Skip to main content
European Commission logo


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

The entitlement to special needs education is linked to the children’s needs.  The have a legal right to be offered special education, but special education is not compulsory. Parents or guardians must therefore give their written approval before services being offered.

Specific support measures


Early childhood education and care


Children in pre-primary education who need special education assistance are offered facilities in ordinary kindergarten institutions.

According to the Pre-primary School Act, children who, because of their disabilities or because of emotional or social difficulties, need special assistance or training, are entitled to appropriate support, in their own pre-primary school in cooperation with the municipality. This is supervised by the head teacher of the pre-primary school in cooperation with the teacher, a developmental therapist or other specialists. All children are given regular check-ups to monitor their health and development. 

When the special education need is discovered during the first months of their pre-primary education, usually the head teacher, pedagogical leader(s) and special educators apply for diagnostic services to be made, in cooperation with the parents. 


Primary and lower secondary education


Pupils who do not benefit sufficiently from ordinary tuition are entitled to special needs education and generally, teaching is to be adapted to the need to be adapted.  Special needs education could involve schemes relating to progression and working methods, deviations from the curriculum, or organisational adaptation.

Pupils entitled to special needs education may have an individual education plan (IEP) developed in accordance with the results and advice given by the educational-psychological service. The IEP may include educational mapping, content (attainment targets and learning goals), methods (tasks, learning aids/material, and assessment) and organisation (learning environment and staff). The plan is evaluated on a regular basis.


Upper secondary education


Pupils that receive special needs education in upper secondary are divided in two groups. One group consists of pupils aiming to obtain full qualifications and an ordinary matriculation diploma (stúdentspróf). The other group receives special needs education with a view to obtaining a lower level qualification (framhaldsskólapróf) which does not lead to full university or college admissions certification or to a full vocational qualification. Basic qualifications are documented in the form of a training certificate and may be planned or unplanned.