Country Policy Review and Analysis: Europe


The goal of the Country Policy Review and Analysis (CPRA) work is to aid country reflection regarding the development of policy for inclusive education. It aims to act as a tool for stimulating discussion in the country concerned. Its central focus is to analyse the available information about current policy for inclusive education in European countries.

The CPRA work has been developed by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (the Agency) in order to provide its member countries with a reflection on their current policy frameworks for inclusive education. It also offers them recommendations for priorities to be addressed that are specific to their country. The CPRA analysis provides a comprehensive, rich and very focused source of information on policy for inclusive education in countries.

What were the main aims of the initiative?

The CPRA activities have been conducted since late 2014 and have had the following objectives:

  • Offering countries a new type of individualised policy analysis information
  • Putting the Agency’s work into the broader European and international policy context
  • Using Agency findings and outputs in a different way
  • Developing a cross-country analysis of information on policies for inclusive education across a number of countries.
Location, Setting, Scope, Key Events etc.

The Country Policy Review and Analysis (CPRA) work has been conducted with different European countries that are members of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. Since 2014, the following countries have participated in the three different phases of the work:

For each country, a policy-maker responsible for inclusive education policy- and decision-making was directly involved, working with a team of Agency staff members. Each of the country policy-makers worked with a network of policy-maker colleagues, depending on their own country situation.

Issues Addressed
What issues/challenges does the case study address?

The overall intention of the CPRA work is to support policy development for inclusive education in countries.

The essential issue behind the work was the identified need to develop an interactive process – with associated tools – to support policy-makers for inclusive education to systematically review their policy frameworks.

The main challenge was establishing a working process that has been developed with country policy-makers for country policy-makers.

How was the initiative implemented?

The policy context for the CPRA work is the three main priorities within Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) and the European Union country-specific recommendations (CSRs). These areas are:

  • Ensuring equal opportunities in education and training
  • Improving educational outcomes
  • Reducing dropout from general and post-compulsory education.

The three priorities are directly related to the two ET 2020 strategic objectives that the Agency’s work directly supports:

  • Strategic objective 2 – Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training
  • Strategic objective 3 – Promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship.

The CSRs identify several policy areas – measures – addressed by countries to support policy development work, in line with the strategic objectives.

The various measures indicated in the CSRs were examined, re-framed and aligned with the agreed vision of inclusive education systems – thatall learners of any age are provided with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community, alongside their friends and peers’ (European Agency, 2015).

Altogether, 12 European-level policy measures for the CPRA work were agreed upon. These were:

  1. to improve inclusive education and to ensure that good quality education is accessible for all;
  2. to support improved co-operation, including greater involvement of parents and local community;
  3. to develop monitoring strategies, establishing a comprehensive accountability and evaluation framework for inclusive education;
  4. to improve the cost-effectiveness of the education system, combining efficiency, effectiveness, equity and inclusion;
  5. to increase participation in good quality inclusive early childhood education and care and enrolment rates in pre-school education;
  6. to improve student-focused measures, such as mentoring, personalised learning approaches and improved guidance;
  7. to improve the school ethos (such as the creation of supportive learning environments, adapting learning environments to specific learning needs);
  8. to reduce the negative effects of early tracking (the early streaming of pupils by ability into different types of provision or schools) and to reduce the extensive use of grade retention;
  9. to support improvement in schools with lower educational outcomes;
  10. to improve the quality of school staff, focusing on the quality of teachers, quality in continuing professional development, developing teacher competences and reinforcing school leadership;
  11. to improve transition from education to work by increasing the coherence between employment incentives, education and vocational education and training (VET); improving the quality and accessibility of apprenticeships; promoting cross-sector co-operation; simplifying the systems of qualifications;
  12. to improve educational and career guidance across all phases of inclusive education.

The 12 policy measures were identified and agreed upon as key levers for meeting international and European-level policy goals, as well as improving the quality of education systems for all learners. These measures pinpoint the areas where action must be taken to successfully implement a comprehensive policy on inclusive education.

The 12 European-level measures provided the starting point for developing a framework for examining individual country policy documents. However, the 12 measures in themselves were too broad for analysis purposes. Therefore, they were complemented with selected thematic recommendations from several Agency projects and activities. A multi-analysis framework of measures and specific recommendations was developed by mapping the 12 measures to Agency thematic recommendations, developed in relation to different areas of Agency work, including:

These Agency projects consider existing provision at all levels of education, including early childhood education, compulsory schooling and transition to work. These projects also support an examination of quality in inclusive education regarding key principles for evidence-based policies for inclusive education.

