Ensuring that all children, whatever their differences, can access a good education

Focusing on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Petites Écoles pour Tous is developing entertaining educational environmental awareness workshops. The association is seeking to facilitate the education of neurodiverse children and raise their awareness about the environment by tailoring education to each pupil's learning profile.

Founded in late 2015, Les Petites écoles aims to promote and support the schooling of children with cognitive and/or social disorders. The association aims to foster inclusive education, sport and culture for children with special needs and specifically those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is estimated that one in every 100 children born in France has ASD, while the figure for the US is one in every 60 children.
 
In France, the education delivered to children with ASD is unsatisfactory. The 11 February 2005 law requires all children with disabilities to be enrolled in school. However, at the grassroots, the lack of training for teachers and teaching assistants often makes these children's schooling chaotic and difficult for both the children and the teaching staff.
 
Les Petites écoles pour tous brings together "researcher-actor" parents of neurodiverse children and teaching staff to discuss the issues and identify solutions together. Its work focuses on designing and facilitating inclusive entertaining educational workshops. It also trains education professionals, offering them a "toolbox" that will help them cater for children with ASD in their classes.

Entertaining and educational workshops

With the support of the Veolia Foundation, the association is developing environmental awareness workshops for children between the ages of five and 11 - an eco-friendly scheme to help youngsters become responsible adults who care about our planet. The modules are designed so that all the children, whether or not they are neurodiverse, can share an entertaining educational journey. The strength of this approach is that it is based on the idea that there is not one single cognitive coherence model. The aim is to bring out knowledge, know-how and skills. 
Les petites écoles pour tous - nuage
In practice, the "understanding nature" workshop, for example, offers the opportunity to germinate seeds or scratch through the earth to understand the important and painstaking work of earthworms and other types of worms. Another, called "will you change with me?" is based on challenges such as finding ways of limiting plastic use, visiting a waste reception centre etc.
 
The first workshops are trialled in a co-working space in Paris before being rolled out externally in state and / or contracted schools in the Paris Region.  A dozen workshops have already been tested and will be delivered in state schools in May and June 2017. The association wants to continue experimenting with new workshops with the goal of running some 40 workshops in at least five schools in the Paris Region.

Training teaching staff so as to facilitate children's education

In 2018 and still with the Veolia Foundation's support, the association is delivering improved training for teaching assistants and SEN (special educational needs) teaching assistants. The idea is to design a training programme for teaching assistants so that they develop their employability and professional skills. The stated ambition of Ikigaï - Les petites écoles pour tous is to help them set up a standalone activity, for example, educational support for children with specific needs. This concern is shared by the French government and the association is in contact with the authorities about taking part in a working group to be set up on this very issue.

“Training and developing the skills of teaching assistants are areas in which the government is now working. A working group is going to be set up and the office of Sophie Cluzel, the secretary of state for people with disabilities, wants to involve Ikigaï - "Les petites écoles pour tous" in the discussions about Job-specific training as soon as the ad-hoc commission is formed. At the same time, the association is continuing to deliver training at the grassroots and is putting together applications to obtain the accreditation needed to deliver training, particularly from the Department for Education.
 
The impact assessment that Ikigai wants to get carried out will help with obtaining the necessary accreditation and will smooth the way when approaching sector decision-makers (education authority, job centre and head teachers of contracted and private schools).”
Dominique Boizeau