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ISOTIS Report Summary

Project ID: 727069
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ISOTIS (Inclusive Education and Social Support to Tackle Inequalities in Society)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The main aim of ISOTIS is to contribute to educational equality and to social inclusion of groups and communities that face persistent disadvantages and risks of marginalization in current European societies. ISOTIS wants to contribute to these urgent and pertinent issues in several ways.

First, to uncover the mechanisms that produce inequality and exclusion at different levels, from family and classroom to neighborhood, municipality and society, to raise awareness of these mechanisms and to propose solutions that can inform practice and policy targeted at these levels. Second, to identify particular strengths and resources of families on which education can build in partnerships with parents and their communities. To identify, evaluate and articulate equity and inclusiveness promoting practices in (pre)schools and support services, and to examine how promising approaches to inter-agency coordination of health, youth care, social work and education services can improve access, use and effectiveness of these services. Detailing promising approaches, critically assessing the evidence base, extracting common principles of effectiveness and sharing all this widely, can help to improve the practice field further. Third, 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. Comparing countries and localities within countries, examining education and service structures, inquiring about policy approaches and relating all this to the actual experiences of children, parents, professionals and service coordinators can inform local and national policies to the benefit of disadvantaged groups. Finally, especially in the face of cultural and linguistic super-diversity, it is important to explore, develop and test tools, using new media and technologies, for strengthening intercultural and multilingual education both in families and (pre)schools, in partnerships of families and (pre)schools, and to support the professional communities working with these children and families. ISOTIS aims to make available prototypes of (internet-based) ‘virtual learning environments’ (VLEs) for bridging cultural and linguistic differences.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In the first year, ISOTIS has been focusing on identifying, describing and understanding the mechanisms that produce inequality and social exclusion. In the next years, the focus will shift to detailing interventions and models for practice and policy to tackle inequality and exclusion in current European societies.

In the first year, an innovative approach of quasi-panel design was applied to examine how educational inequalities as related to socioeconomic background and migrant status evolve over the life course and over generations. Furthermore, concise research literature reviews were prepared to create an up-to-date multidisciplinary basis for the central interview studies. Based on these reviews, a questionnaire was constructed and by the end of October 2017 the large-scale structured interview study started. More than 1200 interviews are currently completed. In addition, extensive inventories of effective and promising practices to family support, home-based education programs, intercultural classroom practices and approaches to professional development were prepared, using synthetic review procedures and expert consultation. All inventories include theoretical analyses that explain the early emergence of educational disadvantages and that mediate between structural factors such socioeconomic status or migrant status and child outcomes. Also, a review on inter-agency coordination and inter-sectoral collaboration was prepared. Based on the review, cases of promising practices were selected in eight countries for in-depth analysis of effective principles. Finally, although the main work on the Virtual Learning Environments is planned to start in Spring 2018, exploration of possible approaches has already begun and several small-scale pilot studies have already been conducted. A first prototype of a VLE for pilot implementation in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms is under development. Progress is also made with the VLE for family-(pre)school partnerships.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The results of the first year already provide a detailed overview of current educational inequalities, revealing large education gaps for children from low socioeconomic status or with an immigration background in Europe. The secondary analyses of five major longitudinal cohort studies planned for 2018 will further elucidate when and how early gaps emerge, and to what extent countries differ in mitigating the long term consequences of early gaps. First tentative results from the ongoing large scale interview study in 10 countries indicate already the potential wealth of relevant information that will come out of this study. Also the review of what is currently known about the attitudes, beliefs and skills of professionals in education and services regarding educational equity and inclusion in diverse contexts, suggests that informing professionals, addressing misbeliefs and changing attitudes is urgent.

The ongoing interview studies among parents of different background across Europe, with a focus on the ambitions and informal education practices within families, and the inventories conducted in the first year, provide unique knowledge-base for informing local and national policymakers about potentially effective approaches to tackle inequalities and to support integration and inclusion. The focus in the reports on identifying general principles of effectiveness makes the inventories also very suited for educating the next generations of professionals and policymakers in (early) education and family services.

The completed research reviews, inventories and the ongoing multiple case studies entailing comparisons of countries and, within countries, of local policy context, provide a perspective on the local and national policies on existing child and family support services that may help to increase accessibility, use and effectiveness of programmes and services by disadvantaged, poor or marginalized families. Interesting models are currently examined that combine highly accessible, universal low-threshold services with need-based programmes for comprehensive social support to families.

Finally, preparatory work has already begun on Virtual Learning Environment and (VLE)a first model of a VLE for primary school classroom is ready for piloting. This VLE provides language awareness activities using children’s home languages as resources for education. Also a VLE for working at home, in parallel to preschool, is already in an advanced stage. This VLE has options for working both in the home language and in the school language, and provides rich resources (e.g., stories, games, documentaries) for informal education activities at home using app technology. Most of work on this task is planned for 2018 and 2019.The final deliverables will not only include useable prototypes of VLEs, but also a rich overview of options and the evidence of effective implementation approaches.

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