“Football is inspiring for our students”

On the occasion of our cooperation with daltonatheneum Het Leerlabo, we had an interview with the school’s director, Hilde Raets (left on the photo above). In this interview, she gives her vision of this cooperation and explains its importance for her pupils.

What exactly does the partnership between Het Leerlabo and KVC Westerlo entail?

Hilde Raets indicates that there has been a partnership between the school and KVC Westerlo for years. In concrete terms, this partnership means that our pupils receive football training at KVC Westerlo.

In the past, these football training sessions were led by Kurt Van Diest, Youth, Facility & Community Director of KVC Westerlo, or by our teachers. We are looking into involving a trainer from KVC Westerlo so that we can prepare our pupils even better.

But the fact that these football training sessions take place on the grounds of KVC Westerlo, has always been that way. Which is, of course, very impressive for our pupils. It is very nice that the accommodation of KVC Westerlo is available to us and that our pupils may shower there.

I know that this cooperation is also very much alive within KVC Westerlo and that they are also focusing more and more on youth. This is something Het Leerlabo can only support. I believe that, with this partnership, we can achieve a lot within the youth work.

It is great is that Kurt is part of our teaching team. So we have a teacher who takes on a double role and who, because of the person he is, can create lots of synergies.

Het Leerlabo searches for a win-win situation. How can we strengthen each other? What role can we play within KVC Westerlo? Can we support certain activities?

One dream is that we, together with KVC Westerlo, can extend that community even further. Together we are a thousand times stronger!

Het Leerlabo is based on dalton education. Can you tell us something about what this means?

Dalton education focuses on three pillars: cooperation, responsibility and independence. These three pillars are reflected in the way we work.

Obviously, these are not skills that every first-year student naturally possesses. We see this as a growth process and we hope that, when our pupils leave the school, they will have these three pillars strongly anchored.

I truly believe that possessing these three pillars, in addition to the knowledge everyone should have, make someone strong in life. In my opinion, it is very useful and necessary to strongly develop these skills.

Which values from dalton education do you also see within the youth academy of KVC Westerlo?

We have a lot of educations that are primarily focused on sports. Our three Dalton pillars are also very important within sports. I often refer to the sports mentality when I talk about the Dalton pillars.

In team sports, you have to work together and take responsibility. You will also have to handle quite a few things independently. I notice that the Dalton pillars match very nicely with this sports mentality.

Football is a very popular sport. Football is very inspiring and also very guiding for many of our pupils. Football is something to hold on and I like that a lot.

What makes Het Leerlabo so unique?

We are a unique school, not only because of the fact that we offer dalton education, but also because we are a small school. I think that’s a huge advantage.

We are a very family-oriented school, everyone knows everyone here. With us, you really aren’t a number. That community feeling really lives within Het Leerlabo and that is great to see. This is reinforced by the very beautiful, large green outdoor area that we have at our disposal here. Our school is located in the middle of the forest De Beeltjens. In addition to a secondary school, we also have an elementary school. They are also part of our warm family.

What support options are offered for pupils within Het Leerlabo?

Since we are a school that is intentionally small, we are able to provide all of our pupils with great personalized guidance in their studies. Everyone knows each other at our school, so we really have a personal connection with our pupils and can work in an individualised way. This also makes them more likely to come to us with any problems.

Here, there is really a great willingness to look at each pupil to see how he or she is doing with his or her sport and what he or she needs for that. The pupils will then have to take their responsibility to catch up on the material they miss on their own. If they are willing to work on those Dalton pillars and ensure that they achieve the goals by the end of the journey, then we will support them.

We have a lot of pupils who play sports at a high level. Not only footballers, but also judokas, cyclists, …. As a team, we do everything we can to make sure that they achieve their goals and that they continue to grow in their sport. We are convinced that this approach motivates them to go for those school tasks as well.

Apart from the fact that our teachers really want to do everything they can to achieve this, we also have a care team within Het Leerlabo, who will follow up on matters more closely if necessary. We believe it is very important to have very open and transparent communication, that we give direct feedback to students and parents.

I believe very strongly that we can offer the pupils what they need. Most pupils don’t need to sit in class all day and soak up content. They need the three Dalton pillars to be worked on and they need the opportunity to develop themselves.

That is why we intentionally choose to offer three lessons of free choice from the first to the seventh year. Our pupils then choose, depending on their skills, interests and talents, from our offer. Football is one of these free choices.

So every pupil has the choice of taking three hours of football training sessions at KVC Westerlo. In many classes this is even six hours.

What directions can graduates take?

Our sports pupils can go in any direction after completing secondary school. We offer a sports education in double finality. These pupils can go study or they can go work. Furthermore, we offer sports science. These pupils are being prepared to go to college or university.

How does Het Leerlabo see football within its school environment?

Football is very much alive in our school. Many of our pupils have a passion for football. Not only for football, but also for sports in general. On the playground, football is being played every break. From that, you can really see how intensely our students are engaged in this.

How does Het Leerlabo ensure an optimal football-school combination without creating difficulties?

A clear framework is provided in terms of school and football expectations. The school takes care of a good follow-up of the results of our students.

A communication triangle is also created between the school, football and the home situation in which the parents of the pupils are very important. This allows you to work very closely together, to give open feedback and to make adjustments where necessary.

For Het Leerlabo, what are the main benefits of this partnership?

Thanks to the parnership between Het Leerlabo and KVC Westerlo, we as a school can use the accommodation of KVC Westerlo to organize our football training sessions. Our pupils are always very excited when they can play their favorite sports there.

Thanks to this cooperation, we can also let our pupils do what they like and let them learn things based on that. That is so much more powerful than forcing students to sit in school every day from morning to evening. We also see this within our sports educations. We teach physics and science and other subjects from that sports angle and that is much more interesting. I am convinced that this is a huge advantage for our pupils.

The most important thing is to look at the need that exists among the young people and to see how, on the one hand, we can make sure that they get a good education with teachers who believe in them and support them and, on the other hand, how we can make sure that they can further develop their sporting capacities.

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