Positive story for Scotland on inclusions and good practice

15th January 2010 at 00:00
But EU may have to legislate to force member states to reduce early school leaving, research shows

A report examining inclusion policies in 10 European states found that Scotland and England demonstrated a number of good practices - but failed to disseminate them.

The European Commission-funded survey was led at UK-level by Strathclyde University's Professor Rae Condie, who told The TESS: "It is a positive story as far as Scotland is concerned, generally. But one of the main issues is that a lot of these initiatives are very localised. Longer-term sustainability is a concern.

"We need a better understanding of what is available and how effective it is, so others can learn from it. There is a lot of good stuff, but no one has an overview of it. Most initiatives tend not to be systematically evaluated, if at all, with a considerable number of post-hoc justifications or subjective assessments."

The survey's key reference was the EU's Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs of 2000. It found that none of the countries examined (11, as England and Scotland were analysed separately) met all key indicators identified for pupil inclusion, although Scotland and England fared better than most.

The strategy had set a target for halving early school leavers by 2010; only Slovenia, Poland and Sweden had reached the 10 per cent benchmark, which led the report's publishers, the Dutch research unit DOCA Bureau, to recommend that the EU may have to legislate to force member states to reduce early school leaving.

George Muskens, the study's lead researcher, also called on the European Commission to take greater responsibility for opposing unlawful discrimination, following a ruling in 2007 by the European Court of Human Rights that the Czech Republic had breached the European Convention on Human Rights by segregating Roma children into special schools for children with mental disabilities. Dr Muskens wants to see the development of a stronger knowledge base on inclusive education across Europe.

The survey assessed the educational opportunities for pupils deemed to be at a social or cultural disadvantage. Assessments were based on:

- reduction of early school leaving;

- priority measures for disadvantaged pupils;

- structure of education in lower secondary schools;

- age levels for compulsory education;

- participation in pre-school education;

- repeated classes andor out-placement;

- the option of special education for disabled pupils.

Scotland's tally of achieving six out of the seven indicators was the highest of the nations examined. Other scores were: England, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden five; Hungary, Italy and Spain four; France and the Netherlands three; and Germany two.

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