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This issue of the newsletter brings you updates about recent publications, materials and events in the field of inclusive education. In this issue we also introduce the Agency's new chair.

The ‘Mapping Country Systems for Inclusive Education’ Agency report presents an analysis of the funding of inclusive education in European countries. Links between early school leaving and learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities were examined in two recently published Agency reports. Read more about recent materials produced by - or in collaboration with - the Agency below.

In the past few months, the Agency organised and participated in a series of events. The Raising Achievement International Conference in Malta was a working conference, outcomes of which will inform the final project outputs. Six Country Study Visits took place in the framework of the Financing Policies for Inclusive Education Systems project. For more information about this project and other Agency activities, see the titles below.


Ana Magraner


The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education is happy to announce that Ms Ana Magraner is our new Chair as of 1 May 2017.

She has comprehensive experience with European co-operative relations, through her work for the Spanish Government and the European Commission. In her new position as Agency Chair, Ms Magraner will focus on promoting accessibility, equity and quality education in Europe.


green plants growing on small stacks of coins

Mapping Country Systems for Inclusive Education

Countries have grown increasingly committed to the principle of inclusive education in recent decades. As a result, the topic of financing of inclusive education is crucial when evaluating how existing inclusive education policies effectively meet learners’ rights. There are short- and long-term costs of exclusion, which are related to lost productivity, human potential, poor health and well-being. Systems for inclusive education aim to improve schools’ capacity to be equitable, effective and efficient.

By examining the questions above, the Agency’s Financing of Inclusive Education – Mapping Country Systems for Inclusive Education project focused on the critical factors of financing that support access to inclusive education, without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity.

Inclusive education should be an opportunity for schools to provide high-quality, cost-effective learning opportunities for all learners. However, according to information provided by 18 countries in the framework of the Financing project, funding mechanisms do not always present an incentive towards systems for inclusive education, despite increasing expenditure. Current resource allocation mechanisms tend to foster exclusive strategic behaviours. This leads schools to connect the support some learners need with an official decision or label.

The Mapping Country Systems for Inclusive Education project report presents an analysis of the funding of inclusive education in European countries. It points out that there are challenges in support at regional, municipal and school level when it comes to implementing the goal of inclusive education systems.

The analysis highlights that the effectiveness and quality of governance mechanisms must be improved. Means and resources should be available within an integrated framework, which allows for co-ordinated provision and co-operation among all institutions and stakeholders involved in the system for inclusive education.

It has also become apparent from the analysis of the participating countries’ financing systems that resourcing of inclusive education must be linked to the approach of inclusive design for learning. Such an approach incorporates both the universal design approach to learning and a compensatory perspective for learners with the most severe needs, in order to provide high-quality learning environments for all learners in mainstream settings.

For more information about the project and other materials, visit the Financing project web area.
young person working on a computer

Links between Early School Leaving and Learners with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities

Having an upper-secondary education is crucial to young people’s life chances. It is often seen as the minimum entry requirement for the labour market and is an important protector against unemployment. In Europe, however, by no means all young people enter or complete upper-secondary education. Those who do not tend to come from groups that are marginalised in many other ways, and tend to go on to experience multiple disadvantages into adulthood.

Early school leaving (ESL) is broadly defined as the phenomenon of young people leaving formal education before they have successfully completed upper-secondary schooling. The European Union (EU) has identified reducing ESL as a priority for action and set a goal of reducing ESL to 10% across all member states by 2020. Learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) are among those who are at particular risk of ESL.

The Agency examined this phenomenon in a one-year desk research project, running from 2015 to 2016. It reviewed and analysed research literature, policies and available data from Agency member countries on ESL. It aimed to explore whether there is evidence that learners with SEND are more likely to be early school leavers.

The findings of this project are now available in two reports, both edited by Alan Dyson and Garry Squires:

The first report sets out the findings of a review of the research evidence on ESL in Europe, with particular reference to young people identified as having SEND. The review focuses primarily on published material that relates directly to the situation in one or more European countries and that is available in English, supplemented, where necessary, by literature from other parts of the world.

The second report summarises the key research literature on this group and compares its findings and implications to the positions adopted by EU policy documents. This comparison leads to some recommendations for how policy-makers might tackle the issue of ESL more effectively, particularly as it impacts on learners with SEND.