The final 130 collated recommendations were then directly mapped onto the 12 measures within a framework – an analysis grid – for information-gathering. Connecting the project recommendations to measures required the development of a rationale to identify and then – in co-operation with the country representatives –to re-work them to further reduce repetition.

The selection of recommendations was made in relation to:

  • their alignment with international conventions or with ET 2020, such as consistency with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – UNCRC – (1989) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – CRPD –(2006) policies promoting inclusive education;
  • their importance in relation to supporting the prevention of early tracking and school dropout, such as recommendations highlighting family involvement, early needs identification, teaching and support practices aiming at empowering learners, effective mechanisms for ensuring high-quality transition across educational sectors and phases, flexible resourcing systems promoting inclusion;
  • their relevance for promoting quality in education, such as recommendations highlighting the role of learner-centred approaches, high-quality training of teachers, schools’ ability to meet a greater diversity of needs, mechanisms for evaluating effectiveness and quality in inclusive education;
  • their relevance for supporting schools to meet learners’ needs, such as strategic plans at school level, accessible and flexible teaching and learning approaches, ensuring high expectations for all learners’ achievement, existence of high-quality support.

Such an approach also required the definition of criteria for distributing the recommendations across the measures. The recommendations were distributed in relation to their consistency and specificity, and their level of complementarity within and across each measure.

The combination of the recommendations and the measures was presented within a grid template. More details on the CPRA methodology are available in the CPRA Methodology Report, with the full policy analysis grid presented in the annex.

The grid represents a comprehensive overview of the essential elements to be covered by countries’ policies for inclusive education.

This grid was used for recording Findings – precise information from country policy-related documents indicating the implementation of recommendations linked to the 12 measures.

Findings were presented in the analysis grids as a short extract from different policy documents along with a citation (document title, date and a link where available).

The findings are essentially descriptive; they identify, in a non-judgemental way, whether there is information indicating the existence or non-existence of a policy initiative linked to a specific recommendation in a given country.

The Agency staff team drafts the initial findings. They are then checked, updated and added to by the country policy-maker, working with their colleagues in their country networks. An important exchange and discussion process leads to the agreement on a final completed grid. The completed grid indicates a profile of strengths – i.e. where there is a comprehensive policy associated with recommendations in place – and areas for development – i.e. where there is limited or no policy in place.

The central focus of the CPRA work is to analyse the available information about current country policies for inclusive education; it does not in any way address the actual implementation of the policy being considered.

The CPRA methodology was developed via an iterative process involving the county policy-makers and the Agency staff members.

All decisions and steps taken, as well as materials developed, were collectively drafted, agreed upon and implemented. They were then collectively reviewed and re-worked before the next steps were taken.

The working principles underpinning this iterative process were:

  • The CPRA activities involved working with country volunteers.
  • The individual countries are the ‘owners’ of the work.
  • CPRA entailed a new form of Agency team-working, involving both country representatives and staff members.
  • On-going reflection on the CPRA team’s ways of working was crucial for agreeing next steps and outcomes.

This different way of working with and for Agency member country representatives was based on collaborative, co-developmental working procedures that aimed to support a continuing learning and improvement process for all involved.

These reasons have led to the CPRA work being designed initially as a pilot activity with eight countries, before being rolled out to the further countries in the subsequent phases.

The CPRA work was initiated in 2014 and is on-going.

The findings from the CPRA analysis work with Phase 1 countries, published in 2016, and with Phase 2 countries, published in early 2018, are available online.

The outcomes from Phase 3 work will be made available in early 2019.

This is on-going, developmental work that will continue to be an important part of the Agency’s overall work plan.


Key Outcomes & Impact
What where the key outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

The overall collaborative work has led to the following outcomes:

  • The analysis grid that combines important policy goals for inclusive education with evidenced-based recommendations on policy implementation
  • Completed grids for individual countries that provide findings indicating to what degree the recommendations linked to policy goals have been addressed in country policies.

The analysis grid and the completed country grids are both public.

In addition to this material, the country representatives requested a synthesis of the completed grid that would provide an overall assessment of the grid’s findings. They also requested a ‘country profile’ of policy approaches being taken in relation to the measures. This work was undertaken independently by a team of Agency staff and the outcomes are not public.

