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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Special education needs provision within mainstream education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.1Special education needs provision within mainstream education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Definition of the target group(s)

Among the different groups concerned by specific educational needs, because of their physical or mental condition, these are to follow mainstream education:

  • Disabled students;
  • Students with language and learning difficulties;
  • Students with long term educational difficulties;
  • Gifted students.

Circular letter no. 2016-117 of August 8th, 2016 reminds different mechanisms that allow such students to follow a normal education.

Specific support measures

Specific measures for disabled students

Article L351-1 of the French Code of Education and the law no.2005-102 of February 11th, 2005 state the principle of the priority given to mainstream education for disabled students.

Reference institutions: MDPH and CDAPH

The Maison départementale des personnes handicapées (MDPH – local authority of disabled individuals) provides a desk to inform and support disabled individuals and their families. As defined in article D351-5 of the French Code of Education, a team of experts (doctors, therapist, psychologists, social assistants…) evaluates the needs of the disable student and proposes and Personalized Schooling Project (PPS). The family of the student is tightly associated with the development the PPS. Based on the PPS, the Commission des droits et de l’autonomie des personnes handicapées (CDAPH – Commission of rights and autonomy of disabled individuals), which is under the MDPH’s authority, takes measures in order to make the project of normal education possible. These may be schooling in normal classes or in ULIS (see below), the attachment of a School life auxiliary or adapted devices (see below), and even streaming decisions.

Personalized Schooling Project (PPS)

The Personalized schooling project defines and coordinates methods corresponding to education, psychology, social, medical needs of the disabled student. The project is regularly revised (at least once a year) by the dedicated team of experts and the student’s parents. A specialised teacher is assigned as the referring teacher. He gathers the experts following teams and he is the first contact of each partner for these students’ education.

Mechanisms of schooling in mainstream education

Individual schooling: takes place in normal classes. It may be provided without any specific support or have some arrangements if need be for the student. These arrangements often take the form of an individual school life auxiliary (AVS-i) and specific educational devices. Teachers can benefit of training in special needs education (circular letter no. 2018-068 of June 18th, 2018).

Collective schooling: when the requirements for an individual schooling of a student are too important, the disable student may be schooled in unites localisées pour l’inclusion scolaire (ULIS – local units for school inclusion) that are opened in primary, lower secondary or upper secondary schools. They receive an appropriate education that applies the objectives given in the PPS. These ULIS are lead by a specialized teacher. Decree no. 2017-169 of February 10th, 2017 implements a new certification that is shared for primary and secondary education teachers: the Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle aux Pratiques de l’Éducation Inclusive (CAPPEI - Professional Aptitude Certificate to Inclusive Education Practices). Collective school life auxiliary (AVS-co) support the teacher. ULIS classes, which were established by the circular letter no. 2005-129 of August 21st, 2015, replace School integration classes (CLIS). ULIS students also frequent whenever possible their normal classes.

Schooling life auxiliaries (AVS) are a specific type of personnel who have are to support schooling for disabled or ill students. Their activities and missions are defined by the circular letter no. 2017-084 of May 3rd, 2017 and their recruitment conditions are defined in the decree no. 2018-666 of July 27th, 2018. Two types of AVS exist: individual AVS and collective AVS.

Specific education services and home care (SESSAD): These services are provided by teams of professionals whose aim is to support disabled children and adolescents that are in mainstream education. They take action on every location of the student’s life. Their name differ according to their speciality and the children’s age:

  • SAFEP: for 0-3 year olds with hearing or visual impairments;
  • SSEFIS: for children beyond 3 years old with hearing impairment;
  • SAAAIS: for children beyond 3 years old with visual  impairment;
  • SSAD: home care for children with several disabilities.

Children in ULIS classes may also be the target of such mechanisms. The care may be of multiple forms (physical therapy, speech therapy, etc.).

Appropriate educational devices (braille keyboards, specific softwares, etc.): While belonging to the State, individual-use devices may be provided to the student in the framework of a lending convention. The student keeps the device during his/her whole school career, even if he changes school or département.

Arrangements for exam conditions: Law no. 2005-102 of February 11th, 2005 allows disabled students to take part in exams and competitive examination that are organised by the Ministry of National Education under specific conditions (a helper, a longer timeframe, specific material).

Specific measures for students with language and learning difficulties

Article L321-4 of the French Code of Education states that specific arrangements and support mechanisms are to be implemented for students with specific difficulties with language (oral or written) such as dyslexics, dysphasic, etc.

Families of such students can require help from the MDPH to set a PPS up.

Moreover, these students may benefit from a Personalised support plan (PAP). It was established by the circular letter no. 2015-016 of January 22nd, 2015. It does not require the consultation of the MDPH. A PAP is set up upon a proposal from the council of teachers/class council or, at any point during the school career of the student, upon his/her either request or the family’s request depending on the student’s age. A National education doctor ascertains the type of difficulty of the student. The doctor provides an opinion on the relevance of a PAP. Afterwards, the teaching staff along with the student’s parents and medical professionals develop the PAP and put it in motion. In secondary education, a main teacher can play a role of coordination.

Specific measures for students with long term educational difficulties

These students can benefit from the Personalized program for successful schooling (PPRE). It is defined by the articles L311-3-1 and D311-12 of the French Code of Education. It concerns students that are in risk of not mastering certain knowledge and skills that are required at the end of a cycle. It takes the form of a coordinated action plan that aim at respond to the needs of the student, going from differentiated educational support in the classroom to specific additional support. The implementation is decided by the school head, and put in motion by the teaching staff in collaboration with the parents.

Moreover, student with severe and long-term learning difficulties can be enrolled in Sections d’enseignement general et professionnel adapté (SEGPA – adapted general and vocational education sections) in lower secondary education, in Établissement régionaux d’enseignement adapté (EREA – regional adapted education institutions) and in Lycées d’enseignement adapté (LEA – adapted education lycées) in upper secondary education.

Specific measures for students with chronic diseases, food intolerance and allergies

The Individualised accommodation project (PAI), defined by the circular letter no. 2003-135 of September 8th, 2003 allows specific accommodations (schedule arrangement, organisation of care, etc.) for students whose health needs specific treatments or medical protocols in order to follow a normal education as much as possible. It is redacted with the National Education doctor who has to respect medical confidentiality.

Specific measures for gifted students

According to article L321-4 of the French Code of Education, gifted children or students that manifest specific abilities should benefit from arrangements in their education to develop their potential. They can skip classes according to their own learning rhythm.
Moreover, measures may be decided when the gifted child shows behavioural or learning difficulties. These measures are developed by the teaching and the non-teaching staff (teachers, psychologists, doctors, inspectors and school heads) along with the family. The circular letter no. 2009-168 of November 12th, 2009 provides examples of measures:

  • Development of curricula;
  • Reinforcing the student’s autonomy by working on research situations, making presentations, giving the student a role of tutoring with classmates, etc.
  • Putting the child in an upper class for specific subjects.