Promising Practices Inside and Outside Formal Secondary Education

December 19, 2017

A policy brief has been published about new statistical evidence on early school leaving in the project with the contribution of CPS researchers Julia Szalai and Agnes Kende.

This policy brief highlights inspiring school-based measures to prevent early school leaving (ESL) in regular secondary education, as well as compensatory measures provided by alternative learning pathways, often outside mainstream education. We have based our findings on the largest European comparative survey research and qualitative fieldwork ever conducted into the processes leading to early school leaving. The nine member states targeted in the study were chosen because of their contrasting percentages of early school leaving. This offered us a unique opportunity to learn from experiences and practices in countries with a relatively high and relatively low ESL rate.

This policy brief describes the various opportunities and challenges that school directors, teachers, support staff and pupils encounter when tackling early school leaving. First, we present several types of school-based prevention and intervention measures, which we have assessed according to a stakeholder-based evaluation that highlights the conditions required to make effective each type of measure for tackling early school leaving within mainstream education. The development of effective early warning systems can be seen as a first crucial step for schools to get a grip on ESL. Next, we present socio-emotional and behavioural support measures, career guidance measures and academic support measures to counteract ESL. We have also identified a list of contextual factors that are crucial to the effectiveness of the evaluated measures. First of all, in order to develop an effective instrument, teaching staff must be trained to systematically detect and compile at-risk indicators; not only cognitive indicators, but also behavioural indicators and psychological indicators. Next, the projects we evaluated underscore that allowing pupils a say and a form of ownership in the design and implementation of measures helps to make programs effective and is perceived as having a positive effect on teacher-pupil relations. School staff often pointed to a lack of parental involvement as a risk factor leading to ESL. We have singled out practices where the development of a more positive and inclusive approach towards parents, especially those from socially disadvantaged and/or ethnic minority backgrounds, fosters greater parental involvement in schools. Last but not least, a flexible and individualized learning approach was found to be crucial to tackling ESL. Mainstream education institutions in formal secondary education, however, are only providing such pathways to a limited extent. Instead, we discovered alternative learning pathways that are pursuing a more holistic approach and providing compensatory pathways for youngsters who have left formal education early.

Promising Practices Inside and  Outside Formal Secondary Education (Download)