Certification of State diplomas in social work by decentralized State services

Franck Le Morvan, member of IGAS,
Sabine Carotti, member of IGESR

The Regional Directorates for the Economy, Employment, Labor and Solidarity (DREETS) and the regional education authorities are currently involved in the certification of thirteen state diplomas in social work (DE TS). The number of DREETS staff dedicated to this activity, as well as to social cohesion in general, has been in decline for several years. The mission was therefore asked to look for methods and means to mitigate this decline as well as the evaluation of the certification policy. There was also an additional objective to respond more quickly to the growing need for employees in a social and medico-social sector faced with recruitment difficulties.
The DE TS can be grouped into three sets according to the types of jobs for which they train you – management and supervision, support and advice for the various target groups of social measures, educational functions with young children or, mainly, with young people with disabilities or maladjustments. However, the certification process of the DE TS involves four public authorities with a rather complex structure :
• the president of the regional council approves all the social work training institutions (EFTS), following the decision of the DREETS ; the chief education officer of the regional education authority authorizes the opening of training for five state diplomas (DEs) leading to the award of a bachelor’s degree ;
• the EHESP School of Public Health (EHESP) organizes three exams each year for one degree and 400 candidates, the local education authorities organizes seven exams for four degrees and 10,000 candidates, and the DREETS organizes eleven exams for eight degrees and 16,000 candidates. The number of tests to be organized is increased for the accreditation of prior learning (APL), which in principle includes two sessions per year ;
• with the exception of one diploma issued by the director of the EHESP, the DEs are issued by the chief education officer of the regional education authority and/or the DREETS, the distribution not being strictly correlated with the educational purpose of the target functions.
The pedagogical regulation that these public authorities must exercise is insufficiently defined, with overlapping responsibilities of the DREETS and the chief education officer for the DEs leading to the award of a bachelor’s degree. In practice, the regulation of training is far from sufficient, even taking into account the role of the competent organizations for professional training, which provide funding for a growing share of the activities of the EFTS. Neither the DREETS (where the positions of technical advisors dedicated to pedagogical regulation have been done away with) nor the local education authorities have the required time.
The mission recommends ensuring there are no more overlapping responsibilities between the DREETS and the local education authorities, while still providing overall coordination, without presuming the distribution to be set by the relevant ministers according to the more structured choices that will be made, particularly in terms of delegation to institutions.
The mission recommends the appointment of a coordinator in each regional education authority to monitor the DEs in relation to the responsibilities entrusted to the chief education officer, in conjunction with the Directorate General for Higher Education and Professional Integration (DGESIP) and the Directorate General for Social Cohesion (DGCS). It also recommends standardizing the management of the diploma for social support workers at national level, with the support of a trial educational region, in conjunction with the Directorate General for School Education (DGESCO) and the DGCS.
The certification process for all DE TS is still significantly impacted by the use of paper documents : it therefore seems essential to fully computerize copies and files and the reporting of marks. Some oral tests can also be conducted over video calls in view of the access difficulties faced by some candidates.
In addition to these rationalization measures, the mission examined various options for full or partial delegation of certification powers to the EFTS.
Giving the institutions the responsibility of organizing all the tests would not in itself lead to any disruption, since a regional jury would still be responsible for globally assessing the submissions of all the candidates. However, we do not think it is feasible to make this change with the same resources, given the transfer of responsibilities that it involves, without reducing the overall workload of the State services, particularly pedagogical regulation. This is why the mission did not believe it was necessary to calculate the number of jobs that could be “saved” on this occasion.
More extensive delegation of the delivery of the diploma seems difficult to standardize, at least in the short term. Only a minority of the EFTS are already authorized to do so, and the dispersion of training courses would make it difficult to monitor broader delegations : on average, a single legal entity only manages 3 DEs, and a single establishment only manages 2 ; only the Regional Institutes of Social Work (IRTS) and about thirty other similar structures are clearly above these figures.
The mission therefore believes that delegation should be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on both the nature of the diploma and the capacity of the institution to implement it :
• for post-baccalaureate diplomas, prioritize the option of aligning with universities, allowing for real delegation within the framework of common law accreditation ;