The evidence-base on learners with SEND and ESL is less substantial than one might like. Nevertheless, it suggests that the risks for that group of learners are not substantially different from those for other groups. Therefore, they need to be included within mainstream interventions and practices. The development of inclusive schools, which are able to respond to individual characteristics and intervene early in individual difficulties, is key to reducing ESL.


Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity within Inclusive Education Systems – Article Available Online

Implementing Inclusive Education: Issues in Bridging the Policy-Practice Gap is a volume of articles written in 2016 by Agency staff in co-operation with international experts, drawing on the Agency’s past twenty years’ work in the field of inclusive education.

The article Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity within Inclusive Education Systems published in this book has been selected by the Emerald Publishing Group’s editorial team as an Outstanding Author Contribution in the 2017 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. As a consequence of this distinction, this paper is now freely available to all readers for one year.

Access the full abstract of this article here.

cover of publication
Cover of UNESCO's 'A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education'

A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education

A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education was developed by the United Nations educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2017. The guide focuses on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. SDG 4 also calls for education facilities that are child-, disability- and gender-sensitive and that provide safe, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

The Agency was involved in developing the guide, contributing with findings from previous work, such as the Teacher Education for Inclusion and Inclusive Education in Action projects.

The guide aims to help countries to take steps to address marginalisation, exclusion and inequality, and to find ways of including all learners. It is built around an assessment framework that serves to:
  • review how well national policies take account of equity and inclusion;
  • decide the actions needed to improve policies to implement equitable and inclusive education systems;
  • monitor progress as actions are taken.
Overall, this process aims to create system-wide change for overcoming barriers to quality educational access, participation, learning processes and outcomes and to ensure that all learners are valued and engaged equally.

By examining four dimensions – concepts, policy statements, structures and systems, and practices – the guide outlines each dimension’s key features, drawing on international research and best practice. It also builds upon recent resources published by UNESCO International Bureau of Education and on the 2009 UNESCO Policy Guidelines on Inclusion in Education.

The guide’s final section presents a review framework, highlighting areas to be examined and statements to reflect levels of progress towards the central message, which emphasises that ‘every learner matters and matters equally’.

See an infographic illustrating key points from the UNESCO guide here.

Screenshot of the Increasing Inclusive Capability web resource
Screenshot of the Increasing Inclusive Capability web resource with the 5 key questions examined in the resource

European Resource to Provide Opportunities for Greater Inclusion

Increasing Inclusive Capability, a resource for developing collaborative policy and practice, is now available on the Agency website in Swedish. This resource was developed in the framework of the Agency’s Organisation of Provision to Support Inclusive Education project.

In March, the newly translated material was presented at the at the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM), in the form of an internal web seminar. Lars-Åke Larsson, Coordinator of the Department for International Collaboration and Per Skoglund, development coordinator in the Western region presented the resource. Elisabeth Högberg, Coordinator of the Department of International Collaboration was the moderator during the broadcast.

A start for change
The key question behind the Organisation of Provision project was how the support system is organised to meet the needs of learners with disabilities in inclusive settings. The resource aims to help policy-makers at national and local level to create the opportunity for dialogue about strategic approaches.

The purpose of the material is to bridge the gap between theory and practice in issues related to inclusion. It is designed to facilitate dialogue between different interest groups, by serving as a basis for discussions between the various stakeholders and supporting the analysis of the current situation.

Common starting points
The resource is structured around 5 key questions:
  • How can the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) be embedded in national/local policy to ensure that all learners receive a quality education?
  • What does inclusive education mean to stakeholders in our national/local context?
  • How can provision be organised to meet the needs of all the school community?
  • What restricts the participation and learning of all children and young people and what action can be taken?
  • How can collaboration between key stakeholders support change and improvement?
For more information about this project and the resource, visit the Agency’s project web area or the SPSM website (in Swedish).


Mr Per Ch Gunnvall, Agency Chair, Mr Evarist Bartolo, Malta’s Minister for Education and Employment, and Mr Cor Meijer, Agency Director
Mr Evarist Bartolo giving his keynote speech at the Raising Achievement for All Learners in Inclusive Education conference in Malta.

From left to right: Mr Per Ch Gunnvall, former Agency Chair, Mr Evarist Bartolo, Malta’s Minister for Education and Employment, and Mr Cor Meijer, Agency Director.


Agency Participation in the Education and Training 2020 Working Group

The Agency is a member of one of the six Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) Working Groups that the European Commission established in February 2016 – namely the Working Group on Promoting Citizenship and the Common Values of Freedom, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination through Education.

