Research design and methodology

New data will be collected in a total of 14 research areas in seven European countries (Belgium, UK, Sweden, Portugal the Netherlands, Poland and Spain). Secondary data will be collected and used as the basis for analysis in Hungary and Austria. The seven major research countries were chosen taking into account:

  • their national average ESL-rate;
  • the positive or negative evolution of this rate during the last decade;
  • their specific education system and policies; and
  • their geographical location in Europe.

Research areas and schools

Within these seven countries, the research will be conducted in a total of 14 research areas, selected for their specific and relevant profiles with respect to the issues of early school leaving. The selection of focus regions within each country will be based on the socio-economic situation of the region, the youth unemployment rate and the ESL rate. In every country, an elaborate assessment of relevant context variables will serve the selection of the two research areas (see WP2). In each country, two research areas will be selected for the quantitative data collection (see WP3). The in-depth qualitative data collection will be concentrated in one urban research area with a high ESL rate and relevant existing policies to reduce ESL (see WP4). This increases the integration of various experiences with and approaches of the issue of ESL across countries incorporating a sufficient amount of diversity as to lift the analytical insights and recommendations to a level exceeding the partners involved in the project.

For WP4 at most  four focus schools will be chosen based on the school’s ESL rates (low versus high), the school’s pupil compositions (gender, SES, educational streams, ethnicity …), the specific government bodies (public versus private) and ESL policies deployed based by the schools. A maximum total of 28 focus schools will thus be involved in the research project, in a total of 7 urban research areas in seven countries.


Three groups of respondents will be studied in-depth during the research project, all of them consisting of pupils with a specific profile that puts them, according to the current academic thinking, at risk to leave education or training early:

  • Pupils at risk to leave education or training early, but who stayed in school because of support from within the school, their community or him/herself (resilience);
  • Pupils at risk to leave education or training early who decided to leave school, but entered an alternative learning arena (eg. second chance education, competency training organized by civil society actors, training on the floor programs organised by employers…) detached from any regular school context; and
  • Pupils at risk to leave education or training early who decided to leave school, but did not enter an alternative learning arena and stayed without education, employment or training (the so-called NEETs).

A fourth group of respondents will be questioned, mainly school staff from the focus schools (WP4), but also policy-makers on different levels (WP2).

We included these groups to be able to study the development and implementation of policies and instruments to influence ESL, as well as the possible resistance-to-change that occurred during this development and implementation process.