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Education and Youth Council

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 9 June 2011

Education Council

I represented the UK at the Education Council. The Council was preceded by a ministerial breakfast on the subject of adult learning. During this I set out UK policy on our skills strategy, reforms to the national careers service, and the forthcoming Government consultation on informal adult learning.

Early school leaving

The Council agreed a recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving by qualified majority. The UK voted against the recommendation as it was inconsistent with our national approach. While we understand and accept the importance of reducing early school leaving in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, we have concerns with the policy approach suggested in the recommendation. For example, some of the language on “modularisation of courses” and “individualised learning approaches” sits uncomfortably with our strong belief that it is for teachers to decide the educational styles that best suit their students’ needs. Commissioner Vassiliou later noted that

“in response to the UK points, Early School leaving cannot be solved by education alone”.

A ministerial debate on this subject focused on prevention policies to combat early school leaving with particular emphasis on children from a socio-economically disadvantaged background, including the Roma. Member states were asked about national mechanisms for evaluating these policies, and the role of the EU in this area. I and a number of other member states noted that quality education, literacy and high attainment were key to combating early school leaving. I also noted that teachers had a key role to play and that pupil attainment was central to this issue, alongside clear measures of accountability. The presidency stated that a summary of this discussion would be presented to the June European Council.

Early childhood education and care

The Council adopted conclusions on early childhood education and care. The conclusions invite member states to analyse and evaluate existing early childhood services in terms of availability, affordability and quality. They also invite the Commission to support member states in exchanging good policies and practices and to broaden the evidence base in this field.

Promoting the educational mobility of young people

A Council recommendation on promoting the educational mobility of young people was also agreed. The recommendation suggests a number of measures including: improving information and guidance on educational mobility opportunities, improving language teaching and exchanges between schools, reducing administrative burdens linked to organising educational experiences abroad, and improving procedures for validation and recognition of educational outcomes following the period abroad.

Italy abstained in the vote to agree the recommendation over concerns about referring to a monitoring system proposed by the Commission, known as the “mobility scoreboard”. A study into the feasibility of such a scoreboard is yet to be carried out.

Youth Council

The UK deputy permanent representative Andy Lebrecht represented the UK at the Youth Council.

Effective participation of young people in democratic life

The Council adopted a resolution on encouraging new and effective forms of participation of all young people in democratic life. The UK is strongly in favour of youth participation and I will host a representative young people’s advisory group that will scrutinise and provide feedback on emerging policy proposals.

Structured dialogue with young people on youth employment

The Council adopted a resolution on structured dialogue with young people and the EU Institutions on youth employment. The resolution recommends various changes to the structured dialogue with young people. This includes political follow-up of the results, greater participation by disadvantaged youth and improved working methods that provide a meaningful process for young people.

Voluntary activities

Ministers also debated voluntary activities of young people and their contribution to the development of local communities. National initiatives mentioned included subsidies for youth organisations and national citizenship programmes (in Italy, France, and the UK, where national citizen service will have its pilot this summer).