Inclusive education policies can prevent school failure


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The COVID-19 crisis makes the need for an inclusive school system ever more apparent. Therefore, research like that carried out by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (the Agency) within the Preventing School Failure project (2018-2020) comes in particularly useful in the current situation. The project aimed to identify inclusive education policies and highlighted their potential to prevent school failure at individual and system level.

The project combined an analysis of European and international research literature with a country survey on existing national measures to prevent school failure, collecting data from 14 Agency member countries. The Agency defines school failure as the failure of schools, learning communities and society  as a whole to provide for fair and inclusive education, which can result in insufficient acquisition of knowledge and skills, a lack of adequate qualifications or early school-leaving for some individuals.

The final project outcomes consist of an international literature review, a project synthesis report, and a summary report. They also provide key policy actions to prevent school failure at national/regional, community, school and individual level. The results show that “comprehensive policies that focus on equity and inclusion can improve education systems’ general effectiveness and individual learner outcomes. Put simply, increasing the education system’s inclusiveness can lead to success for all learners.” The Agency recommends that national policies and strategies take a whole school approach, while at the same time focusing on learners at risk.

These recommendations match the Joint Statement on Inclusive Schools Within the Context of Diverse Societies, which ETUCE drafted alongside the European Federation of Education Employers and the European School Heads Association. We call for “a holistic perspective on education systems which entails the integration of every person in society and preparing learners to be active and responsible citizens in a socially and economically diverse world” as one of five key elements of inclusive schools.

The COVID-19 crisis exacerbates existing inequalities in our education systems. In our Statement on tackling the COVID-19 crisis, ETUCE therefore calls on education and governments to ensure the inclusion of all students and education staff, as only inclusive education systems can provide for quality education for all.

In the same vein, the new ETUCE project on inclusive schools aims to build capacity for education trade unions in order to help them ensure that teachers, academics and other education personnel are adequately prepared and supported in dealing with diverse classrooms and implementing inclusive education.