Country information for Cyprus - Legislation and policy
With the 1979 Special Education Law, the state took responsibility for providing special schools for learners between the ages of 5 and 18. This law established regional multi-disciplinary committees to review the cases of individual learners referred for special education and recommended the most suitable educational placement for each learner. During the 1980s, there was a trend towards the inclusion of learners with special needs in mainstream schools. By the new millennium, a balance began to emerge between mainstream placement and special schools. However, the practice of inclusion had no legislative foundation in Cyprus until the establishment of the Law for the Education and Training of Children with Special Needs 113(I) of 1999.
The inclusion of learners with special needs in mainstream education is a major policy matter for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth, in line with current international conventions and philosophical thought. The adoption of this policy has been accompanied by a change in society’s perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards people with special needs, both in the education system and the community at large.
The Special Education Law 113(I)/1999
The policy is expressed within the Law for the Education and Training of Children with Special Needs 113(I) of 1999 (Special Education Law 113(I)/1999), the Regulations for the Early Detection of Children with Special Needs 185(I)/2001 and the Regulations for the Training and Education of Children with Special Needs 186(I)/2001. The latter two regulate the implementation of the law as from September 2001.
Special Education Law 113(I)/1999 is the legislative framework which regulates:
- the detection of children with special educational needs (SEN);
- their assessment and development of an individual education plan;
- their placement in the most appropriate educational setting with provision of both teachers and educational resources to meet their needs;
- the on-going evaluation of the child’s progress.
According to the law, a child is considered to have SEN:
- if they have significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of a similar age, or;
- if a disability prevents or impedes them from using the standard educational facilities and resources available in mainstream schools.
Through the core articles of the law, the state undertakes the early detection of children with special needs from the age of three. It conducts a full multi-disciplinary team assessment and aims to provide all the necessary measures in terms of curriculum adaptation, technical and staffing support for the children’s effective education within a mainstream setting.
The state provides free special educational services to learners between the ages of 3 and 18 who need them (if deemed necessary, education may be extended up to the age of 21).
Learners with special needs are educated in public schools, which are equipped with suitable infrastructure, according to the Special Education Law. Most learners with SEN are educated within mainstream classrooms.
Special educational provision may also be given in special units at mainstream schools. These learners are assigned to a mainstream class in which they attend inclusive lessons and participate in celebratory or festive events.
Learners with severe difficulties are educated in special schools. These are equipped with the appropriate staff (psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists and other specialists, as well as auxiliary staff) to support and provide essential means to achieve their mission.
If learners with special needs cannot attend school for a long period, due to health or other problems, education may be provided in places other than public or special schools, i.e. at home or in hospitals.
The key elements of the law are:
- defining special education for each individual learner, the process of implementation and where it should take place (mainstream school, special unit or special school);
- establishing Committees for Special Education (Central Committee, District Committees, Board for Special Education);
- developing a mechanism for recognising learners with special needs;
- reducing the total number of learners in classes which include learner(s) with special needs;
- developing and implementing assessment procedures for every learner with special needs;
- recruiting officers to co-ordinate and oversee the implementation of the individual education plan recommended for each learner;
- differential assessment of the educational progress of learners with special needs according to their individual differences;
- parents’ right to appeal against the decision of the Committee for Special Education and Training;
- placements for learners with SEN in mainstream classrooms, in special units within mainstream schools or in public special schools, according to their individually assessed needs;
- the legal framework for the functioning of private special schools.
Special educational provision can take place in any of the state school education levels. Hence, pre-primary institutions, primary schools, gymnasium (lower-secondary schools), lyceum (upper-secondary schools) and technical schools must provide adaptations and facilities for learners with special needs. In secondary education, pupils with specific learning difficulties are enrolled in support programmes, following a decision by the District Committee. Learners are offered educational support individually or in groups, according to their needs.
Special educational support is usually provided for subjects that learners are examined in at the end of the school year (modern Greek, history, physics and mathematics). Learners are exempted, for provision of educational support, from lessons that they cannot attend due to their disability (e.g. ancient Greek and/or a second foreign language). Learners with specific sensory disabilities receive specialised assistance from the special schools.
Recently, the national curriculum for pre-primary education was assessed and restructured to focus on skills development rather than knowledge acquisition (including individualised instruction, new methodological approaches, etc.). In kindergarten, teachers have the flexibility to adjust teaching methods and take the time to alternate and repeat specific educational targets. This prevents the exclusion of some children with SEN from mainstream classroom teaching (Source: IECE – Cyprus Example of provision, p. 3).
Specialist educators must co-operate and interact with the learner’s class teacher to develop and deliver an individual education plan for the learner.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, these services should be provided within a class at the learner’s local school, which should have all necessary adaptations and resources. If school attendance in a mainstream classroom is not appropriate for the learner’s needs, special education, speech therapy or attendance at a special unit within a mainstream school is provided. Special units provide more intensive special education to a small number of learners (usually up to six), while maintaining contact and inclusion with a specific reference class in the school. If none of these adaptations suit the learner’s needs, they may attend a special school.
Currently, there are:
- six regional special schools for learners with severe learning difficulties;
- one school for learners with emotional and behavioural difficulties;
- one school for learners with visual impairments;
- one school for learners with hearing impairments.
The latter two schools provide services to learners with visual or hearing impairments who are included in mainstream schools and to adults requiring specialist assistance or guidance. Specialist educators are also provided to non-governmental institutions offering specialist services to distinct groups of learners, e.g. those with multiple or severe physical disabilities. Services are also provided to learners who are in hospital for a significant period or who, for medical or other reasons, must be educated at home.
Last updated 07/02/2020