The eBulletin presents updates and news about projects from the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and its member countries.
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At the beginning of this year the Agency welcomed Serbia as its newest member, bringing the total to 31 member countries. The Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education project has finished. An article in this issue highlights the main project outputs and key actions.

The Agency website has been redesigned and redeveloped. The new website, launched early March, contains many modern features. Several new publications are available on the website, including outcomes from the Inclusive Early Childhood Education, Early School Leaving and Learners with Disabilities and/or Special Educational Needs and Raising the Achievement of All Learners projects.

In the past few months, the Agency has organised and participated in many events. Two events are featured in this issue: one is the First European Education Summit, with the participation of 15 European Union ministers, and the other is a national conference in Poland on the topic of inclusive education.

Read more about these topics in the articles below.

Serbian flag

Welcoming Serbia as a New Agency Member Country

The Agency is pleased to welcome the Republic of Serbia as its newest member country! 

The Republic of Serbia had been an Agency observer country since April 2017. On 1 January 2018, it became the Agency’s 31st member country.

Membership of the Agency will help the Republic of Serbia to achieve its aims in the field of inclusive education, particularly by facilitating co-operation with other member countries, enabling access to data on good practice and analysis in different education systems and through technical support.

Serbia has been continuously working to increase accessibility and equity in education, to develop safe and stimulating physical and social environments and to ensure equal opportunities for all children, pupils, students and adults in achieving the right to quality education and additional support. The main objective is to enable each person to learn, improve and acquire skills for independent living and inclusion in society, by providing appropriate support and accessibility at all levels and respecting individual educational needs.

Through specific initiatives and activities and by constantly improving the legal framework, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia aims to achieve the following specific goals of inclusive education:
  • develop the system of support for children and adolescents through efficient inter-sectoral co-operation;
  • improve competencies for quality (inclusive) education among employees of educational institutions;
  • create an inclusive environment for learning and development;
  • develop and implement mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating inclusive education.
More information about Serbia is available in the Country information section of the Agency website.
a large group of students and a teacher at the piano
Students welcoming the participants of the Raising Achievement project

'Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education' Project Outcomes

The ‘Raising Achievement’ project (2014–2017) aimed to explore what pedagogical strategies and teaching approaches are effective in raising the achievement of all learners. It also considered how school leaders can best support the development, implementation and monitoring of inputs and processes for raising achievement.

The project studied three schools/learning communities (LCs) from Italy, Poland and UK (Scotland), to ‘test’ ideas and share practice within and between these LCs. It also established an international learning community that – through school/LC visits and the use of an online forum – made it possible to discuss issues with school leaders and researchers from 29 participating countries. Overall, the project work has shown the benefits of:
  • measures to address the health and well-being of all learners;
  • flexible learning opportunities that provide continuity and progression through the phases of education and ensure the relevance of learning for life and work;
  • shared leadership and increased collaboration among school staff;
  • partnership with parents, carers and families, in order to raise learner aspirations and participation;
  • local community and employers’ involvement to increase curriculum relevance and work opportunities.
Overall, the project outcomes have highlighted the need to monitor school development through an ‘inclusive lens’. It is necessary to move away from narrow, standardised measures of attainment, towards more personalised ways to value wider and more authentic outcomes. Support for teachers and school leaders should focus on increasing schools’ capability to raise the achievement of all learners, particularly those vulnerable to under-achievement. The LCs' practical work has shown that networking both within the learning community and beyond (e.g. with local universities, other schools/colleges, local specialists) has the potential to build the capacity for evidence-informed practice.

Project findings highlight the need to go beyond equality of opportunity and focus on equity across all school structures and processes (e.g. learner grouping, staff allocation, access to curriculum and wider activities, accreditation of learning and resource allocation). By engaging in a reflective self-review process, learning communities can achieve a deeper understanding of the structures and processes that affect outcomes for all learners.

Finally, the project suggests seven key actions, together with corresponding key messages that are required individually and collectively to raise learner achievement:
  1. Create a 'Raising Achievement culture: A culture of trust and openness enables all learners to succeed
  2. Lift limits on learning: Achievement is raised by extending the learning opportunities available to every member of the learning community
  3. Develop a system of mutual support: Everyone needs support – and can provide support to others
  4. Nurture all learners: Raising achievement practice is learner-centred
  5. Share leadership: Raising achievement is everyone’s responsibility
  6. Focus on what matters: Raising achievement requires on-going monitoring and reflection on priorities
  7. ACHIEVE MORE TOGETHER! Raising achievement involves building a collaborative learning community
All the project materials will be available on the project web area.

New Publications Online

The following new publications are available on the Agency website:
  • Early School Leaving and Learners with Disabilities and/or Special Educational Needs: Final Summary Report
This final summary report outlines the key evidence and ideas from the two Early School Leaving (ESL) project reports. It represents the model for thinking about ESL that has evolved from the first two reports, along with the main recommendations for policy-makers. This report is a summary of the synthesis report that brings together the main findings of the Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE) project. This material was developed as part of the Agency's IECE project, and it is for all professionals and staff  to use and to reflect on their setting’s inclusiveness, focusing on the social, learning and physical environment.
  • Inclusive Early Childhood Education: New Insights and Tools – Contributions from a European Study – synthesis report
This report first sets out the main policy and practice developments towards inclusive early childhood education, with particular reference to European policy issues. It then presents the project’s three new contributions towards improving quality inclusive early childhood education.
Finally, the report gives an account of the lessons learned during the three-year project and the resulting recommendations.
This document summarises major research and policy documents to analyse early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and programmes implemented for at-risk children and/or those with special educational needs.
  • Legislation updates from Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, United Kingdom (Scotland) and United Kingdom (Wales).
This document presents information about new legislation – laws and policies – for special needs and/or inclusive education that has been introduced in Agency member countries in recent years.

