The majority of children with special educational needs (SEN children) attends the mainstream kindergartens and schools (stats and analyses, sl). The SEN students benefit from the adapted implementation and additional professional support.
Most of other groups of children with unfavourable backgrounds (Roma community, foreigners, and so forth), too, attend the mainstream kindergartens and schools: The same goes for the talented students.
Definition of target group
Children with special educational needs (SEN children)
By law, SEN children are children:
- with mental and developmental disorders
- blind and partially sighted or children with functional visual disturbance
- deaf children and children hard of hearing
- children with speech and language impairment
- with physical impairment
- with chronic diseases
- with learning difficulties in individual fields of education
- with autistic spectrum disorder, and/or
- children with emotional and behavioural disorders.
The Act Regulating the Integrated Early Treatment of Preschool Children with Special Needs (sl) became operational as of 1 January 2019. It introduced the integrated early treatment in Slovenia. It set out the provision of the integrated early support to a family and a SEN child, in so doing, it aims to improve their quality of life.
SEN children and children at risk can be identified within the family, health system via primary preventive health care, and other treatment in a kindergarten, educational institution, social care institution, or via services of social work centres.
The providers of early treatment are:
- child development units or clinics
- mental health clinics (if they provide services of early treatment centres for preschool children)
- public kindergartens, and
- other educational institutions, social care institutions, social work centres, mental care centres, counselling and guidance centres, in cooperation with early treatment centres for preschool children.
By law, the integrated early treatment of SEN children and children at risk in early education involves the preschool child and the child’s family. It's intention is to look after and foster the child’s development, improve the family’s capabilities, as well as encourage social inclusion of the family and the child.
The law sets out the equal opportunity requirements for deaf and deafblind persons, as well. The two groups of children have the right to a relevant professional support and help, namely to communicate in the Slovenian sign language and/or pursue activities with the deafblind children.
By the Act Regulating the Integrated Early Treatment of Preschool Children with Special Needs (sl), the SEN children are the children with developmental disabilities, delays, impairments and/or disorders in physical, cognitive, perception, social-emotional, communication characteristics, as well as children with chronic or long-term diseases.
Another target group are children at risk. Those children experience risk factors for developmental disabilities, delays, impairments and/or disorders. The risk factors take shape during pregnancy, at birth or immediately after birth, and they can influence the development of the child. The risk factors can manifest later because of an illness or poor socio-economic background of the family.
The placement commissions at the National Education Institute Slovenia decide on placing a child in a programme and a kindergarten or school according to the specified procedure. The commission decides, as well, on the necessary adaptation of the provision, instruction time, type and method of the additional professional or physical support and assistance, and other eventual rights (e.g. free transportation, adapted facilities, etc.). Parents can appeal against the decision. The Ministry responsible for education decides on the case of the appeal considering the recommendation by the second instance placement commission.
The commission reflects on the criteria and level of the child's development, child's ability to learn and achieve required standards of knowledge, aetiology and prognosis in view of the child's deficiencies, barriers and disorders. The criteria for determining a type and degree of a disorder of SEN children (sl .pdf) apply.
By law, the talented students are a special category of students. The Basic School Act (en), Gimnazija Act (en) and Upper secondary Vocational and Technical Act (en) allow for the delivery adapted to the talented students.
The talented students are students who demonstrate high above average skills of thinking or extraordinary achievement in separate study fields, arts or sports. Basic schools identify talented students, adapt the content, educational methods, as well as allow them to participate in supplementary lessons, other forms of individual and group support and methods of work. In upper secondary education, too, the talented students have a special status. Schools have to adapt the delivery and duration of education programme.
The Council of experts for general education of the Republic of Slovenia adopted the concept of identifying and working with talented children (sl .pdf). It includes professional reference and instructions for educational activities for talented children. The concept of educational activities with talented children (sl .pdf) was developed, as well.
Children can enrol on the preschool education programme at the age of 11 months. Then they can attend kindergarten until they start basic school.
There are two programmes of preschool education and support to SEN children:
- Programme for preschool children with adapted delivery and additional professional support, and
- Adapted programme for the SEN preschool children.
It is very important for SEN children that kindergartens, parents, health services, social work centres, NGOs, and other relevant institutions work in concert. It is the within the family, health system, preschool educational institutions, social-care educational institutions or services of social care centres that one can identify children who require special educational needs. For the best benefit of a child and the child’s family, the proper cooperation and communication among parents, the relevant professional group of the kindergarten, centre for early treatment, other providers of health services, and other institutions of the child’s placement is key.
The kindergarten or placement institution, early treatment centre and other health care providers work together in a multidisciplinary team. This cooperation can start:
- before the inclusion of the child in the kindergarten or relevant institution, or
- after the inclusion, if a requirement for (new) services of early treatment is identified.