• for other diplomas, set up institutional juries for institutions specifically accredited for this purpose and operate a regional jury, as the alternative, for other institutions ;
• in general, approve institutions that are set up to organize tests, based on the continuous assessment (CA) model already in force in secondary education, by evaluating and compensating, in conjunction with the regions, for the additional costs involved.
Regardless of the scope, this form of delegation will not be enough in itself to solve the difficulty of setting up juries mainly made up of professionals. This difficulty also relates to the EFTS, since it is these institutions that generally recommend the members. Most importantly, we must enhance the value of these juries in the professional context and encourage the involvement of employers in the certification process, particularly by hosting trainees. This could be the subject of clauses in the funding agreements of the employing institutions and services, particularly the multi-year contracts of objectives and means, in return for dedicated funding.
With a few exceptions, you do not necessarily need to have a DE TS to practice social professions, except in the case of a social work assistant and without any regulatory definition of acts that can only be carried out in this role. However, the DE remains the benchmark for access to certain public sector jobs or to certain classifications in the collective agreements of the private sector.
It is therefore possible to create diplomas or qualifications for professional purposes that exist alongside the DE TS, knowing that this competition can also occur between the DEs themselves. In practice, this is the case for around 100 qualifications, 40% of which have been created by the State, as school or university diplomas, with the rest stemming from very diverse public or private training organizations or, less often, professional fields.
Notwithstanding the overall discussions taking place as part of the project to merge the Nexem and FEHAP agreements or the committee for socio-educational professions, it would therefore seem desirable to ensure that the various certifications are well coordinated, by providing a basic report from the Consultative Occupational Committee on Social Cohesion and Health on professional diplomas and qualifications, particularly public ones, which are not currently under its authority.
The principle of aligning with university is generally considered desirable in view of the positive interactions between research and practice. But the partial alignment resulting from the reform that gave bachelor’s equivalence to five DEs is very uneven. In the absence of guidance on the minimum content of a qualification, many agreements are formal in nature. In addition, a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee access to a master’s degree course. The closest alignment observed by the mission is when the EFTS is a “component institution” of a university, closely associated with its governance, while retaining its own legal capacity. The mission therefore recommends encouraging the development of double degrees or equivalences and “component institution” partnerships.
The mission also recommends expediting a dedicated mission on creating a “social sciences and humanities – social work” discipline, which we believe would increase the attractiveness and impact of social work professions.
The case of the university bachelor of technology (BUT) in social careers is a strong example of poor coordination at the design stage between a technical diploma and the DE TS. This diploma is now in direct competition with several DEs, in particular for the “social work” and “special education” courses : in the first case, BUT holders cannot claim to be a social work assistant ; however, the lack of coordination is slightly less embarrassing for the second course, since it is not taken into account in the statutes of the local government service or the sector’s collective agreements.
In addition, there are inconsistencies between the courses with the BUT providing for far fewer weeks of internships. Several of the university institutes of technology (UITs) affected have resolved this discrepancy by proposing a dual curriculum, as the BUT national framework allows for local adaptations. Others could resolve this situation either by requesting an approval or under a partnership to be created with the EFTS. This approach should be encouraged, via double diplomas or equivalences, and trials should be conducted to help align the courses.

BUT Bachelor universitaire de technologie (University bachelor of technology)
CA Continuous assessment
DE Diplôme d’Etat (State diploma)
DE TS Diplôme d’Etat du travail social (State diploma in social work)
DGCS Direction générale de la cohésion sociale (Directorate General for Social Cohesion)
DGESCO Direction générale de l’enseignement scolaire (Directorate General for School Education)
DGESIP Direction générale de l’enseignement supérieur et de l’insertion professionnelle (Directorate General for Higher Education and Professional Integration)
DREETS Direction régionale de l’économie, de l’emploi, du travail et des solidarités (Regional Directorates for the Economy, Employment, Labor and Solidarity)
EFTS Établissements de formation au travail social (Social work training institutions)
EHESP École des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP School of Public Health)
IRTS Institut régional du travail social (Regional Institute of Social Work)
UIT University institute of technology
APL Accreditation of prior learning
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