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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Support measures for learners in early childhood and school education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.3Support measures for learners in early childhood and school education

Last update: 2 April 2024

For children who have reached compulsory schooling age but for whom it can be assumed that they will not be able to participate successfully in the initial lessons, Schul­kindergärten, Vorklassen or Grundschulförderklassen have been established in some Länder. Attendance is usually voluntary, although in most of the Länder in question the authorities are entitled to make it compulsory. As a rule, these institutions have organisational links with Grundschulen (primary schools) or special education institutions. Schulkindergärten seek to create and optimise the conditions for a form of schooling, training and education that is tailored to the children’s needs by nurturing – as far as possible on an individual basis – the children's ability to gain perceptions and express themselves, through exercises and the handling of materials designed to arouse and develop attention on the part of the children. School readiness should be promoted by supporting the child's interests, motivations and activities in play and everyday situations that make sense to the child, without prejudging the goals and content of school learning. Playing and learning in social contexts is of great importance.

Some Länder have established so-called Vorklassen (pre-school classes) for five-year-olds who have not reached compulsory schooling age but whose parents wish them to receive assistance with their preparation for primary school. Attendance of Vorklassen in Grund­schulen is voluntary. The purpose of such pre-school classes at primary school is to encourage the children to learn by playing but without anticipating the subject-matter dealt with in grade 1 of the Grundschule.

In individual Länder, children with disabilities of pre-school age can receive support in a Schulkindergarten if the parents so wish and the school administration determines the need for early childhood special needs education.

Definition of target group(s)

In recent years the Länder have made intensive efforts to establish diagnostic procedures as a basis for individual promotion. These include for instance establishing language levels prior to enrolment at school, studies of learning backgrounds on starting school, establishing learning levels, comparative and orientation work, and competence analyses in different primary and lower secondary level grades. On this basis, essential individual support measures can be initiated, which are systematically developed in individual learning plans and in individual support plans if there is a special need for support.

The efforts of the Länder are supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) with the research funding guideline "Support-related diagnostics in inclusive education" (‘Förderungsbezogene Diagnostik in der inklusiven Bildung‘). The funding guideline examines how support-related and everyday integrated diagnostics can succeed and what framework conditions are required for this. The aim is to improve the conditions for inclusive education for children, young people and adults in all areas of education. This includes the important transitions.

Specific support measures

Language proficiency diagnostics and language support in the early childhood sector

As part of the measures to improve language competence in early childhood, there are now a large number of important and established observation and documentation procedures in the Länder to determine the level of language competence before school enrolment and, if necessary, subsequent language support measures. These and other measures are designed to particularly support children and young people with a migrant background or a non-German language of origin and children with deficits in language development as well as to compensate for social disadvantages. In recent years, almost all Länder have introduced procedures for language status observation and assessment in early childhood education and in some cases have established obligatory language promotion measures.

Language Day-Care Centres for Children – Because Language Is the Key to the World

With the federal programme Language-Kitas: Because language is the key to the world (Sprach-Kitas: Weil Sprache der Schlüssel zur Welt ist ), which ran from 2016 to 2023, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend – BMFSFJ) promoted the teaching of language education in day-care centres integrated into everyday life, inclusive pedagogy and cooperation with families. From 2021, the federal programme "Sprach-Kitas" has placed a new focus on the use of digital media and the integration of media pedagogical issues into language education. Language day-care centres are supported on the one hand by additional language education specialists who work directly in the institution. On the other hand, they are continuously accompanied by specialist counselling. The programme was aimed at daycare facilities with an above-average proportion of children from educationally disadvantaged families and from families with a non-German family language. A total of Euro 776 million was approved for the implementation of the program from 2016 to 2020. Up to an additional Euro 376 million were made available for the continuation of the federal programme in 2021 and 2022. At the end of June 30, 2023, the structures of the federal programme Language Day Care Centres for Children – Because Language Is the Key to the World were transferred to the responsibility of the Länder. All Länder have created the conditions to continue the “Sprach-Kitas“ in their state structures, either with state funds or with funds for the implementation of the Second Act on the Further Development of Quality and Participation in Child Daycare (R65), the so-called KiTa-Qualitätsgesetz.

