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Learners affected by physical or cognitive disabilities
On 1 September 2015 the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs (SEN-pupils), also called M-decree, became fully operational. Since that date every child in Flanders has the right to enroll in a school for mainstream education, on the condition that reasonable adaptations are made. Inclusive education is now the first option. The aim is that more pupils with special needs can enroll in mainstream education and that less pupils are referred to special schools. The implementation of the parliamentary act also allows to maintain a high quality special needs education for those pupils for whom no reasonable adaptations are possible within a mainstream school.
Together with the teacher(s), the parents and the Pupil Guidance Center (Centrum voor Leerlingenbegeleiding), each school develops an appropriate care policy for its pupils and searches for reasonable adjustments or measures in order that pupils with specific educational needs are able to follow the lessons. Schools run through a continuum of three stages to provide pupils with special education needs the best care: basic care, increased care and expansion of care (more information: M-decree care continuum). If basic care and increased care are not sufficient and expansion of care is required or if a pupil follows an individually adapted curriculum, an mainstream school can attract extra expertise for the guidance of pupils with specific educational needs. This is possible through cooperation with schools for special education.
This complies with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principle: To offer the study material in a way that is accessible to a diverse student population by varying in materials, methods and evaluation. Reasonable adjustments may include remedial measures (e.g. helping students individually), differentiating measures (e.g. variations in learning material and lesson approaches), compensatory measures (such as a allowing a laptop), and dispensing measures (allow exemptions from curriculum components).The student can:
- follow the common curriculum (if he meets the eligibility conditions for mainstream education and has a motivated report)
- follow an individually adapted curriculum (if he has a report for access to special needs education)
The M-Decree also includes collegial support by teachers and paramedics from special education and other forms of support.
The M-Decree also led to a number of changes in special education. Since the school year 2015/2016 there are new definitions for some types of special education. Currently the following types and forms of education exist in special needs education:
Types of education
- Type basic offer: Young people with special educational needs for whom the common curriculum with reasonable adjustments is not feasible in a school for ordinary education. This type will gradually replace Type 1 from September 2015. Students from this new type may, after a positive assessment of the school and the CLB, be able to return to normal education over time
- Type 1: For young people with a mild mental disability
- Type 2: For young people with mental disabilities
- Type 3: For young people with an emotional or behavioral disorder, but without mental disabilities
- Type 4: For young people with a motoric restriction
- Type 5: For young people in a hospital, a prevention or residential setting
- Type 6: For young people with visual impairment
- Type 7: For young people with auditory impairment or speech or language impairment
- Type 9: For young people with autism spectrum disorder, but without mental disabilities (since September 2015)
Forms of education:
- Form 1: Social participation and possibly employment in an environment with support
- Form 2: Social participation and employment in an environment with support
- Form 3: Social participation and employment in a regular working environment
- Form 4: General, Vocational, Artistic and Technical Education
More information on the M-Decree can be found here (in Dutch). The current model for supporting pupils with specific educational needs in mainstream education will remain in force until the 2020-2021 school year. In the meantime, a new support model is being prepared (see 6.10).
In 2019 The Flemish Parliament approved a decree (Onderwijsdecreet XXIX) that provides for the introduction of an open-end funding scheme for blind and deaf pupils and pupils with a motor-skills impairment or mental disability in mainstream education. This means that for school year 2019/2020 all 9,500 blind and deaf pupils and pupils with a motor-skill impairment or mental disability receive certainty about the number of hours of guidance they receive. Schools offering mainstream education can, in consultation with the parents of the children involved, decide which special education school they will collaborate with to ensure the child’s support. In doing so, parents gain a stronger position in determining the support their child should and will receive.
Bednet offers remote education for children and young people who are temporarily unable to go to school. The lessons that take place in their class are streamed live to their home computer or tablet. Pupils who are absent for a prolonged or regular period due to illness, surgery, accident or pregnancy can join the lesson and stay in touch with their friends. Bednet is free for families and the schools who want to use this service. On 1 March 2019, 2.4 million EUR grant was awarded to Bednet, which will help them to give more than 1,000 children access to their services, as well as to thoroughly renew Bednet’s hardware and software.
Learners with a migrant background
OKAN (reception classes for non-native newcomers onthaalonderwijs voor anderstaligen kinderen)
To facilitate the integration of non-Dutch-speaking newcomers in mainstream education, schools can be granted supplementary teaching periods/extra teacher hours – and in primary education an extra operational allowance too – within the framework of OKAN, reception education for non-Dutch-speaking newcomers.
OKAN-pupils in secondary education receive Dutch language lessons for one year. Then they get guidance in further education. In order to be admitted to OKAN, students must meet the following conditions:
- Being a newcomer (maximum one year uninterrupted stay in Belgium)
- By December 31 of the school year at least 12 years and not 18 years old
- Do not have Dutch as home language or mother tongue
- Do not properly master the language of instruction to be able to follow the classes successfully
- have been registered for a maximum of nine months in an educational institution with Dutch as an educational language
Ill or physically weak pupils
Ill or physically weak pupils can attend education
- in hospital schools and preventoria,
- in children’s and young people’s psychiatric services
- via temporary or permanent education at home
- via synchronous internet education
At the beginning of 2017 the Flemish Minister of Education Hilde Crevits granted 100.000€ to three projects on homework guidance in Gent, Ostend and Bruges. In an easily accessible way these projects support homework guidance, the development of study skills and language stimulation while offering family support at home for 400 societally vulnerable families. In this way they contribute to the prevention of and elimination of learning backlog and the empowerment of parents and they offer parenting support in the framework of the school career of the children.
