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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Separate special education needs provision in early childhood and school education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.2Separate special education needs provision in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Definition of the target groups

Three categories of students benefit from a teaching service outside the ordinary school environment:

  1. Students with disabilities compromising their access to mainstream schooling. These pupils are supported by medico-social structures. The Commission of rights and autonomy of disabled individuals (CDAPH) is the competent body to assess the disability rate of the disabled person, the need for compensation and the ability to work;
  2. Students who are temporarily away from school for health reasons: accident, chronic illness requiring repeated breaks in schooling or long-term illness. They are supported by health structures, on the basis of health prescription ;
  3. Detained minors. They are supported by structures under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice and Freedoms, on the basis of the magistrate's decision.

Admission requirements and choice of school

Students supported by the medico-social sector

As stipulated in article 21 of the law no. 2005-102 of February 11th, 2005, the orientation of the handicapped student towards the medico-social establishments is part of a project of personalized education (PPS) and falls under the decision of the CDAPH. The mechanisms and structures of the medico-social sector are aimed at disabled young people and come under the Ministry of Solidarities and Health. The schooling of children and adolescents admitted to it is placed under the control of the Ministry of National Education. Children who are admitted to an institution or a medico-social educational service for young disabled people also benefit from registration in an ordinary community establishment. The conditions of this registration are fixed by agreement between the medical-social establishment and the academic authorities.

There are different types of institutions:

  • Special education institutions for children with intellectual disabilities: they include specialized kindergartens and medical educational institutes (IME);
  • Motor Education Institutes (IEM): they receive children and adolescents with a very significant physical disability. Some institutions specialize in accommodating children with multiple disabilities;
  • Therapeutic, educational and pedagogical institutes (ITEP): they welcome young people with behavioral disorders and who have almost normal or even normal intellectual abilities;
  • Sensory Education Institutes (IES): include institutions for the hearing impaired, institutes for the visually impaired and sensory education institutes for deaf or blind children;
  • Special Education and Home Care Services (SESSAD).

Students supported by the health sector

Admission to a health facility including a teaching service for sick students is pronounced on a medical prescription. The health sector organizes the reception of students who are temporarily away from their school for health reasons: accident, chronic illness requiring repeated interruptions of schooling or long-term illness. These students can continue their education in the following institutions:

At the hospital

In large hospital departments, there are schooling structures, which mainly provide primary education. Sometimes they also welcome secondary school students. Nearly 800 specialized teachers are assigned to hospitals or children's homes of a health nature. Moreover, most hospitals are linked to one or more schools. Finally, many associations approved by the Ministry of National Education provide the hospital with free education for sick or injured children.

At home

the convalescent sick student, back at home, must be able to continue his studies. It benefits from the home-based educational assistance service for sick or injured students (SAPAD) set up by the Ministry of National Education. It concerns all students, from the last year of pre-primary education to the end of secondary education, whose planned absence is greater than three or four weeks and makes it possible to propose individualized solutions of schooling by appealing in priority to the teachers of the sick student.

In children's homes of a health nature (MECSA)

As defined in articles L199 to L208 of the Public Health Code, the MECSAs host children and adolescents from three to seventeen years of age in order to to provide them either a special treatment or a special diet, or a spa or climatic cure. Each institution is specialized in the treatment of a type of mental or physical pathology.

By distance education

If a sick child can not attend a regular or specialized institution, he / she may be authorized, with medical justification, to undergo training through the National Center for Distance Learning (CNED). The CNED, a public institution under the supervision of the Ministry of National Education, covers all elementary and secondary school levels.

Detained minors

Access to education is a fundamental right of prisoners, contained in articles D. 450 to D. 456 of the Code of Penal Procedure. School attendance is the rule for children under 16 and an incentive scheme is adopted for minors aged 16 and 17. In order to ensure access to this right for incarcerated minors, the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Justice and Freedoms are bound by a convention, set out in Circular letter no. 2011-239 of December 8th, 2011, which organizes education in the penitentiary environment. This takes place in the local units of education of the penitentiary institutions and are given by teachers of the Ministry of National Education.

Primary education is provided in all penitentiary institutions by National Education teaching staff made available to the prison administration.

Juvenile detainees are accommodated in juvenile penitentiaries (E.P.M.). Placed under the responsibility of the penitentiary administration, these penitentiary establishments ensure, in addition to their mission of custody and execution of sentences, an educational mission. Each EPM is made up of sixty juveniles imprisoned from 13 to 18 years old, accused and sentenced. It is headed by a prison director who combines, in a management team, the heads of the judicial protection of youth, health and National Education. The care of minors in EPM relies on the action of a multidisciplinary team consisting of permanent actors intervening daily with minors detainees: supervisory staff, educators of the Directorate of Judicial Protection of Youth Ministry of the Justice and Freedoms, teachers of national education, doctors and nurses of somatic and psychiatric care services.

The education department is part of the school project. It makes it possible to meet the obligations set by the law for under 16s and for young people who have left the education system without qualification. For young people who were studying before incarceration, teaching in EPM takes over from their previous school to avoid a break in the curriculum. Teaching is integrated into the whole reintegration process of detained minors, from the reception phase, where the identification of illiteracy is systematic and a review of acquired knowledge, until the preparation of the exit.

Age levels and grouping of pupils

Given the specificity of the groups concerned (children and adolescents with disabilities compromising ordinary schooling, children and adolescents temporarily away from school for reasons of health and minor detainees), it is difficult to allocate students rigorously. teaching cycle (the effort is to follow the cycles of mainstream education as much as possible) or by age groups. The distribution of school work during the year, the weekly and daily schedule of educational activities or their integration into overall educational activities, as well as programs should be adapted to the particular needs of children and adolescents.