Education through Language and Writing

To further develop quality in the field of language promotion and language diagnostics following a phase of intensive development and expansion, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz – KMK) , the Conference of the Ministers of Youth and Family Affairs (Jugend- und Familienministerkonferenz – JFMK), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) and the BMFSFJ agreed in October 2012 to implement a joint initiative to develop language promotion, language diagnostics and reading promotion. The research and development programme Education through Language and Writing (Bildung durch Sprache und Schrift (BiSS)) scientifically developed and further tested the linguistic education of children and the effectiveness of measures introduced in the Länder for language promotion, language diagnostics and reading promotion from primary to lower secondary level. 

Following BiSS, the initiative of the Federation and the Länder “Transfer of Language Education, Reading and Writing Promotion” (‘Transfer von Sprachbildung, Lese- und Schreibförderung’ – BiSS-Transfer) was launched in March 2020. The aim of the five-year transfer phase is to bring the results of BiSS to the wider community. To this end, just less than 3,000 schools and some day-care centres) and quality assurance of the Länder – to firmly anchor improved measures of language education as well as reading and writing promotion in their institutions. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) is funding the overall coordination as well as the research network, in which the conditions for the success of the transfer are being investigated. The Länder bear the costs for the personnel and coordination expenses of the participating schools as well as for the advisory and support tasks of school supervision and Länder institutions.

Support Strategy for Poorer-Performing Pupils

In March 2010 the Standing Conference adopted a targeted Support Strategy for Poorer-Performing Pupils (Förderstrategie für leistungsschwächere Schülerinnen und Schüler), which includes prevention, intervention and compensation measures. The support strategy is closely linked to the “Action framework to reduce the number of pupils leaving school without a first general education qualification, to secure transition from the lower secondary school to the next educational level or to vocational education and training in the dual system and to lower the number of trainee drop-outs” (‘Handlungsrahmen zur Reduzierung der Zahl der Schülerinnen und Schüler ohne Schulabschluss, Sicherung der Anschlüsse, Verringerung der Zahl der Ausbildungsabbrecher’) from 2007. 

The aim of the support strategy is to significantly reduce the number of pupils not achieving a minimum competence development level by the end of their course of education. At the same time this should considerably improve their chances of achieving a school-leaving qualification and successfully participating in society and the world of work. 

In this context particular attention is given to children and young people with a migrant background. The support strategy resolved by the Standing Conference relates to the achievement of the minimum standards for the Hauptschulabschluss or a comparable qualification. This also includes pupils with special educational needs covered by the individual focus Learning, more of whom are to be given the chance to achieve a Hauptschulabschluss or comparable qualification.

The guidelines of the promotion strategy include:

  • individual support in teaching geared to the educational standards;
  • facilitation of and targeted support for longer learning periods;
  • hands-on lesson planning;
  • greater support for pupils with a migrant background or non-German language of origin;
  • help for pupils with special educational needs to achieve a Hauptschule leaving certificate;
  • development of suitable all-day offers and strengthening of educational partnerships;
  • the professionalisation of Vocational Orientation and the shaping and securing of transitions;
  • development of teacher training;
  • evaluation of results.

Various approaches and measures are already being pursued in the Länder to promote poorer-performing pupils. These can be grouped into five strategy areas:

  • improving individual support;
  • restructuring learning: development of teaching geared to competences, new forms of acquisition of competences;
  • facilitating qualifications, structuring transitions and safeguarding connections;
  • connecting partners, coordinating action, building networks and cooperation;
  • strengthening quality assurance and quality development, intensifying educational research.

In May 2020, the Standing Conference presented a "Report on the status of implementation of the support strategy for poorer-performing pupils" (‘Bericht zum Stand der Umsetzung der Förderstrategie für leistungsschwächere Schülerinnen und Schüler’). The successful approaches and measures to promote poorer-performing pupils will be continued in the coming years and the objectives associated with the promotion strategy will be pursued continuously and emphatically.