Parents have the right to participate in planning the life and work in a kindergarten or placement institution. In agreement with a preschool teacher, they can join in the educational activities in the class, but with due respect of the institution’s professional autonomy. At the same time, parents can participate in helping a child and planning of the support to the child and family, again in cooperation with the professional and nongovernmental institutions.
The adapted delivery of the education programme with additional professional support at mainstream kindergartens is open to:
- children with mild and moderate mental impairments
- blind and partially sighted or children with functional visual disturbance
- deaf children and children hard of hearing
- children with speech and language disorders
- children with physical disabilities
- children with a chronic disease, and
- children with autistic spectrum disorder.
The developmental classes in mainstream kindergartens are open to children with moderate, moderate-severe and severe mental disorders, blind and partially sighted children, deaf and children hard of hearing, children with speech and language disorders, physical impairments and children with autistic spectrum disorder.
Basic and upper secondary school
SEN children attending inclusively basic and upper secondary general, technical and vocational programmes have the opportunity to acquire the equivalent educational qualification standard, the same as their peers.
The adapted delivery of the education programme and professional support at mainstream basic and upper secondary schools is open to:
- children with speech and language impairments
- children with physical disabilities
- children with long-term illness
- children with learning difficulties in specific fields of education
- children with emotional and behavioural disorders, and
- children with autistic spectrum disorders.
The education staff follow the guidelines for adapted implementation of the basic school programme with additional professional support (sl .pdf). The guidelines recommend the adaptation of space, didactical aids and equipment, organisation of time, schedule of lessons and assessment.
Children with milder mental and developmental disorder who completed basic school with the adapted programme of a lower educational standard can continue their education in a programme of short upper secondary vocational education.
At the level of basic and upper secondary education programmes, the schools provide additional support for other groups of students, as well. The law makes provision for talented students and migrant students or students whose first language is not Slovenian, as well. For further information, please see the Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School education.
Specific support measures
Kindergartens, basic schools and upper secondary schools have to ensure proper facilities and settings for education of SEN children: adapt organisation and method of programme implementation and provide additional professional support. They may adapt also the assessment, progression and schedule of lessons.
Kindergartens and schools together with parents develop individualized programmes for SEN children. They specify the objectives and work methods, strategies of inclusion in the group, additional professional support, use of adapted educational technology, physical assistance, Slovenian sign language interpreters, transfer between programmes and other adjustments necessary to organise, assessment, paths to achieve standard, progression and schedule of lessons, as well as skills SEN children need to become independent in their life and work.
Additional professional assistance
The purpose of additional professional assistance is to counsel, help to overcome disabilities, impairments and deficiencies, and in school, also learning support. Details are specified in the Rules on additional professional and physical assistance for children with special needs (sl). It comprises of up to five hours a week of which one hour has to be reserved for counselling aimed to create an inclusive surrounding. The length of additional professional assistance depends on whether a child attends a kindergarten, basic school or upper secondary school, and it depends on child's disabilities and needs, as well. Blind children and children with visual impairments or/and children with several disorders may have additional three hours of assistance a week.
Additional professional assistance can aim to overcome deficiencies, disorders and impairments or support learning. It may be individual or group, in or outside a class, but always during kindergarten activities or school lessons.
Additional professional support in the form of counselling is implemented within holistic treatment of a child as specified with the individualised programme.
Additional professional assistance in overcoming deficiencies, disorders or impairments is given by education staff qualified in various disciplines and with the degree in pedagogics (special and rehabilitation, social or inclusive) or psychology. This is specified by the placement decision and according to the type of deficiency. Trained teachers with extra professional knowledge and skills or education staff who provide professional assistance in overcoming deficiencies, disorders or impairments give learning support. If a kindergarten or school does not have suitable professional on staff, mobile teachers may give the assistance.
Counselling service aims to set up a support environment and to facilitate the child’s inclusion. It is provided to families, education staff who teach and educate SEN children, and other children in a group or class with a SEN child. Counsellors, preschool teachers, teachers for additional professional assistance outside teaching time, and education staff of public educational institutions or social work institutions may pursue counselling service, and it may be provided in cooperation with other external professional institutions.
If a child suffers from severe physical disability, a kindergarten or school may assign an assistant to provide a child with constant physical assistance. Temporary assistant is assigned to a child who only requires physical assistance in certain activities in or outside kindergarten or school premises. Permanent or temporary assistants may be assigned to blind preschool children, too, and exceptionally, also later during the compulsory or extended programme.
If a child is visually impaired, has visual function disorder, chronic disease, autistic spectrum disorder or if a child suffers from emotional or behavioural challenges, he or she may be assigned a temporary assistant to provide physical assistance, namely to facilitate the inclusion in separate educational activities in a kindergarten or school.
The scope, method and condition of the additional professional and physical assistance are specified by the relevant rules on additional expert and physical assistance for SEN children (sl).
