Involving parents in the prevention of early school leaving
On the 21st and 22nd of November, COFACE attended a partner meeting of
the PREVENT project
which aims at involving parents in the prevention of early
school leaving. Through a range of policies, local authorities can play a key
role to better involve parents. PREVENT proposes to share experiences related
to the involvement of parents in the prevention of early school leaving.
The meeting, which took place in The Hague, brought together
representatives from 10 European cities to tackle the issue of effectively
transfer good practices between European municipalities. Additionally, several
key speakers shared their expertise on the topic of parents' role in preventing
school leaving and participants had the opportunity to visit the ROC Mondriaan
school where they learned about the schools' initiatives and policies in
ensuring close cooperation and involvement of parents.
COFACE also had the opportunity to share its expertise on the issue of
cooperation between parents and schools.
Some key messages include the following:
- While nowadays the involvement of parents in schools seems obvious,
this is a recent development and has many implications. Parents from vulnerable
backgrounds, migrant parents, are not always equipped to fulfil that role. Only
parents that understand the schooling system and how exchanges with teachers
and school staff works, that make themselves available at specific hours, that
have a mastery of the national language to be able to enter into a discussion
and exchange with teachers, only such parents will fulfil the role assigned to
them by schools. Thus recent developments with the best of intentions in many
national education policies that aim at reinforcing the involvement of parents
in school and developing a partnership between parents and the schools have
actually in effect excluded many parents and reinforced inequalities. Schools
therefore need to specifically actively target and involve vulnerable parents
to ensure that they do not "fall through the net".
- The cooperation between parents and schools is much broader than just
primary and secondary education. It starts at birth, during the pre-school
years, where children acquire different sets of skills and experience different
parenting styles and models. Pre-school
years already have an influence on the experience of children once they enter
kindergarten or primary school.
- Early Childhood Education and Care structures, since they are often
not considered as part of the educational system, all have different policies and
strategies regarding cooperation with parents.
- Kindergartens are traditionally the very first official education
structures that children attend and also where parents have the opportunity to
get involved. It is key, therefore, specific measures to include parents are in
place. Some examples are: ensure that
parents are well informed about all the ways they can get involved and what is
expected of them, dedicated time in the morning for parents to stay and
"play" with their children in the class environment with other
parents and other children, ensure frequent interaction between the parents and
the teacher especially moment where parents are shown results of activities
carried out with their children.
- Without denying that each Member State has its own specificities,
there are common trends that can be found in the success of policies aiming at
securing a better cooperation between parents and schools. First, there needs to be a very strong
political commitment and policies designed to make it a reality. Then, it is mostly dependent on the
motivation of individuals, especially the school staff, and core values that
such initiatives carry: respect, trust, communication, openness,...
For more information, see the project's website here
Peer Learning Activity on Early School Leavers
the 17-18-19th of April, the European Commission's Early School Leavers (ESL) Thematic Working Group (TWG) along with
the French Ministry of Education organised a Peer Learning Activity (PLA) in
aim of this meeting was to bring together key stakeholders among which
representatives from EU Member States ministries to share good practices on
tackling ESL. The PLA was to provide additional insights to the development and
implementation of comprehensive policies against early school leaving. Its
conclusions will help finalise the first report of the TWG.
attended the PLA, representing best practices, research and policy positions
developed by its national member organisations.
specific topics were addressed during the PLA: the understanding of how cooperation at different levels between
key institutions and stakeholders can be further developed and more information
in relation to second chance education.
French Ministry of Education presented its practices in cross-sectoral
cooperation by introducing the Platforms which are responsible for coordinating
the work of the various existing bodies and actors responsible for tackling
ESL. A centralised database
referencing all ESL fuels the Platforms with the names and contact details of
ESL in order to provide a quick and tailored response to their individual
situation and need.
visit to second chance education schools enabled participants to exchange with
teachers, students and headmasters to better understand the set-up,
inner-workings and key success factors of such schools, such as strong political
support and exceptionally motivated and dedicated individuals (teachers,
headmasters, often working unpaid overtime).
EU Commission will publish the key findings of the PLA in the coming
weeks. COFACE will disseminate
these to its national member organisations to further feed their reflection on
On January 2011, the European Commission published a communication on tackling Early School Leaving
(ESL), alongside the Council's recommendations on policies to reduce school leaving. ESL is an important issue to COFACE because the family environment is often identified as an important factor determining school achievement. As the Commission and the Council rightly point out, a lower socio-economic background or lower parental educational achievement are amongst the main factors when trying to explain ESL rates.
COFACE welcomes the calls for action and the programme drafted by the Commission and the Council aiming at tackling ESL. Several proposals are noteworthy such as: (1) provision of high-quality early childhood education and care services; (2) systemic language support and support in general for children with a migrant background; (3) active desegregation policy in schools; (4) permeability of educational pathways; (5) increased participation and co-operation of parents; (6) financial support for families conditionally linked to school attendance; and finally, (7) mainstreaming of ESL in all relevant policies at an EU level.
At the same time, COFACE wishes to underline a few shortcomings of these recommendations.
Firstly, the call for mainstreaming of ESL in all EU policies is -up to now at least- simply wishful thinking: the EU has barely advanced on reconciliation of work and family life or made progress on the maternity leave directive, not to mention the issue of paternity leave.
Secondly, when the Council recommends "support and empowerment of teachers" to enhance their competences, this often translates into more burdensome training and responsibilities for teachers without any improvement of their salary or a formal recognition of their increased workload. In many countries, teacher's council meetings or remedial lessons are not considered part of normal "working hours".
Thirdly, extra-curricular activities should not only be developed outside of school (as the Council paper suggests) but also within the school. Indeed, the integration of leisure activities in schools contributes to creating a "positive" image of the school environment and prevents ESL since pupils have more incentives to go to school.
Finally, we note that many other supportive measures need to be targeted at parents, such as Life Long Learning (LLL) programmes or fostering parental participation in social and cultural life. Family organisations contribute to this active participation and LLL by publishing magazines addressing common parenting issues, organising training sessions, discussion groups and other events for parents. Any successful strategy to tackle ESL will first have to support and involve civil society organisation.
Published on 04 Sep 2011
Updated on 04 Dec 2013