Rannpháirtíocht páirtithe leasmhara
The complex nature of early school leaving (ESL) requires a multi-dimensional response. Some of its causes are linked to factors outside the education system, such as personal, health or emotional difficulties, family problems or fragile socio-economic circumstances. School staff do not (and cannot) have the capacity to address all of these challenges, so it is essential that they work with wider stakeholders with the appropriate expertise.
This requires schools to develop strong cross-sectoral collaboration with a wide range of external stakeholders, with each stakeholder playing a role to support the learner’s educational journey and nurture their learning experience. Different stakeholders can bring diverse and complementary perspectives in understanding barriers to learning and can offer solutions which are tailored to the specific needs of each learner. They can also help to address barriers to learning beyond those in the immediate school environment, for example, by improving housing conditions, supporting parents to access employment, improving access to healthcare and other services, and making a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities available. The multi-faceted needs of the learners have to be the centre of any form of collaboration, and to take a holistic approach.
Cooperation with professionals and services in different areas (such as social workers, youth workers, intercultural mediators, nurses, psychologists and other therapists, NGOs and other community-based organisations from sport, cultural environment and active citizenship sectors, police, local authorities, and others) can be very beneficial to address a learner's problems. Cooperation with social partners and local businesses is also very important, as it can help increase the work-related relevance of the curriculum and make it more attractive to young people.
Cooperation can encompass different forms of teamwork, networking, and inter-agency working and it can be based on a formalised structure or on more flexible arrangements. In any case, collaboration at local and school level will be easier if backed by relevant policies and supported by clear coordinating arrangements (a coordinating body may be an option).
Establishing cooperation between and among stakeholders takes time and requires all to participate as equal and willing partners. Developing trust, mutual respect and understanding needs nurturing, time and strong leadership. It is important to accept that friction and possible problems will occur, and to establish an open-minded environment where problems can be addressed and where professionals from different backgrounds can learn from each other and in ways that strengthen their professional knowledge and practice.