Needs Analysis Report

Comparative Presentation

An in-service training program outline for all participating countries in the MUSE projectidentifying the training needs of all teachers

The MUSE project (Multigrade School Education) aims at developing an in service training program that will be designed to meet the needs of multigrade schoolteachers and to improve their educational performance in the multigrade school environment.

Training is based on methodological approaches that are suitable for multigrade teaching and on the use of ICT applications. Especially it promotes the use of the Internet in order to develop a platform for training, collaboration, networking and exchanging of ideas between teachers, students and trainers.

This approach is expected to enhance professional skills of multigrade schoolteachers as well as develop their abilities to design and evaluate educational plans. The MUSE project offers to multigrade schoolteachers continuous training and support, enhancing communication among remote multigrade school teaching environment and outside educational community.

To achieve the above goals, a comparative analysis of the reports of each country is presented.

Bringing together educational systems from four countries and integrating them in a single in-service training program is by definition a difficult task. Thistaskis even more difficult when the in service training program refers to one of the most neglected aspects of the educational systems of all countries, multigrade schools.

In general all four educational systems are pretty similar in the way that they define multigrade schools, even though they give different names for the same thing. In a multigrade school or multigrade classroom, one finds a teacher teaching more than one grade/year groups at the same time. With the exception of England, multigrade schools are usually located in rural areas and mostly in areas of difficult access. In England, due to the organisation of the educational system, multigrade schools can be found not only in rural but also in urban areas.

In order to identify the training needs of teachers of all participating countries, it was asked from each partner to compile a study for the subject, applying well- accepted theoretical principles and appropriate methodological instruments. The main target of these studies were to present the existing situation with respect to multigrade schools, their problems and weaknesses, the needs of schoolteachers and to identify whether these needs are common for the four countries or differ reflecting a specific situation in each country independently.

Based on the reports from the studies, these needs were grouped in categories as seen below (see Appendix 1):

  • General issues
  • Curriculum issues
  • Preparation for multigrade school teaching
  • Methodological and didactical issues
  • Students’ grouping issues
  • Co-operation with localand educational authorities
  • Working issues
  • Social and cultural issues
  • Training program issues
  • The role of ICT
  • Infrastructure
  • Administration

General issues

All participating confirmed the need for the teachers to understand the role of a multigrade school and appreciate its contribution and significance in the educational system. Furthermore the Spanish partners point out that educators experience a rather low recognition and esteem by the society and the education authorities, while the motives for staying in such schools are scarce –if not lacking.


The curriculum of studies and its adaptation to the needs of multigrade schools are subjects of interest for all participating countries, but on a different level for each one. Finns are interested mainly on the ways according to which their new curriculum can be applied in multigrade schools. Spaniards and Greeks realize the difficulty of integrating a curriculum in such a school and propose (a) team work that will help unifying the criteria of curriculum development in a way that meets the particular needs in their countries, and (b) the development of a system that provides continuous help and guidance.

Preparation for multigrade school teaching

Both Spanish and Greek partners realise that teachers in general are not prepared for multigrade school teaching. Academic courses in Universities do not deal with this type of schools. For that reason, teachers need theoretical and practical reference points that will allow them to match their teaching to the environment and the needs of the students they work with. Such reference points may constitute an in-service-training program that could deal with an integrated analysis of multigrade schools from an organizational, operational and methodological point of view. Because of the differences in the educational systems of the participating countries, the English partners foresee that such a training program would certainly be at the teachers’ benefit in general and in addition it could be used as a basis for the introduction of an alternative educational model for teachers in schools in case they chose to organise mixed year classes for pedagogic and/or demographic reasons.

Methodological and didactical issues

Didactical and methodological approaches of teaching in multigrade schools are objects of interest for all the participating countries. To training program must provide:

  • elements of new and different learning approaches,
  • detailed theoretical support for the application of these methods
  • adequate knowledge on how to use them in a multigrade class.

Specifically, Spaniards are worried particularly on how the training program can unify the methodological criteria and their application, because they realise that there is a wide variation between rural schools. Finally, Greeks propose that a part of this training program in this field should be materialized by experts, and at the same time a wide exchange of opinions among schoolteachers should take place.

