If possible, the SEN children should go to mainstream schools. If the Placement commission determines that the mainstream school could not provide for a successful education in view of the SEN student’s limitations, the SEN student is placed into an adapted or special programme. The providers of such a programme are special schools and professional institutions that are specialized in terms of space and staff to an individual type of impairment, disability or disorder.
Definition of children placed in special schools or residential institutions
Basic schools with adapted programme
Children with mental disabilities or autistic spectrum disorders who are unable to achieve the same standard of knowledge as specified for mainstream schools are placed into the adapted basic school programme of lower educational standard or into special education programme. Both programmes are delivered by independent basic schools with adapted programme (27 independent schools) or specialised units at mainstream basic school (21 units). Children who do not have organised transportation to and back from school available may reside in residence halls for students that are, as a rule, part of schools. Care in residence halls is free of charge. There are six residential halls for SEN children run by basic schools with adapted programme and one independent residential home for basic school students.
The adapted basic school programme of a lower educational standard is open to place in children with:
- minor mental disabilities, and
- autistic spectrum disorders.
Students with mild and moderate mental disabilities, and students with autistic spectrum disorders are placed into the special education programme.
Residential institutions for children and students with special needs
If severity of the child's impairment is such that it is not possible to provide a suitable environment in a mainstream kindergarten or school, the child is placed in an adapted programme of institutions specialised for education of students with special needs. Currently, there are nine such institutions in Slovenia, three for deaf and children with hearing impairments, one for blind and children with visual impairments, and two for children with physical disabilities. In this institutions, students may reach a standard of knowledge equal to that of their peers in a mainstream school. Furthermore, some institutions also implement an adapted basic school programme of a lower educational standard and a special education programme, as well as education programmes for students with behavioural and emotional disorders. If daily commute is not an option, because students reside too far away, they may reside at the institution free of charge.
Blind children and children with visual impairments
In Slovenia, there is one Centre for Education, Rehabilitation, Inclusion and Counselling for the Blind and Partially Sighted (Centre IRIS) in which children are placed if mainstream kindergarten or school cannot provide proper adjustments. It delivers:
- adapted programme for preschool children
- adapted basic education programme of equal educational standards
- adapted basic school programme with lower educational standards
- special education programmes
- education programme for residential homes for SEN students, and
- adapted upper secondary vocational and technical education programmes.
Deaf children and children with hearing impairments, and children with speech and language impairments
In Slovenia, there are three institutions available to children with impairments mentioned above. Two of them (CKSG) only deliver the adapted preschool programme and basic school programmes with equal and lower educational standard, while the third (ZGNL) also the adapted upper secondary vocational and technical programmes.
Children with physical disabilities
There are two specialised institutions that implement programmes for children with physical disabilities. The first (CIRIUS Vipava) provides education for children with physical disabilities who also suffer from mental disability. It delivers the adapted programme for preschool children, special education programme, programme for children with behavioural and emotional disorders, and adapted basic school programme of equal or lower educational standards. The second (CIRIUS Kamnik) delivers the adapted basic school programme of equal or lower educational standards, and adapted programmes of vocational and technical education.
Children with behavioural and emotional disorders
The National Assembly adopted unanimously the Act on the Intervention for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioural disorders in Education (sl) on 17 December 2020. It took effect on 13 January 2021.
The new law set out a single systematisation of educational activities, flexible help and support, cooperation of individual sectors, as well as introduced mechanisms for improved protection of rights and security of children and education staff.
The law primarily aims to establish a single systemic solution of an integrated treatment of children and young people with emotional and behavioural disorders in educational institutions. There are several ministries involved and responsible for these children.
The law governs setting up professional centres to provide prevention treatment for children in kindergartens and schools, and for them to receive help as early as possible and thereby, support eventual later placements.
Within the new arrangement, one will set up a network of professional centres that will provide independently or in cooperation with other educational institutions, the integrated support and help to children and young people with emotional and behavioural disorders and issues, namely in individual regions.
In Slovenia, nine institutions provide service for children and young people with emotional and behavioural disorders.
