Kevätkumpu School in Porvoo Finland

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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What does contemporary learning look like, feel like, and sound like when you have an opportunity to design a new school from the ground up?

We took a tour of the Kevätkumpu Primary School (Grades 1-6) that was collectively imagined by the school staff, students, and community. This building is a testament how form and function can align to grow the thinking, creative problem solving, and collaboration of the school community. I shared snapshots of our tour.

– Allison Zmuda

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Kevätkumpu school

The school is housed in the Kantele building. At Kantele building there are facilities for Kevätkumpu school, Vårberga school (for Swedish speaking pupils), preprimary education, youth services and the library. In addition to this there is a large sports hall that can be divided into three sections. It is managed after school days by e.g. sports services. Kantele building is referred to as “Education centre” because it is not only a school but much more. There are about 1000 daily users.

Kevätkumpu school is a multicultural primary school of 250 pupils only a few kilometers away from the Porvoo town centre and functions as a strong local school open to all children from the area. At Kevätkumpu school, pupils learn the basic skills by working together in a creative and positive environment, guided by the school’s staff who continuously develop their professional skills. The basic skills comprise contents defined in the curriculum as well as transversal competence. We give special emphasis to guiding the development of the pupils’ emotional and social interaction skills.

Our school culture is based on treating one another with kindness, respect and dignity. We work in active cooperation with guardians, parents’ associations and the school’s partners. The underlying principles of teaching activities in Kevätkumpu include pupil participation and co-teaching as well as integration and inclusion of all learners. We strive to develop creative solutions to learning and teaching. Our aim is to help everyone discover the joy of working and learning.

The Kantele building boasts modern and well-equipped facilities that support the implementation of teaching and learning according to the new curriculum and enable us to develop our operations. The school is well-resourced in terms of ICT equipment, aligned with the future objectives of the city of Porvoo. Our big sports hall and versatile school yard provide excellent facilities for physical education and leisure activities. Furthermore, we strive to promote an active lifestyle by participating in the Finnish Schools on the Move programme.

A learning community

Kevätkumpu school is a learning community with clear vision and values, mutual trust, a positive operational culture, development of competences and shared leadership at its core. Every day, our teachers learn from one another while working together along the principles of co-teaching or simultaneous teaching. In other words, the teachers plan, carry out and evaluate their teaching in cooperation. Particular emphasis is laid on further development of co-teaching and team teaching. Co-teaching is carried out across several grades. We are a learning community, which provides ideal conditions for exploring, learning by trial, getting enthusiastic and finding success.

Support for learning

Kevätkumpu school offers inclusive special needs education. This means that special needs education is not provided on a separate basis but in mainstream classrooms. Our special needs teachers act mainly as co-teachers or work in the classroom parallel to the class teacher. Our school employs the three-tier support structure where support provided for pupils is arranged into three categories: general, intensified and special support.

General support involves adopting an alternative approach to address the pupil’s temporary challenge in learning (e.g. the pupil will receive remedial instruction for a given period of time).

If the pupil requires intensified support for learning, an alternative approach is adopted in terms of the pupil’s overall learning situation. This involves more continuous and systematic forms of support. Relevant pedagogical documents (pedagogical assessment and learning plan) are prepared for pupils receiving intensified support.

For pupils receiving special support for learning, the forms of support are even more individualised, continuous and systematic in nature. Relevant pedagogical documents are prepared for pupils receiving special support (pedagogical investigation and individual education plan, or IEP).

The Kevätkumpu school focuses particularly on providing early support. Early support involves preventive methods aimed at all pupils, and at pupils in grades 1 and 2 in particular. Early support is intended for early identification of challenges in learning as well as for providing relevant support immediately once the need for support is observed.

All children are entitled to special needs education if necessary, regardless of their placement on the three-tier support structure. Our school has a special needs teacher who works primarily in mainstream classrooms or in the vicinity of the classroom, supporting the pupils in learning and practising their skills within reach of them. Support is provided in a flexible manner according to the pupil’s needs. Special needs teachers work in teams and assess the pupil’s need for support periodically. The class teacher, together with the special needs teacher, makes sure that the level of intensified and special support is sufficient for the children to learn and develop.

The school has two special needs teachers responsible for flexible learning. Flexible learning involves children with special needs who study in mainstream classrooms supported by a special needs teacher or in small groups, if necessary.

The school’s resource teacher works as a parallel teacher in Finnish as a native language and mathematics.

Preparatory education

Instruction preparing for basic education is intended for children and young people with an immigrant background. The goal of preparatory education is to improve the pupil’s skills in the Finnish language. Pupils in preparatory education study as much as possible in the mainstream classroom in a flexible manner.

Assessment

We use assessment to encourage pupils; assessment is practiced for learning and as a method for guiding learning. Self and peer assessment are used in all grades. Assessment criteria are presented to pupils at the beginning of the autumn semester, when pupils also set their individual objectives for the coming year. The objectives are reviewed in an assessment discussion.

In grades 1–4, learning is evaluated in October or November in an assessment discussion between the teacher, pupil and guardian. A school year report is presented at the end of the school year.

In grades 5–6, learning is evaluated in an assessment discussion held in October or November between the teacher, pupil and guardian. Pupils receive an intermediate report in December. A school year report is presented at the end of the school year.

Guidance and assessment discussions are also carried out at transition points before transitioning from grade 2 to grade 3 or from grade 6 to grade 7 (in February–March), between the class teacher, pupil and, if necessary, the guardian.

School clubs

School club activities take place immediately after the school day. The activities are organised by the school and in cooperation with various operators. All school clubs are led by trained instructors, such as the school’s teachers, youth instructors or sports associations’ coaches, for example.

Areas of emphasis and development

Our school has a special focus on the learning of Finnish language and literature as well as mathematics. The pupils’ progress is closely monitored by way of tests and reviews carried out in cooperation by the class teacher and special needs teacher. Support for learning (remedial instruction, resource teaching, special needs teaching, classroom assistants’ input) is targeted particularly to these subjects.

Other areas of development include the staff’s transversal competence and knowledge sharing, up-to-date working methods, co-teaching and parallel teaching, sustainable well-being, pupil participation, learning environments, peace in classrooms and good manners.

Experiences and knowledge are shared internally within teams, during staff meetings and particularly in everyday activities of the school through co-teaching and parallel teaching. The school staff has extensive skills and knowledge, the systematic sharing of which is fostered.

Antibullying programme

We define bullying according to the KiVa antibullying programme; it is intentional and repeated, and the victim is in some respect unable to defend themselves or in a position inferior to that of their bullies. The school has a KiVa programme coordinator who facilitates the resolving of bullying incidents and manages the resolution process. Members of the KiVa team address the bullying cases and carry out discussions with the pupils involved. The purpose of the discussions is to hear all parties, find out how the bullying has occurred and make the bullying stop.

We strive to engage parents in the antibullying activities by organising joint discussions and meetings with the school’s adults.

We work to prevent bullying in every classroom and have grade-specific antibullying plans in place that have been drawn up in teams. Coteaching and parallel teaching allow each child to be seen and heard in the everyday activities of the school.

Contact information:
Principal Markku Antinluoma (+358) 040 4899758, markku.antinluoma@edu.porvoo.fi
Vice principal Riikkaliisa Simola (+358) 040 6761433, riikkaliisa.simola@edu.porvoo.fi

All photos within the presentation are by Anette Sundström. Gallery photos by Allison Zmuda.

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