The education strand of the Action for Inclusion Initiative brought together COMPAS researchers with senior officials responsible for education in six different European cities to consider their responses around parental engagement in schools, particularly for groups at risk of exclusion. This is an important topic, since recent decades have seen unprecedented levels of migration and more population diversity within European cities, provoking new opportunities and challenges for educational institutions in receiving migrant pupils. However, while some immigrant children or children with parents of an immigrant background equal or exceed the performance of those born in the country, others (particularly those from less developed non-European countries) perform worse than those born in the receiving European country (Heath, Rothon and Kilpi 2008) and are overrepresented in figures on early school leaving (see Borgna and Contini 2014). Those lower attaining young people who leave school early are likely to experience poorer longer term integration outcomes and fewer opportunities for post-compulsory education or employment (see Eurostat 2016, evidence on education).
Overcoming these difficulties is particularly pressing in urban areas and particularly for large European cities, where some immigrant-origin children form the majority of students (e.g. see Crul and Doomernik 2003). Within the wider educational research literature, it is recognised that home-school cooperation has an important role to play in improving attainment, with families recognized as having great influence on student attendance and engagement (Epstein and Sheldon 2002). As such, engaging migrant parents is a policy priority.
Within the Action for Inclusion group, we provided research evidence on the topic and asked officials in city or municipal level policy and practice to share their own experiences of encouraging parental involvement in young people’s education. They were asked to identify barriers that inhibited positive home-community-school collaboration and plan some form of tangible reform in their cities. The focus of reform was envisaged as flexible; it could involve developing new programmes or mean adapting existing strategies or content of programmes, or it might involve planning strategic approaches within municipalities to win support and develop resourcing for these initiatives. Throughout meetings, we shared peer feedback on the plans, offering constructive criticism and shared resources among participants. As a result of the collaborative process, we are sharing the examples of the city plans to improve parental involvement with other European cities in order to seek better results for pupils at risk of educational exclusion. These plans, in their entirety can be seen here.
The aim of this particular report is to summarise the collective experience of working with senior staff across the six cities involved in the education group as they developed their reforms in the area of migrant parental engagement. It aims to reflect on the experience of the process and summarise some issues that arose from the research scoping and practice in shaping city-level interventions. The report aims to consider the extent to which, within this process, the cities were successful and explain some of the future plans emerging from the initiative.