Reduced number of children in a class
The placement commission may recommend that a class with a SEN child has fewer children as specified by the norms of dividing students into classes. An expert commission of a kindergarten or school reaches the decision.
A kindergarten class may not include more than two SEN children. The number of children in a class is not reduced if there is a child with an assistant included in a class.
If it is decided by the school expert commission to reduce the number of students in a class and to form another class, the school has to seek consent by the Ministry responsible for education.
To organise classes of fewer students is also an option in programmes of vocational and technical upper secondary education. The scope of the reduction depends on whether one, two, three or more SEN students are included.
SEN students may have the assessment and marking, method of external assessment and progression adapted to their abilities.
Teachers adapt primarily the methods and forms of test questions and answers, time of assessment, organization (piecemeal tests), and formats of written material, use of technical aids and equipment, and conditions of rooms. The adjustments for students with deficiencies in individual fields of learning are described in the instructions for adjusted implementation (sl .pdf).
SEN basic school students may have the national assessment of knowledge adapted to allow them equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. The adjustments are described in the relevant instructions (sl) and may include:
- extra time in written examinations
- pauses during written examinations
- pauses during listening
- assistant present
- adapted room and equipment
- use of special aids, and
- method of assessment (e.g. exempt from certain assignments – listening skills are not assessed).
Matura examination and final examinations
SEN students may have general and vocational matura examination adapted:
- extra time in oral or written examinations
- pauses during written and oral examination or listening
- special room to sit an examination
- adapted equipment
- allowed computer assisted examination and use of special aids
- sitting an examination with assistant present
- adapted examination material,
- adapted formats of internal part of matura, and
- adapted assessment.
The adjustments are specified by the relevant rules on the implementation of matura examination for SEN candidates (sl).
Space and equipment
Kindergartens and/or schools have to make suitable aids, equipment, and access to building or premises available to children.
Transfer between programmes
Students in adapted programmes of a lower education standard may transfer to a mainstream basic school programme in individual subjects. Students in a special education programme may transfer to adapted programme of a lower education standard.
Cooperation with other institutions
Kindergartens and schools cooperate with schools and institutions for education of SEN children that have pedagogues, experts on individual disabilities, impairments and deficiencies on staff. They provide children in mainstream kindergartens and schools with additional professional assistance in the form of mobile service.
The specialized institutions for deaf and hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired and students with physical disabilities play an important role. With their professional competences and mobile service, they assist in treating children and students, counsel teachers who teach SEN students in mainstream kindergartens and schools, and parents. They organise different training seminars for teachers and short courses for children and students. In institutions for deaf children and children with hearing impairments and institutions for children with physical disabilities, health units provide healthcare and implement rehabilitation programmes to complement and improve schooling opportunities in the overall education and training.
In attending to children with emotional and behavioural disorders, schools cooperate with social work centres.
Children with milder disorders go to mainstream schools. Social work centres may place children with more explicit disorders in educational institutions. According to the Family Code (en), placing of children in educational institutions is inside the competence of the relevant courts, as well.
There are three counselling centres in Slovenia that provide support to parents, children and youth to deal with learning, emotional, behavioural, psychosocial and psychiatric disorders and difficulties. They help children and their parents with a comprehensive multidisciplinary team treatment that includes diagnostics, counselling, corrective measures and therapy.
The National Education Institute is responsible to place SEN children in the right programmes and plays an important role in education and training of education staff. It implements innovations in education and training of SEN children.
Basic schools adapt the content, methods and types of working to meet the needs of talented students. Students may attend supplementary lessons, and other types of individual and group support. Talented upper secondary students have special status, too. Schools have to adapt the implementation of the education programme as set out with the Adjustment of upper secondary student's school obligations Rules (sl). Together with students and parents of a minor, schools develop personal educational plans and define the implementation of lessons, and other rights and obligations of students and schools.
The two concepts of teaching talented students (basic school students - sl .pdf, upper secondary students - .pdf sl) urge schools to improve and further basic skills and knowledge of talented students within the education programme on one side and provide enriching or additional activities on the other. To do that, schools have to consider skills and abilities, as well as individual interests and personal characteristics of talented students. They have to set up proper milieu for talented students to progress faster, develop creativity, higher forms of thinking and learning, and become independent and responsible. Schools apply cooperative learning strategies and methods, diversify the offer and open choice, enable a holistic personal development, organise mentorships between students and teachers, and facilitate proper inclusion of talented students in the school environment and give them opportunities to socialise among themselves occasionally.
To provide all that, schools may apply different organisational forms of differentiation and individualisation, specific didactical strategies of teaching (e.g. individualised programmes, preparing for competitions, interest activities, creative workshops, inquiry based tabors, faster progression, programme for personal and social development, individualised counselling).