England: African Caribbean Diversity

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Brenda King
Brenda King

On 18 December 2014, I met with Brenda King (Chief Executive) and Paul Bokel (Board Member) of the African Caribbean Diversity (ACD) charity in order for them to tell me more about the organisation and the work that it does in the field of education.

SIRIUS: Why was ACD set up?

Originally set up in the 1990s as a networking organisation for people of migrant decent working in The City, our charity soon became focused on education. We recognised the links between the underachievement of second generation children in education and the resulting difficulties they had getting into the labour market. In order to tackle this, since 2003 we have been running a Mentoring and Enrichment Programme that aims to close the attainment gap between children with a migrant background and native children, particularly for those of low-income families. Our overarching objective is to improve the social mobility of state-schooled children of African and Caribbean descent through mentoring by City workers.

SIRIUS: How does the mentoring programme work?

ACD Summer School students 2013
ACD Summer School students 2013

We choose up to 30 students aged 13-14 who have the potential to do well at school, but are currently underperforming. They are then invited to attend a week-long summer school in Cambridge where they become familiar with the programme, understand why they should believe they can aim high within education and the labour market, get training on public speaking, confidence building and other life skills such as sport and nutrition. On the fifth day, parents are invited to attend (with their costs also covered by the programme) and they are given an induction into the programme, getting the opportunity to meet the team and understanding the expectations that they can have from the programme. Very often, parents are happily surprised to see that there is already a big change in their children after just one week. Students who participated in the summer school the previous year are also invited to attend and both parents and students are generally very impressed to see that after just one year in the programme, they are already progressing very well.

They are then matched with mentors working in the City. The companies that they work for often have Corporate Social Responsibility programmes that allow them to use their time for altruistic activities such as this. We send out a communique to the companies informing them that we are looking for new mentors and then we go in and speak to them directly. They can then sign up with us and receive training on becoming a mentor. Considering the cosmopolitan nature of City workers, the mentors come from many different places and walks of life.

Mentor Matching 2014
Mentor Matching 2014

Once we have matched the students and the mentors, they meet each other in the presence of the students’ parents. This allows everyone to get to know each other, as they will generally be in touch with one another over the course of the next four year, until the students finish school, but some stay in touch long after that. The mentors are there to give career guidance to the students, which is often lacking in their schools, and they do this in their offices so that the students become accustomed to accessing large companies, dressing for the occasion and regularly travelling to meet with their mentors. For the most part, this experience is an eye-opener for the mentors into how the other half of London lives.

Over the past 10 years, we have had about 400 students in our programme, and we are now beginning to see the first mentors being trained who started off as mentees themselves, as well as a growing alumni programme that is often in further education.

SIRIUS: How do you engage with schools?

ACD trip to Brussels 2014
ACD trip to Brussels 2014

We obviously go to schools in order to recruit students, and this happens on a yearly basis, so we are generally in touch with the same schools at least every year. However, we also follow up with the schools on the progress that our mentees are making to ensure that everything is still going well. We engage with the teachers by inviting them to our events and trainings, but they don’t always have the time to attend.

The school’s general reaction to our programme is very positive as the students’ behaviour generally changes in the classroom. Seeing as they were bright but underachieving before, they were likely to be the class clown, and their new interest in learning will generally have a very positive influence on their classmates.

SIRIUS: What are ACD’s main challenges?

Our main challenge is probably keeping the students on board for all of four years. When they reach 16-17, it can be more difficult to engage with them, but we make every effort to continually organise meetings, trainings etc. so that they remain interested and focused. Additionally, they may suffer from some negative peer pressure from their peers, but we try to combat this with regular meetings with those peers that are in the mentee programme so that they can be positively motivated to stay on. Sometimes, the parents themselves can be an obstacle. Not because of language or cultural barriers – most parents are overjoyed to have such an opportunity for their children and to get to learn about the educational system in the UK. But some parents may have other issues on their plate and don’t give any follow-up to the work that we’ve been doing when at home.

Communication used to be a challenge but that has become very easy now, and the arrival of free public transport for kids in London in full time education makes costs less of an issue. Nevertheless, funding is always a struggle, especially since local authorities no longer have the responsibilities (and therefore the budget) in education that they previously had. While we are lucky to have some corporate support from the companies we work with, we look to foundations and other such organisations to help us maintain our service. We also develop partnerships with experts, such as the local police force, in order for them to inform the students about the justice system and how to keep out of criminal activities.

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SIRIUS Policy Briefs: Recommendations for successful policies on migrant education

SIRIUS

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

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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?

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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

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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

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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.

Mentoring: What Can Support Projects Achieve That Schools Cannot?

Although corporate multinational firms around the world have long reaped the benefits of mentoring and coaching programs, such programs are a relatively new fixture in Europe’s education system. For disadvantaged children of migrant background, who are disproportionately among those who underperform in the classroom, mentoring programs provide specific and personalized support on the road to academic success. Mentors who act as role models and fill the role of an older sibling can help improve the cognitive gains, self-esteem, and self-reliance of their mentees. When a high-achieving university student with an immigrant background teams up with a younger, at-risk student with immigrant parents, the positive effects can extend far beyond the classroom.

In fact, mentoring is important precisely because it addresses core needs that schools themselves are not equipped to fill. The intense and individualized guidance provided via mentoring can motivate students more deeply and personally, and learning in an informal setting rather than a classroom can be a refreshing change for teenagers. Additionally, mentors can tackle emotional, cognitive, and social problems in a more holistic manner—for example, by reaching out to a student’s parents—than teachers are able to realize in the constraints of the school environment. The power of mentors lies in their ability to push pupils to become agents of their own educational trajectories and destinies.

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.

Download Policy Brief on Mentoring

The Brief is also available for download in French, German and Spanish.

This policy brief is part of a series produced by the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe, which 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.

Via Migration Policy Institute 

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.

Download:

SUPREME mentoring manual