SIRIUS Policy Briefs: Recommendations for successful policies on migrant education


While many countries in Europe have high-quality, well-established education systems, socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent suffer from inequality of access and lower-quality education. Children from these groups, including children with a migrant background—those who are immigrants themselves or have immigrant parents—tend to underperform in the classroom compared with their native peers. Children from a migrant background (defined here as from countries outside the European Union) have particular educational needs that mainstream education policy does not always meet, including overcoming language barriers and discrimination. Recognizing the importance of education in allowing countries to realize their potential, the European Commission has developed a series of goals in the form of the Education and Training Strategy (ET 2020) to help Member States reduce school dropout and increase rates of tertiary education completion.

In 2011, the European Commission launched the SIRIUS Policy Network on the Education of Children and Youngsters with a Migrant Background to study and propose ways that EU countries can address the needs of disadvantaged groups while working to meet the goals outlined in ET 2020. The network facilitates the ability of experts, policymakers, and practitioners to gather and share policy ideas and practices to improve outcomes for these children.

This series of policy papers produced by experts from within the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe focuses on how policies at the EU level and within individual Member States can better support the education outcomes of young people with a migrant background.

Enhancing EU Education Policy: Building a Framework to Help Young People of Migrant Background Succeed


This policy brief sketches how children with a migrant background face the most urgent needs in Europe’s education systems. The overall rate for early school leaving is 33 percent for third-country nationals—more than double the overall 14.1 percent rate within the European Union, for example. Rates of youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) are significantly higher for first- and second-generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The brief examines a number of proposals for ways that local, national, and regional institutions can help educational systems become more community-centered, systemic, and inclusive in order to close the school achievement gap between native and immigrant students.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of enhancing education policy is available here.

Mentoring: What Can Support Projects Achieve That Schools Cannot?


This policy brief explores how European policymakers can design mentoring and other educational support projects to be an integral part of the educational landscape, and explains why it is important for them to do so. It highlights examples of successful mentoring experiences that focus on cultivating the hidden talents and potential of children of immigrants, countering prevailing narratives about these children possessing an educational deficit and needing to “catch up” in school. Finally, the brief summarizes current research on the benefits of mentoring and offers recommendations for program development and for policymakers at the EU level.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of mentoring is available here.

Developing School Capacity for Diversity


This policy brief uses the concept of professional capacity to frame SIRIUS’s recommendations regarding school quality. It identifies four key areas for improvement: language diversity, the learning environment, social psychology and acculturation, and community connections. To develop expertise in these areas, the brief outlines three strategies for policymakers:

– build professional learning communities that focus on diversity;

– build networks of expertise on diversity;

                           – and develop teacher training programs dedicated to diversity.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of capacity building is available here.

Language Support for Youth with a Migrant Background: Policies that Effectively Promote Inclusion


This policy brief provides key points and good practice examples on what comprehensive language support might look like. Recent  studies have identified a number of tools and approaches that can provide effective language support for migrant children, including adequate initial assessment of language skills, language induction programmes that ensure a smooth transition into mainstream classrooms, ongoing language support, training for teachers of all subjects, and valuing students’ mother tongue. Despite these suggestions, there is no blueprint for what ideal language support might look like, and many European Union (EU) Member States are facing gaps in implementation of best practices.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of language support is available here.

Migrant education and community inclusion

Migrant education and community inclusion

This policy brief reviews current measures to promote the integration of migrant students around Europe, specifically those policies and government-backed projects that include the family and community as an integral part of the educational process. The brief will focus on seven examples of good practices that might serve as an inspiration for education policies across the continent. 

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here.

Reducing the risk that youth with a migrant background in Europe will leave school early

 Reducing the risk that youth with a migrant background in Europe will leave school early

Even as the European Union (EU) in general moves closer to the EU 2020 target of reducing early school leaving (ESL) to a 10 percent threshold, wide disparities remain. Varied rates of progress can be seen not only across Member States and media, but also among social and ethnic groups within the 28 Member States. With the exception of the United Kingdom and Portugal, youth with an immigrant background are over represented among those who leave school early. Migrant youth therefore remain a target group for EU policy recommendations regarding strategies, policies, and measures to reduce ESL.

In this policy brief the authors focus on empirical findings, theoretical insights, and promising measures that may inform further policy action addressing the disproportionately high level of ESL among youth with a migrant background. The following three questions structure the content of this brief:

1/ What can be learned from empirical research on ESL among migrant youth?

