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The importance of application

If you want to boost your chances to receive Erasmus+ funding, you’ll need to fill in all the forms correctly, explains Nile’s Hanna K Furre

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European teachers and trainers can access funding for continuing professional development and other training through the European Union. This funding has been available for several years under a variety of programmes.

In 2013 we saw the end of the Comenius programme and the start of Erasmus+ with a 40 per cent increase in the funding budget. Under Key Action 1: Learning Mobility of Individuals, education professionals can apply for funding ‘to improve their skills, enhance their employability and gain cultural awareness’. This programme benefits teachers and trainers from the European Union and from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey and the Republic of Macedonia, with more countries possibly to be added in the future.

Erasmus+ grants go towards course fees, travel costs, accommodation and other living costs and preparation costs for individuals and groups of teachers and trainers who wish to travel to another EU country for professional development opportunities. Many schools have already been successful in obtaining funding for courses taking place this summer. However, the process is new and very detailed, and it is advisable to start your application as soon as possible.

The main difference between Erasmus+ and previous programmes is that under Erasmus+ all applicants must apply through their institution, not as individuals. The first step is therefore to identify or appoint the person responsible for staff development in your institution, and talk to them about Erasmus+ funding and available development opportunities, for example language and methodology courses or international job shadowing possibilities.

Your choice of project should reflect the needs identified in your school’s European development plan (sometimes called a school development plan), which specifies your school’s training and development objectives for the next one or two years, taking a European dimension into consideration. If your school does not already have a development plan, drawing one up should be your next step as it will be crucial for a successful application.

A European development plan should include an overview of your school’s current status, a vision for the future, identified needs and how your planned activities will meet these needs.

When writing the development plan, make sure your planned activities are relevant both to individual participants and your school as a whole. They will have a stronger impact on the quality of teaching and learning if they are well integrated into your school’s strategic development.

The plan should give a context for your Erasmus+ application, focus on internationalisation and modernisation, identify staff development needs and outline how information and input will be disseminated and widely used. The best way to do this would be to look at the learning objectives in the description of the course for which you are applying for funding, and work these into your application.

The last step before you start filling in your institution’s application form is to ensure it is registered with the EU Education Participant Portal. This will give you a PIC number, which you will need for your application. Register here: https://ec.europa.eu/education/participants/portal/desktop/en/home.html#collapseTwo. The application form and notes on how to fill it in are available from your national agency; for a list, see http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/tools/national-agencies/index_en.htm.

When filling in the application form, always be specific. For example, research your training provider or partner school and list why they have the best experience and competencies to enable you to reach your goals. When asked why the individuals selected are the most suitable to undergo training, describe their background, motivation, ability to share learning outcomes, and how their career progression will be enhanced. Be unambiguous in listing expected outcomes, targets and assessments of your activities, as well as in specifying time scales for every part of your project. Make a point of detailing how the mobility activity is part of a wider and long-term strategy of development and modernisation. Describe the impact the training will have on pupils, teachers, other staff and stakeholders and the school overall.

Your aims should be strategic, measurable, achievable and realistic. Say what your aims and policies are, how you are going to achieve them and how they will be evaluated, and keep an international dimension in mind.

For example, one way of answering the question, ‘What are the organisation’s needs in terms of quality development and internationalisation?’ could be:

‘Our school has no experience in [e.g. Clil / new technologies in language teaching / recent developments in teaching methodology] therefore needs teachers who are able to [e.g. use new teaching methods / network with colleagues in other parts of Europe…].

‘To do this, we need to [e.g. develop a strategy for internationalisation / manage activities with our European partners / plan all our projects according to certain quality standards / give our students internationally recognised certification / make sure knowledge and skills are disseminated throughout our school].

‘Our proposed course will help us to do this by [e.g. equipping us with these skills / developing intercultural awareness / helping us to develop a network of international contacts].’

Most quality training institutions should be able to assist you with the finer points of your application. However, our experience from this first year has taught us that many applicants have underestimated the extent of the application process and the time it takes to complete. So our best advice is to start looking into your Erasmus+ funding opportunities as soon as the school year starts.

See http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/discover/index_en.htm for more information