Students' grouping issues

The way students in multigrade schools are grouped together in classes and teams differs among countries. For England this separation is the responsibility of the multigrade schoolteachers and for this reason teachers are trained appropriately with the aim to develop the skill of introducing criteria that help to allocate pupils into mixed year classes. Such training includes the evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of different criteria, and/ or multiple criteria. For Finland, Spain and Greece such a students’ grouping follows criteria dictated by ministerial decrees that deal with this issue; consequently there is no specific need for educating schoolteachers how to separate their classes.

Co-operation with local and educational authorities

A number of issues of collaboration of multigrade schools with the local and educational authorities emerge (with the exception of England) on a different level for each country. Finnish partners find useful to develop methods of collaboration with the kindergarten so that the transition of students from the kindergarten to the public school becomes smoother. Spanish partners focus in a search for ways to minimise the differences between rural public schools which are located in different municipal areas that may have different levels of involvement in education. They would also want to investigate ways to increase the involvement of Parents’ Associations in the educational work so that the work of schoolteachers is more appreciated. Finally, Greek partners believe that the training of schoolteachers is essential so as to improve communication with local authorities and to develop a better level collaboration and mutual understanding.

Working issues

In Spain and Greece there is a continuous movement of teachers, so they leave multigrade schools as soon as they have the opportunity to work in other schools. Under such circumstances it is considered necessary to establish on a constant basis an in-service training program which will be concerned mainly with the fast integration of the schoolteachers to the multigrade school environment.

Social and cultural issues

The three countries (with the exception of England) point out that training program is supposed to include a dimension that aims at the reduction of social and cultural isolation of students and residents of the villages where multigrade schools exist. In this frame it should also provide essential resources with which the schoolteachers not only will enrich their teaching but also will work towards the maximization of the socio - cultural students’ development.

Training program issues

All the countries point out that training program it should not only has the dimension of preparation, but also the dimension of continuing training. Continuous professional development is seen as a way of perfecting and enriching the work of teachers.

The role of ICT

All sides confirm that the role of ICT in multigrade school education can be highly important since it offers to both, teachers and students, the possibility of alternative ways of working not offered normally in a school environment. According to the views of the Greek partners, initially schoolteachers should be educated in the use of computers (Greece), after that in more sophisticated ICT applications and once their training is completed they should be given the means to apply ICT in teaching. It is considered significant to provide means so as multigrade teachers in remote schools can collaborate and exchange information and educational material for teaching purposes. Furthermore, it is stressed the need for mechanisms of continuous support of ICT applications.


Infrastructures and schools’ equipment are worth focusing issues for Spanish and Greeks. In both countries, these are inadequate or of poor quality and there is a need to improvise t or apply flexible ways that will allow for a better use of the existing establishments and material.


Training needs for educating teachers in subjects of management and administration emerge only in Greece. This need is the result of many factors, the most important of which are (a) the fact that management of education is absent from the undergraduate curriculum of many Departments of Education and (b) multigrade schoolteachers, usually young and inexperienced, have to face, in a daily base, an important administrative pressure of work (usually shared by the headmaster and more than one teachers in other schools).


Multigrade schools is an existing and worth –investigating institution in the educational system Some drastic constraints, such as the limited teaching time per student, intense fragmentation of the teaching procedure, lack of coherence and the need for time - sharing so as the meet the needs of a non-homogeneous class, make the multi-grade school a highly demanding professional area. The teacher in such a learning environment is called to unify diversified groups, set objectives for more than one grade, transform heterogeneous groups into collaborative teams and integrate pupils into a functional entity.

The reports of the four partner- countries have led to the conclusion that multigrade schools, though they reduce in number, are expected to be present in the educational environment for a long time, as the only viable solution in some cases and as an interesting pedagogical experiment in some other.

Moreover the situation in all four countries is that multigrade schools have little chance to be of top priority in educational planning. If the situation is to change, a change in attitude could be involved. This changing in attitude with respect to multigrade schools is a big challenge and the MUSE project is expected to work positively in this context.

Following the above one of the most important proposals that results is that there should be (a) a continuous in-service multigrade schoolteachers training and (b) a mechanism of continuous support to multi-grade schoolteachers, in connection with an effort towards enhancing communication among remote multi-grade school teaching environments.

Given the specific needs that characterize each country (but also different needs that are found in different multigrade schools within a country) the training program will be more effective and efficient if planned to be based on the adoption of a teacher centred approach. Implementation of the training program should include extended cycles of school centred work. Under such circumstances the most important characteristics of the training program are planned as follows:

  • Teachers will continuously give feedback to the academic team about their experiences gained in the classroom. This will not only motivate teachers, but also provide the necessary cross-links between theory and practice.
  • Upon suggestions of the teachers, the academic team will perform the necessary adjustments to the proposed approach.
  • In -service training course will be modular and flexible in order to address the diverse needs of schoolteachers in all four countries. For that reason all of them should be addressed even if some teachers may find them inapplicable in their cases or already faced.