In October 2019, the Federation and the Länder agreed on a joint initiative to support schools in socially difficult locations. The initiative "School gives you strength“ (‚Schule macht stark) has been launched at the beginning of 2021. This initiative supports 200 schools in socially difficult locations in both urban and rural areas in order to better meet their challenges. At these schools, children and young people with major learning deficits are disproportionately represented.

Remedial teaching

Pupils with learning difficulties usually receive remedial teaching within the framework of teaching in mixed ability classes. To support these pupils, learning groups may also be set up for a certain period of time. However, these measures are accompanied by integrative work in class. The primary focus is on differentiating forms of planning, teaching and organising the teaching and education processes. In December 2003, the Standing Conference adopted basic principles for the individual promotion of pupils experiencing particular difficulties with reading and writing.

Plans for remedial teaching are to be developed to support these children that, as part of the overall schooling concept, will be agreed with all the teaching staff involved, as well as with the parents and pupils. For this group of pupils, the schools provide general remedial instruction during school hours or complementary remedial instruction after hours. The resolution of December 2003 was revised in November 2007 and enhanced by principles governing the individual promotion of pupils experiencing particular difficulties in mathematics.

As well as the compulsory sports lessons at schools, adapted physical education may be offered. This is designed above all for pupils with motor deficits and psychosocial problems.  In accordance with the resolution of the Standing Conference "Principles for the implementation of sports promotion lessons" (‘Grundsätze für die Durchführung von Sportförderunterricht‘) of May 2022, it aims to impact positively on their motor development and improve their health and hence well-being.

Pupils who are experiencing difficulties in the learning process and who are liable to fail to achieve the educational goals of a school year may be given learning support individually in small groups in addition to the instruction they receive in class. Remedial programmes mainly concern German and mathematics as well as foreign languages. Additional instruction may be given in any timetabled subjects. The instruction is normally provided in the afternoon.

Support for children of occupational travellers

For children and young people whose life is characterised by continual moves and a consequent lack of continuity in their school development, an improvement in the schooling situation must aim above all at continuity, a stable relationship between pupil and teacher, and at elements which stabilise their school career and motivate those pupils to attend school. Children of circus artists, fairground entertainers and other occupational travellers have to change school up to thirty times a year. This particular situation calls for coordinated supporting systems that also work across the Länder in order to take into account the special learning conditions of these children and young people, allowing them to gain a school-leaving qualification and thus guaranteeing a successful transfer to working life.

The Länder have developed several schemes to improve the school education of the children of professional travellers. In all Länder, special regulations apply for teaching the children of professional travellers. This teaching is based on a system of Stammschulen and Stützpunktschulen (regular and base schools) that has been introduced in all Länder. The Stammschule is the school attended by the children of travelling families during the periods when they are not travelling. This is usually a school at the primary residence or winter quarters of the family. This is where the pupils' files are kept, the individual learning plan is drawn up, the learning materials and, as a rule, the school diaries are handed out and the report cards are issued. The Stützpunktschule are schools that the children attend when travelling. They are normally located near fairgrounds or the residential locations of the travelling family and are specially adjusted to meet the needs of travelling children.

In addition to the established home and base system, mobile schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Hessen supplement the regular teaching of children of occupational travellers at primary and lower secondary level.

During the travel times of the children of occupational travellers, remote supervision by the main schools or the mobile area teachers can also supplement the face-to-face lessons.

The Bereichslehrer (regional teachers) make an important contribution to supporting and encouraging the travelling children in all Länder. They look after not only the children from their own Federal State but also travelling children and act as a link between the school and parents, the Stammschule and Stützpunktschule as well as the relevant teachers. They particularly offer counselling, information and coordination during the child’s entire school career, accompany the children outside the lessons and in some of the Länder can also offer homework supervision and remedial teaching.

