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Implementing Policies and Networking


The most important activity of WP1 happens during year 1, as it is the most important moment to start up with the whole activity. Some relevant efforts must be implemented to build up a common and shared view on the themes and the methodologies that we are going to use for the three years, creating a sense of collective frame. That is why that personal contact could be facilitated in a big kick-off event, and then to define the basic issues for the whole project. It is scheduled this big kick-off meeting in Month 3 in Barcelona. It will also be important to design and upload those virtual instruments that must be useful for both internal and external communication. Then, a general website should be available by the end of the first semester. Finally, the network must finish the first year with a strong feeling of utility. This means that some products and outputs should have been finished by the end of the year: sharing knowledge activity and report on policy implementation. At the end of the year (month 11), another general meeting in Barcelona will be done in order to evaluate project development and plan next year.

Current activities

  • Teacher Training and Professional Capacity – Stakeholder meeting report

    Teacher Training and Professional Capacity – Stakeholder meeting report

    By Sarah Cooke O'Dowd on June 12, 2014

    Participants of workshop for migrant teachers

    On Thursday, 5th June 2014, Migration Policy Group hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the topic of teacher training and professional capacity. This meeting followed on from a 1 ½ day meeting of migrant teachers where they discussed both important skill sets and policy recommendations on how to better equip teachers for diverse classrooms.

    The stakeholder meeting brought together these teachers with a migration background, other educational practitioners and school leaders as well as researchers, policy makers and civil society organisations to discuss skills that teachers need in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. In addition, a focus was put on how teachers are prepared in teacher training institutions and supported during their career.

    The meeting was opened by Sarah Cooke O’Dowd from the Migration Policy Group welcoming a group of about 30 participants. Eva Degler, also from the Migration Policy Group, continued by giving a short overview about the contents of capacity training, best practices and the role of the EU in enhancing teacher training (See Presentation).


    Sabine Severiens

    Sabine Severiens from the Erasmus University Rotterdam then presented recommendations from her research on professional capacities and areas of expertise together with the migrant teachers who shared their successful strategies and gave insights into their professional experiences (See Presentation). The SIRIUS Report on Building Professional Capacity concerning the educational position of migrant children had originally identified five main areas of expertise necessary for the professional capacity of teachers in diverse classrooms (language diversity, didactics, social psychology and identity development, parental involvement and school-community relationships). During the teacher meeting, they had also identified the need for additional space in the curriculum, training/familiarity with the development of migration history, diagnostic tests and the effectively utilising school surroundings as additional desired expertise.  It was striking that hardly any of the teachers present had received initial training. Moreover, it was left to their own initiative to attend in-service training and bring up issues of inclusive education in their schools.

    Piet van Avermaet from the University of Ghent and the Centre for Diversity and Learning then spoke about how to respond to diversity in education, focussing on the role of multilingualism, teachers’ expectations of immigrant pupils and the challenge of rendering diversity a core issue for policy making in education (See Presentation).

    DSCN4350The last hour of the meeting was spent discussing parental and community involvement, different strategies for second language learning and the positive impact of collaborative and open-minded school leadership. Centres of expertise should be developed in schools that include interdisciplinary teams which support each other and thus increase the capacity of the whole school. These centres would include teachers, psychologists, guidance councillors etc. This would supply vital support to teachers who agreed that, at present, they are largely left alone in responding to the needs of diverse learners. Making second language learning and intercultural education an integral part of teacher training curricula was also considered crucial. At present, universities across Europe do not or only sporadically offer such training modules. Ideally, such training should become a transversal issue that is woven through all levels of teacher training. In addition, more in-service training programmes should be offered and school leaders should strongly encourage professional development in this field. Lastly, a number of participants remarked that many projects are still incidental and very rarely evaluated, which renders impact assessment and informed policy-making difficult. Furthermore, their funding often means that they have support for only a limited period of time. Structural support for good practices is necessary to make them sustainable.

    Meeting Report, Programme and Participants

    Background Teacher training and professional capacity

  • SIRIUS Stakeholder meeting: “Teacher training and professional capacity” – Brussels – 5 June 2014

    SIRIUS Stakeholder meeting: “Teacher training and professional capacity” – Brussels – 5 June 2014

    By Eva Degler on April 22, 2014

    TransparentpnglogDate: Thursday, 5 June 2014

    Place: Social Platform, Square de Meeûs 18, 1050 Brussels

    Time: 13.00 – 16.30


    How to provide high-quality teacher training and strengthen professional capacity among education professionals and the wider school community is a key issue for the SIRIUS European policy network. Catering to the needs of pupils with diverse cultural, linguistic and social backgrounds is a complex and demanding process that requires a wide range of skills. However, capacity training in intercultural education often remains an underused tool to promote inclusive education due to a lack of comprehensive policies, piecemeal implementation and little awareness of its benefits.

