1996-97 indicated that they had not been satisfied or more or less satisfied with the basic school, whereas only 13% expressed that they had been extremely satisfied with the basic school.

More than half of the participants from 1999 and the register study from 1996-97 had dropped out of a course at upper secondary level before they came to the production school.

The causes mentioned by the 1996-97-year group among others comprised too difficult subject-matter, the teaching method and the teachers. The 1999-year group mention lack of motivation or school weariness, bad choice of education, lack of practical training places and/or sickness and healthrelated problems as reasons for dropping out.

15.5.3 The data resulting from the register runs

With regard to the family background and conditions, the register runs showed that as opposed to the parents of the control group, the parents of the participant group generally had a lower level of educational attainment, had lower paid jobs and were more affected by unemployment. Several of them have also had some form of transfer income.

A great part of the participants are like the young people in the control group. But there is also a significant part with family backgrounds which seem to have been very difficult. Here, it is a question of many changes of address: 1/5 of the particip ants have experienced five changes of address or more, and many changes of family: Almost 1/3 of the participants have lived in four or more family constellations. 1/5 of the participants have furthermore lived away from home, before they were 18 - either because they had been placed with foster families or because they had moved away from home at an early age.

To this should be added that just under 17% of the participants from 1999 have indicated that they have changed school at least three times. These are all factors, which have or can have meant an unstable schooling. This group more than likely corresponds to the group which, in the view of the staff, have had very unstable family conditions.

The production school participants distinguish themselves from the control groups from an educational point of view in that a much greater proportion leave the basic school with a completed 8 th or 9 th form as the highest level of educational attainment, and that very few start or complete a course of education at general upper secondary level. It should however be noted that approx. half of the production school participants have completed the 10 th form of the Folkeskole, while approx. 7% have completed at least one year of a course at general upper secondary level.

On 1 October 1998, 20% of the former production school participants were enrolled in a vocational education and training programme, while 65% of the participants at some point or other had commenced such a programme. The proportion, who have commenced a course of education at upper secondary level, is however somewhat higher when you include the proportion of production school participants who have commenced a course of education at general upper secondary level.

As dropouts from the Gymnasium are not registered, it is not possible to estimate the total proportion. To this should be added the group who are still enrolled in an initial training course or who do not commence a course of education at upper secondary level till later on. For the 45% of the participants, who thus had dropped out of a vocational education and training programme without being enrolled in another one today, approx. 2/3 had completed one or more partcourses, i.e. typically a basic course or the 1 st or 2 nd school periods of a vocational education and training programme.

15.6 Benefit derived by the participants

15.6.1 The participants' assessment

As already mentioned, the participants first and foremost experience a vocational benefit from the course; this applies to 65% of the 1996-97-participants and to approx. half of the 1999-participants. Very few feel that they have derived any academic benefit from their stay. With regard to personal skills such as ability to co-operate, to assume responsibility, to meet on time and keep appointments, very few of the participants from 1999 feel that they have derived any benefit. This however does not apply to the participants from 1996-97. Here, between 39% and 58% find that these skills have been strengthened. This may indicate that a certain distance in time is necessary in order to be able to assess this more personal benefit.

15.6.2 The data resulting from the register runs

If you look at the transition results for the 1996- and 1997- year groups, it turns out that the participants distribute in the following way: 1/5 go on to a programme, which is eligible for student support (SU), 1/5 go on to a programme, which is not eligible for student support, 1/5 find paid employment, and 1/5 go on to unemployment or activation. 13% go on to something else (childbirth, military service etc.), whereas there are no data for just under 7%. There seems to be a clear connection between the duration of the stay and the transition results. Around half of the participants, who stayed at the school for a duration of between three months and one year, subsequently commenced a course of education, whereas the transition to unemployment was most pronounced for the group who stayed at the production school for under three months. There is also a great spread in the transition profiles both geographically and between the schools. In the counties of Bornholm and Aarhus in particular, many of the former production school participants went on to courses which are eligible for student support; in the counties of Ringkøbing, Ribe and Viborg, many went on to paid employment. Just under 20% of the participants from more than half of the schools went on to unemployment or activation. However, there are 10 schools from which more than 40% of the participants went on to unemployment or activation.

