Disability support in educational institutions is crucial for school performance and daily lives of children with disabilities. In this regard, at the beginning of the month a project was launched exploring the range of support offered in European educational systems. Learning and support assistants in Europe helping disabled children attending mainstream schools have different job titles: from “care managers” in Belgium with a well-defined qualification profile, “school assistants” with no qualification profile in Austria, to “special educational needs (SEN) teaching assistants” and so on. The IMAS project, financially supported by the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme, is pursuing the aim of analysing and building a common framework of the work, career and conditions of learning and support assistants helping children with disabilities in Europe. The main project objective is to analyse the current state of play in their job’s environment in the partner countries and to set up the best possible employment model to support disabled students in accordance with the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
On 10-11 November 2016 the kick-off meeting was held in Gleisdorf, Austria, hosted by Chance B, the project coordinator. Project partners are organisations from 5 European countries: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE, UK), ARCIL (Portugal), European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD, Belgium), Agency for Social Development Vision (Bulgaria), and TENENET (Slovakia).
During the meeting the partners exchanged practices concerning the conditions and role of assistants of children with disabilities attending mainstream schools in their countries. They also took a decision on the aspects to be taken into account when analysing and comparing the role of assistants of children with special educational needs (SEN).
The meeting included a secondary school visit in Austria to see in place the work of local learning and support assistants of disabled children. At the end of the event, the partners expressed their satisfaction with the meeting, and the project coordinator Michael Longino stated that “learning and support assistants play a crucial role in flowering out the potentials of children in inclusive educational systems. Furthermore, they help to ensure human rights in the light of UN CRPD, like participation, autonomy and self-determination in classrooms. The highly motivated project start makes me believe, that this partnership will contribute to further develop and professionalize systems for learning support across Europe and therefore will bring benefit to assistants and children in inclusive educational settings”.
Luk Zelderloo, EASPD’s secretary General emphasized that “learning and support assistants are the centerpieces of an inclusive educational system. Creating conditions to empower these professionals in line with UN CRPD is essential”.
Artemi Sakellariadis, CSIE director, said: “We are delighted to be part of this project and look forward to making a positive contribution to the way pupil support is organised in schools”.
Zhaneta Georgieva, President of the Agency for Social Development Vision stated: “Chance B decided to lead this project as all children have the right to education, and therefore, the project will seek to further promote equality, accessibility of educational settings and provision of a common qualification profile in order to deliver quality services all over Europe. Furthermore, the organisation's partnership with EASPD — the largest European umbrella organisation representing more than 12 000 social service providers across Europe — is a prerequisite for fulfilling successfully the project aims and tasks”.
Elena Kopcová, CEO of TENENET, pointed that “TENENET (NGO) is aware of importance of the inclusive education not only for better socialization and inclusion of children with disabilities, but also for their future life — their chances for employment inclusion, independent living and better quality of their life”.
João Canossa Dias, from ARCIL declared: “ARCIL, with its 40 years of experience promoting inclusion and believing in the potential of human diversity, expects that this project will help our organizations learning and improving in partnership”.
The project will be implemented until November 2017, and a follow-up project is now being considered to further develop what has been achieved under this one.

This publication has been elaborated within the Improving Assistance in Inclusive Educational Settings project funded by the ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Union under Key Action 2: Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices. Project Number: 2016-1-AT01-KA202-016778.