Both from a teaching and learning point of view, and in terms of professional learning and development, the benefits of the DIVERSE model have been demonstrated as an effective both in terms of inclusion, and curriculum delivery. The evidence for this is provided both in the research literature, and from the analysis of the methods against the evidence base, and the analysis of data collected for this evaluation. Policy makers should there for be confident to promote the method wherever there is a need for a practical solution to problems of integration in the school system.
Political realities make the inclusion of refugee, migrant and minority (RMM) pupils a controversial and difficult topic – schools are not divorced from the communities they serve, including those where xenophobia pertains. The focus for increasing the uptake of DIVERSE should therefore be on inclusion per se, rather than the fixed starting point of RMM pupils where this can raise barriers to acceptance. Where countries do not have explicit policies for RMM inclusion, policy makers may link its introduction to policies on improving provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Once DIVERSE methods have been adopted, they will automatically support learning and integration of all groups.
Specialist expertise for the rationale for DIVERSE, and how to deliver it, is captured in the guidance book. This is available in an easily navigable online version, as well as pdfs in six languages. Policy makers and providers of continuing professional development (CPD) should insert the link to the method in communications with schools and practitioners which relate to inclusion, and learning with a focus on communication, interaction and the development of social competences.
Partners, NGOs, school leaders and practitioners have developed considerable expertise in DIVERSE techniques and their delivery at national level over the course of the project. In addition, they have done this during extended lockdown periods, developing innovative approaches to delivery. Policy makers should contact partner organisations to see how this expertise can best be exploited and built upon, to make efficient use of valuable CPD time and resource.
Parental involvement was among the more challenging aspects of inclusion, as it is found to be in many other contexts. Policy makers should be clear about the educational and social benefits of greater parental involvement in their children’s learning at school, provide a consistent message on its value to leaders and practitioners, and offer practical advice on how it can be advanced. Teacher training and induction programmes may, for example, include an element whereby practitioners are required to interview a student and their family members to become familiar with their circumstances and how parents might be more involved in their child’s learning.
Country Specific Recommendations
During the final conference of the DIVERSE project, held in Bucharest on 15th February, national teams of practitioners and policy makers considered the implications for policy for their context. The following recommendations are a distillation of the outcomes of the policy recommendation session at national level.
The Bulgarian Ordinance on inclusive education, introduced in 2017, has an emphasis on pupils’ personal development. Methodologies, such as those of DIVERSE should be adopted as providing a strong socialising element, as well as providing alternative means to access curriculum content, and for children to communicate and express themselves.
Partners also felt that more could be done to involve parents in their children’s education, especially in Roma communities, as a way of supplementing and supporting learning in the classroom. The DIVERSE training model can be adapted to include activities where teachers arrange for pupils to consult with their parents, by, for example, requesting an example of a fairy tale they grew up with, or for pupils to demonstrate the animations they have created in digital storytelling. Such verbal and visual communication also ensures the engagement of illiterate parents, who are explicitly mentioned in the Ordinance.
As with the valorisation of home languages in the classroom, greater parental involvement requires a shift in culture. As a way of beginning this process, the Ministry of Education should consider the Incorporation of parental involvement into the curriculum of universities, starting with a pathfinder institution with which colleagues from HESED and other organisations with an understanding of DIVERSE can engage.
In Greece, Law 4547/2018, article 73, Enrolment in the Reception Structures for Refugee Education (DYEP), aims to enable newly arrived learners to adjust to their new environment and culture. The project has demonstrated how DIVERSE methods are effective in supporting communication and integration and should be more widely promoted in centres working with refugee children. Policy initiatives should be made in order to valorise the use of the mother tongue of the refugees/ migrants/ minorities as a resource for their education. Fairy tales in particular are a universal phenomenon, and so lend themselves as a common medium for learning. They are also likely to be the most accessible gateway intervention to DIVERSE for practitioners.
The presence of communities of practice (EDEAY) in Greece provide forums for DIVERSE to be further tested, refined and implemented. Liaise with and introduce EDEAY to the DIVERSE methodology, and identify where the practice can be implemented and tested, where possible as a practitioner research project.
The arrival of over half a million refugees from Ukraine during the first months of the invasion poses a challenge and opportunity to reset the approach to how displaced children are integrated into the Hungarian school system.
Three main strategies exist in Hungary for which the DIVERSE intervention is relevant, and where teacher practices focussed on integration of RMM pupils can help achieve wider goals of schools’ ability to be inclusive for other disadvantaged groups, such as those with SEND.