Among the 35% of the participants from 1996-97, who were affected by unemployment in 1998, it was only very few who were unemployed for a longer period of time. Only a few per cent of those, who went on to unemployment or activation, were unemployed for the entire year of 1998. On the other hand, about a third of those who went on to unemployment or activation received temporary social benefits for the entire year of 1998, whereas this was the case of 16% of those who went on to paid employment, 11% of those who went on to courses which are eligible for student support, and 18% of those who went on to other types of education.

15.6.3 The situation today

According to the survey of the 1996-97-participants, 35% of the production school participants today are in employment, 16% are unemployed, and 6% are on leave, whereas 8,8% are doing other things, or there are no data about them. This pattern fits very well with what the participants went on to just after they left the production school. Today, however, it is only well over a third who are still doing the same as they did, when they left the production school. Some have changed jobs or courses of education, others have become unemployed or gone on leave, whereas others again have subsequently commenced a course of education or started work.

15.7 Putting Things into Perspective

15.7.1 Scope of the supply

We consider it very important that the schools are able to offer a relatively wide range of specialisations. The target group is differentiated, and there is a need for different approaches, if one is to get a hold of as many young people as possible. It must therefore be considered an advantage that a greater spread on specialisations has taken place since the establishment of the first production schools.

It is also important that it is not only the traditional crafts that are offered at the schools. The multimedia-area is for instance one of the areas which have gained a foothold at many schools. We consider it extremely important that young people are given the opportunity to get acquainted with this area – both because the new media are becoming more and more important in our society, and because it is an area which create many new jobs.

15.7.2 Seriousness - authenticity

Regardless of specialisation – whether one works in the metal workshop or in the drama line – it is of great importance that there is a serious approach to the work; that one creates an as authentic situation for the young people as possible. The work in the workshop must never become a hobby activity.

15.7.3 School size

By virtue of its size, the large school has a possibility of getting a relatively wide scope both with regard to the specialisations on offer and its staff. It can for instance also more easily afford to carry out pedagogical development work.

At the large school, the workshop culture easily becomes dominant in relation to the school culture seen from the individual young person's perspective. The risk of the very large school is that a gap may develop between the specific culture of the individual workshop on the one hand and the overall school culture. The freedom of work enjoyed by the individual workshop leader may have unfortunate effects if he does not have the sparring partner which the principal should be in relation to pedagogical attitudes and methods.

It may be a problem for the smaller school to offer a broad supply of specialisations, and one could imagine a form of organisational co-operation between the small schools of a region so that together they could make a better use of the resources. It may be in the form of the joint attachment of teachers in certain specialisation's or a distribution of the specialisation's so that two small neighbouring schools do not offer the same specialisation's but go together to ensure a broader range of possibilities.

Another possibility for the small schools is to open the school for other groups in the form of income-generated activities. It may be an advantage both for the economy and the social environment of the school. A somewhat larger group of young people may have more dynamics in them just as other age groups may add new perspectives to the young people's world.

The advantage of small and medium-sized schools is the network, which the school is capable of establishing around the individual young person, and which the entire staff of the school cooperate on sustaining. For the group of young people who have a very low degree of geographic mobility, it is important that there is a school in the local area.

15.7.4 Pedagogical openness

We consider the openness of the production schools when it comes to new pedagogical ideas and theories as a strength of this school form. There is quite obviously a real need for pedagogical tools in relation to the target group of the school form, and some schools perform an impressive volume of development work in this area.

It is important to stress that the pedagogical network is to be constantly maintained and developed, for instance through pedagogical days and in-service training of staff which constitute a solution used by many schools.

15.7.5 Guidance and counselling

When it comes to the guidance and counselling effort of the schools, it is important that the staff is aware of how their own standards and values have an influence on the guidance. It goes without saying that many participants need adults who can show them some other patterns than they have seen in adults before. But it is also important to allow the young person to find his or her own pattern.