The school logbook for the subjects German, mathematics and the first foreign language, introduced by resolution of the Standing Conference, enables the children of occupational travellers to continue working on their individual learning status during the trip. Furthermore, the school logbook documents the individual learning development and is proof of their attendance at school. A supplementary handout for teachers contains all the necessary information on how to use the school logbook.

The cross-Länder polot project "DigLu – Digital Learning on the Road" was designed as a further development on a digital basis. It creates a new type of digital learning infrastructure for children of occupational travellers that is compatible with data protection and transnational.

Teachers at the main and support schools as well as the Bereichslehrkräfte have the opportunity to supervise and support the children on the journey with the necessary continuity and to keep a constant eye on the learning development of the child during the journey. DigLu was successfully launched as a pilot project on 1 November 2020 with the pilot states of Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Hessen, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Sachsen and Thüringen. The successive entry of further Länder into the trial phase took place until December 2022. After successful completion of the trial phase, it is planned to transfer DigLu to regular operation by all Länder and thus to firmly establish it as a cross-Länder system. DigLu is funded by the DigitalPakt Schule.

The above-mentioned support services and documents, current and further information on the pedagogical concept as well as access to institutions active in this field, to the contact persons in the Länder as well as to the Bereichslehrkräfte and much more can be found on the homepage of The website is maintained by the Federal Association for the Promotion of Education and Training of Children and Adolescents of Travelling Professionals in Germany (Bundesverband zur Förderung von Erziehung und Bildung der Kinder und Jugendlichen von reisenden Berufsgruppen in Deutschland e.V. – BERiD e. V.) with the support of the district government of Arnsberg (Nordrhein-Westfalen).

Beyond the general education sector, young people who are required to attend vocational school, especially from the showman's trade, can acquire job-specific skills at three locations in Hessen, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Schleswig-Holstein. (Project BeKoSch – Vocational Competence for Showmen). Circus members can also take part in the vocational training measures, which are offered to young people from all Länder.

The Standing Conference discusses educational issues for travelling children and related questions, in particular on schooling and support schemes, in annual joint conferences with representatives of the associations and parents of professional travellers.

Measures to promote high-achieving pupils

In June 2015 the Standing Conference resolved a Support Strategy for High-Achieving Pupils (Förderstrategie für leistungsstarke Schülerinnen und Schüler). The recommendation emphasises the role of teaching staff in identifying high performance potentials and thus determining the initial learning situation in classes.

The target group covers pupils who already display very good performances as well as pupils whose potentials are to be identified and developed by targeted encouragement and support. The successful development of potentially capable and high-achieving pupils essentially depends on an early identification of their abilities and needs. A careful observation and diagnosis of the learning conditions of pupils is particularly important as the basis for an individualised plan of support in the school.

Apart from the primary encouragement of general intellectual abilities, support for the musical, sports and emotional abilities are also important.

In November 2016, the Federation and Länder resolved a Joint Initiative to Encourage High-Achieving and Potentially High-Achieving Pupils (Gemeinsame Initiative von Bund und Ländern zur Förderung leistungsstarker und potenziell besonders leistungsfähiger Schülerinnen und Schüler – ‘Leistung macht Schule’). The ‘Leistung macht Schule’ initiative was launched in January 2018. Against the background of an education policy aimed at equal opportunities and educational justice, it contributes to the development of sustainable structures for the promotion of high-performing and potentially particularly high-performing pupils within the framework of the regular school system. To this end, the 300 participating schools were supported in a first five-year phase (2018–2023) by an interdisciplinary research network in the development of practical strategies and concepts for school and classroom development.

The core of the second phase (2023–2027) is the transfer of the results to as many schools as possible: The schools who had participated in the first phase serve as multipliers for other schools. The strategies, concepts and measures developed and tested jointly by science and schools in the first phase will contribute to sustainable school and teaching development in as many schools as possible.

The initiative will run for ten years. The Federal Government and the Länder are providing a total of Euro 125 million in equal shares for the initiative.

