Second Chance Schools

Initially led by the European Commission, implemented by a wide range of cities and institutions involved in the social and economic integration of young people.
An educational model that offers alternative programmes to early school leavers. Unlike mainstream schools, its flexible approach adjusts to the needs and interests of participants and involves agents in helping them re-enroll into training or work.
What solution does the innovation propose?

Second Chance Schools tackle the inability of the formal education systems to respond to learner diversity and build pathways for their successful transition into adulthood. Through alternative, flexible and personalised itineraries, the model supports participants to form a positive attitude towards learning, develop basic knowledge and skills, strengthen their personality, reconnect with conventional educational and training systems, and access the labour market.

The particularities of local and national contexts have given rise to different approaches. However, common characteristics can be found among existing projects:

  • A committed partnership with local stakeholders: local authorities, social services, associations and the private sector.
  • A teaching and counselling approach focused on the needs, wishes and abilities of participants.
  • Flexible teaching modules stimulating active learning and allowing combinations of social skills development with technical and practical training.
  • A central role for the acquisition of skills in and through ICT and new technologies.

Impact evidence

  • More than 80,000 young people attended Second Chance Schools in France between 2003 and 2015.
  • In 2018-2019, 8,067 young people were trained in Spain’s 39 Second Chance Schools.
  • The evaluation of pilot projects that took place in 11 different countries showed a 94% success rate in reintegrating some 4,000 young people. Whilst 55% of the pupils were still enrolled in the schools, 27% had found a job, 11% had gone on to other forms of training and education and only 6% had dropped out.
  • In Spain, 65% of participants in 2018-2019 school year were engaged either in further education or work.
How does it work?

In Spain, Second Chance Schools work with young people aged 15 to 29 through voluntary enrolment. Its engaging, participative and inclusive pedagogical approaches are combined with professional orientation and accompaniment before, during and after participation, as well as with other holistic initiatives that provide participants and their families with specialised support. This community approach is shared with social, education and health agents in order to achieve sustained impacts.

Companies play a key role in the process and are invited to participate in the design and development of education and training activities in order to make them relevant for participants’ interests whilst meeting the needs of the labour market. The provision of training internships and vocational training opportunities are essential elements of the itineraries, especially for participants who lack professional experience. At the same time, private sector involvement provides companies with corporate social responsibility and corporate volunteering schemes.

National-level and European networks are key for strengthening the model, since they provide spaces for knowledge sharing, strategy setting and cooperation with public administrations.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Initially piloted in 10 countries: Denmark (Svendborg), France (Marseille), Germany (Cologne and Halle), Greece (Athens), Italy (Catania), Portugal (Seixal), Spain (Barcelona and Bilbao), Sweden, The Netherlands (Heerlen), United Kingdom (Leeds).
Where has been implemented so far
Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania. In Spain, 42 Second Chance Schools from 8 different regions have been certified. Other initiatives inspired by this model have flourished all over the world.
Last updated: 
September 2020