    The SIRIUS report “Professional capacity in schools as regards education for migrant children” (Severiens and Tudjman, 2013) maps out how educational policies in ten SIRIUS network countries increase schools’ capacities to cater to the needs of a diverse student body. More concretely, the report looks at capacity building among teachers, school leaders, parents and parental organizations, multifocal policies and initiatives to diversify educational staff.

    Based on these findings, the main objective of this meeting is discuss policy measures and best practices on how to enhance teacher training and strengthen professional capacity of school communities. In addition, participants will develop recommendations informing European and national policy makers about concrete steps to be taken to enhance teacher training and professional capacity.

    Draft programme
    Further background reading 

  • The face of diversity: How to increase the representation of people with a migrant background in education – Stakeholder meeting report

    The face of diversity: How to increase the representation of people with a migrant background in education – Stakeholder meeting report

    By Eva Degler on April 8, 2014

    On Wednesday, 19 March 2014, the Flemish Education Council (Vlaamse Onderwijsraad, VLOR) hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the topic of the underrepresentation of people with a migration background in education. The meeting brought together European, national and local stakeholders in the field of integration and education to discuss policy developments and formulate concrete steps towards increasing the representation of people with a migrant background.

    Sarah Cooke O'Dowd, SIRIUS and Sanghmitra Bhutani, VLOR

    Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, SIRIUS and Sanghmitra Bhutani, VLOR

    The meeting was opened by Sanghmitra Bhutani, representing the Flanders Forum of Ethnic Minorities, who gave an overview of the platforms’ work on ethnic diversity among education professionals and the current situation in Flanders. Mostapha Bouklloua presented the aims and activities of the Network of teachers with a migrant background in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, a project initiated by the government to increase the number of teachers with a migrant background in German schools. The third practitioner, Yasmin Naz from the National Centre for Multicultural Education (NAFO), outlined the current state of multicultural education and training in Norway.

    Despite different national contexts, all speakers affirmed that so far, schools and governments have not been successful in reducing the mismatch between highly diverse student populations and a largely homogenous group of teachers, school leaders and parents’ representatives, although due to a lack of statistics, the total number of people with a migrant background are often missing for each school or community. In addition, they shared the concern that there is little awareness of the potential of migrant educational professionals to function as role models and cultural mediators.

    The presentations were followed by a plenary debate that mainly addressed the following questions:

    What hinders people with a migrant background from becoming education professionals?

    1) Many pupils with an immigrant background do not perceive the teacher profession as an attractive career path. Reasons include:

    a)  Their own school experience has not been very positive. Too many students with a migrant background feel that they are not considered a vital and respected member of their school community, whose needs are acknowledged and catered to. Hence, there is little motivation to return to this system for a professional career.

    →  Schools need to become more inclusive. To advance inclusive education teachers need to be prepared for the needs of a diverse class room and receive intercultural training. In addition, inclusive education requires a more democratic set-up of schools. More open governance procedures in schools would help to engage students with a migrant background in their own education. To foster a sense of ownership and belonging, students and parents need to be represented in school government. Teachers and school leaders should reach out and seek the advice of inclusive parent and student bodies when making decisions that will affect the school community.

    →  Students and education professionals need to have more appreciation of diversity, but this can only be realised if schools are developed as learning spaces that confront students with cultural and social differences.

    b) Teacher salaries are seen as not very high and there is little awareness of professional mobility within the teaching profession.

    →   Governments should consider monetary incentives for teachers with a migrant background as a direct investment into the education of pupils with a migrant background. Upward mobility in the education sector and career development, e.g. in school management or teacher unions, needs to be promoted more strongly among students with a migration background.

    →  Adjusted salaries and higher awareness about career development would also address a possible preference among students with a migration background for high-status professional fields such as law or medicine.

    c) The advantages of working in the educational sector are not clearly communicated.

    →  Awareness campaigns should stress that teaching is a profession of high societal value and that teachers can have a crucial impact on the educational and personal development of their students. Students with a migrant background in particular can fulfil an important role model function and need to be made aware of their potential and value in the education system.