2/ What features of national and regional education system can prevent ESL among migrant youth?

3/ What specific settings are promising for the implementation of measures to prevent, intervene in, and compensate for ESL among migrant youth? 

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here

Refugee children in education in Europe. How to prevent a lost generation?

Refugee children in education in Europe - how to prevent a lost generation

In the policy brief we will show what refugee children need to be successful in school. We identified six major school arrangements that affect school success.

  1. Free of costs pre-school places for the youngest refugee children to start to learn the second language early.
  2. Sustained second language programs should be available from pre-school until upper-secondary school to accommodate children from all age groups. Teachers should get up-to-date second language teacher training and especially developed materials and methods.
  3. For 16+ and 18+ students: Education should be available also after compulsory schooling (for instance adult education) if we want to prevent a lost generation. Stopping or only providing limited access to education beyond compulsory schooling is highly disruptive.
  4. Short introductory classes, after which students are immersed into regular classes. Being placed for one or two years in welcome classes or international classes is detrimental to school success. Introductory classes should be connected to all secondary school levels (not just vocational education).
  5. Additional support teachers should be assigned to follow up on children’s needs.
  6. Direct access to English Master programs for students holding a BA, comparable to international students.

An integrated approach is key, where these arrangements are linked together (See also the recommendations of European Commission Report: Study for educational support for newly arrived migrants, PPMI 2013). For example, short introductory programs can only be successful when combined with sustained second language support.

This policy brief is mainly focused on education measures, however other policies and factors that have an impact on the education chances and outcomes of refugee children and youngsters.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here.

School Leaders – Advocates for Refugee and Migrants Students

School leaders

SIRIUS Policy Network on Migrant Education has since 2012 debated and researched policy priorities for migrant education and inclusion. Although its research did not specifically zoom in on the roles and responsibilities of the School leaders in this regards, the SIRIUS Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe (2014) outlines specific recommendations regarding the school leaders. The further exploration within the network and its experts and consultation with relevant other stakeholders from European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL) shines more light on the key roles school leaders have in implementing migrant and refugee education policy. With this Policy Brief SIRIUS attempts to highlight the school leaders as advocates for refugee and migrant students, agents of inclusiveness and social justice and focus on the role of school leaders in the implementation of refugee and migrant education policy as well as provide policy makers with recommendations on how to best support school leaders.

The thematically focused SIRIUS Policy Brief is available here.



Regional Policy Paper

Migrant Education Opportunities in the Baltic States: strong dependence on the level of school preparedness

Baltic states policy paperThe purpose of this policy paper is to explore the national policy measures related to pupils with a migrant background in the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The paper aims to identify similarities of policy responses to specific educational needs related to migrant background and point out the differences in approaches, bringing forward the examples of successful practice. The paper serves as an overview of the topic in the Baltic region, which aims to enable mutual learning and inspire the development of most effective strategies in order to shape education policies towards greater inclusiveness to respond to the diverse needs of the learners.

2nd Baltic Inter-Ministerial Round Table: “Inclusive education policy for children of returning nationals and nationals living abroad”

The 2nd Baltic Inter-Ministerial Round Table was hosted by Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science and Vilnius Lithuanian House in Vilnius, took place on the 3-4 November 2014. The topic of the round table was the Inclusive education policy for children of returning nationals and nationals living abroad.

The round table was one of the activities organised within the SIRIUS Network (European Policy network for education of children with minority and migrant background) by Hanna Siarova (PPMI), who also act as Sirius national coordinator for Lithuania. The round table was organised as a follow-up to the 1st Inter-Ministerial Round table in Riga where participants identified specific policy topics on which they could focus further.

The aim of Vilnius round table was to bring together different policy makers dealing with integration of returnee pupils in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania:

  • To learn and exchange knowledge on approaches towards integration of returning nationals into education in the Baltic States and to support learning of Baltic nationals living abroad. Participants of the round table were able to learn more about Lithuanian approach towards integration of returnee pupils into Lithuanian schools and support of Lithuanian citizens who live outside Lithuania outlined in the state strategy ‘Global Lithuania’. The participants also met practitioners, policy makers and coordinators of specific projects working with integration of returnees and discover good practice initiatives within Lithuanian approach, as well as assess challenges of the current policy.
  • To identify strengths of national strategies and to assess transferability of good practice measures in the neighbouring Baltic countries. Participants provided feedback and reflections on the approaches/measures learnt based on Lithuanian example, as well as contributions of other Baltic countries and shared ideas on their possible improvements and transferability to Baltic countries context.
  • To elaborate concrete steps on implementation of certain measures/policies on education of returnees in Baltic countries.

The round table discussion was also an important contribution to the finalisation of policy paper on education of children with a migrant background in the Baltic States which was released in the second half of November this year (2014).

Minutes of the meeting



The borders exist only in our heads

A Clear Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe

The European Union has underlined the importance of education, notably in its most recent 10 year EU growth and competitiveness strategy, EU 2020. The strategy sets ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results: reducing school drop-out rates to below 10%, and ensuring that at least 40% of 30-34 year olds have completed tertiary education by 2020. This goal was developed from and is supported by the Education and Training Strategy (ET 2020), which is based on strategic objectives that include promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship.

ClassroomWhile European countries have well-established education systems, there exists a strong inequality of access to schooling and quality of education for socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent, in particular for migrants coming from a low socio-economic background. According to EU data, 8.3 million young people in the EU Member States (3.1 million under 15 and 5.2 million aged 15-24) were born abroad, while the number of second-generation young adults (aged 15-34) are estimated at over four million. The youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) rates are significantly higher for first and second generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The EU Migrant Integration Indicators indicate that the share of early school leaving among foreign-born learners in the EU is nearly twice as high as among the total population. Eurostat’s 2011 statistical report on Migrants in Europe also shows that the shares are higher for second-generation youth with migrant parents. Clearly, young people with migrant background have a number of critical and specific education needs that are still not met and may not be compensated for through current education policies or in the classroom. Updating the agenda on the education of migrant learners may help EU Member States to reach their common targets for a smart and inclusive economic growth and against youth unemployment. For example, the EU’s 2013 report on Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration estimates that closing the gap in early school leaving rates for foreign-born learners would bring the EU 30% closer to its headline target of reducing this rate to 10% and prevent half a million young people from leaving school early, which accounts for 8.7% of all early school leavers in the EU.

Agenda and supporting Recommendations

petit 3x1,85The SIRIUS Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background has spent the past three years debating policy priorities for migrant education and inclusion. EU and national stakeholder meetings, conferences, peer reviews and site visits have contributed to our knowledge on how education systems must change to provide all learners with the skills and knowledge to perform to their potential in today’s diverse societies.

Summarising the results of these activities, the Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe and the supporting recommendations for EU institutions and for Member State authorities present a vision on migrant education and a set of policy recommendations that aim to promote a more inclusive education system and lead to a decrease in the achievement gap between pupils with and without a migrant background. Migration Policy Group, as SIRIUS’ Communications Officer, developed a first draft based on the outcomes of the EU stakeholder meetings that have taken place since September 2013, as well as recommendations from numerous SIRIUS publications. This text was improved upon through a consultative process with the SIRIUS Steering Committee, SIRIUS’ national and collaborative partners, as well as EU stakeholders from August to October 2014.

The final version of this document is well supported by a wide variety of actors who aim to help raise and spread a strong message for a more inclusive education policy including for immigrant learners.


sirius agendaThe document includes:

  • A Clear Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe
  • Supporting document: Recommendations on improving education for children and young people with a migrant (for both Educational Authorities in Member States and EU Institutions)
  • Endorsements for the Agenda and Recommendations on Migrant Education
  • Bibliography

Read press release

See video summarising the Agenda

Appearance of SIRIUS policy network to present more relevant network results at Catalunya Parliament.

On Tuesday 17 June 2014, Dr. Miquel Àngel Essomba, director of research group ERDISC (UAB) and general coordinator of SIRIUS policy network, together with Berta Espona Barcons, network manager, and Josep Guardiola Salinas, Production coordinator of ERDISC, appeared at Catalunya Parliament, in particular at Welfare, Family and Migration commission, to present the main conclusions of the first three years of SIRIUS work.

After the explanation, took place a turn to speak for the different parliament groups that explained their ideas related to the challenges and questions presented before and at the same time formulated questions to the representatives.

This appearance is one of the best practices that carried out by this network, which have the aim to innovate in governance processes of national education systems to guarantee the equality at school of children and youngsters with a migrant background; and it works to have an impact in the design and implementation of policies at local, regional, national and European level. The presentation of the main results in this commission is a big step to create a new policy implementation line that should be based on the transfer of knowledge that come from the practice and the academia to the decisions policy level.

For more information the whole appearance could be viewed at this link.