15.7.6 Freedom and flexibility

As we see it, great adaptability and flexibility are major strengths in relation to the target groups of the production schools At the same time, the freedom which the schools and the individual workshops have when it comes to defining the content of the individual specialisation's in co-operation with the participants and in consideration of their special needs is essential, if the school form is to continue to be a supplement to the mainstream courses at upper secondary level.

15.7.7 Target groups

Generally, the survey - both among the participants and the schools - shows that the production schools have - by virtue of their objectives - a particularly broad-spectred target group which is not that easily categorised in a single typology. The participants make use of the production school offer, because they personally find themselves in a clarification phase, where the choice of education and/or vocation is on the agenda, but where a number of other factors of a personal or social nature often have a negative impact. Although a relatively large part of the participants statistically speaking do not distinguish themselves from those of their peers, who have made a choice of education or vocation, many of them have for personal reasons or due to insufficient guidance not commenced a course of education or have dropped out of it.

When you take a look at the outcome of the survey, there is no doubt that the production schools generally speaking make up a good clarification course, which steers a major part of the participants on to the right course when it comes to finding the right path of education or vocation. Among the young persons, who have dropped out of a course of education at upper secondary level, we have isolated different target groups or more specific reasons for attending a production school: It may be 1) lack of motivation or school weariness, 2) the wrong choice of education, 3) a shortage of practical or apprenticeship training places and/or 4) sickness and healthrelated problems. For these young people, an ordinary 4-6- month stay at a production school will often be sufficient for them to keep up with their own possibilities - and limitations from a guidance, social and vocational point of view - and they can subsequently continue with education or work.

It does however also appear from the survey that for a number of participants an ordinary stay at a production school is not enough to ensure that these young people can subsequently stand on their own two legs and manage those challenges which their peers are able to in relation to education and work. The result is that many schools inadvertently let out a relatively large number to unemployment and activation, whereas more efficient efforts should instead be made not just on the part of the productions school, but also transversal to sectors at local and regional levels.

What we have here is a number of schools, which through bridge-building and networking, try to establish action plans for the young people with a view to ensuring that they are retained in the development process which they commenced at the schools. A vital condition for the success of this approach is local and regional backing from those institutions and places of work which are or will get to form part of the individual young person's network. It is for instance important:

  • That the guidance offered by the schools matches the one delivered by the public employment services and the municipalities so that the pupils experience a continuity in the further course of their action plan after they have completed their stay at the school.
  • That a business network is established both at local and regional levels which makes it possible to find suited practical training places – and subsequent jobs – for the young people concerned. Networks that allow for an increased social responsibility for the young people who might need it.
  • That the necessary socio-educational guidance is established in relation to the young persons' situation, which may remedy some of the family- and housing-related problems which often overshadow their possibilities of breaking away from their social situation.

Generally, the target groups of the production schools are thus a very differentiated quantity, where there are often great contrasts both occupationally, socially and personally. It may therefore be difficult for the schools to establish offers which cover the entire spectrum. Here, there is a need for an enhanced effort vis-à-vis the young people, who notoriously will drop out and be let out to unemployment or activation, because their general social situation does not to a sufficient extent promote participation in education or a stable everyday pattern required by normal working life. Here, it is an important element to be able to offer specific groups of participants a longer stay at a production school combined with one or several practical training periods. Another element is to make it possible for the schools to maintain a guidance-related contact with the young persons after they have left the school in those cases where concrete action plans have been established for the young persons concerned.

It is furthermore a question whether the production schools do to an adequate extent - in relation to the education-political objective that 95% of a youth year groups are to complete a course of education at upper secondary level - catch a hold of those young people who have a need for a clarification course. Here, the responsibility is not only lying with the production school but to just as great an extent with the rest of the guidance system. To which extent are the production schools being used as a real possibility in the vocational guidance provided at basic school level and for that matter under the auspices of the public employment services and the municipalities? Are the guidance functions of the vocational colleges succeeding to a sufficient extent in catching those young people who drop out, and to what extent do they for instance try to get them started on a course at a production school?

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