Research to inform policy-makers and advocates

Verity Donnelly

Local and large-scale advocacy needs to be based on evidence and experience. It can be more effective when advocates share information and learn from each other’s contexts. Here, the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education describe a research project, the findings of which provide clear suggestions for the focus that inclusive education policy and advocacy needs to take in Europe.

Introduction
The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (the Agency) is an independent, self-governing organisation established by member countries to act as their platform for collaboration regarding the development of provision for learners with special educational needs. Member countries can learn from each other through knowledge and experience exchange.

The Agency is not an NGO. It works primarily with policy-makers to identify priorities and develop resources for policy-making. Its programmes reflect both these priorities and agreed EU policies regarding learners with special educational needs and the promotion of their full participation within mainstream education and training.

The Organisation of Provision to Support Inclusive Education (OoP) project, was conducted by the Agency from 2011 to 2013. It examined, with member countries: how are systems of provision organised to meet the needs of learners identified as having disabilities (under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD, 2006) in inclusive settings within the compulsory school sector? The findings offer insights to guide policy-makers and those advocates seeking to influence policy-makers.

Project activities
Various activities were used to collect, discuss and share information:

  1. Literature review: set out the project’s conceptual framework and reviewed research literature post-2000, including past Agency work.
  2. Information and examples of practice from member countries on how they organise and evaluate provision for learners with disabilities in mainstream schools.
  3. Country visits:
    • Sweden – explore ways to strengthen the capacity of mainstream schools
    • Austria – look at a collaborative approach to quality management
    • Germany – investigate collaboration and networking to support the needs of learners with disabilities
    • Slovenia – look at developing the role of special schools to provide a resource to support mainstream
    • Malta – study in-class support and the roles of different personnel in schools/communities.
  4. Thematic seminars in these countries: policy-makers and national and local representatives explored the factors that influence the success of inclusive education.
  5. Project outputs: A final report provides recommendations (for policy-makers and those who advocate with them) for improving support systems for learners with disabilities in mainstream schools.

A web-based resource (due mid-2015) will support collaborative policy development. It will highlight project resources and key publications to encourage dialogue around:

Key policy / advocacy messages
Thematic seminar discussions and other project research activities revealed the need for:

The following are recommendations to policy-makers (and those who advocate with them):

Child rights and participation
Policy-makers should:

Conceptual clarity and coherence
Policy-makers should:

Continuum of support
Policy-makers should:

For more information, see: http://bit.ly/EERADV-ea
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