Often, education is only one among many challenges in young people’s lives. Some early leavers and learners at risk of early leaving have health, psychosocial, legal, or housing problems, among other issues.

Substance abuse, chronic disease, bullying, or an unintended pregnancy are common reasons for dropping out of education and training. Poor housing conditions can limit a young person’s possibilities to study at home, while also affecting their health and ability to learn. Family responsibilities, such as taking care of siblings, leave young people little time to study and to attend education and training. Financial issues in the family often drive young people to drop out from school in favour of a precarious job.

Additionally, the rising of the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health issue, has presented unique challenges to most learning contexts, including VET programmes. Lockdown and social distancing measures implemented in numerous countries led to continuous interruptions and to a remodulation of learning methods and practices. The global health crisis amplified and reinforced economic, digital and social inequalities that many VET students and their families were already facing, increasing the difficulties of the most vulnerable learners and their risk of dropping out.

Learning environments should focus on the well-being of all students, taking into account specific needs and difficulties and providing targeted support. In the case of refugee students fleeing from countries at war (e.g. Ukrainian refugee students), schools can be zones of protection where psychosocial and mental health issues are addressed. To develop healthy relationships in their new setting, a close collaboration between education, health and social services is necessary.

Multiple challenges require multifaceted solutions. Different professionals and services need to coordinate to offer targeted, needs-based support.

Related resources

    Good practices
    Good practice
    FUORI SCUOLA Percorsi di recupero dalla dispersione scolastica

    FUORI SCUOLA is a project that aims to tackle early leaving from education and training at the local level of provinces.

    Having a holistic approach aiming at the wellbeing of young early leavers, each organisation provides services in four areas:

    a) development of professional skills;

    b) development of personal and social skills;

    c) development of key competences;

    d) reaching out, engagement, reception, listening and guidance.

    Based on the COFACE Disability S.H.I.F.T. guide for a meaningful inlusion of persons with disabilities and their families. COFACE Families Europe is a pluralistic network of civil society associations representing the interests of all families.

    According to article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), signed and adopted by the European Union and all its Member States, and of its General Comment No. 4, State parties must ensure the realisation of the right of persons with disabilities to education through an inclusive education system at all levels, including pre-schools, primary, secondary and tertiary education, vocational training and lifelong learning, extracurricular and social activities, and for all students, including persons with disabilities.

    Synthesis report based on preliminary information on seven countries provided by Cedefop’s Network of Ambassadors tackling early leaving from VET

    Cedefop’s ambassadors for tackling early leaving from education and training call for further support to address the needs of learners at risk and ensure their equal access to quality distance learning.