Appendix 1

Groups of teachers needs in an in-service training program

Comparative analysis in the countries participating in the MUSE project

Spain / Finland / Greece / England
General issues / Multigrade teaching is a physically and psychologically demanding work for the teacher:
The adverse conditions which teachers in multi-level schools have to face means great tiredness.
Their involvement in the daily work and personal development of their students is not rewarded in any way. The work that they carry out is not recognised nor are they given any incentives. / There is appreciation towards multigrade schools. / Multigrade schoolteachersshould be trained to acknowledge
(a)the role and significance of multigrade schools
(b)The reasons of multigrade schools’ existence
This training should be incorporated in the in-service training course for multigrade teachers which will cover various issues of interest for multigrade schoolteachers. / The content of Pre-service and/or in-service training courses for teachers should acknowledge the existence of mixed year classes within the primary school. There is a one in four chance that a teacher will be allocated to teach in a mixed year class at any given time, and an even higher chance that a teacher will be expected to teach a mixed year class at some point in his/her career. Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) may find that their first posting is to a multi-age class.
Spain / Finland / Greece / England
Curriculum issues / There are difficulties for multigrade schoolteachers to complete the subjects provided by the official curriculum:
Teachers need a more flexible approach to educational inspection. The particular conditions within which they work must be taken into account. Multigrade schools must not be judged by the same standards as other educational centres. / It is necessary to:
(a) provide knowledge to multigrade schoolteachers how to organize teaching (differently than they are used to) in a multigrade class.
(b) develop in the new curriculum. a part that refers to multigrade teaching / Multigradeschoolsface the problem of inadequate time in coping with the curriculum’s requirements.
The teacher finds difficulties in completing the material that should be taught in certain modules.
Hence it is essential to educate teachers in applying efficient methods that organize and optimize the curriculum. / The notion of two year or three year curriculum spans is one that several teachers find helpful.
This requires teachers in schools to work together with the aim to restructure curricula for various subjects.
Examples of multi-year span curricula for discussion and re-development could be used within training units on the organization of curricula
In grouped rural schools there are difficulties in team work:
Physical distance, i.e. working in schools that group centres in different villages together under one organisational structure, makes team work a difficult task.
Teachers see the need for team work that helps
(a)to unify criteria in curriculum development
(b)to meet the particular needs of their environment. / There should be focus on the new curriculum:
how to deal with it and
how to implement it . / It is necessary to develop a system which:
Provides helpful directivesandrules for multigrade teaching
Facilitates the development of educational material
Enriches the existing material with new one
More specifically this system, provides directions for activities and work sheets which are absolutely necessary for multigrade schools teaching
Such a system will include a data bank of such directives and information.
Spain / Finland / Greece / England
Preparation for multigrade school teaching / It is concluded that teachers are not prepared for rural schools. Their knowledge is restricted to the educational practice carried out in urban environments and includes the assumption that all of their students will be very similar.
The main reason for lack of such a knowledge is that university teacher training courses do not deal with multi-level schools.
However, teachers need theoretical and practical reference points that will allow them to match teaching to the specific environment they work. / - / Thetrainingprogramshouldtakeunderconsideration the lack of specific training of teachers with respect to teaching in amultigradeschool. One of the most essential points in this respect should be the fundamental differentiation in:
the organizationalstructure
themethodologicaltreatmentof multigrade schools teaching in comparison to ordinary ones. / Teachers need to reflect on/become aware of both the challenges for both teachers and pupils in mixed–age classes.
In the context of in-service training this will be best approached through teachers’ personal and group reflections, listing and clustering of the perceived challenges and opportunities.
In the context of pre-service training this might be approached through reflections after short and long periods of teaching practice.
In both cases teachers are expected to benefit from getting the information that in fact teachers in schools elsewhere, and historically, for pedagogic rather than demographic reasons, have chosen to organise classes on a mixed age basis.
Difficult position of new teachers in multi-level schools: First-time teachers only have the knowledge that they have gained throughout their university course, which generally does not touch on multi-level schools in rural environments. Teachers who are starting to work in this field need a strong culture of collaboration to support them and guide their work.