The project, Cross-sectoral cooperation focused solutions for preventing early school leaving – CroCoos focused on the prevention and early intervention levels of reducing early school leaving (ESL) with special focus on early warning systems (EWSs) building on a multi-sectoral and horizontal cooperation between all stakeholders.
According to the Council recommendations (2011) prevention and intervention are much more beneficial and cost efficient than correction. Early warning systems play crucial role in tackling the problem of ESL which can be operated efficiently only in a comprehensive manner building on the cooperation of the education, social, employment, health and the justice sectors.
The European Working Group of School Policy gathered in 2014 concluded that more holistic and collaborative approaches to early school leaving are needed, and put an additional light on wide whole school approach (European Commission, 2015). In this, but in many different documents and policy recommendations we often see syntagmas such as “schools need to be enabled”, “schools should undertake”, “schools would implement” etc. It is all rather impossible without full support and collaboration between research community and schools. In this engagement early detection of risk is crucial and also underlined in many documents.
Comprehensive early warning systems are highly missing, however good examples exist. Most of the countries have some sort of tracking systems for ESL, in UK those systems are focused on local communities, other countries usually combine schools’ and ministries’ data, Denmark and the Netherlands have unique system of tracking absenteeism and ESL, and only in rare cases like in Italy there are some efforts to provide ways of following-up students throughout the entire educational system and all its levels (Cedefop, 2016). In such a context as above described wide, collaborative research approach is very important to overcome the gap between inclusive orientation and reality in education. It is recognized that one of the fruitful measures in this regard is work on developing tools for enhancing present and future school practices, and it also makes a strong base for sustainable interventions (Ainscow et al, 2004).
What we tried to do with the CroCooS project is rather similar, it was merging theory and practice of dealing with the complex issue of dropout in a participative process of creating the instruments and procedures for identifying and dealing with students at risk. Our most general aims were to pilot practices of evidence-based decision making and sustainable practices of timely recognizing risks of dropping out. Only one part of these practices were our instruments (tools, procedures and other materials), and other, crucial part was development of teachers’ (and other school professionals) competencies and their understanding and attitudes toward early school leavers. Typologies of early school leavers show how heterogeneous this group is (Fortin et al, 2006) which is exactly why wide data should be gathered but understood only in the context of the individual child where school professionals, mostly teachers themselves become the key instrument of risk screening and prevention.
Within the CroCooS project the partners, experts and the associated partners collected within research period information on how to build up an institutional early warning system. Supporting materials for schools have been prepared, made accessible in an online platform, and being tested in a policy experimentation using the randomized controlled trial methodology. As a result of the 3-three policy experimentation process, in the final report which includes the lessons learned from the implementation and the evaluation findings, was formulated policy recommendations about what elements seem necessary and recommended to be upscaled in the process of developing institutional early warning systems. The report fulfils a niche of examining regional needs in Europe. The main strengths of the report are the Central-Eastern European viewpoint and the contextual elements the recommendations are embedded in which.
CroCooS partnership were engaged to deliver such policy recommendation which could be very useful and meaningful to policy makers, government officers and researchers to shape a better future for effective tackling of early school leaving. With the produced results the project team strives to contribute to the realization of the EU2020 and ET2020 strategic goals by shaping policy recommendation and institutionalization model which are highly relevant in Eastern-Europe.