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School concentration – Stakeholder meeting report

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.

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