The context of the project
The European Commission recognises the vital part education plays in the lives of all children – from early years to secondary school level. It is particularly concerned about those children who struggle to learn basic skills at school and leave earlier than anyone would wish. Following the COVID pandemic, this issue has become even more important – especially for children who may be socially and financially disadvantaged, or from migrant, refugees or Roma families. These groups of children seem to be at particular risk of not reaching their full potential at school.
Fortunately, there are examples across Europe of successful schools and early years education where children are doing well, even when facing circumstances. Whole learning communities associated with schools – teachers, parents and caregivers, and others involved in the education of children – are finding ways of helping the children in their care to achieve better results and to boost their psychosocial wellbeing.
It is also recognised that high quality, early childhood education and care is a vital foundation for children’s future development and has positive and long-lasting impacts on their long-term life chances.
Teachers, researchers and others involved in the education of children are aware of the difficulties some of them face at school and there is already research about this. For example, researchers have looked at the factors which cause children to struggle at school, but there is less research about how this contributes to children leaving school early. Up to now, research has focused mainly on how the child as an individual may be having difficulties. More work is needed to find out the root causes and social factors linked with not doing well at school.
It is crucial to develop good practice and to develop local, regional and national policies to guide schools in Europe to enable their children to thrive in education and in life.
Why is early school leaving a problem?
Leaving school earlier than would be best for children has devastating consequences for the children themselves and for society as a whole. It is linked with lower employment chances, poverty, health problems and lower participation in political, social and cultural activities. Although the number of children leaving school early in Europe has generally decreased in the last ten years, for certain groups of children it has remained a worrying feature of their lives. For example, children from migrant backgrounds are twice as likely to leave school early than those from host communities. The situation is even more troubling for Roma children, with 56% likely to leave school before the age of 16.
It seems that not mastering important basic skills in school may contribute to children leaving school early. The experience of children in succeeding in reading, maths, science and digital skills, for example, is vital as they go through school. Having the right kind of conditions in school – from early childhood education through to secondary level – builds children’s educational and psychosocial wellbeing, enabling them to thrive and have the best possible life chances as adults.
What does the project aim to do?
SCIREARLY is aiming to find out how to keep children at school who may be at risk of leaving early. We want schools to give children the best possible opportunity to succeed in their learning and to thrive and grow in terms of their cognitive development and psychosocial wellbeing.
We are planning to do this by:
What methods do you use?
The consortium is tackling this project in various teams formed around different tasks. There are nine work packages which each feature a specific task or tasks. (See work packages for details). The tasks will be carried out using a variety of research methods, based on statistical work, for example, or user insights, providing a wide range of findings. One team, for example, is going to link with 56 young people, who have succeeded in school despite being disadvantaged, to identify the transforming factors in their school experiences which have enabled them to do so well. Another team is going to do a systematic review of all the research reports they can find about the social factors that affect children in learning basic skills.
Certain fundamental principles drive the whole project. One of them is ‘co-creation’. We feel it is crucial to talk with and learn from students themselves, as well as parents and caregivers, policymakers and other members of the community. This means that all those in the learning community will be involved with the project design, implementation, analysis and dissemination. This sets children’s needs and voices at the core of the dialogue. Throughout all stages of the project, we are planning to collaborate with all those who use and are involved with children’s education. This is a cornerstone of our research ensuring that our findings are relevant and have maximum social impact.
What is the expected impact of the project?
The consortium expects the project to have a wide range of impacts. This includes the changes that schools will be able to make based on the findings of the project, as well as policy developments at local and national level reducing the number of students leaving school early. We aim to report the findings in various formats so that teachers, families, researchers, policymakers can access information relevant to their needs to help them make transformative changes to the lives of children in school.
Here is a list of the expected impacts of the project:
Five groups will particularly benefit from the findings of the project. These include at least 2000 EU students between the ages of 6-16 years; at least 1000 students from disadvantaged groups; teachers and other professionals at 20 schools supporting students from disadvantaged groups; at least 100 policymakers working at the local, national or international level around early school leaving; and families and school members, especially those from disadvantaged groups.
We anticipate that there will be broader, longer-term impacts of the project. This includes the development of knowledge and research about early school leaving; insights into ways of reducing the burden of this problem on local and national governments; and impacts on society at large coming from children achieving all the skills they need to thrive.