Country information for Belgium (French community) - Systems of support and specialist provision
Education policy is regionalised. The Wallonia-Brussels Federation is responsible for the arrangements through the Decree of 3 March 2004 on the organisation of special education. Chapter X of the Decree concerns inclusion.
The school director and the director of the Assessment Centre (PMS) are responsible for managing inclusion. The psycho-medical-social centre (CPMS) comprises multi-disciplinary teams (psychological advisers, paramedics, social workers, etc.) that join forces to achieve the centre’s aims. Their work is confidential and does not involve any financial intervention.
There are no statistics on the formal identification of learners with disabilities in mainstream schools without support. However, there are over 38,000 learners in special education, i.e. 5% of the school population. With the support of special schools, 11,500 learners are included in mainstream schools (Source: Administration of the Wallonia – Brussels Federation 2020).
Temporary or permanent inclusion in a mainstream school for pupils enrolled in special education can be organised to promote their social adjustment and education.
Full-time permanent inclusion
Full-time permanent inclusion is for learners who were registered and present in special education on 15 January of the previous year.
Full-time permanent inclusion means that the pupil follows mainstream school education with support from the special school/special needs teacher, according to their needs. They also receive free transport between their home and the mainstream school. Pupils enrolled in mainstream and special school receive four periods of support. When they begin at mainstream school, they lose their enrolment in the special school and the costs are transferred to the mainstream school.
Full-time permanent inclusion must be suggested by the class council, guidance service, parents and teaching team, in agreement with the participation council. The ‘plan of the educational establishment’ must enable inclusion.
When the school has reached an agreement with the parents and the pupil, the special school head teacher finds a mainstream school willing to collaborate in inclusion. The special education class council, the guidance service and the mainstream school class teacher then draw up a written protocol. The protocol includes:
- the inclusion plan, the pupil’s file, the aims, specific equipment needed, travel requirements, exemption from the mainstream programme if necessary and the method of communication between the two schools;
- information regarding co-operation between the special school support team and the mainstream school teachers, and the internal assessment of the full-time permanent inclusion;
- the guidance service’s agreement;
- the parents’ agreement;
- the opinion of the travel commission.
To continue in mainstream education, the teaching team must make a positive decision to allow inclusion to continue without further changes. If anyone involved in the protocol proposes termination of inclusion and the pupil’s return to special education, the decision can be revoked after a meeting with all parties and the schools’ head teachers. In exceptionally serious cases, the government may end an inclusion process during the school year, after careful consideration.
On-going assessment of the inclusive actions is assured by the General Council for Special Education, based on reports written by the teaching team. The statement and certificates are awarded by the mainstream school.
Partial permanent inclusion and temporary inclusion
Partial permanent inclusion allows the pupil to follow certain lessons in the mainstream school and the remaining lessons in the special school for the whole school year. The pupil continues to receive free transport between their home and the special school.
Temporary inclusion allows the pupil to follow part or all of the lessons in the mainstream school for a certain period of the school year. The pupil continues to receive free transport between their home and the special school.
Special classes in mainstream schools are not considered inclusive if the special class teachers are present for all lessons.
School for success
The Decree of 24 July 1997 made it common for education to be on all levels in both mainstream and special education schools, which is particularly helpful for inclusion. The Decree of 3 March 2004 on the organisation of special education was introduced to adapt special education and not to change it.
The 2004 decree created the idea of the school for success. This is a school which does not exclude but promotes inclusion. It aims to be equitable, aiming for each pupil to be successful, and ambitious, as various complex competences are required for pupils to achieve success. Before the decrees, special education was called ‘special and integrated education’; now it is just ‘special education’. All education, whether mainstream or special, is now considered inclusive.
The principal approaches are the continuum of learning, differentiated pedagogy, formative assessment, the pedagogic team, the group of pupils, the organisation of the teacher’s work, and the complementary year.
In practice, two difficulties need to be overcome concerning the complementary year: the organisation of this year and the former belief that repeating a year is efficient. However, the year can be effective, provided the following is taken into consideration:
- Multi-age or vertical classes present advantages for pupils. They allow them to stay in the same reference group, to work at the level best suited to them and to work with other groups in the class. Merging schedules between different classes in a cycle makes it possible to create a complementary year, which allows pupils to move between different class levels according to their needs. Teachers must be able to work naturally with differentiated pedagogy and must find the time to work with the team, preparing assessments, analysing results and detecting difficulties.
- Classes where the teacher stays with the pupils, allowing a pedagogical continuum.
- Classes with de-compartmentalisation, where the base group moves according to their learning needs. This allows differentiated pedagogy and develops the individual education plan. This is especially good for migrant pupils.
- Classes with specialist teachers. The pupils in these classes are in the same cycle or step and need to achieve the same competence levels. Several teachers are in the classroom teaching different subjects; this is also called flexibility of tenure. Competences can be shared by discipline or area, meaning that teachers become experts in one discipline which they teach to all the groups. This encourages teamwork and exhibits teacher diversity in teaching competences.
- Traditional classes, where pupils of a similar age have a different teacher each year. This does not disrespect the pedagogical continuum and other points, but there is more contact required within the teaching team.
Sometimes the same school will arrange the education offered within these five options.
All parents would like a guarantee regarding their child’s future and to know that this future is under construction in school. Therefore, new innovations can make parents anxious and can sometimes hinder their children in learning. The multi-age classroom and the time allowed for principal learning can lead to questions from parents, who are often impatient to see rapid results. Therefore, communication with parents is extremely important. Continuing training is necessary for teachers within the school cycle to help keep them aware.
Individual education plan
The individual education plan is a methodological tool that the class council drafts and adjusts for each pupil throughout their education. It is based on observations made by different members and data from the guidance service. It lists the particular aims to be reached in a certain period. Each member of the multi-disciplinary team uses the data from the individual education plan to organise educational work and training, in collaboration with the pupil and their parents. The individual education plan is the basis of a lifelong project for the pupil.
The individual education plan must:
- be in writing;
- be given to everyone involved;
- be drafted in collaboration with the pupil and their parents;
- be regularly adjusted;
- contain the correctly formulated aims;
- contain aims adapted to the pupil’s chronological age;
- be balanced (composed of aims in the different fields);
- promote functional activities to realise the aims;
- promote general activities (enabling the pupil to use newly-acquired competences in other circumstances or other environments);
- specify the responsibilities of each of the involved parties;
- review the assessment modalities;
- review the adaptation of means, materials, access, etc.
The General Council of Consultation for Basic and Secondary Education ensures on-going evaluation of inclusion, based on statistical data provided by the administration. The government can also ask the service to carry out an evaluation.
There are currently no quality indicators for the inclusive system. Instead, the inspectorate of mainstream education, accompanied by special education inspectors, carry out a ‘study level’ of pupils in some inclusive schools. This report is sent to the Minister and the policy‑makers, who can adjust the system. The ‘indicators’ are thus the competences reached by learners in mainstream schools.
More information on the legislation regarding inclusive education in Belgium (French community) is available on the Ministry of Education website under the legislation texts resources section and the section of updated decrees
Last updated 27/04/2021