This Toolkit provides examples of effective whole-school approaches to prevent early school leaving.  Educators developing whole-school approaches will want to develop a coherent strategy to address each of the five areas covered in the Toolkit.  These examples of ‘what works’ are intended as inspiration rather than recipes for replication. School leaders, teachers and other stakeholders will want to consider their own contexts and circumstances and the needs of their learner population as they adopt and adapt programmes and practices.  

The following broad guidelines for strategic planning and implementation are relevant for all contexts:

  1. Engage a broad range of stakeholders (all school staff, learners, parents and the broader community).[i]
  2. Promote the rights of everyone in the school for equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination and participation. Children’s rights to voice and participation should be supported.  These aspects are vital for cohesive and inclusive school communities.[ii],[iii],[iv]
  3. Identify areas of need at the school and classroom levels, as well as community services to support families level. Good diagnostic tools and forums for stakeholder feedback are important.[v],[vi]
  4. Define desired outcomes, and the barriers and enablers to achieving them.[vii]  Consider lessons learnt from ‘what works’ case studies. Alternative models may be compared and combined, or selected elements may be used.[viii],[ix]
  5. Ensure that sufficient resources (human and financial) are available.
  6. Work collaboratively.  This is important for school leaders, teachers and other professionals as well as for learners.  Collaboration within and beyond schools is important for building the ‘collective intelligence’ of the school community.[x]
  7. Set challenging expectations for learners and support achievement. Strengthen educational aspiration of learners; raise and strengthen their awareness and capacity for life long learning Teachers should see learning through the eyes of their pupils.  Learners should develop their own understanding of how they learn best.  Recognition of diverse learner needs, including academic, cultural, and social-emotional aspects is vital.[xi],[xii]
  8. Support capacity building (professional development, opportunities to learn over time).  Teachers should be considered as lifelong learners.[xiii],[xiv],[xv]
  9. Develop guidelines, tools and exemplars to support implementation of interventions.[xvi]
  10. Monitor and evaluate the impact of interventions and their impact on the prevention of early school leaving, and make improvements as necessary.[xvii],[xviii],[xix],[xx]
  11. Allow time for change.[xxi]

[i] Rose, R., Learning from comparative public policy: a practical guide, Routledge, London and New York, 2005.



[iv] Downes, P., ‘Develop a Framework and Agenda for Students’ Voices in the School System across Europe: From Diametric to Concentric Relational Spaces for Early School Leaving Prevention’, European Journal of Education, Vol. 48, No. 3, 2013, pp. 346-362.

[v] Rose, R., 2005.


[vii] Rose, R., 2005.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Fielding, M., et al., Factors Influencing the Transfer of Good Practice, University of Sussex and Demos, UK, 2005.

[x] Seashore Louis, K. et al., Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning: Final Report of Research Findings, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, 2010.

[xi] Hattie, J.A., Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Routledge, London and New York, 2008 (see also, Resources available in Chinese, Dutch, English, French and German).

[xii] Wiliam, D. (2009). An integrative summary of the research literature and implications for a new theory of formative assessment. In H. L. Andrade & G. J. Cizek (Eds.), Handbook of formative assessment. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis (see Dylan Wiliam’s website for more resources on formative assessement).

[xiii] Hattie, J.A., 2008.

[xiv] Timperley, H., & Parr, J. (Eds.), Weaving Evidence, Inquiry and Standards to Build Better Schools, NZCER Press, Wellington, 2010.

[xv] Kaser, L., & Halbert, J., Leadership Mindsets: Innovation and Learning in the Transformation of Schools, Routledge, New York, 2009.

[xvi] Cobb, P., & Jackson, K., ’’Towards an Empirically Grounded Theory of Action for Improving the Quality of Mathematics Teaching at Scale’, Mathematics teacher education and development,  Vol.13, No. 1, 2011, pp. 6-33.

[xvii] Stufflebeam, D. L. and C. L. S. Coryn, Evaluation Theory, Models, and Applications, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2014.

[xviii] Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G., Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, MA, 2015.

[xix] Guskey, T. R., & Yoon, K. S., ’What Works in Professional Development?’, Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 90, No. 7,  2009, pp. 495-500.

[xx] European Commission, EACEA, Eurydice, Assuring Quality in Education: Policies and approaches to school evaluation in Europe, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2015.

[xxi] Borman, G. D., Hewes, G. M., Overman, L. T., & Brown, S., ’Comprehensive School Rreform and Achievement: A meta-analysis’, Review of Educational Research, Vol. 73, No. 2, 2003, pp.125–230.