Produced for the European Commission by the independent Network of Experts on Social aspects of Education and Training (NESET), this new report offers concrete policy guidance for decision-makers in education and related policy fields. It contributes to the implementation of the Commission's 2013 "Social Investment package" which calls for multi-dimensional action against disadvantage and exclusion.
The report shows how effective cross-sector synergies and multi-strand actions against factors that locally create educational disadvantage can be designed and implemented. It shows successful examples from different EU Member States and highlights key success factors.
Schools cannot work alone to tackle educational disadvantage. A combination of factors beyond schools limits educational opportunities and life chances. This means that cross-sector strategies are required -to link what schools can do with what other sectors such as employment, health, finance, justice, housing, youth and welfare can offer, says the report.
The report shows that some Member States have already moved towards a more holistic approach with positive results. According to the report, the LSB teams in the Netherlands, the Team around the Child initiative in the UK and the Social Workers in Schools in Sweden are successful, innovative examples of such multi-professional synergies created in and around schools. All three initiatives focus primarily on helping children to be prepared to take advantage of schooling.
Other interventions, such as the Bildungsoffensive Elbinseln (Elbe Island Training Initiative) in Hamburg, the One Square Kilometre of Education in Berlin or On-Track in England, include schools as important partners in more comprehensive attacks on deprivation. Others, such as some extended or community schools in Belgium and England, are based in schools and offer enrichment experiences to children and families.
Single-service and longer-term systemic multi-strand approaches can be complementary, says the report, with Familiscope in Ireland being a good example.
A key message is that the work of schools in tackling vulnerability should be part of wider strategies for equality and inclusion. The same message emerges strongly from the "Social Investment package" the European Commission put forward last February. This new report is a timely contribution to the implementation of the "Social Investment package" and of the Council Recommendation Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage.
As the new report explains, cross-sector approaches do not necessarily demand additional resources but rather suggests that existing resources be used in a different way. By shifting the focus away from dealing with manifest problems towards preventive work and early intervention, such approaches can either save costs or free up existing resources for dealing with a wider range of issues, thus contributing to smart spending at a time resources are scarce.