ESET celebrated its 10th anniversary at the FESET congress in Antwerp, November 1999. How was this association created? And why? And how has it developed since the creation?
The training of “éducateurs spécialisés” (or social care workers or other titles for these professionals) and the recognition of the profession came for many years within the sphere of interest of AIEJI (Association Internationale des Educateurs de Jeunes Inadaptés – in English: International Association of Workers for Maladjusted Children).
In May 1987 AIEJI organised a meeting on the theme “Training of Social Care Workers”. A number of trainers/teachers from various European countries participated.On that occasion it became apparent that there was a need for setting up a European structure for training centres to meet. This of course had to do with the developing EEC, with the freedom of movement for persons and services, the EC Council’s preparation of the directives on a general system for the recognition of diplomas, etc. The European schools for training of professional educators needed their own common – and effective – intermediary vis-à-vis the official EEC institutions.
In France (as well as in certain other European countries) at that time there existed a “Comité d’Entente des Ecoles de Formation d’Educateurs Spécialisés” (a national liaison committee of training schools for social care workers). The French committee immediately met the challenge and decided to take initiatives in this regard.
A year later, in May 1988, professor Paolo Marcon as a member of IIES (Institut International d’Education Spécialisée) organised a 3-day seminar at the University “La Sapienza” in Rome, on the theme “Equivalence of Social Care Workers’ Diplomas in Europe”. The 40 participants in the seminar, representatives from ministries, training centres and associations of social care workers from the EEC and Switzerland, largely supported the idea of establishing a European Committee of Training Centres and it was decided to organise a follow-up seminar in 1989 or 1990.
The French “Comité d’Entente” took responsibility for organising the first European congress for training centres for “specialised educators” in May 1989. Chairman of the organizing committee was Mr. Marc Ehrhard, Strasbourg, where the congress was held in the Palais de l’Europe. Previous to that, Mr. Pierre Lauer, who was at that time president of the “Comité d’Entente”, invited representatives from training centres in the 12 EC Member-States to a meeting in Luxemburg in March 1989. Here a proposal for statutes was set up, which was presented and adopted at the Founding Meeting at the end of the congress, May 18. So, the European Committee of Training Centres was born. And Pierre Lauer became the first president.
The definition of “socio-educational functions” was included in the statutes in order to specify what the profession was about, since the designations varied from one country to another. The newborn European Committee chose the definition formulated by AIEJI in 1975 as a base and thus the original statutes said that “a socio-educational position is that of a professional who, after specific training in pedagogical and social methods and techniques, takes care of the personal and social development of his/her clients: young children, handicapped and troubled children, adolescents and adults. He/she shares with them different daily-life situations, whether in institution or in their natural environment, in a continuos and coherent work with the person and his/her surroundings.”
The European Committee of Training Centres decided to follow up on the congress in Strasbourg and organise a congress every second year. The second congress took place in Aarhus, Denmark in May 1991 with the overall theme “Cooperation towards Europe” and with about 150 participants from 80 European training centres.
The third congress was held in Athens, Greece in May 1993, with the overall theme “Education/Training for socio-educational functions in Europe – the Richness of Diversity”. In Geneva, April 1995, at the fourth congress on “Social politics and the training”, the Committee had developed into a real “association”, so the General Assembly decided to adopt a new, more precise, however not particularly handy name – European Association of Training Centres for Socio-Educational Care Work.
The fifth congress took place in Lisbon, Portugal, in May 1997 with the theme ‘The Family and Social Change – the Challenges for Training’.
The sixth congress, this time in Antwerpen in November 1999, focussed on ‘Training of Social Care Workers in the Third Millennium – Mission impossible ?’
The seventh congress on the theme ‘Training for an evolving profession’ was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in October 2001.
Presidents of the Association have been: Mr. Pierre Lauer, France, from 1989 to 1993. Mr. Bert Jones, Wales, UK, from 1993 to 1997. Mr. Paul Weber, Switzerland, from 1997 to 1999. From1999 Mr. Alphons Somers, Belgium.
The Association wanted to fill the gap that emerged from the closing down of the old ERASMUS programme, which allowed ICPs to meet regularly. So, the association decided between the congress years to organise seminars offering a forum for continued cooperation and exchange on vital aspects of the training.
The first seminar was held in October 1998 in Brussels on the theme ‘The links between practice of socio-educational work and practice of training’ and gathered about 75 persons. The second seminar was held in Paris in November 2000. Theme: “Ethics in Socio-educational Training and Practice”. The third seminar was held in Bellaria, Italy in November 2002. Theme: ‘Training for Modern Residential Care in the Context of Children’s Rights’.
The General Assembly held in connection to the seminar in 1998 chose – in search for a more handy name – the acronym FESET as the official denomination (a combination of the French ‘Formation d’Educateurs Sociaux Européens’ and the English ‘European Social Educator Training’).
Parallel to its own activities FESET was an active partner in the activities within ECSPRESS, which among others comprised three seminars in 1997, a conference in 1998 and another in 1999. ECSPRESS was a Thematic Network, established as a consortium (European Consortium of Social Professions with Educational and Social Studies) with the three school-organisations EASSW, ECCE and FESET as the main actors and, as associated partners, the Professional associations AIEJI, FICE, IFSW and ICSW. The Thematic Network worked for three years, from 1996 to 1999, partly financed through the Socrates programme. ECSPRESS offered a splendid opportunity for FESET to establish a highly wanted contact to institutes in Central and Eastern Europe.
FESET has edited a series of publications of professional value, both theoretically and practically. The first issue – the Journal No 1 – was presented to the congress in Geneva, containing a number of articles, written by members of the association, in either English or French. The Journal No 2 was published in 1997, the Journal No 3 was ready for the congress in Antwerp, November 1999.
From 2001 FESET publishes a bi-annual periodical European Journal of Social Education.