Act on equal opportunities
The Act on equal opportunities (GOK-beleid) in education contains three major provisions:
- The right to enrolment: Each pupil has the right to enrol in the school of his/her (parents’) choice, Also foreign-language newcomers and pupils with a report for access to special education.
- Legal protection
- Extra support for additional needs provision in schools: This support is aimed at schools that have a rather large number of pupils who meet certain socio-economic indicators. This extra support consists of additional teaching periods or additional teaching hours per teacher.
In mainstream secondary education, additional teacher hours are granted on the basis of the following five indicators:
- Student's home language
- Receiving a school allowance
- Highest level of education of the mother
- The pupil is temporarily or permanently taken out of his own family
- The parents belong to the migrant population
For special needs secondary education only the indicators 'pupil's home language' and 'mother's highest level of education' apply.
A pupil meeting at least one out of five equal opportunities indicators is a GOK-pupil. The school may obtain extra funds for these pupils. More detailed information on regulations can be on the section on equal opportunities in education of the Agency of Educational Services (Gelijke onderwijskansen).
Fighting discrimination Cross-curricular themes in Education
Fighting discrimination is included in the citizenship competences for pupils in the first grade of secondary education and in the cross-curricular objectives concerning the socio-cultural society for pupils in the second and third grade of secondary education (in Dutch: onderwijsdoelen, see also chapter 5.7 for more information). The cross-curricular objectives for the second and third grade entail an obligation of effort for the schools, not for the pupils. The citizenship competences for the first grade are minimum objectives, meaning: a minimum of knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes that are considered achievable and necessary for a certain student population. Every school has the social task to achieve these at the population level of the pupils. An exception to this are a number of attitudinal goals; just as in 2nd and 3rd grade, these attitudinal goals entail an obligation of effort for the schools, not for the pupils.
Gender in the class (gender de klas) is an initiative by RoSa (Centre of Expertise, Library and Archives for Gender Equality and Feminism - Kenniscentrum voor Gender en Feminisme) and is a website with practical tips for teachers who wish to teach and bring gender consciousness to pupils.
When a pupil is encountered with violence, bullying or sexually transgressive behavior at school, different steps can be undertaken:
- Inside the school by contacting a teacher, the principal or a coordinator or guidance.
- Contacting a Centre for Pupils Guidance (Centrum voor Leerlingenbegeleiding/ CLB) where different specialist work like social workers, psychologists and pedagogues.
- External organisations like ‘Awel’, which is a free helpline where children and young people can anonymously tell their story. This is also possible at the JAC’s (Youth Advice Centres - Jongeren AdviesCentra) who give practical tips, advice and information. Some centres provide courses to become more assertive.
More information on bullying and anti-bullying programmes can be found on the website of the Department of Education and Training.
Further actions have been implemented to counter radicalization in accordance with the Concept note on the prevention of radicalization processes (Conceptnota over preventie van radicaliseringsprocessen). That note was followed by a concrete action plan that the Flemish Government adopted on April 3, 2015. At the beginning of 2017, a profound revision and update of the action plan was prompted by, among other things, a changed policy context, new insights and changed threat. This resulted on 2 June 2017 in the updating of the existing action plan to the 'Flemish Action Plan for the prevention of violent radicalization and polarization' (Actieplan ter preventie van gewelddadige radicalisering en polarisering). The updated action plan will be reported semi-annually to the Flemish Parliament on progress and implementation. The most recent report (December 2018, in Dutch) can be downloaded here.
In line with the Action Plan several actions were taken and tools were developed to support primary workers which are confronted with radicalization. Some examples for the school context are:
- The Department of Education and Training developed a guideline for the prevention and approach of radicalization and polarization (leidraad voor de preventie en aanpak van radicalisering en polarisering). This guideline provides tools that can schools help to deal with radicalization and polarization, and to shape or adjust deradicalization policies.
- The Education magazine ‘Klasse’ published several online articles. In cooperation with experts, Klasse also created an online dossier on radicalization with interpretation and testimonials from teachers and fellow pupils. In addition, the dossier also contains practical tips on signal recognition, approach and prevention.
- The CONNECT-project of Arktos was funded. This project aims to deploy expertise quickly and efficiently in schools (in Flanders and Brussels) where a concentration of young people with extreme risk behavior exceeds the strength and resilience of the teachers team and the schools.
- In 2018, the Flemish Minister of Education Hilde Crevits awarded 200,000 euros to eight projects to strengthen vulnerable young people and to combat polarization and radicalization (see also 4.5.3)
- The educational resources website KlasCement has collected teaching materials and educational material on the subject of radicalization. Teachers can source from these to inspire each other and share materials for pupils of all ages.
- Since 1 October 2015, a network of Islam experts (Netwerk Islamexperten) has been set up to launch a counter discourse. Through a network of experienced Islam experts who have a thorough knowledge of Islamic theology and are also familiar with the lifeworld of young people, interpretation on Islam and Islamic norms and values is given to young people, student groups and front-line workers.
More projects and actions can be found on the website of the Department of Education and Training (Hulp en leermiddelen bij radicalisering) and in the semi-annual report (Actieplan ter preventie van gewelddadige radicalisering en polarisering. Tussentijdse rapportage, December 2018)