Reducing Early School Leaving in Europe

UK Team LeadersFP7
Prof Louise Ryan
Alessio D’Angelo

UK Team Members
Neil Kaye
Magdolna Lőrinc

EU Project Coordinators
Christiane Timmerman  and Roos Willems
University of Antwerp, Center for Migration and Intercultural Studies, Belgium

The project Reducing Early School Leaving in Europe ( aims to provide insights into the mechanisms and processes that influence young people’s decision to leave school or training early, before gaining adequate qualifications for today’s demanding labour market. The project also focuses on the vulnerable group of young people that are not in education, employment or training (NEET). In addition, intends to identify and analyse the intervention and compensation measures that succeed in keeping pupils in education or training, in spite of their high risk of early school leaving (ESL), and ultimately, to disclose these insights and good practices to various audiences.

The project is funded through the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and will take place in nine European countries: Belgium, UK, Sweden, Portugal, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Hungary and Austria between 1 February 2013 and 31 January 2018.

The team will use a mixed-method design, working at local, national and international level. Fieldwork will include over 1,100 focus groups and interviews and an international survey, coordinated by Middlesex University’s team, with over 28,000 participants, which will generate in-depth data and allow systematic comparisons and quantitative generalisations.

Results will be targeted at different audiences and stakeholders: EU and national policy makers, school staff, academics and civil society. key objectives
  • To design common EU definitions and concepts on Early School Leaving and conduct comparative policy analyses
  • To collect data on young people, schools and families in particular locations across nine European countries
  • To identify characteristics of youth at risk of ESL as well as protective factors (such as social support mechanisms, resiliency and agency) which may encourage potential Early School Leavers to gain qualifications via alternative learning arenas
  • To identify good practice in schools and alternative learning arenas to prevent and/or compensate for ESL
  • To inform policy and practice at national and EU level to tackle ESL and the risk of becoming NEET

Thematic research fields
Policies and existing evidence

The project will investigate the development and implementation of education policies and review the existing knowledge – including academic literature and official statistics – on Early School Leaving and young people at risk of ESL. This will compile a body of existing data, allowing us to identify knowledge gaps.

ESL trajectories

The project seeks to understand the causes and consequences of ESL through its focus on the attitudes, aspirations and actions of young people (ESL and non-ESL) as well as those of significant others (family, peer groups, schools, alternative learning arenas and communities).

Innovative approaches to tackling ESL

The project intends to build on the success and efficacy of specific measures to tackle ESL and develop creative and innovative approaches for knowledge and skill transfer in a school context and in alternative learning arenas across partner countries.

Who addresses
  • Local, national and EU policy makers and practitioners
  • Schools and alternative learning arenas
  • Civil society and NGOs in the field of Early School Leaving
  • Universities and research centres throughout Europe and beyond 

Benefits of the project

For policy-makers and stakeholders
  • To create a wider dialogue about this critical issue with society-wide ramifications
  • To inform policy debates and initiatives and to share good practice across local, national and EU level
  • To give access to relevant, comparative, national and international evidence on young people at risk of ESL and NEET and on effective interventions
 For schools
  • To enable students to have their voices heard, share ideas and raise concerns about education, careers and aspirations for the future
  • To provide an opportunity for teachers and parents to discover strategies for increasing rates of education completion.
  • To raise awareness on the interaction between individual students, staff, school environment, curriculum, family and community
For Students

  • An opportunity for you to have your voice heard, share your ideas and raise concerns about education, careers and aspirations for the future
 For Teachers
  • To discover strategies for increasing rates of school completion by collaborating more effectively with your students
  •  To actively enhance your understanding of the interaction between individual student, staff, school environment, curriculum, family and community
For School Principals and Administrators
  • To create a school wide dialogue about a critical issue with society-wide ramifications.
  •  To inform policy debates and initiatives and to share good practice across local, national and EU level

How and where the project operates

  • Nine countries across Europe are involved in the project:  Belgium, UK, Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Hungary and Austria
  • New survey data will be collected among 2,000 young people in each country across two different research areas and four different schools (except Hungary and Austria)
  • Two years later, the same participants will be approached for a follow-up survey enquiring about their trajectory during the intervening period
  • In the meantime, qualitative interviewing will take place through contacts with selected young people consisting of both school stayers (at risk of ESL) and school leavers (ESL)
  • In each country, a group of 100 school staff and school administrators will be surveyed
  • In addition, focus group discussions and interviews with policymakers and  stakeholders will take place in each country