No school for thousands of children with disabilities in France
For the third time, Unapei, EASPD, and their partners have launched the “#NoSchoolForMe” campaign to denounce the exclusion of children with disabilities in France. This is a sad reality not only in France but across the EU, despite all Member States and the EU itself committed to ensure an inclusive education system at all levels.
Today schools reopen in France, but thousands of children with disabilities won’t feel the excitement of returning for a new semester. Some won’t attend school at all whilst others will only be offered part-time and/or inappropriate conditions of education. They will also face the consequences of the lack of support programmes and adapted methods of teaching. EASPD member Unapei, the leading French federation of associations representing and defending the interests of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, in cooperation with EASPD and other partners are committed to voice out the daily struggle of these families by sharing testimonies on the platform www.marentree.org.
Inclusive education is a key element of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD). Article 24 affirms that State parties must ensure access to education to every child with a disability. Nonetheless, exclusion from education for children with disabilities, and especially of children with intellectual disabilities, is a sad reality not only in France, but across the whole EU. The EU Commission showed commitment towards inclusive education within the Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030, the European Education Area, and the European Child Guarantee. However, Member States are fully responsible for the content of teaching and the organisation of their education and training systems, meaning ensuring education is inclusive is mainly in their hands.
Testimonies show how public policies remain unsuccessful to implement inclusive education for children with disabilities in France: “Mother of a 9-year-old child, I had to quit my job because ordinary school does not accept my son more than an hour and a half per day, although he benefits from human assistance… Where is inclusion for children with disabilities?”. Parents denounce the absence of support and the consequences on their lives, in the development of their children, and in their chance to grow up among peers. Unapei's survey also unveils that 69% of grassroot organisations supporting children with disabilities were denied schoolteachers by the French administration.
To tackle this, Unapei and its partners recommended some points for action:
- An inclusive and adaptative educational and recreational environment
- A consistent and long-term support of children and their families
- A better cooperation between the actors of inclusive education
- Awareness raising campaign and programmes for all professionals evolving in the school environment.
On 5 August, the Commission published a Proposal for a Council Recommendation and Staff Working Document on blended learning for high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education. It invites Member States to use the experience gained with the pandemic to improve the flexibility of their education systems for a better access to education and learning outcomes of all children, including children with disabilities. Proposed measures include the creation of additional learning opportunities and targeted support to those facing learning difficulties and the mobilisation or recruitment of staff for individual support.
“The fact that children with disabilities cannot go to school like any other child is simply unacceptable. It is time to make inclusive education a priority in France and Europe. Member States must mobilise national and EU budget for reasonable accommodation, staff training and individualised support”, said Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General.
- ma rentrée scolaire - #jaipasecole - marentrée.org - Unapei (marentree.org)
- Proposal for a Council Recommendation on blended learning for high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education
- UNCRPD Article 24
Senior Policy Officer
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Note to editors:
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organisation, established in 1996, and currently representing over 20,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.