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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Separate special education needs provision in early childhood and school education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.2Separate special education needs provision in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Definition of the target group(s)

Inclusive education: a new vision of education for all

The majority of students attend regular education. In Portugal, only about 1% of students attend special education establishments. This occurs in situations where students have complex needs and a grounded request from their respective parent/guardian has been made. It is the responsibility of multidisciplinary team that supports inclusive education to analyse the situation holistically, and the Ministry of Education’s department to grant or reject the request.

Admission requirements and choice of school

The assessment and decision to propose that students attend a special education school is undertaken by the relevant department of the Ministry of Education, the Directorate-General for Schools (Direção-Geral dos Estabelecimentos Escolares - DGEstE), based on the assessment process of each student, the verification of existing solutions in regular schools and the needs evaluation so that the student can continue to attend the same school. After verifying that regular school cannot provide such a solution, for students aged 6 years and over, and with the agreement of the student's parents or guardians, a favourable opinion is given by the Ministry of Education.

Age levels and grouping of pupils

In special education establishments, classes should not exceed 15 students and must be organised according to students’ educational needs.

Curriculum, subjects

An individual educational programme (Programa Educativo Individual - PEI) is drawn up for students subject to major curricular adaptations that have an impact on the skills and learning, entailing alternative curricula. Three years before the compulsory school-leaving age, an individual transition plan (Plano Individual de Transição – PIT) is put together.

Teaching methods and materials

The Ministry of Education places teachers (ratio of 1 teacher/5 pupils), provides financial support for human resources (therapists, psychologists and assistants) and a subsidy per student for special education schools that have an education project that is suitable to the students’ needs.

Progression of pupils

According to Decree-Law No 54/2018, 6 July (with amendments introduced by Law No 116/2019, 13 September), the progress of students covered by additional learning and inclusion support measures occurs in the terms defined in the technical-pedagogical report and in the individual educational programme (PEI).


At the end of their school education, all students are entitled to a school-leaving certificate and diploma.

For students who have followed an academic path with major curricular adaptations, the certificate must include the cycle or level of education completed and relevant curricular information, as well as the areas and experiences covered during the implementation of the individual transition plan.