Country information for Austria - Legislation and policy
It should be noted that the inclusion of children with special educational needs (SEN) has been part of the law in Austria for a long time and that it continues to play an important role in Austria’s law-making. Learners with SEN have access to all the means that enable them to participate fully in the educational system.
Austria’s early intervention system is based on nine different Provincial Disability Acts. As such, 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. Early intervention can also be sought through the Youth Welfare Act, in cases where the family environment may harm the child’s development (e.g. drug abuse, violence, neglect). Early intervention is, apart from some exceptions, organised by the regional institutions of early intervention (non-government organisations).
Early childhood education
There is a nationwide obligation for children to attend kindergarten – including children with special educational needs – from the age of five. Pre-school establishments are available for children (from birth until they start school) with increased educational and care needs for children with disabilities. 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. The description of quality standards for inclusive education is also a regional responsibility.
Find more general information about early childhood education in Austria on the Ministry of Education, Science and Research website.
Education for learners with special educational needs
Since 1993 there has been a two-track system in Austria. Learners officially labelled as having special educational needs attend either special schools or inclusive settings in mainstream schools. Parents have the right to choose the kind of schooling they prefer for their child (Article 8 of the Compulsory School Act – Schulpflichtgesetz).
Ten different types of special schools provide education for learners with various disabilities by means of:
- small learner groups;
- specially trained teachers;
- curricula which pay attention to the respective disabilities;
- special methods and materials.
Education in special schools covers the whole period of compulsory schooling (nine years). After eight years of academic education, a pre-vocational year takes place in special schools. This year completes compulsory schooling and supports learners during the transition period from school to the labour market.
Inclusive settings in mainstream schools
Disabled and non-disabled learners are taught together in so-called integrative/inclusive mainstream classes. Inclusive instruction includes various pedagogical measures such as co-operative working forms (team teaching), inner differentiation/individualisation (consideration of specific needs), learner-centred work, open forms of learning, project-oriented and interdisciplinary learning. Generally, the classes have an additional full- or part-time teacher – depending on the number of learners with SEN and their impairments. In integrative/inclusive classes the compulsory school teachers and teachers with special pedagogical training ‘team teach’.
When parents choose mainstream education for their children, the local authority has to make any necessary provisions to facilitate special education in mainstream schools (e.g. selecting an appropriate primary or secondary school, organising learner transport, assigning special teachers to mainstream classes).
Learners with confirmed SEN can – in special needs schools or in integrative classes in other types of schools – attend lessons drawn up according to the special needs curriculum, either for all of their lessons, or only in individual subjects. Circular No. 7/2019 issued guidelines to school authorities on the organisation and implementation of special educational support.
With approval of the school authorities, learners officially labelled as having special educational needs may attend special schools or inclusive settings in mainstream schools for a maximum of twelve years.
It is a declared goal that children and young people with physical or sensory disabilities to should have improved access to higher education if they are fundamentally able to attend. According to Sections 39, 55a and 68a of the School Organisation Act, school authorities can establish divergences from the curriculum. A divergence of this kind could be a support class specifically for learners with disabilities.
In Austria, vocational training (apprenticeship) is provided in a dual form: learners work in companies to learn their occupation and are oriented towards a goal. In addition, they receive about ten weeks of fundamental theoretical training in a vocational school.
Learners 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 a partial qualification (one to three years of training), learners 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. Occupational training assistance (Berufsausbildungsassistenz, BAS) supports young people with disabilities or other placement obstacles in in-company training. It supports training both in the company and at school and thus secures this training path in the long term.
Last updated 15/09/2020