Photo credit: Gilles Oger
On March 8, 2022, the last national meeting of school mediation was held in Paris, co-organized by Aide et Action and several partner structures¹. It was a day rich in exchanges and feedback with all the actors of school mediation from all over France.
According to the Children's Ombudsman Geneviève Avenard, 100,000 children and young people were out of school in 2019 in France. In the absence of precise figures from the institutions, this is an estimate of those excluded from the right to school. A large majority of children living in precarious housing (shanty towns, squats, social hotels, on the streets, etc.) have never been to school in France, or have done so on a discontinuous basis, given the numerous administrative barriers they and their families face.
School mediator: a recent and still unknown profession
The main mission of the school mediator is to help children to access school, to stay there and to feel comfortable. Mediators usually work with children who are far from school and whose living conditions are not always taken into account by the institutions. They act as a permanent link between the families and the institution, in order to get the children into school or back into school, and to set up an individualised follow-up of each school course. Their missions are multiple: to make families aware of the importance of education, to identify minors who are not enrolled in school, to accompany and facilitate enrolment procedures, to support children in their schooling, etc. Their approach is to "go towards", to get as close as possible to the children and their families. The mediators also raise awareness among school staff about the extreme precariousness and racism experienced by these vulnerable groups on a daily basis.
This is a recent and still little-known profession, the contours of which are gradually taking shape on the basis of feedback from the field and the plurality and diversity of the missions and profiles of these professionals. There are currently about fifty mediators in the country, most of whom are funded by the DIHAL (Interministerial Delegation for Housing and Access to Housing) or by associations. Thanks to the work of school mediators, "80 % of children living in shantytowns are in school, whereas only 20 % are when the mediator post does not exist", declared MP Sandrine Mörch in the National Assembly².
Many skills are used to accomplish their mission of school mediation including knowledge of the school system (French and that of the country of origin), of its territory, of administrative formalities, but also qualities in communication, negotiation, pedagogy, etc.
Illustration by @pretemoitesyeux
Exchanges on school mediation
The day of 8 March brought together almost all those involved in school mediation (mediators, educators, sustainable schooling officers, relay teachers and socio-educational support staff) as well as parents of pupils. The partner organisations involved (Ecole enchantiée, MJC Intermèdes Robinson, Collectif Ecole Pour Tous) also played an active role in organising the day.
The workshops organised provided many opportunities for discussion. Families were able to talk about their experience with school mediation and help to deconstruct certain stereotypes. The sharing of experiences between participants enabled the pooling of good practices, methodologies and tools. Reflections were made on the solutions to be provided in the face of certain constraints such as the refusal of school registration.
This day is part of an agenda of institutional training and regular national meetings on school mediation which should allow for further reflection on the development and recognition of this profession.
¹. Askola, Association CLASSES, Collectif National Droits de l'Homme Romeurope, Rencont'roms nous, UNICEF France, LES PEP 44 49 and CASNAV 92