Compulsory education in Europe has shown increasing symptoms of malfunctioning in recent years. As revealed, sizeable groups of children seem not to receive even primary education; other groups formally complete compulsory schooling without learning even the basics; yet other groups leave school early or drop out prior to acquiring any certificates usable on the job market; yet others are diverted to the side-tracks of mainstream education. Furthermore, these new phenomena are heavily loaded with social and ethnic/racial implications: evidence shows that it is mostly the children of marginalized groups, and most of all, children of poor families of minority ethnic background who are at risk. This document distinguishes four markedly different phases of compulsory education with diverse causes and manifestations of the shortcomings. By drawing on a range of experiences and policy attempts in countries representing the continent’s welfare states, the discussion explores the involved policy dilemmas and possible reconciliatory actions in the respective phases. Through identifying a set of key aspects of designing efficient interventions, this policy brief aims to initiate a European level dialogue on principles and practices that may assist in (re)establishing children’s unconditional and equal rights to meaningful education all across the continent.