L-R: Laurent Dura, Director of the Directorate-General for Inclusion; Claude Meisch, Minister of Education, Children & Youth; Credit: MENEJ

Luxembourg's Minister of Education, Children and Youth, Claude Meisch, recently presented the results of an evaluation of inclusive education in the Grand Duchy.

Luxembourg introduced a new system for the care of pupils with special needs in 2017 and 2018, thus reforming inclusive education in the Grand Duchy. Minister Meisch elaborated: "We had been talking about reforming EDIFF [special education] for a long time before the introduction of the new system in 2018. A reform that has invested more skills, resources and opportunities in the education of children with specific needs. This is an investment in the future opportunities of all children and a big step towards inclusion in Luxembourg."

The care of children with special needs is now organised on three levels: at the national level, eight competence centres for specialised psycho-educational follow-up and a National Inclusion Commission (Commission nationale d'inclusion - CNI) have been established; at the regional level, support teams for pupils with special educational needs work with the pupils; at the local level, a teacher specialised in the support of pupils with special educational needs can work directly in primary schools. In addition, the Inclusion Commission (Commission d'inclusion - CI) has been reorganised in basic education and secondary education, and a School Inclusion Commission (Commission d'inclusion scolaire - CIS) has been set up.

Since the reforms in 2017 and 2018, the Ministry of Education has created more than 700 new posts, doubling the resources for children with special needs compared to 2014/2015. Investments over the past five years have led to a steady increase in ambulatory care in the mainstream school system (from 0.72% of all students in 2014/15 to 0.85% of all students in 2020/2021) and a decrease in schooling in a competence centre (from 0.89% of all students in 2014/15 to 0.76% in 2020/21).

The evaluation report comprises three parts: a survey with an online questionnaire, individual qualitative interviews with teaching staff, socio-educational staff and the directors of primary education, secondary education and competence centres for specialised psycho-educational follow-up and an in-depth study by CNI, in which all members and collaborators participated. In addition, an external consultancy (EXIGO SA) carried out a study on each of the competence centres for specialised psycho-educational follow-up.

The evaluation of the support system for pupils with special needs identified six areas for improvement, notably a reduction in the time it takes to receive care and better information about how the system works for those involved.

Well-being & inclusion law

Over the past few months, a draft law has been prepared that takes into account the main aspects of evaluation, noted the Education Ministry. The various elements of the project were discussed with the directorates of the competence centres, primary and secondary education, the CGFP and OGBL unions and the national parent representation. The text will be submitted to the Council of Government (Cabinet) in the coming weeks, with the aim of it coming into force at the start of the 2023/2024 school year.

The new law will introduce a four-week deadline for initial diagnosis in primary and secondary schools and a three-month deadline for diagnosis by a competence centre. Once this initial diagnosis has been made, support will begin immediately, followed by a more detailed diagnosis if necessary.

At the level of a support team for pupils with special educational needs, a contact person will take on additional responsibilities, including informing the pupil's parents of the measures taken to support their child. This person will be the point of contact between the pupil, parents and those involved in the individual support.

An assistant for children with special needs will intervene in addition to the specialised teacher for pupils with special needs. In the coming years, each school will be allocated one such assistant. The new law will allow the recruitment of these assistants at DAP (Diplôme d'Aptitude Professionnelle, i.e. Vocational Aptitude Diploma) level.

Moreover, a National Service for Inclusive Education (Service national de l'éducation inclusive - SNEI) will be set up to ensure good coordination and exchange between stakeholders.