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AGENCY eBULLETIN November 2017

The Agency has published a series of new materials on the topic of Inclusive Early Childhood Education and Raising the Achievement for all Learners. The latest European Agency Statistics on Inclusive Education (EASIE) data tables and country background information for the 2014/2015 school year are now available on the Agency website.

In the past few months, the Agency organised and participated in many events. The new Agency study entitled Inclusive Education for Learners with Disabilities was presented in a workshop in the European Parliament.

Read about the latest publications and news from our member countries below.


European Parliament Workshop on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On 12 October 2017, the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs held a ‘Workshop on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ for the Committee on Petitions (PETI). It took place in the European Parliament, Brussels.

The workshop formed part of the 2017 PETI research programme. It consisted of two panel sessions and the presentation of a new Agency study on inclusive education. The study entitled Inclusive Education for Learners with Disabilities published in September was prepared by the Agency, at the request of the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs.

The morning started with introductory remarks by Cecilia Wikström, Member of the European Parliament and the chair of the PETI Committee. Then, Serge Ebersold, from the Agency, presented the study ‘Inclusive Education for Learners with Disabilities’. The questions following the presentation focused on the impact of the economic crisis on inclusive education within EU member states, and how this has affected the diversity of teachers available. Attention was also brought to how the EU institutions could lead the way in bringing inclusive education to the forefront of debate.

Mr Ebersold highlighted the individual journey for each country, and the change in focus of inclusive education from focusing on disability, to focusing on inclusion for all children. He pointed out that there has been strong momentum towards inclusive education in Europe.

The study is available for download on the European Parliament’s website.
illustration, people working on laptops looking at data graphs and charts

New EASIE Dataset Available

The European Agency Statistics on Inclusive Education (EASIE) data tables and country background information for the 2014/2015 school year are now available on the Agency’s Data web area. This is the second EASIE dataset to be published.

The current EASIE work has built upon a series of Agency activities conducted since 1999. This was when the Agency first collected comparative quantitative data, which focused on the percentage of pupils identified as having special educational needs (SEN) and the percentage educated in separate special schools. Additional questions were formulated later about the number of pupils with SEN in special classes in mainstream schools and the number enrolled in inclusive mainstream settings. The quantitative data was accompanied by qualitative background information from countries, including the description of the compulsory age phase, clarification of public/private sector education and the country’s legal definition of SEN.

The EASIE work has shifted away from the emphasis of the Agency’s past data collection. Instead of focusing on pupils with SEN in segregated settings, it examines all pupils in compulsory education and enrolment in inclusive settings. The agreed goal for the EASIE work is to provide comparative and aggregated individual country data that informs country-level work on learners’ rights issues and informs debates on equity and participation in inclusive education. In order to make country data comparable, the Agency team and data experts identified and agreed on operational definitions for an official decision of SEN and for an inclusive setting.

For further information about this activity, please refer to the ‘EASIE Methodology Report’ and explore the country data and background information.


EASIE joint workshop for policy-makers and statisticians

A long-awaited joint workshop for Agency Representative Board members and EASIE data experts took place in Tallinn from 26–28 September 2017. The meeting was an associated event of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Mr Cor Meijer, Agency Director, launched the EASIE 2014 Dataset Cross-Country Report, which presents the agreed data from participating countries in a non-judgemental format relating to 17 indicators that were identified and agreed upon with the national data experts.

Read more about this event on the Agency website.
Colourful paper tree made out of hand-shaped cut-outs
Colourful paper tree created by students in Portugal

Inclusive Early Childhood Education

Quality in early childhood education is a prominent concern for policy-makers. During the past decade, many international and European organisations (OECD, UNESCO, UNICEF, European Commission, Eurydice and the Agency, among others) have made the provision of quality early childhood education one of their priority concerns.

Over the past three years (2015–2017), the Agency’s Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE) project has examined this work, as well as relevant research in the field. It has used this as the basis for exploring concrete policy and practice examples of early childhood education in 28 European countries.

The IECE project has focused on inclusive pre-primary education for children from three years of age to the start of primary education. It has aimed to identify, analyse and subsequently promote the main characteristics of quality inclusive early childhood education for all children in this age group.

The project has provided an opportunity to closely examine how, within the perspective of inclusion, inclusive early childhood education provisions across Europe are addressing the quality principles that have been identified, especially those set out by the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Sixty-four inclusive early childhood education experts from across Europe contributed to the IECE project. They participated in data collection and analysis, as well as observations and discussions during field work and case study visits.

