Recht op educatie in Denemarken #3: Sputnik school
The Sputnik school is the result of an experiment of the local government of Copenhagen. Nine years ago they started a project to realize the right to education for several children who had dropped out of school and for whom there was no good alternative. These are young people with very serious mental issues, who might otherwise be in a mental hospital.
In the location we saw, they educate the children who are more introvert (suffering from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, etc). There is another location where they educate the children who are more extrovert.
The facilty is open to children age 13-17. There is one teacher for every three students. Each teacher picks three students who are then his “favorite people”. The teachers function as teachers, social workers and therapist in one, in addition to regular external support.
The 32 students all have a personal space in a small shared room, such as you see above. Teaching and therapy take place in informal settings.
The facility is expensive (about € 5000 per month), but very effective; in the end many of the children find their way into the regular education system and/or into employment. The key to the success is the flexibility of the teacher and the school system. One of the things that works is that they have a car service and go to great lengths to get the children to school and create a safe environment. If necessary, they visit the house of a child who has been signed up. The child might hide under the blanket in its room. The teachers they will just sit on the bed and say “we are staying 10 minutes today”. Then they come back the next day and stay for 15 minutes etc, until the children are ready to go to school. Another child who could not learn in a group setting was taught by a teacher in a car for 6 months.
Their idea is that these children have already been forced to do all sorts of things in the school system and this is part of the reason why they dropped out. One of the most important goal of the facility is to stress down these children.
The Sputnik school is where these drop-outs get a new start. The teachers take children by the hand and create new narratives (such as “I can see you are a fighter”). Very rarely they find that they cannot work with some children. They live by the rule that “we can’t expel children for a reason that we knew already when we decided to accept the student in the school”.
Financially, Sputnik is a private educational institution. Children who are signed up are paid for by the local government, on the basis of a year contract. Even though it is an expensive facility, they argue that on the long term it saves money as they invest in children who would otherwise never contribute to society.