Presentation of the INSCHOOL project

The European Union and Council of Europe are implementing a joint project on “Inclusive schools: making a difference for Roma children” targeting schools where Roma children learn. The second cycle of implementation kicked off in October 2019 in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovak Republic and Bulgaria, and will continue up to January 2021.

The starting point of the project “Inclusive schools: making a difference for Roma children” is based on the assumption that it is not enough to draw up policies of change. Change needs to be reflected at school level and in the environment of the children. There is often a gap between the statements and requirements in policy documents and the reality in which these need to be implemented. Practice has proven that for schools to overcome the rift of exclusive teaching and learning approaches, they have to re-examine what they teach, how they teach and how they assess learners’ performances. A real link with non-formal education and the support for families and communities is necessary to create a shift in education - for the benefit of all learners.

Instead of focusing on the child as the problem, INSCHOOL puts at the heart of its action the education system and its capacity to respond to the needs of Roma children, to celebrate differences and support their learning experience.

How does it work?

The main activities under the project focus on two levels of intervention.

The practice level consists in interventions in schools, with the aim to increase the understanding for the benefits of inclusive education. Within each country, the programme targets a number of schools in different municipalities in order to ensure an evidence-based intervention at policy level. The second level of intervention target policy review and adaptation.

The project thus consists of four interlinked intermediate outcomes:

  • Setting up support mechanisms and resources for pilot inclusive schools;
  • Provision of support to teachers to practice inclusive teaching;
  • Supporting the removal of concrete barriers for vulnerable groups including through changes of legislation in the targeted countries;
  • Raising awareness of the benefits of inclusive education for the general public as well as decision makers; 

Following a pilot phase between May 2017 and July 2019, the project was renewed for a second cycle of implementation between October 2019 and January 2021. 

Achievements of the Pilot Phase

Achievements at Practice Level

The INSCHOOL Joint Project was implemented in 25 schools in five countries over a period of 10.5 months (on average) during which the methodology was introduced and followed by schools with the guidance of INSCHOOL Educational Advisors and Facilitators. Each school created a Coordinating Group - comprised of teaching and non-teaching staff, parents and student representatives - and adopted an Inclusive School Development Plan (ISDP), on the basis of which INSCHOOL grants were disbursed. As a result, by the end of the project, most schools’ environment was visibly improved. This was possible through:

  • the participative approach in involving a maximum range of stakeholders at school level (teaching staff, non-teaching staff, pupils and parents) through project methodology and grant activities; this contributed to improved relationships among pupils and between pupils and teachers mainly and to transforming schools into more friendly learning environments;
  • the training of teachers, and sometimes entire school staff, according to the needs defined by the coordinating groups; there was a real added value identified in the whole-team training approach, which enabled teaching staff to have a common understanding of the Index and the inclusive approach;
  • the subsequent involvement of the teaching staff in grant activities as well as their participation in national workshops and National Working Groups (SK), which contributed significantly to improved relationships among teaching staff;
  • in-country study visits (peer-to-peer exchanges) and one international study visit, contributed to the creation of a community of practice, where teachers not only learned from the experience of other schools in similar contexts, but also transposed the knowledge gained into concrete actions within their schools;
  • the introduction of support schemes to learners who are lagging behind, based on local needs, had an impact on the improvement of their learning outcomes and promoting their social mobility;
  • the increased involvement of parents in non-formal activities, including workshops and awareness raising on various topics;
  • the promotion of non-formal education, with an inclusive approach: school organised various events in 4 out of 5 countries focusing on awareness raising, field trips (including to high-profile remembrance locations, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau), lectures and debates on Roma history and culture;
  • improved school premises through grant-financed activities (participative mural paintings, refurbishing of multi-functional classrooms through an inclusive approach, renovation of premises with support from pupils and communities); that contributed to transforming schools into more friendly learning environments;

While the INSCHOOL Joint Project targeted schools, with the aim of improving the learning environment of all children, a particular attention was paid to the way in which Roma children were included in all school activities. By the end of the project, it became clear that the methodology combined with the activities covered by INSCHOOL grants, as well as any other action taken by schools as part of their ISDP had a positive impact on Roma children.

Achievements at Policy Level

In close cooperation with the Ministries in charge of education in each country, a National Working Group works at policy level on the gaps and inconsistencies between existing policies and practices in schools, providing assistance in addressing them. In this way, inclusive practices in education are sustained by inclusive national policies.

National Working Groups (NWG) were created specifically for the INSCHOOL project in Hungary and Slovak Republic while dialogue with national authorities in the remaining countries was established in a different format. During the pilot phase, via national working group meetings and regular contacts with Ministries in charge of education, strong cooperation was established in each of the project countries as well as with relevant stakeholders - School Inspectorates, Institutes for Teachers’ Training or Institutes in charge of schools’ measurement and evaluation, but also Roma civil society.

Furthermore, the visit of the President of Romania took place to Ferdinand I Elementary and Secondary School - one of the INSCHOOL schools in Romania where the positive impact of INSCHOOL was highlighted. By the end of 2019, a Ministerial Order on School Segregation Monitoring was issued by the Ministry of Education and Research in Romania which approved its Methodology in pre-university education. It includes a large share of the Indicators used by the INSCHOOL Joint Project: “the Index for Inclusion”.

 

*Inclusive  education  (ie),  as  defined  in  the  Salamanca  statement  promotes  the  “recognition  of  the  need  to  work towards ‘schools for all’ / institutions which include everybody, celebrate differences, support learning, and respond to individual needs”.