Admission requirements and choice of school
SEN children are admitted to special schools and institutions based on a placement decision issued by the National Education Institute Slovenia according to the prescribed procedure.
The placement procedure is initiated by the parents of a child or young person alone if the person is over the age of 15, namely by submitting to the institution a request for the initiation of the procedure. The request may also be submitted by the kindergarten or school attended by the child if it is assessed that placement is needed or inappropriate and parents have not submitted a request. If a child already attends a kindergarten or school, it develops a report on the child.
On the basis of existing and received documentation, interview with parents and, where necessary, interview with the child and/or after examining the child, the Placement Commission delivers an expert opinion. It includes basic information about the child, synthesis of opinions of all members, definition of disorder, and placement into an appropriate programme and institution. If necessary, the commission specifies additional professional assistance, adjustment of room and equipment, person assisting a physically impaired child, aids, and other rights of the child according to the law.
Prior to issuing a decision, the National Education Institute Slovenia consults parents about the expert opinion and ensures that the school or institution fulfilled the admission conditions. The parents may appeal against the decision. The appeal is decided on by Ministry responsible for education after seeking opinion by the placement commission of the second instance.
SEN children may have the beginning of a basic school education postponed for a year if so proposed by parents or according to the placement decision.
As specified by the Enrolment in upper secondary schools Rules (sl), SEN candidates who meet the enrolment requirements and have a relevant placement decision do not participate in the selection process in case of cap on places in the chosen education programme. The candidates though, have to have scored 90 percent or more points required for enrolment in the first and second cycle of the selection process.
Age levels and grouping
Students are placed in a programme that is adapted to the type of impairment, disability or disorder. The classes in the adapted programmes or the special programme are attended by students with similar primary impairments, disabilities or disorders.
The adapted basic school programme are three educational cycles, each including three grades, the same as it applies to mainstream programmes. Students of one grade are divided into classes. At schools and institutions with fewer students, combined classes of students of two or more grades may be formed.
Classes of adapted programme of lower educational standards for children with minor (exceptionally also with moderate) mental disabilities may have a maximum of:
- 8 students in grades 1 to 3
- 10 students in grades 4 to 6, and
- 12 students in grades 7 to 9.
Classes of adapted programmes in which students attain knowledge standard equal to mainstream basic school programme and are attended by blind and children with visual impairments, deaf and children with hearing impairments, children with speech and language impairments or physical disabilities may have a maximum of:
- 7 students in grades 1 to 3
- 8 students in grades 4 to 6, and
- 10 students in grades 7 to 9.
Classes of adapted programmes for children with autistic spectrum disorders may have a maximum of 5 students.
Classes of students with emotional and behavioural disorders may include a maximum of 8 students.
If a group consists of students with several disorders, the norm may be decreased by 3 students; the same applies to combined classes of students of two or several grades.
Education according to a special programme, in which students with mild and moderate mental disabilities are placed, is organised in levels. As a rule, each level is made of three years. The first three levels are compulsory. Classes of children with moderate and severe mental disabilities may include a maximum of:
- 6 children at level 1,
- 7 children at level 2, and
- 8 children at levels 3 to 6.
If a class includes students with severe mental disabilities or several disabilities, the norm is decreased by 1 student.
Education according to the adapted programmes of upper secondary education is organised per Years or programme units. Students are grouped in classes. Classes of vocational and upper secondary technical education may include a maximum of 10 students. For practical lessons, students are divided into smaller groups. A group where material is processed manually may include a maximum of 6 students. If material is machine processed, a group may include a maximum of 4 students.
The norms that apply to dividing students into classes are specified by the Minister responsible for education with the relevant rules on norms for provision of education programmes for SEN children (sl).
Curriculum and subjects
Schools and institutions for education of SEN children implement adapted education programmes and a special programme.
Adapted basic school programme of equal educational standard
Institutions for education of SEN children and youth provide adapted basic school programmes of an equal educational standard to
- deaf children and children with hearing impairments (.pdf sl)
- blind children and children with visual impairments (.pdf sl)
- children with speech and language impairments (.pdf, sl)
- children with autistic spectrum disorders (.pdf sl), and
- children with physical disabilities (.pdf sl).
