On 13 and 14 September, the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and its member the Local Government Association (LGA) of the UK organised jointly a Peer Learning Visit (PLV) to London on promoting social inclusion and achieving high quality education. Aim of the visit was to learn from practical examples from the London Borough of Hackney and to jointly discuss: How to foster education of disadvantaged children and young people (including with a migrant background) to make sure that learners reach their full potential? How to create inclusive school environments? And how to engage with the wider community to promote social inclusion?

The first day, the participants were kindly welcomed in Hackney Town Hall by Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble. In her opening speech she proudly stated how Hackney Council with its diverse population managed to improve its education system and has now one of the best Ofsted-scores of the country. She underlined that in order to create opportunities for all children to prosper, there is a need for good leadership from the middle; it is not only about setting the policy and direction, but also about having the courage to empower staff to make these aims a reality. Subsequently, Hilary Ryan, Principal Primary Adviser of the Hackney Learning Trust explained how the Council of Hackney works with data and evidence based policies to reach its goal to improve the life chances of every child, young person and adult learner in Hackney, by championing the rights and aspirations of parents to a high quality education for their children; by championing education excellence in the borough; by securing and supporting the best governance and leadership in the schools; by investing further in early years and ensuring that no school fails. In order to broaden the perspective, Eric Halton, County Education Manager of Hampshire, shared his experiences from the Hampshire County Council and the challenges they faced in the south-east region of the UK to improve the life changes for all children across all of the outcomes, whatever school they attend. He concluded that there is a need for courageous leadership with a strong focus on excellence and equity. Furthermore, Valentine Mulholland from the National Association of Head Teachers, presented the strategies her union has developed to promote the integration of migrant pupils into English schools. She shared initiatives that could be taken at classroom and at school level, including the introduction of peer support (for example, ‘buddying up’ new pupils with existing class members), mixed ability classes to promote inclusion and social interaction, intensive literacy classes for language development, and development of interactive and collaborative teaching and learning styles and activities. The last speaker of the day, Simone Aspis, represented the Aliance for Inclusive Education and advocated the need to foster education of disabled pupils within mainstream education settings.

The second day, the participants visited the City Academy in Hackney to see how the local policies worked in practice. The Principal explained how the school aims to create an inclusive school environment by having a strong shared vision among the school leaders and teachers, by setting high (academic) expectations for all children combined with a very clear system and strict behavioural rules. Furthermore from the discussions with the Vice Principal it became clear how much emphasise the school puts on promoting inclusion via teaching and learning.

These local practices inspired members of EFEE to reflect on their own national systems and to discuss how employers in education can contribute to promoting social inclusion and achieving quality education to make sure that learners reach their full potential and unlock their talents.

Daniel Wisniewski, General Secretary of EFEE concluded: ‘This visit made clear that with respect to social inclusion national and European Social Partners play a key role in turning policies that matter into practice’.

The agenda of the PLV is available here.

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