In medical and health establishments, this organization is fixed by the pedagogical director who takes into account the opinions of the director and the doctor of the establishment to whom it belongs to determine the fitness for effort of each patient.

In prisons, the rules of procedure determine the conditions under which the courses are taught. In any case, the organization of the teaching is subject to the approval of the competent academic authorities who also receive communication of the annual educational project of the school.

Teachers are involved in the development of the educational project of the medical, health or social institution. They are informed of the health status of the children and adolescents entrusted to them. They are required to attend summary meetings regarding their duties or their students.

Curriculum, subjects

Students supported by the medico-social sector

According to article D351-18 of the French Code of Education, a convention providing for the creation of a teaching unit is signed between the medico-social body and the State. The educational project of the teaching unit is part of the school project. The methods of schooling and training offered must respond to the personalized schooling project (PPS) of the students received. The convention specifies the characteristics of the population of young people received, the organization of the teaching unit, the number and qualification of the teachers who work there, the arrangements for cooperation with schools or schools, the role of the director and the educational manager and the school premises. The unit can be organized for all or part of a school or school. The courses are taught by specialized teachers, holding the certificate of professional aptitude to practices of inclusive education (Cappei), set up by circular letter no. 2017-026 of February 14th, 2017 or another diploma. The purpose of the teaching unit is to provide a basic education, but it is also intended to design, for each student, a training project whose aim is the greatest possible autonomy in his adult life and his integration into the society.

Students supported by the health sector

The teaching provided in the health structures, as well as by distance education (CNED) refers to national programs.

Detained minors

Lessons for minors detained refer to national programs. They are provided by National Education staff. All levels of training must be able to be provided, from basic training (literacy, illiteracy and French as a foreign language) to general secondary education (preparation CAP-BEP, brevet or baccalauréat).

Teaching methods and materials

Students supported by the medico-social sector and the health sector

Pedagogical teaching methods in institutions in the health and social care sector are in accordance with pedagogical methods applied in general education schools for pupils with special needs. The pedagogical methods must also respond to the personalized schooling project (for students with disabilities) or to the individualized accommodation project (for students in charge of the medico-social sector).

Detained minors

Law no.2007-293 of 5 March 2007 on the prevention of delinquency introduced the measure of daytime activity (MAJ). This penal educational measure is pronounced by the magistrate or the juvenile court against a minor, author or alleged perpetrator of a criminal offense (crime), aged from 10 to 18 years. Minors involved often face serious academic difficulties and significant behavioural problems. As stipulated in the memo no.2008-131 of the 2-10-2008, the MAJ offers an alternative or a complementarity to the educational measures judicial and consists "[in] the participation of the minor in activities of professional insertion or school [...]". It is defined according to the needs of the young person, his level and his school situation; it differs from the various support systems offered outside school hours by the school or school.

Progression of pupils

Students supported by the medico-social sector and the health sector

The progression of disabled students enrolled in medico-social structures, as well as that of sick students, is examined by the multidisciplinary team that takes care of these students. According to article L. 112-2 of the French Code of Education: "In order to ensure that a suitable training program is provided, every child, adolescent or disabled adult has the right to an assessment of his skills, needs and measures implemented in framework of his/her progression and following a rhythm adapted to his/her situation. The evaluation is carried out by the multidisciplinary team. Parents or the legal representative of the child are necessarily invited to express themselves on this occasion".

Detained minors

Prison education requires a personalized approach, including an initial assessment and an organization in modules, adapted to the needs of the detainees and the length of their sentence. It aims at the acquisition of skills sanctioned by recognized certifications.

The teaching is integrated at each stage of the course of the detention, from the initial identification until the preparation of the exit, in a perspective of obtaining diplomas and / or by the keeping of the personal booklet of competences of national education as defined in article D. 311-6 of the French Code of Education.

The information collected by the educational service on the training course is captured on the Prison Computing Applications (GIDE - CEL) and in personal skills booklets.


Students supported by the medico-social sector

The organization of the exams and competitive examinations of the school education for the acquisition of the certificates and the school diplomas by the candidates having a handicap is governed by the Circular letter no. 2015-127 of August 3rd, 2015.

Applicants with a disability apply to one of the doctors designated by the CDAPH, according to the organization defined locally. The doctor gives an opinion as to the particular conditions proposed for the conduct of the tests with regard to:

  • Access to the premises;
  • The physical installation in the examination room;
  • The use of machinery or technical or computer equipment, indicating the nature and purpose of the technical aids;
  • The secretariat or assistance, indicating the nature, purpose and duration of the human assistance;
  • Adaptation in the presentation of the subjects (type of adaptation, paper format or digital format, compatible with the material that the candidate is authorized to use during the test);
  • The composition time plus the type of test concerned (written, oral, practical);
  • Any other measure deemed useful by the doctor designated by CDAPH.

Detained minors

The preparation of diplomas and the validation of prior learning in penitentiaries means that, for those inmates who request it, it is necessary to evaluate their experience in training: depending on the case, this can be achieved by simply certifying the activities followed or validation of achievements by a jury or, where possible, by the presentation for an examination (certificate of general education, certificate, bachelor's degree, university degree).

The pedagogical units of the penitentiary structures, in close connection with the departments in charge of the examinations in the academies, take care to facilitate the registration of the examinations so as not to penalize the recently imprisoned or transferred prisoners. Similarly, they organize themselves to allow a liberated person to attend the exam he/she has prepared for.

Teachers shall provide the penitentiary and regional management with an up-to-date list of exam candidates and dates for examinations to facilitate the retention of candidates under the Regional Director's jurisdiction: as much as possible and unless he requests it or because of exceptional circumstances (reasons of order and security, health reasons), an inmate should not be transferred on the approach of an examination.