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Prevent - Policy report key recommendations

01 April 2015

PREVENT proposes an innovative approach where parents are considered as a key element to reduce early school leaving (ESL). And integral to sharing valuable and informed experiences related to the involvement of parents in the prevention ESL is our recently published Policy Recommendation report.
Written by Prevent Thematic expert Dr. Paul Downes, Director, Educational Disadvantage Centre at Dublin City University, Ireland, the 101 page report,  ‘Towards a Differentiated, Holistic and Systemic Approach to Parental Involvement in Europe for Early School Leaving Prevention’ , is a major output from Prevent’s network.

So what is the purpose of the report?
Published at the end of 2014, the Policy Recommendation Report aims to inform and guide not only the short-term and medium-term strategic planning of Parental Involvement in Education for Early School Leaving Prevention for the ten Urbact PREVENT city municipalities, but also other municipalities, local authorities and schools across Europe.

Three pillars form a differentiated approach
The report is based on three inter-related aspects:
1.    It involves an analysis of EU Commission and Council documents on early school leaving and social inclusion from the perspective of parental involvement in education.
2.    It involves a dialogue and ongoing consultation process with the 10 municipalities engaged in the Urbact PREVENT project – focusing on key themes, practices and priorities in this area.
3.    The review investigates international research relevant to this area.
Combined, these three elements provide a holistic, differentiated approach to parental involvement.

What key recommendations have emerged from the report?
Establishing support centres
In response to the challenging issues of outreach, the report recommends:
•    Community-based ‘one stop shop’ family support centres, with multidisciplinary teams linked with pre-schools and schools, with a focus on child and parental mental health, emotional support and school attendance.
•    Community-based lifelong learning centres, with both informal and formal education classes, and that target the areas of highest social marginalization.

Building bridges between health and education
With a focus on mental health and emotional support for children and families, the report highlighted the theme of building effective bridges between health and education.

Quality mark for promoting democratic vocal systems
Another major recommendation recognises that municipalities are in an ideal position as a mediating space for dialogue between schools, parents and students. This dialogue would particularly target schools in areas of high poverty, non-attendance and early school leaving.
The dialogue would include surveys of students’ needs and their school experiences, and include open-ended questions as well as focus groups for students and parents.
As an incentive to participate in this process, the report recommends that municipalities develop a ‘Quality Mark for Democratic School Systems for Parents’ and Students’ Voices’ for participating schools.
“The recommended process of dialogue to promote democratic systems in schools is not an expensive commitment and is central to a strategic commitment to parental involvement in schools,” explains the author of the report Dr. Paul Downes.

Other key themes include:
-    An active role for parents to intervene and to be involved in overcoming pupils’ sleeping difficulties
-    Alternatives to suspension/expulsion from school
-    Bullying in school
-    First-language difficulties for pupils
-    A differentiated approach: the need for strategies to distinguish between those who are moderate and high risk of early school leaving
-    Outreach needs to include both community outreach and individual (child and family) outreach
-    Structural indicators (SI’s): A way to monitor if systems are reforming or not – simple, inexpensive and practical to use for policymakers and practitioners. The approach of structural indicators develops a UN idea that has its roots in the right to health

What is system fragmentation?
System fragmentation can take place where responsibility is spread across different agencies in a municipality, and concerns identifying the lead person responsible for organising an engagement strategy with families and children experiencing social marginalisation. This is a key system blockage highlighted by the PREVENT network.
“There is a need to go beyond a fragmented approach of endless referrals across services that are ‘passing on bits of the child’ (Edwards & Downes 2013) and family,” finds the report.
System fragmentation can also occur at a school level if there is no key worker in the school with specific responsibility for parental involvement, and who collaborates with the teachers and principals on this issue.

How is the report valuable?
•    The report can help to prevent early school leaving by providing a clear, evidence-informed foundation for policy to bring about a change in the system change, and by nurturing reform for parental involvement in children’s education.
•    The report focuses on family support services that can be integrated within a parental involvement agenda to build bridges between education and health services.
•    It offers a fresh understanding of system change by focusing on structural indicators to challenge system blockages to educational reform.
•    The report integrates experience on the ground with international research and psychological understandings.
•    It provides an agenda for reform that goes far beyond the contexts of the 10 participating municipalities.
•    The report highlights the need for key strategies to distinguish between individuals who are at moderate or high risk of early school leaving.

Research for the report is sourced from a wide range of studies read over two decades – the reference section in the report gives a snapshot of some of the most relevant and recent studies.

If you would like to read the report, please click here