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More disabled teenagers to enter mainstream classes

FRANCE. MORE French children with physical or learning disabilities will soon have the chance to be educated in mainstream schools.

Education minister Luc Ferry, schools minister Xavier Darcos and secretary of state for the disabled Marie-Ther se Boisseau have announced a five-year plan to integrate all disabled children and young people into mainstream education from nursery to university, "if they want, and if they are able".

Despite legislation in 1975 giving disabled children the right to education, ministry research indicates that between 10,000 and 13,000 are losing out. Another 25,000 who are accommodated in a variety of public, private or charity-run centres also miss out, according to a disabled children's pressure group, Collectif contre la non-prise en charge des enfants handcapes.

As older children are less likely to be at a mainstream school the plan gives priority to the secondary sector. In 2001-2, just over half of the primary-aged disabled children - 48,200 out of 76,000 - were being taught in 3,381 integration classes. Of the 20,000 secondary-aged disabled pupils, only 2,800 of them were in 303 educational integration units attached to schools.

Mr Ferry announced that 1,000 new units would be set up in lower secondaries and lycees to provide places for 10,000 more teenagers.

From next September 6,000 new educational assistants will help disabled pupils - six times the current number - and specialised modules will be included in teacher training. Architecture and engineering courses will teach students how to build and equip schools suitable for disabled children.

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