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Spain: Action Plan to tackle early leaving from education and training (ELET)

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Spain: Action Plan to tackle early leaving from education and training (ELET)

11 September 2023
teenagers
Country news

The Ministry of Education, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission have introduced 44 proposals for an Action Plan to curb school drop-out rates. 

In mid-June 2023, the Spanish Secretary of State for Education presented the report ‘Proposals for an Action Plan to reduce Early School Leaving’, developed by the OECD in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and the European Commission's Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support. The document includes 15 recommendations, broken down into 44 proposals and divided into five areas of action, which are aimed at reducing the number of young people prematurely leaving the education system. 

The fight against early school leaving is an absolute and indispensable priority for the Ministry. Despite a more encouraging trend in the data over the last decade, there is a continuing need to improve the opportunities of all students. 

Identifying vulnerable schools 

The report's first area of action focuses on establishing a common approach for the identification of ‘vulnerable schools’, in order to distribute any additional necessary resources in the most effective way. 

To this end, the document proposes the development of a School Vulnerability Index comparable across Spain, which could be used to identify and allocate additional resources to schools. This index would involve two different sub-sets of statistics: a basic one, with indicators common to the whole territory, and a discretionary one, with additional indicators established by the Autonomous Communities based on their local circumstances. The dimensions included may refer to the socio-economic, cultural and geographical data of schools, as well as to educational aspects, such as grade repetition, absence rates or academic performance. 

Another recommended measure is the creation of a common early warning system for pupils at risk of dropping out of school before the end of the second post-compulsory stage. This would include up-to-date information on students and data on their performance and behaviour, accessible to all education administrations in case a pupil changes school. In this context, it will be important to identify common definitions and measurements for key concepts such as ‘truancy’, or ‘pupils with specific educational support needs’. 

Teacher training 

The second area of action revolves around the preparation of teachers, school management staff and other school professionals to promote the inclusion and well-being of pupils and lower drop-out rates. 

In this area, it has been proposed, among other measures, to include socio-emotional competencies in the admission and selection criteria for entry to initial teacher education, as is being done, for example, in Finland and in the Netherlands. Another measure would foresee encouraging people from diverse backgrounds to enter the profession. Moreover, it has been deemed essential to promote high quality continuing professional development in the field of classroom diversity and individual learning needs, with priority given to teachers in vulnerable schools. 

Student support 

A third set of measures seeks to promote student support and foster inclusion and equity. In this regard, the above-mentioned School Vulnerability Index could be used to support school-specific actions, such as additional support for students facing hardship and their families, the creation of learning groups of different sizes, homework support classes or remedial classes, and extended learning time. 

In addition, the report recommends reducing grade repetition, which is associated with a risk for lower academic achievement, demotivation and early school leaving. It has been suggested to implement effective alternatives instead, with early intervention actions, as established in the 2020 Education Act (LOE-LOMLOE). The document also highlights the importance of reducing school segregation, strengthening guidance in schools, and fostering a positive school ethos. 

Curricular flexibility and skill-based learning 

The report sets the promotion of curricular flexibility and skill-based learning as its fourth key policy area, with more attractive, quality VET and with programmes to re-enter education and training. Among other proposals, the document recommends launching a national campaign to raise awareness of the quality of VET and to make Adult Education Centres more appealing to young people. 

Promoting the collaboration of educational administrations 

The fifth and last area of action of the report proposes to institutionalise collaboration and knowledge sharing between the Autonomous Communities and the Ministry. Early school leaving would thus be addressed through regular meetings, as well as by creating a common digital platform with the different measures implemented and their follow-up. 

The report also touches upon a project launched two years ago, which focuses on the analysis and identification of good practices at international, national and regional level. These endeavours have been supported by working groups that witnessed the participation of the main actors within the education system and of all the Autonomous Communities. 

In Spain, the Early School Leaving Rate (i.e., the percentage of 18-24 year-olds who have not completed post-compulsory secondary education – mainly Baccalaureate programmes or Intermediate Vocational Training) stood at 13.9% in 2022, almost half of what it was a decade earlier. However, this is still below the 9% target set by the European Commission. 

Indeed, it is important to note that young people who leave school prematurely are at higher risk of social exclusion, as they encounter more difficulties in finding employment, according to several OECD studies. 

Support programmes 

Reducing the Early School Leaving Rate is an essential objective for the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. Both the 2020 LOE-LOMLOE Education Act and the 2022 Vocational Training Act set this goal among their priorities, promoting flexible learning, the early detection of potential issues, and the individualisation of learning. 

In addition, the MEFP has launched the Programme for Guidance, Advancement and Educational Enrichment (PROA+), aimed at improving school success in publicly funded schools where more than 30% of students are facing difficulties. The programme, co-financed by the European Union, has a budget of EUR 360 million for the period 2021-2024 and is currently being implemented in almost 3,700 schools throughout the country. 

PROA+ is complemented by the Accompaniment and Guidance Service Units, which provide support to students at risk of grade repetition or dropout. The latter action, financed through European funds, has been allocated EUR 124 million for 2021-2024, which the Ministry then distributes to the Autonomous Communities. 

For further information: ‘Proposals for an Action Plan to reduce Early School Leaving in Spain’ 

Source: Eurydice Unit Spain 

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