How to structure this synthesis work presented a major challenge for the CPRA activities and the team. After a process of discussion and development work with country representatives, a framework for analysing the country analysis grid findings was agreed.

This framework is based on the three types of policy actions that are in line with European-level work (notably the CSRs), as well as wider thinking about quality for education: namely prevention, intervention and compensation.

For each of the 12 policy measures used in the analysis grid to be effectively and comprehensively implemented, a balance of prevention, intervention and compensation policy initiatives needs to be in place. Depending on the focus of each measure, this balance may necessarily be more in favour of prevention, or intervention, or compensation policy actions.

Inclusive education systems are most effectively supported by a complementary combination of prevention, intervention and compensation policy actions. The goal of inclusive education systems is supported by policy actions that are designed to:

  • prevent different forms of educational exclusion before they happen. Prevention policy initiatives aim at avoiding educational exclusion and longer-term social exclusion, before these issues emerge (for example, anti-discrimination legislation promoting a rights approach, avoidance of disabling policies that lead to gaps in provision, lack of qualifications, etc.);
  • intervene to ensure that good quality inclusive education is available for all learners at all times. Intervention policy initiatives aim to support the effective implementation of inclusive education (for example, the existence of clear policies leading to high-quality flexible support systems for mainstream education);
  • compensate with specific actions and provision when prevention and intervention are not enough to ensure learners’ needs are adequately met in inclusive settings. Compensation policy initiatives aim to address the inability of legislation and/or provision to support meaningful inclusive education for all learners (for example, separate educational programmes or provision, support for failing schools, second-chance educational programmes).

Long-term, sustainable development towards inclusive education systems can be seen as a combination of these three types of approaches in order to provide high-quality education for all learners, including those requiring additional support. A country’s journey to an effective and equitable inclusive education system can be identified by movements away from mainly compensatory policy actions, towards more intervention- and prevention-focused policy actions.

Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

The entire CPRA process has included on-going evaluation by the country representatives. As the ‘end users’ of the work, it has been crucial to ensure they continue to see the value of the process and outputs for their own work.

In addition to on-going formative evaluation, a formal CPRA review meeting was held in June 2018. All of the representatives from the participating countries in Phases 1, 2 and 3 engaged in a discussion about the value and the future of the CPRA activities.

When asked what they saw as the perceived value of the CPRA work for country representatives, they emphasised that the process:

  • provides a process of reflection on national policies;
  • provides another framework to think about the rationale of policies;
  • promotes common language across ministries/sectors regarding inclusive education. Common language is also helpful for promoting understanding at local level;
  • helps different ministry stakeholders collaborate.

Some of the participants mentioned that they have used the framework several times to influence policy changes. They found it useful for reminding policy-makers about the need to focus on inclusive education.

Regarding how the CPRA work might be used by countries in future, representatives highlighted the possibilities for:

  • undertaking structured reflection on policy/policy-making to inform the development and implementation of new policies;
  • having evidence to identify policy priorities for inclusive education;
  • using the identified policy priorities to develop strategic plans for inclusion;
  • contributing to the improvement of co-operation by ‘building’ a shared view on inclusive education at national and local levels;
  • presenting country policy on inclusive education at the international level (e.g. in the process of reporting to the United Nations on the CRPD);
  • preparing reports e.g. for OECD, action plans for quality in inclusive education, development of guidelines/strategic plans for inclusive approaches.
Future Developments / Sustainability
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

In the June 2018 review meeting, proposals to develop a second cycle of the CPRA work were discussed with the country policy-makers. All countries were in favour of ‘revisiting’ their individual country analyses. The advantages of a second cycle perceived by country representatives included, among other points, that:

  • another cycle would enable the countries to engage in a process of self-evaluation, reflecting on the changes that had occurred since the first cycle;
  • a second cycle would contribute to keeping the process/grid ‘live’. It would consider changes in legislation;
  • a follow-up could take place with lines of enquiry into key aspects/questions for government/justifying approaches, etc.;
  • a review could be presented back to countries to encourage country decision-makers to articulate views on inclusion and transparency regarding policy.

As a result, the Agency staff team and member country representatives will work on developing the policy analysis activities in 2019, with a view to initiating a second cycle of the work from 2020 onwards.

Contact information

European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education
Østre Stationsvej 33
DK-5000 Odense C

Tel: +45 64 41 00 20




Country Policy Review and Analysis: Europe