Programmes are designed to enable students to attain the same level of knowledge as those who attend mainstream schools. Subjects and timetables are the same as in mainstream schools. The subject-curricula are adapted to the individual type of impairment, deficiency or disorder.
Alongside attending classes, students are required to participate in activity days, class community meetings, and in special-pedagogical activities that help to overcome the child’s disability or impairment. These activities include communication and computer skills, for children with physical disabilities also social skills, and orientation and mobility training for blind children and children with visual impairments. In the adapted programme for deaf children and children with hearing impairments, students learn Slovenian sign language.
The non-compulsory expanded part of the programme is the same as a rule to the one in mainstream schools (morning care for students of grade 1, remedial and supplementary classes, extracurricular activities). Afterschool classes are provided for students of grades 1 to 9.
Adapted basic school programme of lower educational standard
The programme (.pdf sl) is provided by special schools or units at mainstream schools, and in certain residential institutions for SEN students. The programme is aimed at students with minor mental disabilities or autistic spectrum disorders. Compared to peers in mainstream education, these students require a less demanding programme to enable them to attain an equal educational standard of knowledge
Schools implement lessons in:
- grades 1 to 9: Slovenian, mathematics, fine arts, music, sports
- grades 1 to 3: learning about environment
- grades 4 to 9: natural sciences, social sciences
- grades 5 to 9: technics and technologies, family and consumer sciences, and
- grades 7 to 9: foreign language, elective.
The instruction time is extended from 19 hours per week in grade 1 to 29 hours per week in grade 9.
In the nationally mixed area of Prekmurje, residence area of Hungarian minority, at basic schools that implement the education programme of lower educational standard (.pdf sl), the lessons are given both in Slovenian and Hungarian; they provide lessons in Hungarian, as well.
Students are required to participate in activity days, class community meetings, and in grades 1 to 6, special-pedagogical activities – computer science and social learning.
Students may also participate in the non-compulsory expanded part of the programme, the same as in the adapted basic school programme of equal educational standard.
After SEN students complete the adapted basic school programme of lower educational standard, they may enrol in grade 8 of the basic school programme for adults or a programme of short-cycle vocational education.
The special education programme (sl) is provided for children, youth and adults with mild and moderate mental disabilities. It is organised in levels. As a rule, each level is made of three years. The lessons take place in special basic school that implement the adapted programme of lower educational standard, or in special units at mainstream basic schools and residential institutions for SEN students, as well as in social-care residential institutes. The latter fall under the responsibility of the Ministry responsible for social affairs. The programme is aims to stimulate the child's development in the field of perception, physical, emotional and mental abilities, and communicative and social skills; train them to become conscious of health issues and living independently; enable them to attain basic knowledge and skills and get them accustomed in active and to some extent independent inclusion in the surrounding.
The compulsory part at levels 1, 2 and 3 of the programme aims for students to:
- develop independence
- expand general knowledge
- foster physical activity and sports
- music arts
- visual arts, and
- train for work.
Elective content is component part of the programme at levels 4 and 5. Adult students aged 21 to 26 at level 6, may take optional content, such as active leisure time, developing active citizenship, intimate life and relationships between the sexes, and work and employment techniques.
In the programme, students undertake 22 to 30 hours per week of education and training. Activity days are part of the compulsory programme.
Students may attend also the non-compulsory expanded programme: afterschool classes, extracurricular activities, and level 1 students, morning care, as well.
Adapted upper secondary education programmes
At institutions for SEN students, students may follow the adapted upper secondary vocational and technical education programmes. Students gain knowledge and qualifications comparable to those gained by their peers in regular programmes. Some programmes take one year longer to complete, otherwise they are implemented according to comparable timetables. They include activities for an optimal development, in particular, activities designed to overcome impairments, disorders and disabilities, and learning assistance. The activities mentioned are implemented by trained specialised teachers.
