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 Group(s)

Pupils with severe intellectual impairments

Pupils who are considered unable to attain the knowledge goals of the compulsory school (grundskola), due to intellectual disabilities have a lawful right to education that covers both compulsory education for those with severe intellectual disabilities (anpassad grundskola) and the equivalent for the upper secondary level (anpassad gymnasieskola). This kind of school is intended for those who have an important and enduring intellectual disability due to neurological damage as well as those with autism or similar conditions.

Pupils with severe physical disabilities

Pupils with severe physical disabilities have the right to specially adapted education. The criteria for having the right to such education is that the physical disability itself or in combination with other functional disabilities means that the pupil cannot follow regular education, and also that the pupil needs rehabilitation and in certain cases residential arrangements in pupil homes with appropriate care. 

Children with functional impairments who cannot attend the compulsory school (grundskola) or the compulsory school for pupils with intellectual disabilities (anpassad grundskola) can attend the special school (specialskola). This includes children that are blind or have visual impairments as well as children that are deaf or hearing impaired or have a severe speech disorder.

Pupils with exceptional learning abilities

Five per cent of pupils can be considered having exceptional learning abilities, i.e. that they easily achieve the learning targets. These pupils have the right to guidance and stimulate to reach further in their learning. 

Specific support measures

Most pupils with special needs receive education in the mainstream education system. The curricula set out specific goals to attain for pupils with impaired hearing/vision and physical disabilities as well as for pupils with intellectual disabilities. Compulsory and upper secondary teachers often teach pupils with intellectual disabilities.

Municipalities can organise special provision according to the specific needs of the pupils in their catchment area.

Regional resource centers promote the all-round development of children and young people who are either deaf or have visual, hearing or speech impairments. Activities focus primarily on special pedagogical research and training.

Specific legislative framework

The Education Act applies to the entire educational system. It has been supplemented by the Education Ordinance (skolförordning) and the Upper Secondary School Ordinance (gymnasieförordning) that regulate also education of pupils with intellectual disabilities or who are either deaf or have visual, hearing or speech impairments. 

The curricula are laid down by the government. The compulsary level education for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities has its own curriculum (Läroplan för anpassade grundskolan).  For upper secondary education for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities there is a curriculum (Läroplan för anpassade gymnasieskolan).

However, when awarding grades teachers have the possibility of disregarding specific grading criteria in syllabuses where special reasons exists e.g. disabilities which directly prevent pupils from fulfilling the requirements laid down in the criteria.

The Discrimination Act (Diskrimineringslag 2008:567) aims to protect against discrimination based on gender, transgender identity or expression, ethnic origin, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age. The act applies to most areas of society, including working life and all parts of the education system. The Act also prohibits discrimination of trainees and of temporary or hired labor. There is also a Child and Pupil representative (Ombudsman) to represent children and pupils in cases concerning offensive treatment.

Under the Act on Support and Services to Disabled Persons (Lag om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade, LSS) children with severe disabilities are entitled to personal assistance and a number of other forms of support and service.

The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (Specialpedagogiska skolmyndigheten), is the central authority responsible for allocating public funds for special pedagogical issues. The institute creates and provides support to school organisers on special pedagogical issues related to disabilities.

General objectives

Under provisions laid down in the Education Act and the curricula, schools have a special responsibility for providing pupils with the help and support they need to overcome any difficulties. It is not centrally regulated what form the support should take but measures should be based on each pupil’s needs and may include technical aids as well as additional staff resources. In most municipalities there are teachers who are specialised in supporting pupils in need of extra support. The school head is responsible for ensuring that an action plan is established if it is apparent that pupils need special support.

In the Discrimination Act, (Diskrimineringslag 2008:567), which applies to the entire education system, disability is defined as a permanent physical, mental or intellectual limitation of a person's functional capacity as a consequence of an injury or an illness that existed at birth, has arisen thereafter or which may be expected to arise.

