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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: 2 April 2024

Cooperation between special education institutions and mainstream schools exists independently of approaches to inclusive teaching. When a pupil is transferred from one type of school to another the teachers and head teachers at the schools concerned work together. It is principally possible for pupils to return to mainstream schools. In the majority of the Länder, the education authority makes the decision on whether to transfer a pupil following a request from the special education institution or from the parents or legal guardians. Through the implementation of the Disability Convention of the United Nations, the Länder have created the prerequisites for teaching pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools with the same learning objectives as other pupils, and in some cases with different learning objectives. Particulary schools for children and young people with the special educational focus on speech or emotional and social development are designed as transitional schools; their objective is to compensate for impairments in speech and behavioural problems sufficiently that pupils can attend a mainstream school. In addition, the Länder have different forms of access to the mainstream school system or joint teaching also for pupils who are taught according to different learning objectives.

Within the framework of inclusive education, recently, diverse forms of institutional and educational cooperation between mainstream schools and special education institutions have developed.

Definition of the target group(s)

It can be presumed that pupils have special educational needs if their opportunities for education, development and learning are limited in such a way that they cannot be sufficiently promoted within the scope of instruction at mainstream schools without additionally receiving special educational assistance. In this regard, therapeutic and social aid provided by other external institutions may be required as well.

Special educational needs are to be determined in relation to the tasks, the requirements and the support measures the respective school can provide. Furthermore, a determination of the special educational needs of the child must take into account the environment of the child, including the school as well as the pupil’s personal abilities, interests and expectations for the future. In some cases, formal assessment procedures accompany enrollments and transitions to different types of schools.

The procedure of determining special educational needs comprises establishing the individual need for support as well as deciding on the course of education. The responsibility for the procedure lies in most cases with the school supervisory authorities: Either the authorities themselves have the competence for special educational needs as well as sufficient experience in the field of educational support for children and young people with special educational needs, or they consult experts in the field of special educational support.

The procedure of determining special educational needs may, according to the regulations of the individual Länder, be applied for by the parents or legal guardians of the pupil, by the pupil, by the school or, if applicable, by other competent services, and is to take into account the competences of the persons who participate or are to participate in the measures of support and instruction in a suitable manner.

Specific support measures

Inclusive education for pupils with special educational needs

Children and young people with special educational needs can attend mainstream schools. With the action plans adopted in all Länder, the expansion of the inclusive school system is being further developed with different legal regulations and implementation strategies in the Länder. Special education teachers are deployed at mainstream schools that meet special educational needs, e.g. by providing mobile assistance and advice as well as for cooperative instruction with another teacher. Teachers qualified in special needs education cooperate with the teachers and educators of the general schools with regard to individualised forms of planning, implementation and control of the teaching processes and a coordinated cooperation of the teachers and specialists involved. Special needs education is usually an intrinsic part of joint teaching. In some Länder, special needs education in joint classes can be supplemented by therapeutic or nursing measures, depending on the type of disability.

Special educational support in the form of cooperative measures

Many special education institutions and mainstream schools have developed close educational cooperation. Cooperative or inclusive forms of organisation benefit both lessons and the general life of the school. This favours the permeability of school types and their educational pathways, the further development of the quality of teaching, the increase in the proportion of joint teaching and the transfer of pupils from special needs education institutions to mainstream schools. .

In its "Recommendations on school education, counselling and support for children and young people with a special educational focus on LEARNING" (‘Empfehlungen zur schulischen Bildung, Beratung und Unterstützung von Kindern und Jugendlichen im sonderpädagogischen Schwerpunkt LERNEN‘), the Standing Conference also emphasises that offers for these children and young people should be closely linked to general education and its offers. The educational, counselling and support services of the special schools are to be linked regionally with the educational services of the general schools. To this end, the special educational institutions should cooperate with general schools.