The IECE project has made three new contributions towards improving quality inclusive early childhood education. These are:
  • A clear rationale for – and an analysis of – the implications of adopting an inclusive vision and goals, as the main standards of inclusive early childhood policy and provision.
  • A new Self-Reflection Tool for improving inclusive early childhood education settings. This enables practitioners to review their service’s quality in terms of the inclusiveness of the physical, social and other learning environments it offers to children and families. The tool has been validated and is ready for use in practice in inclusive early childhood education settings in different education systems and countries across Europe and beyond.
  • A new Ecosystem Model of Inclusive Early Childhood Education for policy-makers and other stakeholders wishing to collaborate towards effective action in this field. This model can support policy-makers and practitioners to collaborate in planning, reviewing and improving quality inclusive early childhood education services. The model is founded on the outcomes of the project. It incorporates all the principles of the EU and OECD frameworks for quality early childhood education. However, it enhances their applicability by locating them at different ecological levels (inclusive early childhood education setting, home / community and regional / national levels).
The New Insights and Tools – Contributions from a European Study report sets out the main policy and practice developments towards inclusive early childhood education, with particular reference to European policy issues.

A project literature review summarises major research and policy documents to analyse Early Childhood Education and Care services and programmes implemented for at-risk children and/or those with special educational needs.

The IECE project concluded with a conference (#IECE_conference) on 1–2 November 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Agency organised this event in co-operation with the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science. The conference aims to highlight and present the project’s main outcomes.
Link to video on the Agency YouTube Channel: example of raising achievement in Łajski, Poland

Examples of Raising Achievement – Videos Available Online

The ‘Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education’ International Conference was held as an official event of Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) in April. At the conference, the project learning communities presented the work that they had undertaken during the project between 2015 and 2017.

The videos shown at the conference during the learning community presentations are available on the Agency You Tube channel. The videos include examples of how schools can:
  • create an inclusive ethos and positive attitudes towards all learners, in particular those with disabilities and using music to increase participation (Poland);
  • develop the curriculum, increase collaboration with parents and community, change school organisation and leadership and increase the capacity of the workforce through collaboration and professional development (Italy);
  • support teachers to meet learner needs, increasing parental involvement, using curriculum flexibility to increase learner engagement and developing a growth mindset in learners and staff (UK–Scotland).
These videos show just a snapshot of the work that was undertaken by the learning communities. More information about the lessons learned from their experiences will be available in further project outputs on the project web area. A project literature review provides background information to support the development of evidence-based strategies for raising achievement and promoting innovation in schools.

Position Paper on Fighting School Segregation in Europe through Inclusive Education

‘The right to education is a fundamental human right. Yet, many European countries still deny thousands of children, including children with disabilities, Roma children and refugee or migrant children, equal access to it by keeping them in segregated schools. This is a violation of children’s human rights with far-reaching negative consequences for our societies. Member states have an obligation to secure the right of every child to quality education without discrimination’, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks on 12 September 2017. He was presenting a position paper on tackling school segregation through inclusive education, recently published by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Commissioner’s position was clearly conveyed in his speech: ‘School segregation harms children’s learning opportunities and is a clear injustice against minority and other vulnerable groups of people, which also perpetuates their marginalisation’, said Mr Muižnieks in his presentation.

The paper provides an overview of school segregation in Council of Europe member states, as well as its main causes. It also contains a list of recommendations and conclusions concerning school segregation and inclusive education, based primarily on the Commissioner’s country-monitoring and thematic work.

The position paper is available on the website of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, along with a short summary of the paper.

Country News

conference participants in Iceland
conference participants in Iceland

Multi-stakeholder co-operation established in Iceland to improve quality education for all

The ‘Education for All in Iceland’ seminar, organised by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture on 24 August 2017, attracted many participants from across the education sector and from other sectors in Iceland. The seminar focused on discussing and disseminating the results of the 2016 audit performed by the Agency and on discussing ideas for further action. The Minister of Health, the Minister of Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, addressed the seminar, as did representatives from the Agency and key stakeholders in the field of inclusive education.

Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Minister of Education, Science and Culture,  said in his address: 'I think it is very important, now that the situation has been thoroughly mapped and we have suggestions for how to move forward in the long and short term, that everyone pursues opportunities for improvement for the youth in our country and searches for solutions to make our education system even better.'

