Why some students with disabilities are still excluded from school

On September 1, some children with disabilities were not given the opportunity to go back to school. In France, however, inclusive education has made progress in recent years. According to figures from the Ministry of Education, at the beginning of the 2022 school year, 430,000 children with disabilities will receive education in mainstream schools (+25% in five years) and 67,000 in specialized schools.

Despite these advances, too many children still do not have a school solution, as rights defender Claire Hédon noted recently. The report shows that by 2021, 20% of the referrals it received in the field of children’s rights related to difficulties in accessing education for children with disabilities. Hence his insistence on exposing “the growing number of children whose needs are largely unmet or poorly covered”.

A screaming lack of AESH

For its part, Unapei (which unites associations specializing in intellectual, cognitive and multiple disabilities) revealed in August that of the 8,000 children it supports, 18% had no school hours per week in the year. The last 33% were between 0 and 6 a.m. , 22% between 6 and 12 hours and only 27% at least 12 hours. According to Jean-Louis Garcia, president of the Association for Adults and Youth with Disabilities (Apajh), “multiple disabled or autistic children are the ones who experience the greatest difficulties in school. And in secondary education, the situation is more complex than in primary education.” These interruptions in education can be more or less long, notes Sonia Ahehehinnou, Unapei’s vice president: “Deschooling can take weeks, months or years. »

One of the first obstacles is related to the lack of Accompanying Students with Disabilities (AESH). Granted, the Departmental Centers for the Disabled (MDPH) allocate several hours of weekly support to disabled students. But “in light of some AESH reports [les heures attribuées] constantly increasing, many remain a dead letter,” emphasizes the Defender of Rights. In its annual report, the National Education Mediator also stated that in 2021 it had “still received 112 complaints about problems with AESH’s student support”. And a few days after the start of the school year, Jean-Louis Garcia already has echoes “from children and adolescents who still do not have the name of their AESH”. This forces some to stay at home while waiting.

Not enough places in IME

The situation differs greatly from one region to another. “The Amiens academy is missing 17 AESH for this start of the school year,” reports Alexis Trochet, national secretary of the Sgen-CFDT. “In the Rhône, 400 students are not supervised”, the SNUipp also reports in a press release. There are several reasons for this: “AESH’s powers are not applied due to a lack of financial and human resources”, summarizes the Defender of Rights. “There is a hiring crisis because of the very low wages,” adds Jean-Louis Garcia. AESH are generally offered 24-hour contracts per week and receive about 800 euros per month. And even if the government announced the hiring of 4,000 additional AESH and their numbers have increased by 35% in five years, the bill isn’t there.

Other children cannot be accommodated in a medical-educational institute (IME), “due to a lack of space in these adapted structures,” said Sonia Ahehehinnou, of Unapei. “The waiting lists in some IMEs, like the one at 93, are very long,” says Jean-Louis Garcia.

‘It is a loss of opportunity for the child’

The fact that we cannot go to school will obviously have serious consequences for the life of the child: “The further we go from school, the greater the risk that he will develop behavioral problems and then be referred to a specialized institution”, emphasizes Sonia Ahehehinnou . “It’s a waste of luck,” added Jean-Louis Garcia. Very often parents have to experiment with school at home, even if it means reorganizing their lives: “The consequences for their professional, family and economic lives are severe,” emphasizes Sonia Ahehehinnou.

In order to limit the rift, the associations support the families in trying to unblock these situations. “We meet academy inspectors and ministerial advisers,” explains Jean-Louis Garcia. For its part, Unapei has relaunched for the fourth year its #Jaipasecole campaign and the platform www.marentree.org, which collects testimonials from the families involved. The government offers one green number (0.805.805.110) to help families. But for the Defender of Rights it is necessary to no longer react, but anticipate. “I think it’s a shame that too often the care of children with disabilities at school is being tinkered with,” she says. Another challenge for Pap Ndiaye.

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