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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Special education needs provision within mainstream education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.1Special education needs provision within mainstream education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Definition of the Target Groups

Where it becomes evident that a student needs support, a parent is notified thereof and the school arranges a pedagogical-psychological evaluation of the student. Where necessary, cooperation with the specialists of other fields is pursued and additional surveys are recommended. The school provides a student who has difficulties in performing the duty to attend school or lags behind in achieving the study outcomes with general support, which involves individual additional instruction by a teacher, the availability of the services of the support specialists and, where necessary, the organisation of study assistance lessons individually or in a group.

Where it becomes evident that a student is gifted, an individual curriculum is drawn up for the student at school and, where necessary, additional instruction and learning opportunities in education programmes or other educational institutions are provided by subject teachers or other specialists.

Where the general support provided by the school does not produce the desired results for the development of the student, enhanced support or special support may be applied upon recommendation of an external advisory team. In such an event the student is considered a student with special educational needs.

Specific Support Measures

A regular school organises study of students with special educational needs, like that of all other students, according to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act and the Education Act. Every child has the right to study at a school of residence and according to a suitable curriculum and receive support arising from the special educational need. In general, children with special educational needs study in ordinary classes of ordinary schools. In case teaching of students with special needs requires, due to their disability or disorder, a very specific organisation of studies and implementation of resource intensive support measures, an ordinary school may open a class for students with special needs.    

A need for enhanced support and special support is assessed by an external advisory team. As a result of the assessment, the advisory team provides recommendations for the support of the development of the child and organisation of studies and education.

According to the recommendation of the external advisory team and with the written parental consent, the school provides the student with enhanced support or special support, studies at home for health reasons, non-stationary studies with regard to the student who is under the obligation to attend school, reduces and replaces the learning outcomes provided for in the national curriculum in one or more subjects, recommends the application of studies for students with mild learning difficulties, students with moderate learning difficulties and students with severe and profound learning difficulties, or releases the student from having to study a mandatory subject.

Enhanced support is applied to a student who, due to their permanent learning difficulty or psychical or behavioural disorder or another health condition or disability, needs a constant support specialist service and an individual curriculum in one, more or all subjects, or part-time studies individually or in a group, or individual support during studies in the class, or studies in a special class.

Special support is applied to a student who, due to their severe and permanent mental disorder, intellectual or mental disability or multiple disabilities needs disability-specific organisation of studies, study environment, study methodology, study aids and a constant support specialist service combined with social or health services or both in order to be able to participate in studies; part-time studies individually or in a group or constant individual support in a class or studies in a special class.

In vocational educational institutions the school, along with the manager of the school, ensures a student with special needs with an access to support services, remedial instruction, special education teacher, social educator and psychologist services; and the school can apply the following support measures in support of the student: 

  • drawing up and implementing an individual curriculum;
  • studies in small groups; 
  • a moderate or deep pedagogical intervention;
  • use of a sign-language interpreter.

A school appoints an employee or a support group that is responsible for the identification of the special need of the student, assessment of the competencies and needs of the student, specifying and application of the required support measures, monitoring the effectiveness of such measures, and coordination of these activities.

Support specialists, incl. speech specialists, special education teachers, psychologists or social educators, support the development of a student and the pursuit of studies that correspond to the student’s abilities and social skills.

A support specialist:

  • cooperates with other support specialists for identifying the student’s needs for aid and support, and assesses, based on the competencies of the specialty, the student’s development and coping in study environment;
  • advises and supports the teacher in planning and conducting the student’s study and development activities, finding a study methodology and study form suitable for the student, selecting and adjusting suitable learning materials and aids, and drawing up an individual plan for organisation of studies or curriculum;
  • supports and guides a student in solving problems that have emerged, plans and conducts interventions arising from the special educational needs of the student and activities supporting the student’s development, coping and social capability individually or in a group, and assesses the effectiveness of the applied measures;
  • in cooperation with other support specialists, advises school management, teachers and staff in organising the study of students with special educational needs, designing a development and study environment based on the needs of the student, and selecting the measures suitable for supporting the student;
  • advises, within his or her professional competencies, the parents and family in issues related to supporting a child’s development and coping;
  • cooperates, where required, with medical, rehabilitation, social care, etc. specialists for providing the child with the required support.

Legislative References

Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act

Republic of EstoniaEducation Act

Descriptions of the support specialists and the procedure for the implementation of the service

Conditions of and procedure for studies at home and in hospital

The list of data to be submitted to the external advisory team for making a recommendation, and the conditions of and procedure for submission of an application and making a recommendation by the external advisory team

Conditions of and procedure for the study of persons with special educational needs at vocational educational institutions