Existing evidence suggests that European school education systems still struggle to provide high-quality education for all, and to respond to the fast pace of societal and economic changes including digitalisation and increasing diversity among pupils. Addressing these challenges requires education systems to become more flexible and dynamic, employing innovative approaches to learning and teaching, reconsidering traditional roles and power distribution within education, and opening up to a wider range of stakeholders and communities. Innovation can play a crucial role in creating opportunities to develop favourable learning environments and flexible approaches to teaching. However, innovation is not yet a systemic feature in many education systems. To understand how to empower all schools to innovate, the European Commission has commissioned a study on supporting innovation in European schools.
To address the study’s scope and objectives to the fullest, the designed methodological approach consisted of multiple steps and involved consultation with numerous stakeholders at the national and European level at different stages of the project:
- To better understand the existing evidence base, PPMI conducted extensive desk research, complementing this with policy and research reviews in 39 countries: 28 EU Member States and 11 countries outside the EU. National reviews were done with the help of country experts, which dug into the available information at the national level following detailed guidelines from the study core team.
- The results of these reviews fed into the selection of 12 regions in different EU member states for in-depth analysis. The assumption was that affluent regions would naturally have more schools demonstrating good results. Therefore, it was particularly interesting and innovative to research less better-off regions, exploring what makes some schools succeed in contexts with fewer resources and less support. With the help of national experts, we conducted an interview programme in each of these 12 regions, which helped to identify 24 innovative schools for case studies. Field visits to the 24 schools included interviews with school staff and other stakeholders, as well as focus groups and site visits. Overall, the case study stage involved more than 180 interviews and 48 focus groups.
- An innovative feature of the study was the preparation and organisation of 12 change workshops, bringing together key education and policy stakeholders in each of the 12 regions to validate the results of the case studies and inspire further partnerships and dialogue to promote change.
- PPMI then analysed the data and prepared a synthesis report including all findings, as well as a number of recommendations aimed at education authorities and schools. The findings were validated in an expert seminar that gathered together renowned experts in education innovation and school governance, coming from academia, international organisations and NGOs.
The study has helped to consolidate existing knowledge on school innovation across Europe and beyond, and to gather new evidence on the ways in which schools and education systems can embrace innovation to ensure that every child can realise his or her potential. The study provides concrete directions to policy-makers and schools on the ways in which they can promote system-wide change, ensuring that modern schools help each and every learner to grow and succeed. The findings served as the basis for the follow-up discussions among education policy-makers in the framework of the ET 2020 Working Group on Schools events. The final study report can be found here.