The National Disability Programme 2015-2025 highlights that ‘the state and government actions should first and foremost promote that the participation of the institutional system and the society is directed not at making decisions and performing activities in lieu of disabled persons but at helping the disabled persons do the above and retain their human dignity’. To help achieve this, DIVERSE methods should be adopted as effective means of building the skills and confidence for independent decision-making, and education authorities should take advantage of the pool of expertise that has been developed in Hungary to provide professional development and training for practitioners more widely. Among the resources at the disposal of policy and professional organisations in Hungary is the expertise which InSite has developed in blended and online delivery. This should be exploited.
The Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2021-2027 is, among other things, investing money in ensuring 60,000 students and 40,000 teachers participate in programmes linked to reducing and preventing early school leaving and promoting equal access to good quality education. The learning outcomes of DIVERSE demonstrate it is an appropriate methodology to achieve the integration required if pupils are to find school a worthwhile experience. Policy makers should also look at the data collection and analysis approach of the project as an effective way of linking pupil and professional learning.
Similarly, DIVERSE applies as a proven model to support the aims of the Public Education Development Strategy 2021-2027, amongst which has the goal of ‘creating equitable public education that takes individual unique features into consideration’.
Inclusive education in Italy is given additional emphasis by Decree no. 182, which defines support measures for pupils with disabilities. While the focus of DIVERSE has meant the main impact has been explored with RMM pupils, there were also examples of where it supported pupils with SEND. DIVERSE can therefore be promoted as an effective approach to support the achievement of the aims of the Decree.
The stipulation in the Decree for individual pupil assessment, and professional needs assessment and training, can also be met in part by the DIVERSE training model. Where DIVERSE is implemented, the training model can be adapted to include the ‘functional capacity gap’ assessment tool, and professional needs assessment tool currently used as part of the strategy. This will support both the policy aims of the Decree, and also provide valuable reflective opportunities for practitioners as they adapt and implement the DIVERSE model to their context.
UNICEF reports on serious issues of exclusion which persist in the Romanian education system. The current reforms being introduced by the Romanian government are aimed to address these, and include, among others things, a focus on personal and social development. DIVERSE is of direct relevance to this aspect of educational reforms, and should be promoted as an appropriate intervention to achieve the goals of inclusion, personal and social development.
At the same time, the requirement of teachers to attend CPD for their professional status to remain current – to achieve 90 professional credits every five years – means that there is an opportunity to offer good quality, proven methods to enhance learning to around 200,000 teachers. Casa Corpului Didactic, the regional organisations accredited by the Ministry of Education, are encouraged to review the large scale take up and outcomes of DIVERSE in Romania and consider its inclusion.
Similarly, universities should consider adopting DIVERSE methods as content for teacher training courses, which illustrate ways in which the drive for greater inclusion can be achieved in practice.
For this to happen, the Ministry of Education needs to include the DIVERSE methods in the offer of accredited teacher training and CPD courses. As a more structural change to enable this kind of innovation, we further recommend the Ministry of Education changes its criteria for accrediting teacher training and CPD courses to be more open to innovative courses with a proven track record, such as DIVERSE, developed through Erasmus projects.
Within the scope of its advisory services, the Romanian school inspectorate is also encouraged to make reference to DIVERSE as a method for delivering curriculum content in ways which promote inclusion and the development of social skills.
The large numbers of migrants arriving in Catalonia, as elsewhere in Spain, from the mid-1990s onwards has created many challenges for schools and made the issue of inclusion a top priority for policy makers. The City Council of Salt enjoys a hight level of diversity, which is a key consideration in its Educational Plan, instituted in 2018. The plan is reviewed every three years, and as part of its contribution to the review, the University of Girona makes the following recommendations, which are applicable to all local authorities in their work on improving learning and inclusion outcomes, and indeed to governments at national and regional level in Spain:
- Build and strengthen a local educational network on inclusion, which includes schools and other educational providers, cultural organisations, and NGOs to select, refine and implement practices which overcome the challenges of inclusion
- Review the current framework for the induction of new teachers, so that during the induction process, teachers become clear about the local situation, the organisations which contribute to improving inclusion, and which can support them, and the types of practices that are applied in local schools to promote inclusion
- Encourage and support the design and organization of joint activities between public and private schools, in order to exploit to the full the expertise which exists locally
- Exploit the artistic activities which DIVERSE promotes as a distinguishing feature of local educational provision, linking educational and artistic projects inside and outside educational centres
- Similarly, showcase the multicultural nature of Salt as a positive feature of the city at events and exhibitions. Student outputs from art-based projects such as DIVERSE can be included in these to make the heritage cultures of its children more visible.