Free school choice in Germany? How to increase the number of pupils by offering all-day schooling? Heads of schools from Bern and Hamburg have shared ideas about staff management issues and approaches to school development and, in the process, found out about different ways of tackling these challenges.

After visiting the Uettligen school in the canton of Bern, Evelin Schmidt-Föhre, head of a school in Hamburg, was impressed with the calm atmosphere and the modern buildings there. In March 2019, as part of the first phase of the mobility exchange, the heads of the German schools visited their tandem partners in Switzerland. Despite different preconditions, the participants found common ground in their respective work as school principals.

“Hamburg recognizes free choice of schools,” explains the head of the primary school in Poppenbüttel, giving one reason why schools try to create a learning environment that is as attractive as possible. In Poppenbüttel in particular the provision of all-day schooling helped to increase the number of pupils despite the unfavourable location outside of the city centre. Uettligen is also situated on the rural outskirts but sees its proximity to Bern as a locational advantage.

In Switzerland we do not yet have a free choice of schools. Nevertheless, heads of schools endeavour to create an environment that is as conducive to learning and as healthy as possible for teachers and pupils. This is particularly important in times of staff shortage – a problem familiar to both. Heads of schools in Europe address these and similar challenges on a daily basis and find their own solutions. Through mutual exchange and by observing others at work (job shadowing), these experiences and models for success could be shared and assessed.

In May 2019, a return visit to Hamburg also took place for that purpose. The results from the job shadowings will be presented at the Intercantonal Conference of School Principals (IKAS) in September 2019. All the participants will come together for one last time for this occasion in order to conclude the project.

Are you interested in an exchange with heads of schools from the surrounding countries?

  • The University of Teacher Education Bern is also planning to offer an exchange project in the next school year 2019/20.
  • For the launching of projects of your own in collaboration with school principals from Finland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Austria or Germany, there will be an opportunity at this year’s World Education Leadership Symposium in Zug to establish international contacts in the Movetia workshop and find out more about school development through international cooperation.