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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: 10 March 2023

Definition of the target group(s)

In Finland the focus is on earliest possible support in order to prevent the emergence and growth of problems. Everyone is entitled to general support. It is a natural part of the everyday teaching and the learning process.

Pupils and students in need of regular support for their learning or school attendance or in need of several forms of support at the same time have the right to intensified support. Special support is provided for pupils who cannot adequately achieve their growth, development or learning objectives through other support measures. The support must be flexible so that it changes according to the needed support. It must also be based on long-term planning. 

Finnish educational legislation does not categorise pupils according to disabilities or support needs.  When planning the level of support (general, intensified or special) for a pupil, the support needs are assessed. The need may vary from temporary to continuous, from minor to major, or from one to several forms of support. 

General support is the first response to problems

Every pupil has the right to sufficient support for learning and attending school as soon as problems emerge. General support is the first response to the pupil’s support need. Generally this means guidance and support as part of the everyday activities of the school.

Intensified support prevents further problems

If general support is not enough, pedagogical assessment is made and a plan for the intensified support discussed in the pupil welfare group of the school. Following this a learning plan is drawn up for the pupil. Intensified support is more robust and consistent than general support. It aims at preventing problems from accumulating and becoming more complex. 

Special support is provided for pupils who cannot achieve their learning objectives through other support measures

If intensified support is not enough, new and more extensive pedagogical statements on the pupil must be done. The education provider collects information from teachers and the school’s welfare group. Based on this information, the education provider makes an official decision concerning special support. This has to be revised at least after the second grade and before the pupil is transferred to seventh grade.

Following this decision, an individual education plan is drawn for the pupil. The whole range of support measures available in basic education can be used. The main purpose of special support is to provide pupils with broadly based and systematic help so that they can complete compulsory education and are eligible to continue to upper secondary level. 

Specific support measures

The ideology in Finland is to integrate pupils into mainstream education whenever this is possible. According to the National Core Curriculum each pupil is provided with support at his or her own school through various flexible arrangements, unless its provision inevitably requires the pupil to be transferred to another teaching group or school. The place of provision is decided as part of the special support decision based on the assessment of the needs of the individual pupil.

The most commonly used support measures are:

  • remedial instruction (all levels of support)
  • part-time special-needs education (all levels of support)
  • individual learning plan (intensified and special support)
  • invidualised syllabus (special support)
  • lengthening or delaying compulsory education (special support)

Support is generally planned and implemented as part of multi-disciplinary pupil welfare work. Pupils and their parents must be provided with information about support measures and be given an opportunity to express their views on the provision of support.

The school management is responsible for decisions relating to the provision and implementation of support and for taking these into account in all year groups and subjects. Individualisation of a syllabus requires a decision on special support. 

Remedial instruction prevents pupils from falling behind

A pupil who has temporarily fallen behind in studies or otherwise needs short-term support in learning is entitled to remedial instruction.  Remedial instruction must be given as soon as learning difficulties are observed to prevent the pupil from permanently falling behind. Remedial instruction may be provided at all levels of support.

Remedial instruction may be provided as team teaching in the pupil’s regular teaching group, in a small group, or completely individually. It is also possible to make use of various flexible group arrangements to implement remedial teaching during lessons. 

Part-time special needs education supports learning and school attendance

A pupil who has difficulties in learning or school attendance is entitled to special needs education alongside other instruction. Part-time special needs education is provided for pupils with problems relating to linguistic or mathematical skills, learning difficulties in individual subjects, study or social skills or in their school attendance.

Part-time special needs education is provided through flexible arrangements as team teaching, in a small group or individually. It is planned and pupils’ learning is assessed in cooperation between teachers. Part-time special needs education may be provided at all levels of support. 

Compulsory education can be lengthened or delayed

If a pupil cannot cope with the general and intensified support measures, their compulsory education can be lengthened.  Pupils can also start their basic education one year later.

The syllabus of basic education is nine years. If necessary due to disability or illness, compulsory education starts one year earlier than for other pupils. Also pre-primary education can take one or two years. If the parent or guardian so wishes, the extended education can start at the age of five on a voluntary basis. In such cases, pre-primary education lasts two years and the second of these, that is, the year when the child becomes six years of age, is part of compulsory school education.

A child may also begin basic education one year later than stipulated, if it is deemed appropriate for the child on the basis of psychological or medical examination. This means that a child will start school during the year when he or she turns eight. 

Voluntary year after compulsory education 

Young people who have completed the basic education syllabus may be provided with additional education lasting one extra school year – tenth grade.  This additional education is open to young people who have received their basic education leaving certificate in the same or previous year. Organising this extra year is discretionary to the education providers.

No national distribution of lesson hours or syllabus has been determined for the tenth grade. The instruction is planned individually. The curriculum may include:

  • core subjects common to all pupils as part of the basic education syllabus
  • elective subjects within basic education
  • other subjects and subject groups conforming to the role of basic education
  • vocational orientation studies
  • periods of work experience

A very small percentage of those who complete basic education participate in the additional year. In recent years only circa 2 per cent of the school leavers have opted for this choice.

Table 12.1. Basic education pupils having received intensified or special support, 2018


Pupils having received intensified support. Share of pupils in basic education %
Pupils having received special support. Share of pupils in basic education %
Pupils having received intensified or special support. Share of pupils in basic education %
Pre-primary education
Grades 1 - 6
Grades 7 - 9
Additional education

 Source: Statistics Finland.

Vocational education and training

Students in need of special support may apply to ordinary vocational institutions within the national joint application system or through the related flexible application procedure. They may also apply to vocational institutions with special educational tasks directly. Guidance counsellors in basic education and student counsellors in vocational education and training, aim to find a suitable place for everyone.

In vocational education and training, students in need of special educational or student welfare services are provided with an individual education plan. This plan must set out details of the qualification to be completed, the national core curriculum or the requirements of the competence-based qualification observed in education and training, the scope of the qualification, the individual curriculum drawn up for the student, grounds for providing special needs education and training, special educational and student welfare services required for studying as well as other services and support measures provided for the student. 

Nearly 77 per cent of special needs students in vocational education for young people were studying integrated with other students in 2017.