The Icelandic education authorities asked the Agency to perform the audit because, although a policy of inclusive education has been the guiding principle in Iceland's education policy since 1996, the implementation of the policy in daily school practices has not been considered satisfactory.

The audit findings revealed interesting results, such as that the current law and policies for education support the aims and emphasis of an inclusive school system. There is a consensus about inclusive education as a goal among most educators and school staff at all levels of the school system. However, the findings also show that people have different definitions of the concept of inclusive education. Most of those interviewed for the audit pointed out that the current financing system and rules for allocating education funds were nor equitable or efficient. In addition, many school employees doubt that their basic education and/or opportunities for professional development are a useful preparation for inclusive education practices.

The audit presented three priorities that are necessary for future development in this area:
  • Promoting comprehensive discussion among those who work in education, in all municipalities, schools and school levels, on how best to achieve inclusive education.
  • Reviewing the current rules on the allocation of funds with  greater efficiency as a guiding principle.
  • Discussing – with the aim of reaching agreements – about minimum standards for services supporting inclusive education in all schools.
These steps are considered to be the most efficient for promoting broad system changes. The main purpose of the seminar was to focus on the first priority: addressing all stakeholders in the field of education and taking the first step towards reaching an agreement on the meaning of the term ‘inclusive education’.

Following the audit, all the main stakeholders from the education community signed a follow-up memorandum of co-operation. The Minister of Education, Science and Culture, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and representatives from the Teacher’s Union, the Head Teachers’ Union of the Upper-Secondary Schools, the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities and the National Home and School Association signed the memorandum.

The Minister of Education, Science and Culture formed a steering committee with representatives from all previously mentioned stakeholders for efficient follow-up on the audit in the next few years.

This is the first time that such a joint declaration has been signed by all these stakeholders in Iceland. The seminar was a first step towards further co-operation in successfully implementing inclusive education policies.

The agenda and all related materials, including a video of the event, are available on the website of the Icelandic Ministry of Education.

Research on Inclusive Education in Estonia

Inclusive education has been a leading principle for the management of education in Estonia since the Basic Schools and Upper-Secondary Schools Act was enacted in 2010. A recent research project, entitled ‘Inclusive education of SEN students and the effectiveness of related support measures’, mapped the situation around early detection of and support for learners with special educational needs (SEN). It found that more learners with SEN are attending mainstream schools, but they are mostly educated in separate special classes. Academic achievement is becoming more difficult for learners with SEN at higher levels of the education system.

According to the Estonian Centre for Applied Research, the number of learners with SEN has increased slightly. In 2014, there were almost 26,000 learners with SEN. Compared to 2006, the share of learners with SEN has increased from 13.9% to 17.1–18.5%.

The biggest increase is in pupils with SEN in mainstream schools. In 2014, 87.7% of pupils with SEN were studying in mainstream schools. However, between 2010 and 2014, the share of learners with SEN in special classrooms rose from 18.8% to 21.2%. This increase has been mainly in mainstream schools, not special schools. It is due to both special school pupils transferring to mainstream schools and pupils in mainstream classrooms being transferred to special classrooms. Therefore, the tendency is to increase the share of pupils in mainstream schools, but not in mainstream classrooms.

On average, 94% of pupils complete basic school, but only 86% of special classroom pupils and 81% of special school pupils graduate. After basic school, 96.6% of pupils who graduated the national curriculum continue their studies, compared to only 59% of those who graduated according to a simplified, individual curriculum.

There is a relationship between the labour market outcomes of learners with SEN and their type of SEN. Learners with less complicated needs are as likely to find work after graduating from basic school as learners without SEN. However, those with SEN that require a lot of support are somewhat less likely to be employed. Pupils with SEN who graduate from a special class in a mainstream school have better chances of finding work than those who graduate from a special school. However, if we only consider pupils who did not continue their studies after basic school, these differences vanish.

The research project proposed changing the SEN categorisation system, so that it is based on the need for support and not on the disability itself. Moreover, it is important to increase thematic training for teachers on work with SEN. One of Estonia’s strengths is that legislation provides for inclusive education principles. These principles are increasingly recognised and valued, forming the basis for meaningful inclusion of learners with SEN.

The research report is online (in Estonian only), with a summary available in English. For further statistics on inclusive education in Estonia, please refer to the Agency’s Data web area. The Agency will publish a cross-country data analysis report on 30 member countries in the coming months.
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 the 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.

Copyright © 2017 European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, All rights reserved.

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