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Inclusive Education and Social Support to Tackle Inequalities in Society

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ISOTIS (Inclusive Education and Social Support to Tackle Inequalities in Society)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-12-31

The overarching aim of the ISOTIS project was to contribute to effective practices and policies to increase educational equality and social inclusion of groups and communities that face persistent disadvantages and risks of marginalization in current European societies. More specifically, ISOTIS aimed:
(1) To contribute to insights in the mechanisms producing inequality and exclusion at different levels, from family and classroom to neighbourhood, municipality and society, and to propose solutions for practice and policy targeted at these levels.
(2) To identify particular strengths and resources of families on which (early) education can build, to review and articulate equity and inclusion promoting practices in (pre)schools and support services, and to examine how promising approaches to inter-agency coordination of services can improve access, use and effectiveness of these services to the benefit of disadvantaged children and families. By detailing promising approaches and extracting common principles of effectiveness, ISOTIS intended to provide the basis for further improvements.
(3) To articulate what is needed in terms of local and national policy measures to support optimal use of the strengths and resources of families, and of promising (preschool) intervention programs, curricula and service coordination models. By comparing countries and localities within countries, ISOTIS aimed to inform local and national policies to the benefit of disadvantaged groups.
(5) To develop and test a prototype of an internet-based ‘virtual learning environment’ (VLE) for strengthening intercultural and multilingual education in families and (pre)schools, and for supporting the professionals working with children and families at risk of exclusion.
(6) To share the findings and products of ISOTIS with stakeholders and wider audiences.
The analyses of quasi-panel data on educational achievement for the period 1995-2015, large cohort studies, and intergenerational data, yielded new insights in the mechanisms of educational inequality, confirmed the important role of early childhood education to reduce inequality, and resulted in a critical account of the effectiveness of macro-level policies and system reforms.
The reviews and case studies of promising family-, professional- and classroom-focused interventions across Europe, and the case-studies and quantitative analysis of inter-agency collaboration provided rich information to improve practice and policy.
ISOTIS interviewed 3942 parents from immigrant, ethnic-minority and low income groups across ten countries. An additional 244 parents participated in in-depth biographical interviews. The findings pertain to many timely issues, such as the importance of embracing of multiculturalism and multilingualism in society’s institutions, and the role of professionals in connecting children and families at risk of social exclusion to society.
The ISOTIS children’s study involved 331 children in preschools, primary schools and after-school programs. The importance for wellbeing and inclusion of creating continuous social-physical spaces of home, neighbourhood and (pre)school, allowing ‘ownership’ to children, was a recurrent theme.
The staff survey involved 1058 early childhood educators, teachers in primary schools, social workers and volunteers in after-school programs. The results revealed differences between countries in professionals’ multicultural and multilingual beliefs and practices.
The ISOTIS studies revealed differences between localities within the same country in uptake of early childhood education and family support services by target groups. Both the local implementation of targeted programs, the cultural inclusiveness of programs and services, and the degree of local interagency working, based on interviews with 61 service leaders and policymakers, indicated several explanations for these differences.
ISOTIS developed a digital virtual learning environment (VLE) for working with parents, families, educators and children. In total, over 100 activities and supporting videos were co-created, and implemented in field trials involving about 150 parents, 90 professionals, and over 500 children.
ISOTIS researchers were involved in 448 unique dissemination activities, concerning presentations at conferences, lectures for professional audiences, contributions through social media, policy briefs, and scientific and professional publications. About 120.000 people were reached. The ISOTIS website was visited 28.300 times; 72.339 page views were registered.
ISOTIS revealed that education gaps by socioeconomic and migrant background are still substantial, emerge early, have increased, and can be related to limited use of early childhood education, early tracking age, and short duration of general education.
Families in disadvantaged groups have high educational aspirations for their children and provide stimulating home learning environments. There are low tensions, overall satisfactory inter-ethnic interactions and little discrimination at the local level. However, parents experienced high discrimination in public and social media.
Poverty, unemployment, family problems, lack of social support, and poor neighbourhood quality, were risk factors for parents’ wellbeing and also for their motivation to invest in children’s development. The poorest and lowest educated families, facing multiple stress factors, relied more on in-group social support, had stronger religious ties, and less trust in society’s institutions.
Professionals working at the local level with children and families at risk of social exclusion are key to enhancing inclusion. The personal relationship with professionals as experienced by parents is a protective buffer against adversity and (public) discrimination. Intercultural pedagogies and multilingual support in centres and classrooms, are critical to these relationships.
Bringing the findings of several work packages together, a main recommendation of ISOTIS is to create culturally inclusive social-physical spaces in neighbourhoods with easy to cross boundaries between home, (pre)school and other local services, where children and parents feel included, experience positive relationships with professionals, and receive flexible support to varying needs.
The study among local service providers and policymakers revealed that decentralization and intersectoral integration, involvement of private organizations and NGOs, and value-based coordination are positively associated with inter-agency working and commitment to shared values among professionals, and with parents’ satisfaction with received support for multiple needs.
ISOTIS developed a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for working with parents, children and teachers in classrooms, and other professionals. The VLE focused on multicultural and multilingual support. The evaluation results are predominantly positive. Content can be downloaded from https://community.isotis.org/resources.
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