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Agency eBulletin November 2020

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and well. This eBulletin contains news of the Agency’s new Chair and recent bi-annual meeting. It also brings you details of the Agency’s continued collaboration with the European Union’s Structural Reform Support Programme, and an update on the Changing Role of Specialist Provision project activities. 

News from across Europe includes two European Commission education initiatives and a new UNESCO report on inclusion in education, which the Agency contributed to. You can also read about the Global Education Monitoring Report’s German launch and its 2020 Gender Report.

Finally, there are details of a recent survey on absenteeism in Finland and news about the Agency’s participation in a COFACE webinar on inclusive education.

For more news from the Agency, visit the News section

Agency news

New Agency Chair

In early November, the Board bid farewell to Ms Ana Magraner Gil, who had been Agency Chair since May 2017. During her time as Chair, she played an important part in developing the Agency’s role as an agent for change and in increasing the recognition of the Agency’s work at European and national level. The Agency country representatives and staff thank Ms Magraner for her dedication and hard work over the last three years.

The new Agency Chair is Mr Don Mahon. Mr Mahon’s experience includes working in primary and special schools as a teacher and head teacher, and later as a schools inspector. He also served on the Irish National Council for Special Education and is a former Agency Representative Board member for Ireland. We welcome Mr Mahon to the position of Agency Chair, and look forward to working with him and gaining from his experience and knowledge.

Find out more in this news item.

Image - Mr Don Mahon
New Agency Chair, Mr Don Mahon

Autumn bi-annual meeting

The Agency’s 2020 autumn bi-annual meeting took place online on 3–4 November. Bi-annual meetings allow the representatives from Agency member countries to agree on work programmes and budgets and make decisions in relation to the Agency’s future. The meetings also give country representatives the opportunity to exchange information, ideas and practices in inclusion and allow Agency staff to present current projects and activities. 

In the autumn bi-annual meeting, Agency staff presented several on-going projects. They also outlined the current Key Principles work, which identifies recurring key messages from the Agency’s work that stakeholders can use to improve inclusive education in their countries. Find out more on the website.

The European Union Structural Reform Support Programme

The Agency continues to work within the European Union’s Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP), in co-operation with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG Reform). The initiative aims to promote and improve countries’ inclusive education systems. The Agency is working with the ministries of education in Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Portugal.

Since March 2020, due to the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, timelines and activities have been rescheduled and re-organised. However, the teams have been busy preparing alternative plans. You can read updates on the work in all five countries on the Agency website.

Project update: Changing Role of Specialist Provision in Supporting Inclusive Education (CROSP)

Logo - CROSPSeveral workshops took place at the end of October as part of the Changing Role of Specialist Provision (CROSP) project.

The second phase of the project takes a peer learning approach, engaging policy-makers with a shared professional focus and knowledge in pre agreed activities and discussions.

The peer learning approach includes two rounds of workshops, focusing on four main thematic areas for changing the role of specialist provision in supporting inclusive education: governance, funding, capacity building and quality assurance.

Read more about the workshops in the news item.

News across Europe

New European Commission initiatives to improve education in Europe

Two new initiatives presented by the European Commission provide recommendations for European Union (EU) member states to improve their education systems. These initiatives, a Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025 and a Digital Education Action Plan for 2021–2027, will feed into the third European Education Summit, which will take place online in December.

For more information about the initiatives, visit the Agency website.

New UNESCO report – 'Towards inclusion in education: Status, trends and challenges'

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has published a new report entitled ‘Towards inclusion in education: Status, trends and challenges’. The report examines the developments in inclusive education since the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education in 1994. It includes contributions from Agency staff and other education specialists from around the world to provide a detailed exploration of inclusive education over the last 25 years.

Find out more about the report on the Agency website. To read the report in full, visit the UNESCO website.

Image - cover page of the UNESCO report
UNESCO report: 'Towards inclusion in education: Status, trends and challenges'

2020 Gender Report

Building on the 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report on inclusion and education, which launched in June, the 2020 Gender Report explores how inclusion in education can advance gender equality. The report identifies a number of issues that still need to be addressed in order to combat gender inequality in education. To find out more, visit the Agency website.

Alongside the Gender Report, the #Iamthe1stGirl campaign shows the progress made in gender equality by celebrating girls from around the world who are the first in their family to graduate. Their stories are highlighted on the GEM Report blog.

To read the Gender Report in full, visit the UNESCO website.

Image - 5 children smiling
There has been a huge leap forward in girls' education over the past 25 years, according to the 2020 Gender Report

German launch of 2020 GEM Report

The German launch of UNESCO's 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education took place online on 22 September. The Agency was involved in the creation of the report as part of the reference group, together with other experts and stakeholders from around the world. 

Around 350 delegates virtually attended the German launch which presented the 2020 GEM Report. A panel, including Agency representative Verity Donnelly, explored the findings of the Report and debated inclusion and education in Germany. Find out more about the German launch in the news item.

The Agency is also working with UNESCO on a regional edition of the GEM report for Central and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. The regional report is due to be published in early 2021.

Find out more about the GEM Report on the Agency website. To read the full report, download it on the UNESCO website.

Finnish absenteeism survey

A survey has revealed an increase in school attendance problems among lower-secondary school learners in Finland. The survey, which was funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education, asked for school staff opinions on attendance in the 2019–2020 school year.

The reported increase in absenteeism is linked to illness, problems at home, social problems at school and the COVID-19 pandemic. Individualised education, multi-disciplinary co-operation and support for learners’ families are cited as possible approaches to the issue.

Find out more about the survey and its findings on the Agency website.

COFACE webinar on inclusive education and COVID-19

A webinar organised by COFACE Families Europe explored how learners are excluded from education, particularly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar focused on how to achieve inclusion for learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities as schools reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

During the webinar, COFACE also launched a series of recommendations to aid the implementation of inclusive education. A panel, including Agency representative Mary Kyriazopoulou, discussed the recommendations and how support for all learners’ needs is always important, but is particularly challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more details of the webinar, read the news item.

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