Learners may go through difficult periods in their social and/or family lives or may have negative school experiences that throw them off track. Early detection of learning difficulties, socio-emotional distress, or disengagement is vital – before they manifest through school absenteeism, or inappropriate behaviour. Schools need to establish an early warning and monitoring system in collaboration with the family. Effective identification and monitoring should not be seen as a bureaucratic and disciplinary process that only records and responds to incidents of absenteeism or misconduct, but more of a support (warning) system. Learners need to know that they matter and are cared for.
While monitoring attendance and learning progress remain essential, a broader perspective on the learner and his/her particular situation is also needed. Early detection should be based on a comprehensive view of the individual that also includes social, family and emotional factors. Consideration should also be given to the impact of critical life events (including traumatic events) on the young person’s personal development.
Monitoring means keeping an ongoing record of a wide range of aspects, including learners' socio-emotional well-being, sense of school belonging, learning processes, levels of achievement, attendance, behaviour and any other relevant information. These cognitive and emotional processes, although more difficult to monitor, can provide even more timely indications of decreasing school engagement, before this is externalised as truancy and misconduct. Not all of this must be formally recorded, but it can be useful in detecting changes that may indicate factors that are likely to hinder a learner in his or her development and school achievement. Less overt indicators of socio-emotional distress are best picked up by teachers and support staff when they have trusting and caring relations with individual students, and collaborate closely with the learner’s family.
Different methods and routines may be used, but it is essential that identification of at-risk learners be followed by rapid and targeted intervention. Three levels of intervention are:
- Universal support – for all students
- Targeted support – for groups of students at moderate levels of risk or need
- Individual support – intensive intervention at chronic or extremely high levels of risk or need
Identification of distress signals should trigger immediate reaction through a holistic and community-oriented support framework, to assist learners to overcome difficulties and continue on their educational path. Specific interventions need to be accompanied by close monitoring and assessment. These assessments should include hard indicators, such as truancy figures, as well as soft indicators, such as surveys of student well-being and sense of belonging in school.
Find out more:
European Commission, Early warning systems in Europe: practice, methods and lessons. Thematic Working Group on Early School Leaving, Brussels, 2013.
European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Cedefop, Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe: Strategies, Policies and Measures, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2014.
Juhasz, J., Final report on Crocoos – Cross-sectoral cooperation focused solutions for the prevention of early school leaving project background research, Section II, Tempus Public Foundation, Budapest, 2015, pp. 3- 8.
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