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European Education Area

Quality education and training for all

Pathways to School Success

Promoting better educational outcomes for all and well-being at school

School education can play a crucial role in promoting inclusive, fairer and more prosperous societies and economies. It helps children and young people to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to become responsible, resilient and engaged individuals and to have a fulfilling life.

These goals can only be achieved if education systems are truly equitable and inclusive. They must ensure that all learners have a chance to fulfil their potential, irrespective of personal circumstances, family, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. However, today not all young people in Europe have equal opportunities to benefit from education.

The challenges

Despite the importance of basic skills, in the European Union (EU)

  • one in five 15 year olds do not possess sufficient competences in reading, mathematics or science (OECD PISA survey, 2018)
  • early leavers from education and training represent around 10% of young people in the EU
  • only 84.3% of 20-24 year olds have completed upper secondary education (Eurostat, 2020)

Socio-economic and cultural background are still the strongest determinants of pupils’ educational outcomes. Children from poorer areas and families perform worse on average in school compared to their more privileged schoolmates. In addition, there are worrying signs that pupils’ well-being is declining and cyber-bullying is widespread, with detrimental effects on pupils’ development and educational achievement (OECD PISA Survey, 2018).

The COVID-19 pandemic has made these challenges even more visible and urgent. The European Commission published an analysis of the COVID-19 impact in 2022.

Council Recommendation

A Council Recommendation on ‘Pathways to School Success', adopted by EU Member States on 28 November 2022, looks to address these challenges.

The Recommendation aims to ensure better educational outcomes for all learners, by lifting the performance in basic skills and reducing early leaving from education and training. It takes a holistic view of school success, looking at both educational achievement and attainment, as well as well-being at school.

The Recommendation repeals and replaces the 2011 Council Recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving.

The Recommendation calls on Member States to develop or, where appropriate, further strengthen an integrated and comprehensive strategy for school success, addressing all levels of school education and including prevention, intervention and compensation measures.

Member States are also invited to combine universal actions with more targeted, individualised provisions for learners requiring additional attention and support, and to develop or, where appropriate, further strengthen data collection and monitoring systems at national, regional and local level.

A systematic approach

The Recommendation proposes a new policy framework describing a systemic approach for improving success at school. This serves as a reference tool for national, regional and local policy makers and practitioners in education and training in their action towards school success.

The framework outlines overarching conditions for effective action and a set of key measures, to be promoted at school, regional and national levels. It sets out specific actions for supporting school leaders, teachers and trainers and other educational staff and conditions for learners’ success.

Next steps and related initiatives

The Commission will support the implementation of the Recommendation through a number of actions, including peer learning, cooperation and exchanges of information and experiences between Member States, stakeholders and partner countries in particular through a dedicated EU Working Group on Schools (Pathways to School Success sub-group).

EU funding, including from Erasmus+, will be used to support the Recommendation. Inclusive education, improving performance in basic skills and reducing early leaving from education and training are central to the current 2021-2027 Erasmus+.

The Commission will support new guidance material and resources on educational success for all learners, in cooperation with Member States and for their voluntary use. which will be shared though the European Toolkit for Schools ‘Promoting inclusive education and tackling early school leaving'.

It will also set up a dedicated Expert Group on strategies for creating supportive learning environments for groups at risk of underachievement and for supporting well-being at school. Planned for early 2023, the group will focus and raise awareness on wellbeing and mental health at school.