Bit of a difficult one Jean. The French are not against home school but are very interventionist. We know because our older daughter, who will be 11 next month, has Down Syndrome. Fortunately it is Mosaic Down so apart from need glasss (but then my wife and I do, kind of so what) and being small (my mother was only four foot something and my father five foot two, again so what) and being learning delayed she is not so badly off. She is in a CLIS class which has an undetrained teacher and willing but quite inexperienced assistant. The school is keeping her back one year rather than on to college and ULIS or the like.
Why I have gone through that is because my wife and I (almost ironically) study children and I certainly did take time out from my regular work to work with Special Educational Needs (SEN) children. Before we moved here from the UK my daughter was actually in a normal class but part-time in a special needs class. I took a governorship and became the special needs governor. I have some insights for comparison as a result.
Where our daughter is now autistic children are included. Some are passed on to La Rosette in Bergerac which is too specialised for our girl who is gradually reading, writing and confidently bilingual. We know people who have home schooled but then taken their child forward to school, some stay with CLIS, others go to La Rosette and some go back to home education but with support. School is seen as the best way of dealing with SEN and they are doing it well. Home schooling is acceptable but it is advisable to look through what schools are offering as well.
Provision for SEN students in French schools in increasing in availabilty and quality. Although many French schools have so far not had SEN departments a great deal depends on the school and the particular needs of a child. Some schools are able to work with certain needs, whether those are physical or learning disorders by placing a a child in regular or integrate class. OK, that does not work with autism. So let's look at who can advise and provide special support.
SESSAD (services d'éducation spéciale et de soins à domicile) deals with children and teenagers with mental, motor and sensory disabilities ensuring early education and support for the family (that includes counselling, providing transport such as taxis to and from 'school' and accompanying children tp treatment) through to the end of compulsory education (and in a few cases even through to university). SESSAD is therefore providing a kind of bridge between traditional schooling, extra-school treatments and rehabilitation, but will also help with home education .
CLIS (classes d'intégration scolaire) is for children with disabilities too severe for regular classes that do not require special facilities. CLIS is a special class in primary or secondary school (college) although it is still seldom available in pre-school facilities which is changeing. Teaching is adapted to students' needs but the curriculum taught is essentially aimed at achieving the same as regular classes at a gentler pace and tailored to each child's needs.
There are fourcategories of CLIS:
CLIS 1 (D): Cognitive learning disorders, severe mental development limitations )including autism)
CLIS 2 (A): Hearing impairment (troubles auditifs: sourds, malentendants)
CLIS 3 (B): Visual impairment (troubles visuels importants: aveugles, malvoyants)
CLIS 4 (C): Physical disability/severe motor deficiency
Admission to CLIS is decided by the CCPE (commission préélémentaire et élémentaire).
Then there is UPI (unités pédagogiques d'intégration) units that take in children with cognitive learning disorders from ages 12 to 16 years (usually from CLIS 1). UPI provides modified school integration and partial participation through teaching and activities. This system is at present being expanded to incorporate children with sight, hearing and physical disabilities but also with less difficult cases of autism.
Generally learning assistance is handled outside of school hours by specialised therapists (for instance, our daughter goes to a speech therapist once a week since she has particular language problems common to both English and French). If a child needs constant or specialised assistance then they will be admitted to a specialist school, such as La Rosette in Bergerac which is our closest one. The family doctor (médecin traitant) will advise further and also the Mairie should know about schools and SEN in the district/regional catchment area.
If home schooling is the only real option then in France it has been legal since December 1998 although annual registration is compulsory. A declaration must be made each year at the local Mairie and withthe school inspectorate (inspecteur d’académie or rectorat). For children from ages of six to 16 in home schooling an annual visit will be made by the school inspector (inspecteur d’académie) and at least every two years by the Mairie. In the event of two unsatisfactory inspections, parents may then be ordered to send the child to school. In the event of a change of address, a declaration must be made at the Mairie of the new place of residence within eight days of the move and the Mairie at the former informed.
A variety of preferred methods exist for teaching children at home, for example through correspondence classes or Montessori. However the law requires that children acquire these aspects of knowledge listed below and reach a level of education comparable with (but not identical to) children in school:
- Good command of written and spoken French
- French literature
- Principles of mathematics
- One foreign language
- Basics of science and technology
- Basics of history and geography of France, Europe and the rest of the world
- Artistic education
National exams may be taken by registering at the rectorat.
Further information is available from the government's education website and Les Enfants d'Abord which is a French organisation for home schooling families.
Here in the Dordogne there is a group called Sesamé that provides mutual support and resources.
Try these websites as well:
and perhaps http://ceresa.fr/ might help a little.
Whatever, and having been a UK governor and somewhere else a chairman of a local council, I would say that without prejudice France wins hands down with what they provide. My wife is Swiss and my sister-in-law a teacher with SEN skills in Switzerland and France scores very high. So look at all of the info I am passing on objectively, positively and with hope in mind.