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Innovations and developments - Austria

Since the school year 2005/06 the federal decree on individualisation and differentiation requires the schools to present how and in which form they offer differentiated school intern programmes. This could be an opportunity to promote school development (which is not obligatory in Austria), to improve the profile of schools concerning individualisation and to launch new development processes which comply with the aspects of prevention. However, one should not forget that these tasks can hardly be implemented without additional resources.

It still remains unclear how support concepts of schools should be evaluated. On the one hand the District School Inspectors have the duty to examine programmes and to help with advice, on the other hand there are no (not yet) standards which could be a measure for the quality of the provisions. If no quality criteria are formulated it is likely that only virtual results will be produced which only consist of empty words. 

In addition the schools' know-how of self-evaluation is still quite moderate. Additional means for external evaluation have not yet been designed.

If the detection of a SEN is the precondition for an allocation of resources a dilemma has to be solved. On the one hand, the detection of a SEN means that the respective pupil is considered to be disabled; on the other hand, very often school failure is the reason why the SEN procedure has been started. Given the fact that school failure cannot be equated with disability these two fields have to be separated from each other and regarded individually. This means that first the procedures to detect a disability have to comply with all current diagnostic standards. Secondly, those fields where the learning failure is located have to be reconsidered. It is true that the repetition of a school class or the application of a syllabus of another type of school (special school), etc. provide the teachers with assessment tools, but they are not always helpful in the end.

In the light of these developments also the procedure to detect a SEN has to be reconsidered because it is deficit oriented and mainly relies on the allocation of resources. In order to be able to implement suitable provisions already in the important area of prevention the system of the allocation of resources must be changed. Prevention programmes cannot be adapted to the number of official decisions but must rather be oriented towards the whole pupil population.

Fact is that each single child has its own individual needs for support. Therefore the issue of additional and special needs is a problematic one.

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