Equal access to national education, vocational training and lifelong learning systems
Educational settings - mainstream education
Education settings - special education
Collaboration between both systems
Teaching of compensatory skills made necessary by vision loss
Provision of accessible text books and other educational material
Provision of assistive technology
1. Equal access to:
1.1. National education system
In 2008, the percentage of pupils in compulsory education who fell outside mainstream education was 0.3. The only legislative initiatives in the Portuguese educational system that consider specific service of groups with special educational needs, in the regular schooling context, are in the areas of hearing and multi-disability. With the publication of the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 120/06, 21st of September, specific measures for the blind, partially sighted, deaf and those with multiple disabilities and problems of autism were included.
The general objectives to be fulfilled are those legally consecrated for all pupils with no discrimination against pupils with special educational needs.
1.2. National vocational training and lifelong learning systems
Whenever pupils have permanent special educational needs which prevent them from acquiring the learning and competencies defined in the common curriculum, three years before they reach the age limit for compulsory education, the school should complement the Individual Educational Programme with an Individual Transition Plan (ITP).
The first phase of the ITP is to discover the wishes, interests, aspirations and competencies of the respective young person. Based on this data, and in relation to the pupil's capacity to exercise a professional activity, this phase includes an assessment of the needs of the job market in the young person's community and the seeking of training opportunities or real work experience.
Once the possibilities of training or internships are registered, it is important to identify the skills (academic, personal and social), adjustments and special equipment required. After this assessment, it is necessary to establish protocols with the services and institutions where the young person will train or be an intern, to define the tasks they will do, the competencies required and the support needed to achieve these tasks, if and when necessary.
2. Educational settings
2.1. Mainstream education (please specify what support measures if any)
Students with special education needs may be dispensed from the age limits stipulated for normal schooling. No more than 20 pupils may attend a class that includes pupils with special needs. Furthermore, such classes may have no more than 2 pupils with special educational needs, except in duly justified exceptional cases.
In special schools classes may have no more than 15 pupils and must be set up depending on the teaching needs of the pupils.
2.1.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning
The Employment and Vocational Training Institute (Instituto de Emprego e Formação Profissional - IEFP), through support given to the vocational training units of the institutions, has incentives for practical vocational training courses in industry and for job adaptation. The Institute also gives support for self-employment and protected job centres.
The following types of co-operation can be implemented:
- Co-operation between schools and vocational training centres specialised in dealing with the disabled;
- Community programmes to help adolescents with professional integration;
- Agreements with corporations;
- Different types of co-operation with job centres;
- In-job training for students from schools of basic education;
- Information sharing among schools on this subject in partnerships.
2.2. Special education
It is the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Education to "define norms for special education, namely its pedagogic and technical aspects, and support and check the fulfillment and application of them."
When the type and degree special educational need of the pupil demonstrably demands it, special education can be given in specific institutions. Attending a specific institution is supplementary in nature, due to the principle of school integration, being justified when there are no adequate resources in regular schools.
These specific institutions – private and cooperative special education schools – that can function as semi-boarding, boarding or have annexed homes, are for children and teenagers of school age, with special educational needs resulting from serious communication difficulties in access to the normal curriculum, namely in the areas of
- motor skills, language, sight or hearing;
- Serious difficulties in understanding the curriculum;
- Serious emotional and behavioural difficulties.
2.2.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning
2.3. Collaboration between both systems
The principle of permeability between the regular and special channels is guaranteed by the Education Act proclaiming that special education should be organised according to various models of integration in regular schools, also it can be instituted in specific institutions where the type and degree of special educational need of the student demands it and there are no appropriate educational resources in the regular teaching establishments.
2.3.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning
3. Teaching of compensatory skills made necessary by vision loss
3.1. Subjects (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)
For the teaching of specific areas of the curriculum, such as Portuguese Sign Language, Braille or the use of Support Technologies, special education teachers and other professionals with specific training in schools, such as Portuguese Sign Language trainers and interpreters, are placed in schools by the Ministry of Education.
In working with pupils with special educational needs, support preferably should be given by the class teacher, direct with the pupil, or by the special education teacher, after prior consultation with the teacher responsible, at times and in cases when specific teaching strategies justify this. Also, in situations where intensive support is of benefit outside pupil teaching time for pupils with transitory learning difficulties in reading, writing and arithmetic, added support will give practical cover to syllabus content as a whole. This should be planned and seen as an exceptional approach, justified only when all other solutions that cause less disruption to the class have been tried. When access to the syllabus implies introducing alternative languages or special equipment (pupils with physical, sight, hearing or multiple disabilities) the special education teacher may also help the pupil directly.
3.2. Training and certificates for visually impaired teachers (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)
From 2006 onwards a specific recruitment group was created for Special Education teachers, which was made operational by Decree-Law No. 20/06, 31st of January.
The organisation of educational provision in the area should focus on a limited group of students whose needs demand a specialisation of material and human resources and it is the responsibility of the school to manage those resources in such away that it meets the needs of all students.
The school is involved in a set of activities based around the curriculum and curriculum enhancement, aiming to create the conditions for the expression and development of exceptional capacities and the resolution of any problems. This development plan is applicable to those students who reveal exceptional learning capacities and can include the following methods, among others:
- differentiated pedagogy in the classroom;
- tutoring programmes for study strategies, guidance and advice for the student;
- enhancement activities at any point in the academic year or at the beginning of a cycle
(Implementing Order No. 50/05, 9th of November).
3.3. Training and certificates for visually impaired students (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)
The individual curriculum adjustments mean not compromising the common curriculum or the pre-school curriculum guidelines. To this end, subjects or specific curriculum areas can be introduced, such as Portuguese Sign Language (L1) and Portuguese Language/Second Language Portuguese for deaf pupils (LP2), reading and writing in Braille, orientation and mobility, vision training and adapted motor activity, among others, allowing access to the common curriculum, as well as greater autonomy.
These adjustments can also mean the introduction of objectives and intermediate content or the dispensation of activities where the pupil's functional level means it is extremely difficult or impossible to achieve the respective task. Dispensation should happen only when support technologies are insufficient to help achieve the task in question. Special education approaches are also organised with a view to the professional integration of disabled adolescents.
4. Provision of accessible text books and other educational material
4.1. Provision of the basic documents
The Ministry of Education resource centres produce school books in Braille, in large font and in digital Daisy format.
4.2. Adaptation and transcription of the documents
The Decree-Law No. 319/91, 23rd of August, regulated by Implementing Order No. 173/91, 23rd of November, authorises the adjustment of conditions of the teaching/learning process of students with special educational needs, who attend state ensino básico and upper secondary schools, operational via the following measures:
- Special compensation equipment (special teaching aids: books in Braille, audio-visual material)
- Special materials (for reading, writing and arithmetic);
- Compensation devices (optic and acoustic aids, Braille machines, artificial prostheses, wheelchairs and computer equipment);
- Material adaptations (barrier fixtures, facilities and fittings);
5. Provision of assistive technology
Currently, a national network of ICT Resource Centres for Special Education is being created. The goal of these resource centres is to assess pupils to identify the support technologies appropriate for the specific needs and give information to teachers and other professionals, as well as families, regarding the issues associated with the different areas of disability or incapacity.
5.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning