Mentoring in Education -Stakeholder meeting report

supreme mentoringThe final SIRIUS stakeholder meeting, this time focusing on mentoring, took place in association with the final conference of the SUPREME mentoring project on 27 October 2014 in the Neth-ER offices in Brussels. The SUPREME project has been developed by a partnership where VET and SME associations, as well as policy makers, work together to increase the cooperation between VETs and the world of work. The objective of the conference was to:

  • Learn about good practices in the field of preventing early school leaving and youth unemployment
  • Experience how mentoring binds education and industry on a European level
  • Explore state of the art mentoring results in European countries
  • Involve decision makers in order to secure the mentor methodology and the cooperation of industry and education in Europe

photo 3SUPREME members gave examples of their work from around Europe, with a focus on the importance of exchange of good practices that are adaptable to the cultural conditions of each country. Developing links between industry, welfare, education and policy makers is also important in order to get the most out of mentoring for all involved.

Thomas Huddleston (Migration Policy Group) spoke during the plenary session on The added value of European cooperation in mentoring, to serve migrant youth and highlighted the importance of mentors as role models that give positive images, confidence, cognitive gains, social skills and networking connections to their mentees. Inclusive education can be developed by involving all local communities (including immigrant ones) and sharing lessons learned for EU cooperation and policy recommendations.  He underlined the importance of mentoring for migrant pupils who are particularly affected by early school leaving, youth unemployment and over representation on technical or lower quality tracks, despite the high educational ambitions of both pupils and parents. Innovative outside-school learning through mentorships offers these children and their families improved knowledge of schooling, orientation for pupils and parents, often from mentors with a similar language and cultural background which allows them to address socio-emotional problems. He noted that there was a striking discrepancy between the popularity of mentoring on the ground and the lack of engagement on the topic on a policy level, whereby mentoring programmes are seen as “nice-to-have” but not “need to have”. Mentoring programmes should be recognised as helping educators to diagnose problems or missing services in schools, and can offer necessary support to develop the potential of their students. His recommendations summarised the ENESP Handbook on Mentoring and the SIRIUS Policy Brief on Mentoring and include the following:

  • Mentoring should be considered as an effective hands-on tool to reduce the achievement gap with little legislative or financial effort.
  • There is a clear role for mentors and the competences they need, but they should not be considered a substitute for social workers/therapy.
  • Mentoring programmes should be available for all pupils in less supportive environments, including high potential, not only ‘at risk’ learners.
  • There needs to be secure long-term funding beyond project cycles to ensure training and use of dedicated mentors, perhaps through ‘embedding’ projects within school system or well-established education or migrant organisations.
  • Mentoring needs to be an integral part of policymaking in education and in promoting education outside the classroom to strengthen social skills.
  • Closer cooperation with migrant-led mentoring programmes will allow non-migrant policymakers a better understanding of the needs and situation of pupils, parents, and communities, while also fostering good relationships with school, teachers and staff.
  • It is important to monitor and address equal participation of immigrant youth in mentoring schemes, not only as mentees but also mentors.

Logo-ENESP-300x74Ibrahim Elmaagac, General Coordinator of the Dutch Platform for Education, Innovation and Talent Development (NPOINT) participated on behalf of the European Network for Educational Support Projects (ENESP) in order to give practical examples of how they engage with students from an intercultural or socially disadvantaged background. NPOINT do this by assisting pupils in their studies to prevent them from falling behind, as well as helping them to explore their interests and find a course that suits their talents. Rather than measuring their abilities only through coursework and outcomes, they encourage a learner-focus on personal development and personal happiness.

mentoring handbook

Sarah Cooke O’Dowd (Migration Policy Group), together with Huddleston and Elmaagac manned the roundtable in order to meet mentoring stakeholders interested in understanding how to make mentoring schemes more sensitive to a diverse student population. To this extent, they were directed to the European Network for Educational Support Projects’ Handbook on MentoringOther participants wished to know more about the recommendations that SIRIUS has for policy making and they were given copies of the SIRIUS Policy Brief on Mentoring.


SUPREME mentoring manual

Poitiers, 27-28 August – European Forum for Engaged Young People

AFEV_logo_HDAs part of the European Forum for Engaged Young People due to take place in the University of Poitiers on 27 and 28 August next, the French SIRIUS partner, Association de la Fondation Etudiante pour la ville (AFEV), will be highlighting the issue of inclusion and exclusion of migrants in education in it’s SIRIUS National Round Table on Migrant Education.

Under the title Integrating migrants: Our responsibility to host, AFEV will lead work sessions dealing with:

  • The state of affairs of reception and accompanying migrants in France
  • Social marginalisation and educational accompaniment – Schools as the first integration lever for migrant children
  • What solutions exist today? Is our reception good enough? What can France learn from European experiences

Download Programme

The Netherlands: Platform Migrant Parents and Education



On 3 April 2014, I spoke with Lisette Massink, who works for FORUM in the Netherlands to tell me more about the project and their work in the field of inclusive education.

SIRIUS: Why was FORUM set up?


FORUM was set up after the fusion of a number of national level migrant organisations that had been founded to protect the interests of specific migrant groups, namely of the Turkish, the Moroccan, Surinam, Antillean, and Moluk communities respectively.  While FORUM initially continued to focus on protecting the interests and improving the position of migrant groups in the Netherlands, the focus has since shifted to playing the role of a “knowledge institute” that aims to gather and develop knowledge on all issues pertaining to the integration and position of migrants in the Netherlands, and translate this knowledge to practical / workable solutions.

How does FORUM support inclusive education?

FORUM conducts research on different themes regarding education opportunities and policies and gives policy advice at the national and municipal levels through written reports, meetings with policy makers and public meetings. In addition, FORUM implements projects for migrant parents and children at schools.

cito-15127168-rotaHow was PAOO run?

In 2006, FORUM set up PAOO (Platform Allochtone Ouders en Onderwijs, Platform of Migrant Parents in Education), a seven year project for and by migrant parents to strengthen their representation in schools and to change attitudes among education practitioners towards migrant pupils. In its first phase, the focus was to localise migrant parents in bigger cities in the Netherlands and establish platforms to raise the awareness of other migrant parents, get in touch with municipalities and schools and present the perspective of migrant parents. After four years, an evaluation showed that it was very difficult to maintain such a structure without professional support at the local level. It became apparent that it is a very big effort to get migrant parents together, approach schools, maintain this dialogue and actually bring about change. Raising awareness among parents was not that difficult, parents know very well what they want for their children. But the initial set-up expected too much time and commitment from parents who are really busy with their work, family and children. Such a structure would have needed professional backup or additional support through a paid position. At the same time, the Ministry of Education, that funded the project, preferred for the second phase an approach that was more focussed on the role of schools.

As a result, in the next three years of the second phase FORUM was more involved and worked less on a city level, but more directly with schools all across the country, mostly primary schools and a few secondary schools with large groups of migrant students. We advised schools on how to improve cooperation with migrant parents through concrete actions in schools. It is very important to create a connection between the learning environment of the child in school and at home. Then, schools can also have a better insight into how parents themselves think about school and childhood development. We also developed a course for parents where they could discuss how to work together with schools, support their child’s development and how to successfully raise a child bilingually. We want to show how important parents’ impact can be, especially in the Netherlands, where parents are expected to be proactive and approach teachers when there is a problem.  After completion of the second phase, FORUM has continued stimulating and advising schools and further developing and making available instruments for strengthening the participation of migrant parents in education.

How do you reach out to migrant parents?

The first step is to reach out to migrant communities through members that have a broad network, and are already well integrated and from their own experience aware of the challenges migrant parent face supporting their children’s education. We also connect directly with less integrated and conscious migrant groups in the cities, going to places where migrant parents meet. There is a lot of potential, especially among immigrants who have been in the country for a while, to volunteer and offer their support to others. But then again, this is also a question of time. In some of the cities, even when the funding stopped, they still continued with those platforms, which is very impressive.

vve-rotaWhat main challenges do you face in your work on parents and teachers?

One problem we face is to get schools and teachers to see migrant children as equally capable. While in some schools that is the case, in others, teachers are prejudiced and anticipate that migrant children will not perform well. Even if they do, some teachers think that they shouldn’t recommend them for higher secondary education because they assume that there is not enough support at home. In many cases, this discrimination is also subconscious, but if there is no contact with the parents, the teacher will invest even less in the child. The relationship between parents and the teacher is very important for the teacher’s perception of the child. Many teachers do not see migrant parents as valuable partners and this attitude is a major obstacle when working towards including migrant parents. We saw that school leadership is really important in that regard. In the second phase, we worked with the school team and leadership to analyse their attitudes towards migrant children and then worked towards changing them. It is the responsibility of the school to involve parents; therefore schools must train their teachers and make an effort to reach out to parents. As a consequence, parents are more likely to become active in that school. As long as schools don’t see that necessity and it’s only the parents who are very motivated, then inclusion of migrant parents will not work.


UK: Social integration is a key factor to increase educational achievements of pupils with a migrant background

Via The Guardian

There are currently more than one million kids living in the UK whose native language is not English. In the past, most studies in the field of migrant education have therefore concentrated on the link between language proficiency and school performance. Now, however, a new study provides a fresh approach to the topic by looking beyond the traditional indicator of language acquisition. A team of researchers, led by Professor Madeleine Arnot from Cambridge University and Dr Claudia Schneider from Anglia Ruskin University, are investigating how linguistic development and academic performance correlate with social integration both in and outside the classroom. The first part of their study for which they interviewed around 40 students, parents, practitioners and policy makers was recently finalized. It outlines the difficulties of knowing what type of policies and educational support programs will “work”, how to communicate with non-English speaking parents and whether bilingual education in schools helps or actually hinders integration. The second part of the study will focus on longitudinal tracking of recently arrived pupils and analyze how their educational achievement correlates with social integration.

Article based on “Migrant children: the litmus test of our education system” from University of Cambridge