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Should students take the lead in planning a school’s strategy? This Austrian school says yes

What is the purpose of schooling? For many, it’s the imparting of the specific knowledge that will allow young people to navigate adult life.

Should students take the lead in planning a school's strategy? This Austrian school says yes
Photo: Getty

However, for a growing number of families, it is also about empowerment – giving young people the real-life skills and experiences that will help them achieve sustained success in later life, no matter their chosen career path.

Together with the American International School of Vienna (AISV), we look at how one school is taking an innovative, leading role both in involving students in envisioning its future growth and empowering them to make long-term, impactful decisions.

Start your child’s journey towards life-long empowerment with AIS Vienna today

Developing the school of the future

In order to plan for their continued success, a school needs to create a strategic plan that outlines how it plans to grow and develop in the years ahead. 

This is especially important in challenging and turbulent times as these, when more than ever, global challenges play a role in the daily lives of students. 

When it came time for AIS Vienna to develop their new five-year Strategic Plan 2021-2026, involving student voices was a key concern. 

As High School student Hannah Fidelia Hurtig, who was involved in the planning process, says: “A lot of the time grown-ups can recognise and see what is good for students in the long run, but I think it is important to also realise what the students need right now, and that is where student input becomes especially important.”

Together with Hurtig’s input, ideas from staff, parents, students, and other stakeholders were funneled into four distinct pillars for discussion: Teaching & Learning, Character & Community, Facilities and Finance. Each of these areas was then the focus of planning that could be later judged through clear outcomes. 

“I believe that students will specifically benefit from the Teaching and Learning priority,” Hurtig tells us. “One of the goals is to create an environment where students are provided with the necessary tools and space for purposeful learning, which is then further supported by the teachers around them.

“I also believe that students will benefit from the Character and Community priority, as AIS is focusing on what it means to be a member of the AIS community, fostering diversity and inclusion. I think through this priority AIS will become an even more welcoming place, in which everyone feels motivated.”

For Hurtig, her experience in developing the new AIS Vienna Strategic Plan was one that made her more confident, giving her the skills that will allow her to engage in similar projects in the future. 

She says: “I felt like my voice was heard and everything I said was carefully considered. I especially enjoyed discussions in which ideas would float around and we would come to a conclusion together.”

Hannah Fidelia Hurting

Let your children’s voice be heard – make an inquiry with AIS Vienna today 

Building on the plan

As great as a Strategic Plan can be in developing a roadmap for the future, it’s nothing without concrete action. 

This past school year, AIS Vienna fundraised over €225,000, a significant portion of which was used to furnish a new, cutting-edge Elementary School Science and Innovation Lab that now allows students to collaborate in a dedicated space and engage with tools in ways that simply weren’t possible before.

In the previous school year, extensions were made to both the Elementary and High Schools, allowing students more space and learning opportunities outside a traditional classroom environment. 

Additionally, in line with recommendations that would later become part of the new Strategic Plan, the school’s network infrastructure and online learning environments were overhauled. This would become especially crucial when the coronavirus pandemic closed schools in March of last year.

Bringing together the voices of parents, teachers, supporters and – most crucially – students, AIS Vienna has developed a Strategic Plan that will allow it to continually lead as a centre of educational excellence in not only the Austrian capital, but across the entire country and region. 

Empower your children in an environment that gives them real-life skills. Make an enquiry about enrolment at AISV today

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COVID-19

Could 12 to 15-year-olds in the EU soon be given the Pfizer Covid vaccine?

Pfizer/BioNTech said on Friday it has asked European regulators to authorise its Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, a move seen as a crucial step toward achieving herd immunity.

Could 12 to 15-year-olds in the EU soon be given the Pfizer Covid vaccine?
A pupil at a school in the German state of Hesse in April. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The company has already filed a similar request with US authorities earlier this month. Its vaccine is currently only approved for use in people aged 16 and over.

In a joint statement, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had submitted a request with the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) to expand the use of their jab to include “adolescents 12 to 15 years of age”.

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of Germany’s BioNTech firm, on Thursday said the jab could be available for those age groups from June if EU approval is granted.

READ MORE: Germany’s BioNTech hopes for 12-to-15 year olds to receive vaccine in June

The move comes after phase 3 trial data showed that the vaccine provided “robust antibody responses” and was 100 percent effective in warding off the disease among those aged 12 to 15.

“The vaccine also was generally well tolerated,” the statement added.

In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly, Sahin said he expected regulators’ evaluation of the data to take four to six weeks.

If approved, the green light would apply to all 27 European Union member states.

Pfizer and BioNTech added that they also plan to seek authorisations “with other regulatory authorities worldwide”.

No coronavirus vaccines are currently authorised for use on children.

While children and teenagers are less likely to develop severe Covid, they make up a large part of the population and inoculating them is considered key to ending the pandemic.

The prospect of getting older children jabbed before the next school year begins would also ease the strain on parents who are juggling the demands of homeschooling while keeping up with jobs.

“It’s very important to enable children a return to their normal school lives and allow them to meet with family and friends,” Sahin told Spiegel.

Plan for vaccination of younger children

BioNTech and Pfizer are also racing to get their jab approved for younger kids, from six months upwards.

“In July, the first results for five- to 12-year-olds could be available, and those for younger children in September,” Sahin said.

Ongoing trials so far are “very encouraging”, Sahin said, suggesting that “children are very well protected by the vaccine”.

BioNTech was founded in Mainz by husband and wife team Ugur Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci. They teamed up with US pharma company Pfizer to produce the shot which is based on novel mRNA technology, and was the first Covid-19 jab to be approved in the West late last year.

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