The research network focuses on the problems of young people in large urban areas and the strategies at the national and local policy level as well as the school level that aim to improve urban education and on examples of good practice and innovative educational and youth policy. The research network was established in 1996 and is a joint effort of the former European Board of Urban Education and Social Policy and the OECD-network on Children and Youth at Risk.
The research network meets twice a year and has an active core group of members. In 2005 we have met in Amsterdam and in Greece (at the ECER conference). At present more than 80 researchers/institutes are member. Network convenors are Professor Dolf van Veen (The Netherlands), Dr. Kay Haw (England), Dr. Ruth Leith (Ireland), Professor Mark Hadfield (England), Dr. Anders Garpelin (Sweden). The secretary is Brigitte Weernink at InHolland University (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).
The research network provides a forum for discussion and debate of current issues affecting urban education and youth policy. Each ECER-conference has a special topic. In 2005 we have focussed on integrated services.
Demographic, social and cultural changes have provided the impetus for governments in Europe to examine the impact of the new social realities on the family, children and youth, and to adapt or change service delivery systems to meet the needs created by those realities. As education, social services and health care systems have expanded and increasingly have become more specialised, it has become evident that many agencies serve the same children and families and that the professional responsibility for specific services and sound service delivery are often uncoordinated and dysfunctional. The process of professionalisation in the health and human services since the nineteen fifties, with its features of differentiation, specialisation and labour division, have cast long shadows. The current system of child-related service delivery is fragmented, often characterised by duplication, waste, and lack of coordination. This creates major difficulties and risks, especially for vulnerable children who come to school with multiple problems that cut across conventional health, social, and educational systems boundaries; problems that schools are ill equipped to handle alone. Too many of them fall through the cracks and don’t receive the services they need.
In recent years a major trend in policy and practice in response to problems of growing inequality and the consequences for schools and families, and fragmented helping professions and service delivery has been a focus on collaborative child- and family-centred education, health and human service systems. There is broad agreement that schools must find new approaches that foster the coordination and integration of services. Because schools have sustained, long-term contact with the majority of children and their families, they are the logical gateway for providing multiple services to children.
In Europe the notion that collaboration among educators and other practitioners, clients, community leaders and policy-makers is crucial to transforming the educational, (mental) health and social service systems that serve children and families is increasingly recognised among the stakeholders. This belief creates a momentum in which further experimentation with inter-agency collaboration, school-based or school-linked comprehensive services, behaviour and learning support teams, and alternative programmes for youngsters with severe behaviour problems is stimulated and supported. Research is beginning to accumulate on programme characteristics, viability and effectiveness, and implementation, managerial and administrative issues. Fortunately, planning frameworks for coordinating, harmonising, and synchronising the internal, school-owned supports and services and community-owned services are increasingly available. This work entails institutional change involving schools, health and human services agencies, and their boundary relations. The assumption is that school improvement and renewal processes are destined to fall short of their intended aims until such time as the family and community contexts for children’s learning and healthy development are addressed simultaneously.
The research network plans to produce a research publication in 2008 on these innovative education and health and human services partnerships which provides an overview of the nature and scope of ongoing systemic support for mental health and psychosocial problems of children and youth in schools and trends in the current educational and youth policy in the Europe, using the results of the research and development programmes of members of our EERA-network.
Furthermore, the research network encourages the development of collaborative and comparative research projects. In 2005 members of our research network received EU-funding for the successful leadership in urban schools project (2005-2008).