Students with special educational needs form a diversified group, both in terms of learning skills and the source of their problems. That group includes both exceptionally brilliant kids and children with learning difficulties. In Polish schools, there are more and more students with special educational needs, which requires tailoring didactic and educational measures as part of individualised education.

An infographics showing the number of decisions and opinions issued in school years 2016/2017-2018/2019 to students with special educational needs and students with disabilities in schools including general education classes. Opinions on specific learning difficulties: 43846 in 2016/2017, 44144 in 2017/2018, 69038 in 2018/2019; opinions on tailoring educational requirements: 67557 in 2016/2017, 65683 in 2017/2018, 54443 in 2018/2019; decisions on special education need: 63291 in 2016/2017, 71156 in 2017/2018, 93264 in 2018/2019; students with disabilities: 193948 in 2016/2017, 204511 in 2017/2018, 215261 in 2018/2019; including students with disabilities in general education classes: 70947 in 2016/2017, 80583 in 2017/2018, 90044 in 2018/2019. Source: Data from the Education Information System as of 30 September 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The changes to the Education Law came into force on 1 September 2017. They included provisions concerning a new approach to individualised education. Individualised education path was enabled, as well as individual classes, or in a group up to five students (instead of individual education, widely used to date). Also, new forms of psychological and pedagogical counselling were introduced, as well as changes in home schooling and accelerated education. The new provisions made it possible to conduct new classes which improved not only learning skills but also emotional and social skills.

The changes concerning individual education were the most controversial, though. Starting from the school year 2018/2019 these classes may not be conducted in schools. A large group of protesters was made up of disabled students’ parents, alarmed by the perspective of their children being ”locked” at home. First consequences of the changes, such as limited use of individual education, could be observed as early as in the school year 2017/2018. As compared with the past year, public psychological and pedagogical counselling centres issued 43 percent fewer decisions about the need of individual education.

An infographics showing decisions on individual education need issued in school years 2016/2017-2018/2019. Decisions on individual education need: 45863 in 2016/2017, 26180 in 2017/2018, 16876 in 2018/2019. Decisions on no individual education need: 773 in 2016/2017, 421 in 2017/2018, 164 in 2018/2019. Source: Data from the Education Information System as of 30 September 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

NIK verified if the changes concerning the education tailoring process were properly prepared and implemented. The Supreme Audit Office took under the microscope 20 primary schools in 5 provinces and 5 superintendents of education in those provinces. The audit covered the school years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.

In all the audited schools, individual education was reorganised after the new law came into force requiring that classes be not held in schools. For about ¼ of students, previously undergoing individual education, it meant that their education was provided in new forms, better tailored to their needs (individualisation of the education process or individual classes). Some students came back to school learning. In the first school year, the use of changed forms of education did not allow most of those students to keep the education level from the past years. Integration with the students’ peer group was achieved instead.

For the remaining part of students, individual education was organised under new principles. Not always properly, though. In four schools, the core curriculum was not completed for some students and others were not provided with the required number of education hours. At the same time, classes for a large group of students with disabilities were organised in schools. It was done at the request of the students’ parents and was not compliant with the law.

Nearly all of the audited schools (except one) introduced a new form of assistance which was individualised education path for students with learning difficulties. The audit revealed, however, that this process was not always carried out properly and not always brought about the expected results. Headmasters often limited their assistance to students, as they had their hands tied by the school managing bodies which cut subsidies in that area.

Individual classes is a new form of education for students with disabilities. It provides conditions for learning, at the same time making it possible to stay in touch with peers. However, that possibility was not commonly or properly used in most schools. Only in 3 out of 20 schools providing special education such classes were organised properly. In 12 schools a large group of students was not granted assistance specified in the decisions on special education need, although these recommendations should be implemented without reservation.

An infographics showing reorganisation of individual education after the implementation of new law. In school year 2017/2018 for most students with disabilities (82%) and a large part of other students (23%) classes were organised in schools. In 2018/2019 the organisation was as follows:  individualised path, individual classes for students with disabilities, return to classroom learning system, transfer to another school (e.g. a special one), individual education in line with new law (outside school). In school year 2017/2018 for students whose health condition did not let them attend schools classes were organised at home. This organisation was maintained after the change of law, in 2018/2019.  Source: NIK’s own analysis based on audit results.

The audited schools rarely organised new types of classes as part of psychological and pedagogical counselling. Most schools did not identify students’ needs related to the improvement of their learning skills, emotional and social skills, or elimination of language deficits. In 8 schools students were not provided with other forms of assistance, arising from the decisions or opinions issued by psychological and pedagogical counselling centres. The assistance was often provided improperly, e.g. classes were conducted by unqualified persons. Headmasters argued that schools suffered from staff shortages and had too little money for new classes.

The law concerning additional classes for students covered by home education was not widely used because the students’ parents lacked interest in this form of support.

Superintendents of education made a broad information and education campaign to prepare schools and parents for the education law changes related to the education individualisation. They also monitored the law implementation. Nevertheless, in some of the audited schools, the school community was not properly informed about the changes and their implementation was not duly supervised. The above was confirmed by the survey conducted for the needs of the audit among 1400 parents and over 600 teachers. Only 28 percent of teachers covered by the survey stated they were well or very well informed about the changes being implemented. At the same time, more than a half of students’ parents (55%) evaluated the information campaign conducted by the schools as average, poor or bad. The ”positive” or ”absolutely positive” ratings were given to the education law changes by only about 15% of the surveyed teachers. The information shortage was reflected in the negative evaluation of the absolute ban on individual education in schools.

Recommendations:

The audit results show that relevant actions should be taken by the Minister of National Education and superintendents of education as well as school managing bodies and headmasters.

According to NIK the Minister of National Education should:

  • continue actions to promote different forms of individualised education of students with special educational needs;
  • monitor the implementation of the individualised path and individual classes for students with disabilities to eliminate difficulties related to the implementation of those forms of assistance by schools;
  • analyse effects of the implementation of the individual education ordinance in view of possible changes aiming to temporarily allow individual education in schools.

Superintendents of education should:

  • continue information campaign related to new forms of individualised education;
  • spread good practices by popularising examples of schools which effectively use available forms of individualised education of students with special educational needs. Also, the examples of schools that flexibly apply and modify available forms of support based on the student’s identified needs should be popularised.

Headmasters should:

  • provide a wide range of reliable and comprehensible information to parents of the students with special educational needs. The information should be related to implementing new forms of support for their children as well as advantages of using them;
  • ensure organisational conditions enabling full cooperation between the school and the students’ parents;
  • supervise on an ongoing basis the process of organising special education of students and using new forms of psychological and pedagogical counselling;
  • make sure revalidation classes are conducted  by qualified teachers and psychological and pedagogical counselling is provided by specialists with required qualifications;
  • support teachers in identifying the needs of students, including skilled students, and provide financial incentives to the ones who develop their own education programmes being a response to the special educational needs of students.

School managing bodies should:

  • provide financing for individualised education of students with special educational needs in the forms and amounts resulting from the decisions and opinions issued by psychological and pedagogical counselling centres as well as the diagnosis made at school.  

Article informations

Date of creation:
04 September 2020 11:05
Date of publication:
04 September 2020 11:05
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
09 September 2020 12:54
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
Fours pictures with children learning, sitting at the desk: 1) a boy writing something in a book and a woman sitting next to him, smiling. 2) a girl writing something in a book and a man sitting next to her. 3) a boy wearing a mask, in front of a laptop a © Adobe Stock

NIK about new approach to children’s individualised education

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