Visit the Agency website to freely download these publications.
screenshot of the new Agency website with the word 'new' highlighted

Building an Accessible Website

The Agency has redeveloped its website, which is the main source of information about all the Agency projects and activities over the past 20 years. The new website was launched in March 2018. All existing web areas have been edited and re-structured with accessibility and usability in mind. The new website is more visual and easier to navigate, and all information is searchable via various filters.

Information accessibility is a major priority for the Agency. Our aim was to make all our materials accessible to all users. We have taken various steps to ensure our new website is also fully accessible. These include:
  • engaging a web development company to design our website in compliance with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0;
  • co-operating with an additional external web development company specialising in accessibility;
  • carrying out surveys of our website users and tailoring the website to their needs;
  • adding an accessibility tool to the website which helps users control the page;
  • external user testing with assistive technology users, with participants testing the site’s design and logic during development.

Web development and user testing

Such a user testing session took place recently, in order to test the website for people who use assistive technologies. Partially-sighted magnifier users and a blind screen reader user took part, using various devices as well as built-in screen magnifiers and speech output.

Test users had the chance to test and give us their overall impressions of usability and accessibility and potential barriers. They tested the website’s new accessibility tool, the navigation, design and logic, as well as the content. They also were asked to share their experience and enjoyment levels during and after using the site. Test results have been taken into account when finalising the new website’s content and design.
A test user explaining how the magnifying tool works on the screen
A test user explaining how the magnifying tool works on the screen

Featured Events

Opening statement by Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport at the First European Education Summit

First European Education Summit

Agency representatives attended the First European Education Summit on 25 January 2018, organised by the European Commission. Hosted by Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the event invited participants to discuss the importance of basic skills and inclusive education for becoming active members of society.

Under the theme of ‘Laying the foundations of the European Education Area: for an innovative, inclusive and values-based education’, the summit had around 450 participants. This included 15 European education ministers, along with education practitioners, stakeholders and business leaders.

Commissioner Tibor Navracsics talked about the need to have quality education to build resilient societies. He highlighted education’s role in promoting common values and building a sense of European belonging, as well as the need to have digitally competent young people.

Samantha Cristoforetti, a European Space Agency astronaut, delivered an inspiring speech. She referred to her own career path when discussing the importance of learners having international experience from an early age. As an engineer and astronaut, she underlined that studying humanities and foreign languages is important to develop compassion and understanding.

Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, pointed out that quality and inclusive education are the basis for societies that make informed choices. She also talked about the challenges migration presents for education.

The topics discussed at the summit included basic skills, digital competence, the importance of engaging disadvantaged children in the classroom, mobility of learners and teachers, mutual recognition of qualifications, and lifelong learning for teachers. Overall, the messages illustrated the need to build a European Education Area based on a common vision, which will make mobility a reality for all, create a network of European Universities and promote lifelong learning.

In her closing speech, Martine Reicherts, Director-General, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, gave a positive assessment of the work done so far. She announced that the Second European Education Summit will take place in October 2019.
Ms Elżbieta Neroj giving a presentation
Ms Elżbieta Neroj, Agency Representative Board member, from the Polish Ministry of National Education presenting the recommendations from the Agency report 'Five Key Messages for Inclusive Education'

Agency recommendations presented at the Inclusive Education Conference in Poland

The Agency’s recommendations for inclusive education were presented at a national conference which took place on 16 February 2018 at the Centre of Education Development in Warsaw, Poland.

The conference aimed to establish inclusive education as the first and essential step towards effective social inclusion. The presentations of the Agency’s projects and activities from the past 20 years provided an international perspective. Conference participants watched a video about the Agency and key recommendations (with Polish subtitles).

The Agency’s activities aim to improve inclusive education policy and practice in its member countries. Poland is one of the Agency’s 31 member countries and it is working towards improving its inclusive education system.

The conference was the launch event of a one-year project which includes a series of practice trainings related to inclusive education, each dedicated to different stages of education.

The event consisted of two thematic blocks. The first started with the presentation of the Agency, as well as recommendations arising from various Agency projects. Representatives from the Ministry of National Education talked about Poland’s inclusive education policy and presented relevant research results.

The second block was run by practitioners: teachers, psychologists and head teachers. They shared their experiences of how inclusion has been implemented in schools. They pointed out that a positive school climate and a supportive head teacher and school staff have a very significant role.

At the end of the conference, conclusions were presented. In order to meet different learners’ needs and provide effective support and quality education for each one in accessible and friendly surroundings, teachers and school staff must co-operate and support each other, and they must continuously develop their skills in order to work with diverse groups.
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.

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