Country information for Austria - Legislation and policy
Austria’s early intervention system is based on the nine different Provincial Disability Acts. Hence, there is no uniform federal legal approach. In most Austrian provinces, children who have been classified as ‘presenting or in danger of developing’ disabilities receive early intervention. In some provinces (e.g. Styria), early intervention can also be sought through the Youth Welfare Act, in case the family environment may harm the child’s development (e.g. drug abuse, violence, negligence). Early intervention is, apart from some exceptions, organised by the regional institutions of early intervention (non-government organisations).
The kindergarten system is within the provinces’ jurisdiction (except for the training of kindergarten teachers). Thus, each province decides whether children with additional educational needs receive support through inclusive education in mainstream kindergartens or in remedial kindergartens. Lack of clarity in the definitions of disability and the allocation of competences concerning the inclusion of children with disabilities and in the whole kindergarten system in the individual provinces have resulted in very different implementation rules for inclusion in kindergarten. Apart from public kindergartens, there are also several private institutions – for example, denominations or associations – which provide kindergarten facilities.
In some federal states (e.g. Upper Austria), a compulsory kindergarten year for all children from the age of five to six has been regulated by law since 2011/12. The last compulsory year of kindergarten and the first two years of primary school are classed as the school entry phase (Source: IECE – Austria Country Survey Questionnaire).
Detailed information about legal regulations for pre-primary support is available on the Eurybase information platform.
A concise overview of the Austrian education system and its development is available in English from the Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs.
Compulsory school for learners with special educational needs
Since 1993, learners with special educational needs (SEN) have been legally entitled to attend primary school. Through the 1996 amendment of the School Organisation Act, this option was also extended to lower-secondary education (10- to 14-year-olds). More information is available from the Community Integration Sonderpädagogik website (in German).
The legal encompassment of the inclusion of learners with SEN has modified the school system decisively. Mainstream schools are obliged to take organisational and didactic measures to meet the special needs of these learners at school.
Parents are free to choose whether to send their children to a special school or a mainstream school. Based on special needs opinions, the District School Board (district school inspector) decides whether a child has SEN.
Job orientation and preparation at the end of compulsory education
After eight years of compulsory school, learners can choose between attending a pre-vocational school or a general or technical and vocational upper-secondary school.
The curriculum of a pre-vocational school includes aspects of general education and information about different occupations with specific contents. Learners can also choose an area of specialisation and gain theoretical and practical experience in workshops. To this end, co-operation with local companies is sought. As a consequence, many pupils secure an apprenticeship for the year ahead while they are still in school.
A legal framework for learners with SEN attending the ninth compulsory school year in a mainstream pre-vocational school came into effect. There is also a legal framework regarding the attendance of one-year upper-secondary vocational schools by learners with SEN. To date, learners with SEN have attended pre-vocational schools as part of a pilot project.
Provision in special schools
Job orientation and preparation is an essential component of working with pupils with learning disabilities or severe disabilities at the end of their compulsory schooling. For about 10 years, special schools have been providing programmes for job preparation which have proved very successful. Due to this success, the subject ‘job orientation’ has been incorporated into the curricula of special schools. The separate curriculum ‘job preparation year’, which can be adapted individually to the pupils’ needs, has been developed for the ninth grade. More information can be found on the Community Integration Sonderpädagogik website (in German).
Clearing – a link between school and the labour market for pupils with SEN
Thanks to a national support programme, provided by the Social Services Offices in co-operation with the Provincial School Boards and the School Board of Vienna, a national ‘clearing’ concept has been developed. Private organisations implement it in the provinces. Specially trained experts closely collaborate with parents, teachers and learners to find the best possible career for learners with an impairment or disability. The ‘clearing’ process starts with preparing a profile of the learner’s strengths and weaknesses, describing their interests, wishes and needs for further training, and aiming at close co-operation between school and the regional labour market. An evaluation report on these measures is available in German.
In Austria, vocational training (apprenticeship) is provided in a dual form: pupils work in companies and learn their occupation and are oriented towards a goal. In addition, they receive about 10 weeks of fundamental theoretical training in a vocational school.
Pupils with SEN can take the final training exam after a longer apprenticeship (prolonged by a maximum of two years) or go for a partial qualification. In the case of a partial qualification, which means one to three years of training, pupils learn parts of a skilled trade in their training company and in a vocational school. The contents, goals and time of the partial qualification are individually defined.
This form of inclusive occupational training goes hand-in-hand with the inclusive occupational training assistance.
Programmes provided by the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS), the Social Services Office and private aid organisations
In the individual provinces, courses are provided for learners with learning and/or behavioural problems who are not considered to have disabilities under the provincial regulations, but have problems finding work. Poor school results upon graduation, or failure to graduate, or a lack of so-called ‘soft skills’ are often reasons for long-term unemployment.
Some companies provide supported employment. Despite this provision, the companies’ competitiveness has to be upheld, even if employees with disabilities are paid according to the collective bargaining agreements.
Learners who have already completed job preparation programmes can receive support from job assistants to find a job. They receive individual support to be integrated at their place of work if required. Learners are thus supported directly in their company in case of problems or crisis situations.
Private organisations’ work projects provide assisted employment. However, they do not have the legal status of employment (with all rights inherent to an employee). The Lebenshilfe (‘life aid’) association, for example, is an organisation for people with severe disabilities who cannot find a job in the primary labour market. Although their productivity is strongly reduced, people with disabilities can contribute to society in the labour market, for example, by making certain products for companies in small groups and under supervision. They receive pocket money or insurance services for their performance. Occasionally, adolescents or adults even manage to find a job in the primary labour market after having gained experience through a work project. This is, however, rarely the case. The Lebenshilfe association also provides diverse forms of assisted living and offers training programmes for an autonomous life.
The Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection and the Social Services Offices provide a database containing provisions for integration in the labour market (German only).
Recent reforms and legislation
Several legislative initiatives and reforms address inclusive education:
- The reform of primary education (2016) improves the system’s equity regardless of first language, level of development and SEN.
- The guidelines for monitoring inclusive quality (2016) offer standards for inclusive classroom practice, teaching and school development.
- The reform of teacher education mentions inclusion as mandatory content in the curriculum for all student teachers.
- The reform of secondary education (2012) mentions support to various talents in heterogeneous classes, the different complexity of tasks and goals, internal differentiation, team-teaching, etc. (Source: Raising the Achievement of All Learners in Inclusive Education – Austria Country Report).
Last updated 12/04/2018