The initiative was launched in January 2018. Within its framework, the opportunities for development of high-performing and potentially particularly high-performing pupils are optimised, irrespective of origin gender and social status. More detailed information is available in the article on national reforms in school education.

Support programmes for children and young people with migrant backgrounds

The language abilities of all children and young people with migrant backgrounds or non-German language of origin who have deficits in the German language are to be promoted, enabling them to take part in instruction and education on an equal footing with others. This is considered a task for all teachers and all subjects. Measures for the promotion of language skills are to be provided at all types of school and at all levels if demand exists. Additional funds are to be provided for facilities that are mainly or largely attended by children with a migrant background or non-German language of origin, e.g. to increase the number of teachers from a migrant background or to support teachers with socio-educational staff from child and youth welfare, so as to enable an effective, compensatory promotion of language skills, taking into account the legal framework. In the area of early childhood education and care increasing numbers of Erzieherinnen and Erzieher (state-recognised youth or child-care workers) with a migrant background are to be trained and employed.

To integrate children and young people with migrant backgrounds or non-German language of origin, various support programmes are run by the schools to help the children and young people learn German and obtain German school qualifications. Measures to promote the educational success of children and young people with migrant backgrounds include, for example, specially assigned teachers for German as a second language and the recruitment of teachers from migrant families. Programmes to integrate children and young people with migrant backgrounds or non-German language of origin into German schools are variously organised in each Land:

  • preparatory classes for children and young people with migrant backgrounds or non-German language of origin, partly with acquisition of the German Language Diploma of the Standing Conference - First Level (DSD I) and First Level for Vocational Schools (DSD I PRO) (Vorbereitungskurse, Vorkurse Deutsch or Deutschförderkurse)
  • special classes which combine instruction in the core subjects with intensive study of the German language (Sprachlernklassen, Deutschförderklassen or Übergangsklassen)
  • bilingual classes (held in the native language and German)
  • intensive courses in German as a foreign language
  • special support lessons outside school hours for children and young people with migrant backgrounds who are already taught in integrated classes with German children and need to improve their German skills
  • greater cooperation between home and school

In addition, adapted potential analysis methods are used to estimate the children’s talent and to support them according to their abilities.

To preserve their cultural identity and to promote bilingual competences, in many Länder, children and young people with migrant backgrounds receive supplementary instruction in their native language for up to five periods a week, which covers the geography, history and culture of their native country.

Measures shall also be offered at vocational schools to promote the language skills of young people with migrant backgrounds or non-German language of origin. This is supplemented by vocational orientation measures with analyses of potential and practical investigations of professional fields. Additional funds are to be made available for vocational schools with a high proportion of young people with a migration background or non-German language of origin, e.g. to increase the proportion of teachers with a migration background or to support teachers with socio-educational experts from child and youth welfare.

The significant rise in the number of refugees of compulsory school age poses a big problem for the Federation and Länder, a problem that can only be overcome by using a considerable number of resources. This relates to additional funds to create spatial capacities and the employment of teachers, social workers and integration helpers. The integration of young refugees in schools also calls for special support measures, socio-educational and psychological care as well a complex cooperation between all persons and institutions involved in caring for and supporting refugees. Furthermore, the Länder are greatly expanding their schemes for teacher training as well as continued education and training for teachers in the field of inter-cultural education and German as a second language or German as a foreign language. The Federation and the Länder hold regular talks to coordinate the responsibilities, the organisation and the financing of these schemes.

In October 2016, the Standing Conference passed a "Declaration on the integration of young refugees through education” (‘Erklärung der Kultusministerkonferenz zur Integration von jungen Geflüchteten durch Bildung‘). The goals and challenges named by the Standing Conference in its declaration include learning the language quickly and teaching basic democratic values as well as the commencement and successful completion of vocational education and training or a course of studies.

