Support for learning and school attendance
Under the Basic Education Act, besides providing teaching within the framework of the curriculum, students have the right to receive guidance counselling and sufficient support for learning and school attendance throughout their comprehensive school years. Support must be given as soon as the need for it is detected.
Many of the factors that lead to learning difficulties can already be recognised in early childhood education and care or pre-primary education, well before the child starts school. Difficulties related to learning and school attendance can also arise in comprehensive school. The sooner the student receives support the easier it is to prevent an accumulation of problems.
It is also important to make sure that support for children is seamlessly carried through when they move from early childhood education and care to pre-primary education and from pre-primary education to comprehensive school, as well as during the various stages of education.
Levels and forms of support
To be able to detect the need for support as early as possible, each student's situation must be closely monitored, and support must be provided immediately when the need for it arises. To identify the student's needs and to ensure successful planning and provision of support, it is important to cooperate with the student and the parents or guardians of the student.
The support given to the student must be flexible, based on long-term planning, and adjustable when the student's need for support changes. Different forms of support are used both individually and to complement one another. Support is made available for as long as necessary and to the extent that the student needs.
The three levels of support for learning and school attendance are general, enhanced and special needs support. Of these, a student can only receive one level of support at a time. The different forms of support are remedial instruction, part-time special needs education, school assistant services and special aids. With the exception of special needs education based on a decision for special needs education, all the different types of support can each be used at all three levels of support.
General support is the first form of support for responding to a student's need for support. This generally means individual pedagogical solutions as well as guidance and early intervention support measures provided as part of daily school life.
General support is provided as soon as the need for support is detected, and no special tests or decisions are needed for it. Should the need for support grow, the student must be offered enhanced support.
Enhanced support takes on a more robust and systematic form of personalised support for the student in learning and school attendance. In such cases, the student may require several forms of support. Enhanced support is initiated and organised on the basis of a pedagogical assessment drawn up as a multi-professional collaborative effort with student welfare professionals, and when necessary, the step back to general support is handled in the same way.
Enhanced support is given to students based on a personalised plan for learning drawn up individually for each student in need of enhanced support. To succeed, cooperation and a systematic approach are essential elements in enhanced support.
Special needs support
If the enhanced support given to a student is not sufficient to help the student cope with schoolwork, an administrative decision is made, based on a pedagogical assessment, to provide special needs support. An individualised educational plan (IEP) is drawn up for the student, which must detail the provision of teaching and other support specified in the decision on the provision of special needs support.
Special needs support consists of special needs education and other support needed by the student as referred to in the Basic Education Act. Special needs education and other support received by the student form a functional and systematic entity, where the support of the child’s parents or guardians as well as multi-professional cooperation and individual guidance are all important.
Merja Mannerkoski, Senior Specialist
Ministry of Education and Culture, Varhaiskasvatuksen, perusopetuksen ja vapaan sivistystyön osasto ( VAPOS ) Telephone:0295330325