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Keywords:

  • Early School Leaving;
  • Authoritarian Teaching;
  • Suspensions;
  • Diametric Systems;
  • Concentric Systems;
  • Structural Indicators

There are significant lacunae in the otherwise highly progressive documents on early school leaving prevention from the European Commission and Council in 2011, as part of the EU2020 headline target of 10% early school leavers across the EU. These documents offer no explicit account or analysis of the voices of children and young people, nor vision of systemic accountability of schools to students’ needs. This article argues that key problems of early school leaving can be interpreted as system level blockages in communication, including blockage in communication of children's voices. It seeks to develop a conceptual framework for understanding relational systems by reinterpreting a particular dimension of the structuralist anthropology of Lévi-Strauss’ cross-cultural examination of systems of relation, namely, the interplay between diametric oppositional and concentric relational spaces. The theoretical framework proposed in this article will also seek to translate structural features of system change into structural indicators for system scrutiny and accountability. Identification of key structural indicators is to facilitate change beyond blocked, diametric school space and towards concentric relational spaces in the school system — based on diverse accounts of students’ voices and needs in specific European contexts, as part of a potential strategy at European level to prevent early school leaving. Emerging issues highlighted as an agenda for reform include authoritarian teaching, alternatives to suspension, splits in communication, emotional supports, teacher conflict resolution skills and substantive structures and processes for active student voices in school.