    DSCN39352) Teachers with qualifications from abroad face strong barriers to getting foreign diplomas recognised. There are little opportunities to “re-qualify” or attend additional training to obtain any missing country-specific qualifications.

    →  More opportunities, such as bridging programmes, teacher traineeships and specialized language courses need to be offered to facilitate up-skilling of teachers from abroad. Current efforts in the medical sector show that this is achievable where there is political will and adequate resources.

    3) Teachers with a migrant background are confronted with discrimination in the labour market both in the application procedure and their daily work life. Many schools are still hesitant to hire teachers with foreign sounding names or do not see the added value of a diverse staff. In addition, teachers with a migrant background report that they also face discrimination from their colleagues, students and parents.

    →  Policies need to create strong incentives to hire teachers with a migrant background, for instance by increasing the staff budget for schools when hiring a teacher from an underrepresented group in the teaching profession.

    →  Student teachers and teachers at the beginning of their career need better support from (migrant) teacher organisations or mentors.

    4) Many students with a migrant background cannot become teachers simply because their secondary education does not qualify them for university entry. Therefore, the issue of underrepresentation already needs to be addressed on the level of secondary education.

    5) Migrant women often lack confidence in the skills that they need to enter the education profession, for instance when the language of instruction is not their first language or they are not well acquainted with the national education system. Their soft skills should be highlighted and improved links need to be put in place with labour and family policies.

    What are the obstacles to successful policy implementation?

    1) Insufficient data on the numbers of people with a migrant background holding specific jobs in the education sector render it difficult to monitor the developments in this area.

    →  Governments need to gather more statistics on teachers’ social, cultural and migration backgrounds and define clear targets in order to reflect the diversity of the student population.

    2) Current attempts to diversify teaching staff often remain on a project level and are therefore hardly ever mainstreamed into a comprehensive policy framework. These projects are often carried out by private organisations with no or little involvement of the Ministry of Education.

    →  Governments need to play an active role and work towards structural implementation of such initiatives, which would then allow successful initiatives to go beyond project status and focus on long-term objectives.

    →  A more structural implementation would also facilitate a cross-sectional approach that targets this issue on all school levels, rather than focussing only on certain age groups.

    3) The low representation of teachers with a migrant background is a symptom of profound social inequalities and discrimination in education policies.

    →  Representation can only be increased if measures are part of a structural policy reform to make schools more inclusive.

    4) A cross-sectoral approach is not currently in place as regards the training of teachers with a migrant background. In general, it is very difficult for people to move between pre-primary, school, higher and adult education sectors.

    → There needs to be more flexibility for practitioners to move between different education levels.


    What opportunities are there to push the agenda of migrant representation in education?

    1) Initiatives are most effective when a strong coalition is formed that involves as many stakeholders as possible. The private sector should be included amongst the stakeholders, but they can work as an impulse at most. The public sector must be on board.

    2) Other employment areas, such as the care and medical sector, have been rather successful in targeting people of migrant backgrounds. So far, little has been done in the education sector to implement such campaigns, yet it seems much can be gained from targeted campaigning and support.

    3) Many countries will face a serious lack of teachers in the coming years. This labour shortage should be highlighted so as to create a sense of political urgency, which could be a powerful starting point for advocacy work.


    Summary, agenda, participants’ list
    Presentation Sanghmitra Bhutani (VLOR)
    Presentation Yasmin Naz (NAFO)
    Background paper

  • SIRIUS underlines the importance of migrant education for improved cultural Integration in Europe

    SIRIUS underlines the importance of migrant education for improved cultural Integration in Europe

    By Sarah Cooke O'Dowd on March 7, 2014

    The cultural integration of migrants and minorities in European societies is task and process in everyday life. Nonetheless, in European political debates it is commonly assigned a low priority compared to the political and economic dimensions of the issue.

    Speakers at ifa conference on Migration and Cultural Integration in Europe

    Speakers at ifa conference on Migration and Cultural Integration in Europe

    On 11 December 2013, ifa (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) organised a conference on “Migration and Cultural Integration in Europe”, bringing together the heads and representatives of the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) with researchers and practitioners from diverse backgrounds at the Representation of the State of Baden-Wurttemberg to the European Union in Brussels to explore the meanings of cultural integration.