ET 2020 Working Groups are designed to help Member States address the key challenges of their education and training systems, as well as common priorities agreed at European level.

Agency representatives regularly participate in Working Group meetings. A joint seminar for all ET 2020 Working Groups in March 2017 focused on integrating migrants and children of migrant background in education. More information is available in the Background Paper and Seminar Report.

The Working Group on Promoting Citizenship met in May in the framework of a peer learning activity. This event was organised by the European Commission, together with the Maltese Ministry for Education, and with the technical support of the Agency. Agency country representatives from Iceland, Italy and the UK (Scotland) participated in a panel discussion about inclusive education from policy to practice.

The peer learning activity focused on social inclusion, emphasising that inclusive education is the most effective means for preventing social exclusion in today’s diverse society.

Follow the activity of the ET 2020 Working Groups on the European Commission’s Education and Training website.


Raising Achievement for All Learners in Inclusive Education International Conference in Malta

The development of a growth mindset and moving away from a one-size-fits-all mentality were recurring themes at the Raising Achievement for All Learners in Inclusive Education International Conference. The event took place in Malta on 5–7 April as an official event of Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). It ran in parallel with the Agency’s bi-annual meeting of ministerial representatives from 30 member countries, who joined the plenary sessions.

Among the approximately 100 project participants were stakeholders from the project’s three Learning Communities: Istituto Comprensivo Antonio Rosmini and Istituto Tecnico Agrario Emilio Sereni (Italy), Group of Schools in Łajski (Poland) and Calderglen High School (United Kingdom – Scotland). School leaders, researchers, teachers, parents and policy-makers from Agency member countries participated in workshop sessions, focusing on pedagogy, leadership and collaboration. Ten learners from the Learning Communities and Malta were involved in an interactive workshop where they shared their perspectives on achievement.

In his opening address, Mr Joseph Caruana, Permanent Secretary of Malta’s Ministry for Education and Employment, mentioned the Agency’s contribution to the Council Conclusions on Inclusion in Diversity to Achieve a High Quality Education For All.

This was a working conference and the outcomes of the discussions will inform the final project outputs, which are planned for later this year. For more information about the conference, read a news item about it here.

Financing Policies for Inclusive Systems – Country Study Visits

The Financing Policies for Inclusive Systems (FPIES) project aims to identify coherent financing mechanisms for inclusive education. By working with policy-makers for inclusive education in six Agency member countries, the project examines how these mechanisms operate. It will identify and assess the critical levers impacting the effectiveness of funding policy mechanisms. Co-ordinated by the Agency, FPIES is a partnership project between the Ministries of Education in Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Slovenia. Universitat Ramon Llull (Barcelona) is an external evaluator for the project.

The project’s six planned Country Study Visits have now been completed. The visits gave key national stakeholders and FPIES project partners the opportunity to examine different educational funding approaches in detail through peer learning. They involved working with policy-makers so that policy-makers could systematically examine different approaches to financing inclusive education.

In the Country Study Visits, the FPIES project partners and local participants gained insights into different funding approaches through presentations from ministries, governmental and local-level agencies, as well as school-level practitioners.

In all visits, three questions that aim to objectively review each country’s policy and practice on financing inclusive education were considered. Read more about these questions and the project conclusions in this article.


Education for All in Iceland – Results of the External Audit

The results of the External Audit of the Icelandic System for Inclusive Education (Úttekt á framkvæmd stefnu um menntun án aðgreiningar á Íslandi) were launched in Reykjavík in March 2017.

Over the course of 2016, the Agency conducted a standards-based Audit in Iceland, focusing on two key tasks:

  • identifying country stakeholders’ standards for their system of inclusive education
  • independently collecting and analysing data to evaluate current policy and practice against these agreed standards.

The Audit activities involved almost 300 Icelandic stakeholders in the work: learners and their families, school staff, support services, school funders and operators, national teacher organisations and teacher education institutions, local and national level decision-makers. The fieldwork was organised around focus groups, school visits and interviews with a wide geographical coverage across Iceland and was complemented by online surveys.

The final report summarises the strengths and challenges within the Icelandic system for inclusive education. Crucially, it includes a comprehensive series of recommendations, linked to the Audit standards used as the basis for the work.

For more information about this work, visit a news item about it here.

The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education is committed to creating and disseminating Agency information which is accessible for all users. We are unable to guarantee the same level of accessibility of externally produced materials and websites referred to.

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Co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of teh European Union

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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