This special programme (.pdf sl) is aimed at SEN students who are unable to complete regular upper secondary education programmes due to head trauma or other neurological conditions. The programme encompasses general education, practical lessons, and behaviour and emotion related education. Students follow the programme during their rehabilitation. If their condition improves, they may return to mainstream upper secondary education programmes.
Approval of programmes
The officially recognised adapted programmes are adopted by the Minister responsible for education in cooperation with the relevant national council of experts. This does not apply to the education programmes of private schools. The education programmes for students with emotional and behavioural disorders and special education programmes are approved by the National Council of Experts for General Education of the Republic of Slovenia.
Teaching methods and materials
Teachers adapt teaching processes to impairments, disabilities and disorders of students. They implement activities designed to help reduce obstacles and develop skills for an efficient organisation and approach to learning.
Schools and institutions have necessary specialised didactic and technical aids on hand. The institution for blind children and partially sighted children develops, produces and lends out relevant aids. It provides support, education and training on the use of those aids. It also develops adapted textbooks, workbooks and other teaching materials. Other textbooks of adapted programmes are developed by the National Education Institute, and some other by private publishers. Textbooks have to be approved by the responsible Council of Experts. Schools accommodate for school textbook funds to allow students to borrow textbooks; some textbooks are available on CDs.
At schools and institution teachers apply adapted ICT equipment and appropriate software. Deaf children and children with hearing impairments learn Slovenian sign language. To work with them and children with speech and language impairments, teachers work by the verbo-tonal method and apply phonetic-rhythmic musical stimulation. Blind children and children with visual impairments learn the Braille alphabet and use audio materials. Children with severe physical disabilities and other disabilities alongside the primary disability are trained to use a substitute communicator.
In the special programme for students with mild and moderate mental disabilities and in the adapted programme for students with physical disabilities, there are guardians-carer or assistants for a group of students with physical disabilities.
Progression of students
Students in the adapted basic school education programme of equal standard of knowledge progress to a higher grade in the same way as their peers in a mainstream basic school. As a rule, students of grades 1 to 6 advance; students advance to grade 8 and 9 if they receive positive final marks in all subjects at the end of the school year.
Students in the adapted basic school education programme of a lower educational standard in grade 1 to 3 get descriptive final marks. As a rule, students advance to the next grade. They may repeat a grade if parents so agree or, exceptionally, without the parents’ consent if students do not achieve expected results of knowledge. In the second and third educational cycles, students get numerical marks. The same rules apply for progression as in mainstream schools.
The assembly of teachers decides about progression or repeating a grade.
Students in the special programme get descriptive marks. Students advance to the next level no matter what the final marks are.
Students in the adapted basic school programme of lower educational standard who do not continue to upper secondary education may attend basic school for another 3 years after they have fulfilled their basic school obligation. For the majority of students, this means until the age of 18. Students in the special programme who have fulfilled their basic school obligation may attend basic school for another six years or until the age of 26.
Students of grades 6 and 9 in the adapted education programme with equal education standard have to take national assessment in at least three subjects, the same as their peer at mainstream schools. The national assessment is not compulsory but an option for students in the education programme of lower educational standard.
Upper secondary school
Students in adapted upper secondary education programmes progress to the next year if they fulfil all obligations specified by the programme and receive positive final marks in all subjects or modules at the end of the school year.
Students in adapted programmes that enable them to attain equal educational standard of knowledge receive identical certificate as their peers in mainstream schools.
Students in adapted programmes of lower educational standard receive descriptive final marks in grades 1 to 3 and numerical final marks in grades 4 onwards. If students transfer to regular programme for individual subjects, they are assessed and marked in those subjects as specified for the regular programme and this is indicated on the certificate.
At the end of every school year, students in adapted programmes receive a report card with a descriptive mark of the progress made. If they transfer intermittently into an adapted programme, this is also indicated in the report. To students who complete a special programme the school issues a certificate of meeting basic school obligation alongside a descriptive mark of achievements.
Students who complete the post-rehabilitation practicum receive a certificate after completing the training in a special education programme issued by the respective school.