    SIRIUS Communications Manager Sarah Cooke O’Dowd spoke on the first panel “New perspectives on the Cultural Integration of Migrants”, highlighting the importance of intercultural education. According to the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), education is a major area of weakness in the integration policies of all but a few countries.

    “Migrant pupils may be struggling in school for different reasons than their peers. Schools retain wide discretion on whether or not to address the specific needs of migrant pupils, their teachers and parents, and monitor the results. Without clear requirements or entitlements, pupils do not get the support they need throughout their school career and across the country, especially in communities with many immigrants or few resources. Migrants are entitled to support to learn the language, but frequently it is not held to the same standard as the rest of the curriculum. Hardly any countries have systems to diversify schools or the teaching staff; most schools are therefore missing out on new opportunities brought by a diverse student body.” (MIPEX III 2010)

    SIRIUS speechOne of SIRIUS’ main tasks is to overcome this weakness. In this instance, the SIRIUS focus on citizenship education and multilingualism in particular were highlighted.

    Summarising the SIRIUS study on citizenship education and ethnic and social diversity, across Europe there is a wide spectrum of citizenship education models ranging from assimilationist to integration and inclusion, which are based on the priority that each country gives to diversity in its education curriculum. SIRIUS works towards an inclusion model that encourages schools to become a space that welcomes all the differences, and consider diversity as a richness that constitutes a relevant aspect of the curriculum and teaching methods.

    Following on from the stakeholder meeting on multilingualism that was held in Brussels in September 2013, the European institutions plea for trilingualism was supported as a good way to develop language learning for students with a migrant background. They should be encouraged and supported in their learning of the official language of the country/region, another major language such as English and a language of personal adoption (their mother tongue).

    The upcoming stakeholder meeting on increasing the representation of people with a migrant background in education and the recent SIRIUS reports on building professional capacity and parental involvement show further examples of SIRIUS efforts to tackle the weaknesses in education highlighted by the Migrant Integration Policy Index.

    ifa report front coverConference Report

    Conference programme

    MPG Presentation

  • School concentration – Stakeholder meeting report

    School concentration – Stakeholder meeting report

    By Sarah Cooke O'Dowd on February 18, 2014

    On Friday, 17th January 2014, the European Network against Racism (a new SIRIUS collaborative partner) hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the issue of school concentration. Following on from the SIRIUS Thematic Workshop on “Segregation and Integration in Education” in The Hague in October 2013, this meeting with European stakeholders aimed to develop practical and policy recommendations for schools and governments.

    argument mapFirstly, the findings of the Thematic Workshop in The Hague highlighted why the issue of segregation is important, what actors can do to limit the negative effects of segregation and how to convince politicians of the importance of this issue. (Presentation and Argument map). PISA study findings emphasised that the concentration of immigrants in disadvantaged schools is the main issue to be tackled, as disadvantaged schools are associated with poorer outcomes for students than disadvantaged parental background. (Presentation). Some examples of factors that hinder equity are:

    • Early tracking
    • Free school choice
    • School policies that retain underperforming students
    • Lack of well-trained, long-term staff across all schools
    • Lack of political will
    • Unclear legislation (reaffirming the right of every child to access education)
    • Unnecessary administrative requirements

    This was followed by case-studies from Austria (Presentation) and Belgium.

    IMG_2893The issue of equal access to schools was also highlighted during the meeting. Do minority/migrant background students, such as Roma, for example, have equal access to the same types of schools as others or are they unnecessarily concentrated in special needs schools? In fact, to what extent is having a disability, being foreign or of a particular gender treated in a transversal way so that the school environment is adapted to the needs of each child? And as regards undocumented children school concentration can be an issue, as certain schools have registration procedures that enable access regardless of residence status while others may create obstacles.

    It is clear from these examples that a number of strategies in the governance of education and segregation can be adopted to decrease school concentration:

    1)      Immediate or short-term interventions such as desegregation bussing, or implementing quotas for example. However these must be followed up with sustainable school policies that encourage classes to remain mixed, as otherwise systematic level policies will be undermined.

    2)      Indirect medium and long term measures (esp. in mixed neighbourhoods) that offer increased resources and quality of targeted schools, thus making them more attractive to parents.

    3)      Measures that increase the quality of segregated schools which are not likely to become mixed because the neighbourhoods are highly segregated, such as intensified quality development, support and teacher resources.

    Read the whole summary of the meeting, including a list of recommendations and participants here.

Activity leaders