The last project year did not bring about any major developments in the regulations concerning migrant education. Therefore the main policy priorities identified and discussed during the 2018 NRT also remain relevant in 2019. These were: 1) Monitoring the distribution, up-take and financing of support measures as well as monitoring the educational achievements of migrant students 2) Designing tools and procedures for the orientation and integration of both students and parents in the school community 3) Ensuring adequate psycho-social support, especially in dedicated counselling centers 4) Fine-tuning school placement procedures 5) Ensuring synergy and cohesion in all activities relating to migrant student education (for an elaborated analysis please refer to the 2018 synthesis paper).
The NRT attendees reported, however, substantial progress on the practice level relating to orientation and integration procedures. Major municipalities invested in creating or adapting welcoming brochures for migrant students and their families. These offer not only basic information on the Polish education system, but strive to explain the specificities of the Polish school and after-school-care culture. Also, some of the big cities, being major centers of migrant influx, addressed the need for orientation procedures by launching community-based tutoring and mentoring programs for migrant students/families (sometimes, as is the case in Gdansk, involving peer-to-peer student support). This form of assistance is gaining recognition among major municipalities in Poland, however it does not seem to be very feasible in smaller towns or rural regions. Even the large cities face major limitations in terms of financial resources and are forced to rely on volunteer work.
The additional stress put on the education system by two factors: 1) education system reform (changing the stages of education from a 6+3+3 system to an 8+4 system) and 2) the massive teachers’ strike in the spring of 2019 also translated into additional stress for migrant students and their families. As the system reform inevitably resulted in an accumulation of two years of student cohorts starting secondary school in 2019, resources had to be allocated for an increased number of mainstream classes, which might have constrained the ability to organise classes due to limited classroom space and staffing availability. Furthermore, a much higher number of graduates in the recruitment procedures for secondary schools and the higher level of competition connected to this affected all students irrespective of their background. However – as has been reported and can be reasonably be assumed – it was an even more challenging for migrant students (who tend to have both lower final exam scores and less know-how about navigating the recruitment system). It was therefore suggested that migrant students and their families should be supported by mentors/advisors in choosing optimal recruitment strategies and in navigating the school application process.
It was also indicated during the meeting that Poland may be dealing with the issue of unaccompanied minors among the Ukrainian migrant population on a greater scale than previously acknowledged. Teenagers, attending upper secondary schools, who use available boarding possibilities, are being periodically left without supervision. The extent of this phenomenon, however, is not known and would need to be more closely investigated.