IE+ partners release policy recommendations for more inclusive education across Europe
It’s September and time that many students across the world are heading back to school. This new school year is very different to previous years however and this return marks the end of a 6-month period in which millions of students have been forced to learn from home as schools closed their doors in response to the coronavirus. While for most students this prolonged period out of the classroom was unprecedented, for too many others, many of whom have a disability, the absence of classroom settings is an everyday reality. For these children this September will not mark the return to school alongside their peers, but instead their continued exclusion from educational opportunities in mainstream settings.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, and further exacerbated, the continued segregation of people with disabilities in education settings across Europe. This segregation is experienced by many learners despite the enshrinement of the rights of persons with disabilities to an inclusive, accessible and high-quality education at all levels in numerous international treaties, including the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
Despite the current challenges, the partners of the ‘Promoting positive attitudes and evidence-based policy for inclusive education’ (IE+) project believe that the goal of inclusive education is real and achievable. As part of their work, to support the development of successful evidence-based polices for inclusive education the partnership have published a series of policy recommendations to key stakeholders to help them to work together towards inclusive education systems.
The recommendations are based on the findings of the IE+ study into the state of inclusive education in Belgium,Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal and Greece. This research found several common barriers which are addressed in these recommendations. These barriers appear at all levels of the education system and are often most noticeable as a learner moves from one stage of their education into the next. As a result, there is a need to implement targeted action at each level of the education system while also providing an additional focus to the moments at which learners move onto the next stage of their educational career.
Crucially, the recommendations stress that to be successful, the commitment of all stakeholders is needed. Teachers, headteachers, members of the school administration, students (both with and without disabilities), parents/guardians, family and informal carers, psychologists, social service technicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and physiatrist and local communities all must work together to create more inclusive learning environments for children with disabilities.
These multi-stakeholder partnerships can provide a deeper understanding of the specific needs of the children with disabilities and plan individualised tailor-made activities including formal education, non-formal education and family empowerment.
While education remains a competence of Member State, via its initiatives and funding programmes, the EU plays a key role in supporting the realisation of inclusive education across Europe. Consequently the IE+ partners recommend that the EU:
- Develop clear and coherent policy framework and legislation promoting inclusive education, in co-operation with pupils, families, education providers and other stakeholders.
- Enable the comprehensive collection of data for inclusive education across a number of target groups, including learners with disabilities through the incorporation of additional data collection mechanism within the European Semester process.
- Lead the way for inclusive education and de-segregate current and future European Schools and include all learners in their classrooms.
- Facilitate the exchange of policies and practices among countries and stakeholders with the aim of facilitating the transition towards inclusive education.
- Contribute to the achievement of inclusive education systems via EU Funding Programmes including Erasmus+, ESF+ and InvestEU.