Local Stakeholder Cooperation Framework
In a system with high levels of school autonomy such as the one in Flanders, the Flemish Ministry of Education has been working on establishing a framework with clear guidelines for schools and local authorities (who are those responsible for school education) on how to establish local networks of cooperation. The key prerequisites of good local cooperation are: clear roles and responsibilities, realistic goals, involvement of all stakeholders, development of local actions.
The first step of building an effective local stakeholder network is mapping all the stakeholders in the region to define roles and responsibilities. This will provide clarification for the schools and all the other local stakeholders on who can provide what kind of assistance, who can take responsibility and how they can be a part of the local fight against truancy and early school leaving. During this step it is also important to define who will take the lead in establishing the local framework and bringing all the stakeholders together around the table.
The second step is about defining shared goals with all the local stakeholders. Everybody is invited around the table to discuss the goals that they want to set. The goals should be realistic. It is better to focus on some goals than to be too ambitious. Every goal has to be accompanied by an indicator and deadline.
The third step is to agree on the engagements. Who can take which engagement to realise which goals and how? Which actions are needed and who is going to be responsible for realising them? In this section the guidelines are based on the EU documents on ESL and the Flemish Action Plan to reduce ESL and cover prevention, intervention, compensation and monitoring.
The last step concerns agreements on evaluation and monitoring. How will the implementation of the local action plan be evaluated? How many times a year do all the stakeholders meet? How do they report to one another?
At the end of the exercise it became clear that beside this instrument of the local framework, the local stakeholders wanted some inspiration on what kind of agreements can they take, what works in the fight against early school leaving, who are the early school leavers? As such an inspiration guide is being developed for the local stakeholders to help them put the framework into practice.
The exercise showed that local partners need to provide a local policy and action plan against early school leaving, including clear roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders, realistic goals with priorities, agreements on engagement on how to realise the goals and clear decisions on how to evaluate and follow up the implementation of different actions.
Still, it is difficult to implement the framework in practice. Local authorities are required to take the lead, however, it is not certain that they are the best partner to do so and willing to without extra funding. What will the schools do? In Flanders, schools are traditionally very independent and autonomous and not used to letting external partners into their premises. However, the long-term aim of this instrument is to mobilize all the local partners and tackle early school leaving together.
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