Hard-to-reach learners

The NECE Focus Group "Hard-to-reach learners" is an international learning network, which brings together European learners, practitioners, researchers and policy makers from formal, non-formal and informal education. The aim of the network is the evaluation of current statuses and the development of innovative practices in order to facilitate the access of learners to formal and informal learning opportunities. The premise on which we base our work is the right of all people to education in general and citizenship education in particular. The network is particularly concerned with young people’s access to citizenship education and learning opportunities, and here especially of those who belong to groups at risk of social exclusion and marginalisation. The diversity of experiences and expertise of the focus group members allow the network to be involved in a wide range of activities, which include but are not limited to the development of common educational and research projects, of educational interventions and of methodologies for the evaluation of educational practices.

Background / Current status

The initial purpose of the focus group “Hard-to-reach learners” was to follow up on the results and initiatives on empowerment and educationally disadvantaged groups in European societies that were discussed at the NECE Conference 2011 in Warsaw. At the NECE Conference 2012 in Córdoba, we agreed to develop new ideas and a new framework for running the group.

In October 2013, a workshop of the focus group took place in Berlin. A PDF-Icon workshop report summarises the discussions and contains a listing of ideas and activities for 2014-2015 (see documents below ).

In 2014-2015, different project teams are working on specific thematic issues of the focus group. Preliminary results were presented at the second focus group workshop in Leicester in July 2014.

The focus group presented its work and basic questions in a poster session at the project market of the NECE Conference 2014 in Vienna, taking place from 16-18 October 2014. A meeting of the project team coordinators took place in Athens from 18-20 February 2015.

From 20-22 October 2015, a public forum was organised by the focus group prior to and in close connection with the NECE Conference 2015 in Thessaloniki. Under the current working title “Beyond Them and Us in Times of Crisis: Hard-to-reach Learners and their Role in Citizenship Education”, the forum offered issue-driven workshops, as well as space for networking and cooperation between participants.

Prior to the NECE Conference 2016 in Zagreb a HTR “progress workshop” was held from 8-9 November in Zagreb with the overall aim to define an action plan for 2016-2018. The focus group was also present at the project market during the NECE conference from 10-12 November for the official launch of the volume "Beyond Us versus Them. Citizenship education with Hard to Reach learners in Europe".

If you are interested in joining us, please contact the NECE Coordinator of the group:


PDF-Icon Participants (Córdoba 2012)
PDF-Icon Workshop Participants (Berlin 2013)
PDF-Icon Participants (Den Haag 2013)
PDF-Icon Workshop Participants (Leicester 2014)
PDF-Icon Workshop Participants (Vienna 2014)
PDF-Icon Workshop Participants (Thessaloniki 2015)
PDF-Icon Workshop Participants (Zagreb 2016)

Events/ Meetings

The first workshop of the focus group "Hard-to-reach learners & youth" took place from 25 - 26 October 2013 in Berlin. The Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb invited a small circle of European experts who exchanged views on experiences and new ideas on examples of good practice. Additionally, strategies for an efficient future networking and a concept to present the focus group and its first outcomes at the NECE Conference 2013 in The Hague (14-16 November) were developed.
The School Development Support Agency hosted the second workshop of the focus group from 10-12 July 2014 in Leicester, UK. The workshop offered a platform to review the progress of the focus group and plan ahead, to discuss conceptual issues, and to refine the framework and goals. In order to create synergies between the project teams, the workshop offered a space for exchange and for participants to present their projects and research. At the focus group’s third meeting, taking place within the framework of the NECE Conference 2014 in Vienna, participants discussed the current situation for "hard-to-reach learners and youth" in their respective countries and in Europe in general, which proved a good starting point for critical dialogue on the meaning and scope of "hard-to-reach learners" in times of crisis. The project teams presented their progress in areas like academic research in the field, practical tools, networking possibilities and removing barriers. The members of the focus group additionally discussed and planned the future timeline and presented the focus groups’ work to the interested public at the NECE Conference 2014. The fourth focus group forum in Thessaloniki, Greece, was reviewing the progress of the different project teams. Under the working title "Beyond Them and Us in Times of Crisis: Hard-to-reach Learners and their Role in Citizenship Education", participants discussed the next steps in order to transfer the focus group into an independent forum of exchange. Furthermore, the members of the focus group discussed and presented the focus groups’ work to the interested public at the NECE Conference 2015.
Taking the animation How are we teaching citizenship? as a starting point, the "hard-toreach progress workshop" aimed at reforming and extending the work of the focus group by defining its future directions within an action plan for 2016-2018. As such, some of the main points of discussion were focusing on ways of working requiring fewer face-to-face meetings as well as new targets for communication and potential partnerships. Eventually, the focus group was present at the project market throughout the duration of the NECE Conference 2016, when their new volume "Beyond Us versus Them. Citizenship education with Hard to Reach learners in Europe" was officially launched.

Documents/ Papers/ Results

PDF-Icon Working Paper (Meeting NECE Conference Cordoba 2012)
PDF-Icon Workshop Programme (Berlin 2013)
PDF-Icon Workshop Report (Berlin 2013)
PDF-Icon Workshop Programme (Leicester 2014)
PDF-Icon Workshop Programme (Vienna 2014)
PDF-Icon Workshop Programme (Thessaloniki 2015)
PDF-Icon Workshop Report (Thessaloniki 2015)
PDF-Icon Discussion Paper (Zagreb 2016)
PDF-Icon Mini Seminar Papers (Zagreb 2016)
PDF-Icon Workshop Programme (Zagreb 2016)

Draft versions / work in progress - please do not quote, please do not distribute

PDF-Icon Asfour, Ahmadi, Mentoring for Civic Education
PDF-Icon Campbell, The Fullhurst Story
PDF-Icon Faas, ProDemos
PDF-Icon Kerr, Participatory Citizenship at a Crossroads
PDF-Icon Malik, PYCA - Harder to Reach Communities - Learners
PDF-Icon Mueller-Hofstede, Alander, Country Report_Germany revised
PDF-Icon Mueller-Hofstede, Alander, Germany's Education System and HTR
PDF-Icon Rio, Country Report_Portugal
PDF-Icon Southern, Young Advisors
PDF-Icon Tarah, Community Based Educational Intervention
PDF-Icon Tsekoura, An Outreach Approach for Empowerment and Active Citizenship


Federal Agency for Civic Education
Christoph Müller-Hofstede



Please take a look at the new NECE Newsletter:

NECE Magazine 2016
The NECE Magazine brings you up to date on citizenship education in Europe and its neighboring countries.

NECE Blog 2016
Keeping up the tradition, NECE is running a conference blog. The blog will not only provide live documentation of the Zagreb conference but will help you familiarise with the upcoming conference beforehand.

Interview with Alicja Pacewicz
In October 2015, the Law and Justice Party won the elections in Poland and gained the absolute majority in the parliament. NECE talked with Alicja Pacewicz, Vice President of The Center for Citizenship Education (CCE), about the rapid changes in her country following last year´s change of government.

Civic Education in Eastern Europe - bpb publishes collection of essays as free e-book in English and Russian
The Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb) has published the book "Civic Education and Democratisation in Eastern Partnership Countries". The publication is available as a free e-book in English and Russian language.

A new Council of Europe reference framework of competences for democratic culture!
This book presents a new conceptual model of the competences which citizens require to participate in democratic culture and live peacefully together with others in culturally diverse societies. The model is the product of intensive work over a two-year period, and has been strongly endorsed in an international consultation with leading educational experts.