Measures of support for transition from school to vocational training

In recent years the number of young people who have been unable to find a training place after attending a general education school has decreased. According to the joint report by the Federation and Länder Education in Germany 2020 (Bildung in Deutschland 2022), in 2020 17 per cent of all new entrants to the vocational education and training system first completed pre-vocational measures in the transition system (Übergangsbereich). A common factor of the many different courses on offer in the transition system is that they do not provide a vocational qualification, but endeavour to improve the trainability of individuals and sometimes enable participants to obtain a general education qualification. The main transition system general education course providers are Berufsfachschulen which do not award a vocational qualification, Berufsschulen offering courses for pupils with no training contract, the Berufsvorbereitungsjahr at school (a year of pre-vocational training) and the Berufsgrundbildungsjahr at school (i.e. basic vocational training year). At the end of compulsory full-time schooling, the Employment Agency offers pre-vocational schemes of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit - BA) and, like the Jobcenter, supports the vocational access qualification (betriebliche Einstiegsqualifizierung – EQ), a long-term work placement scheme lasting six to twelve months in preparation for the actual training. In individual cases, part of pre-vocational training programmes and access qualification may be able to be credidet to the subsequent vocational training. 

In October 2013 the Standing Conference adopted a "Recommendation on optimising and standardising school provision in the transition system" ('Empfehlung zur Optimierung und Vereinheitlichung der schulischen Angebote im Übergangssystem'). The transition from school to working life is to be guided inter alia by the following principles:

  • creating a flexible set of instruments that leads to a qualification in a recognised occupation requiring formal training, through differentiated transition offers
  • offering all young people who are ready and willing to train an apprenticeship in a recognised occupation requiring formal training, preferably in the system of dual vocational education and training
  • efficient, targeted and standardised use of resources with close coordination between the Federation, the Länder and the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit – BA) to develop a sustainable support system
  • strategic and operative management of the transition system at Land level between all stakeholders under reliable framework conditions
  • coordinating measures and educational offers between all stakeholders and monitoring in a regional transition management.   

A mandatory Vocational Orientation (Berufliche Orientierung) at all general education schools should open the opportunity for young people to develop their  potential and make an informed career choice. Consistently orienting the transitional system to the above principles should, moreover, facilitate individual, tailored support for young people with difficulties getting off the ground. In the long term the transition system should, therefore, become such an efficient instrument that it only has to be available for young people with particular support needs.

In 2010, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) launched the Education Chains Initiative (Initiative Bildungsketten) to promote training opportunities for young people and strengthen vocational education and training. It has developed into a central cooperation model between the federal government, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit – BA) and the Länder. The Länder play an important role in this because they implement a large part of the measures, embedded in the respective state concept.

For the Education Chains Initiative, the BMBF, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales – BMAS) and the BA coordinate their activities and programmes with the Länder. Together, they assume responsibility for accompanying and supporting young people at the transition from school to work. The central fields of action here are vocational orientation, individual support at school, at the transition to vocational training or university and during training.

Young people should recognize their strengths and interests as early as possible. The career orientation process, which works towards a conscious decision for a profession, usually begins as early as year 5. Those who need additional support and motivation before and during their training will receive individual support until they complete their training if required, so that they can successfully integrate into the world of work.

Young people with social disadvantages, learning difficulties or handicaps and young people with migrant backgrounds with an inadequate command of German need special assistance in order to begin and successfully complete a course of training. Various possibilities exist to achieve this. Disadvantaged young people can, for instance, attend a Berufsvorbereitungsjahr at school (a year of pre-vocational training) aimed at preparing them for the requirements of in-company vocational training. In this context, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs has passed recommendations on measures in vocational schools for young people requiring particular support in the acquisition of professional qualifications owing to learning difficulties. Or the disadvantaged young people can be supported by the Employment Agency or the Jobcenter. These programmes are designed to provide preparation for vocational training to young people who have been unable to secure a training place, to provide parallel training assistance to young people who are currently undergoing in-company training or to provide disadvantaged young people in institutions outside the school sector with a vocational training.

Companies can convey training-relevant basic knowledge as well as initial vocational in-company experience to disadvantaged or less competitive young people by means of individual preparatory training courses and hence introduce them to in-company vocational training.