Drop-out network and Central helpdesk in Antwerp city
The Drop-out prevention network provides a whole suite of services and expertise. Each project is unique, focused on specific target groups and attracts its own level of funding. Emphasis is put on prevention of early school leaving and re-integration of pupils who have dropped out of school. The Central Helpdesk provides support to pupils and to schools. Frequently absent students are referred to the Pupil Guidance Centre attached to the school network which the school is part of. Where necessary the Pupil Guidance Centre seek the help of the Central Helpdesk. The Helpdesk can offer tailored support measures and activities to pupils at risk or those who have dropped out through the network of different organisations.
The Central Helpdesk is at the centre of a network that involves the following agencies and stakeholders: the Antwerp City Council, the Antwerp Education Council, schools’ administrations, Pupil Guidance Centres, the local education platform, Social Welfare Services, Youth services, Justice Department, the Police force.
As to the process, it is mostly the schools who must take the first step. Schools work with the Pupil Guidance Centres (CLB) to provide individual support to students. CLB staff include doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and educators. Individual programmes are drawn up and individual services or programmes from within the network are sought to provide support. When necessary, the Central Helpdesk links with other support organisations, for example:
- Youth coaches and peer coaches provide individual guidance.
- When professional therapeutic services are needed, then individuals are referred to these services.
- When necessary the police or the justice department are roped in.
- For school based actions to work with parents, the NGO Schoolbridge, which is in turn funded by the City Council, provides the necessary support to set up the best way to integrate parents within the school community.
The City of Antwerp organised the Drop-out network and the Helpdesk to combat early school leaving through stakeholder involvement and networking between the City administration and civil society. The success of these initiatives depends heavily on the following:
- Political commitment from the helm of the City Council, who were committed to addressing the problems of young people in difficulty that would escalate in wider social problems. The political commitment meant that the political support did not waver with the change in the political administration.
- Clear focus and the provision of a clear vision from the top.
- A shared vision through stakeholder involvement that would include: the City Council, schools, welfare services, youth services, police, justice and civil society organisations.
- Evidence-based policy through systematic data collection on indicators related to ESL such as truancy, grade retention, school drop-out rate and demographic changes.
- Financial resources that support the network through the commitment of City Council funds, from the Flanders administration as well as EU funds.
- A clear structure with a central co-ordination based at the City Council.