The aim of the educational support for pupils with special needs within mainstream education is to give all pupils genuine opportunities to meet the standards of the education, as formulated in terms of knowledge goals. Children in need of special support have the right to receive this in the mainstream school to the extent needed in order to have a chance of attaining the goals of the education. If a pupil after an overall assessment is not considered to be able to attain the goals of mainstream education a place in a school for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities (anpassad grundskola) is provided. Pupils who need intensive special pedagogical support during a certain period may receive this from the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (Specialpedagogiska skolmyndigheten).

For pupils with autism who fulfill the conditions for attaining the learning outcomes of the compulsory school but need support, special classes are arranged in a number of municipalities. These classes consist of significantly fewer children than regular classes and teacher/pupil ratios are high in order to satisfy the special needs of each child. Those who work with autistic children are pedagogues with training in special needs education. A child with autism can also attend a regular class and receive extra support; for pupils with autism, it is primarily the method of learning that is adapted and not the teaching materials.

The overwhelming majority of pupils with physical disabilities attend a mainstream compulsory school (grundskola) and receive the extra support they need at that institution. For cases when this is not possible special provision is provided, and consists of regional special schools for pupils with deafness or impaired hearing (specialskola) and national special schools for pupils with visual impairment and additional disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing combined with severe intellectual disabilities or congenital deaf-blindness, and severe speech and language disabilities. A government agency supports municipalities and schools in the education of pupils with disabilities by producing educational materials and other tools etc.

Compulsory education for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities (anpassad grundskola) is nine years of mandatory school as for all children and youth between the ages of 7-16 with an optional tenth year. In most cases the compulsory education for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities (anpassad grundskola) is organisationally integrated in mainstream compulsory education and share premises with a municipal school. A pupil may attend mainstream compulsory school (grundskola) but follow the syllabi for education for pupils with intellectual disabilities if the parents so wish.

Upper secondary education

After nine/ten years in compulsory education for pupils with severe intellectual disabilities, pupils are entitled to four years of education in upper secondary school for pupils with intellectual disabilities (anpassad gymnasieskola).

Within mainstream upper secondary education there are regulations concerning special support measures. If a pupil will not achieve the knowledge goals laid down in the syllabi or if the pupil for other reasons needs special support, this is provided. Special instruction in the classroom may be organised for pupils in need of such support; the school head is responsible for ensuring that a support programme is drawn up for the pupil. For pupils in the upper secondary school who due to sickness or for similar reasons are not able to participate in regular schoolwork, special instruction is arranged in the hospital, in the pupil's home or at another appropriate place. For pupils who due to hearing or visual impairments, physical disabilities or other specific study difficulties cannot follow regular instruction, special classes may be arranged. Pupils with a foreign background may receive study supervision or instruction in their mother tongue.

The curriculum for the upper secondary school (Läroplan för gymnasieskolan) states that teaching should be adapted to each pupil's preconditions and needs. The school has a particular responsibility for pupils with functional disabilities but there are no detailed regulations governing this. It is the responsibility of the municipality to take the necessary measures.

Special support in mainstream upper secondary education (gymnasieskola) is given to pupils who may not attain the knowledge goals, pupils who due to sickness or similar reasons cannot participate in regular school work, pupils who due to hearing or visual impairments, physical disabilities or explicit study difficulties cannot follow regular instruction and also pupils with a foreign background who need study supervision or mother tongue tuition. 

There are also national upper secondary schools for pupils with impaired hearing (riksgymnasiet för döva och hörselskadade), and for pupils with severe physical disabilities (riksgymnasium för svårt rörelsehindrade).


Swedish Upper Secondary School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Riksgymnasiet för döva och hörselskadade, RGD-RGH)

The National Upper Secondary School for students with Physical Disabilities (Riksgymnasiet för svårt rörelsehindrade

The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (Specialpedagogiska skolmyndigheten)

Law on service and support to certain people with disabilities, (Lag om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade SFS 1993:387)

Education Act, (Skollag SFS 2010:800)