Country information for Germany - Assessment within inclusive education systems

Children or young people are presumed to have special educational needs (SEN) if their opportunities for education, development and learning are limited to such an extent that they cannot be sufficiently promoted within the scope of instruction at mainstream schools without receiving additional special educational assistance. In these cases, therapeutic and social aid provided by other external institutions may also be required.

Special educational needs are determined in relation to the tasks, requirements and support measures the school can provide. Furthermore, a determination of the learner’s SEN must take into account the learner’s environment, including the school, as well as the learner’s personal abilities, interests and expectations for the future.

The procedure for determining SEN comprises establishing the individual need for support and deciding on the course of education and the place of support. The school supervisory authorities are responsible for the procedure: either the authorities themselves have competence for SEN and sufficient experience in the field of educational support for people with disabilities, or they consult experts in the field of special educational support.

The procedure for determining SEN may be applied for by: 

  • the learner’s parents or legal guardians;
  • the learner, provided they are aged 18 or over;
  • the school;
  • if applicable, by other competent services. 

It must take into account the competences of those who participate or will participate in the measures of support and instruction (See ‘The Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany 2016/2017 – A description of the responsibilities, structures and developments in education policy for the exchange of information in Europe’).

Developing forms of learning in primary school contribute towards a new understanding of what is conducive to learning and of assessing pupils’ performance. The focus has shifted to encouraging each individual pupil to achieve all that they are capable of – guided by the learning requirements for the respective school grade. In order to do this, each pupil’s individual development and performance must be constantly monitored, together with their working and social behaviour. These factors must then be comprehensively assessed. This is also valid for pupils with SEN.

Assessment is always based on syllabus requirements and the knowledge, abilities and skills acquired in a particular class or learning group. Assessment is carried out by the teacher in charge of lessons, who is educationally responsible for their decision. Each pupil’s performance or development is set out in a twice-yearly report, in the middle and at the end of the school year. The evaluation of a pupil’s performance is a pedagogical process, but also an administrative act based on legal and administrative regulations. The individual education plan is drafted yearly or twice a year.

Standardised achievement tests to assess pupils’ performance or learning development in certain subjects or grades are not given at Land level.

Continuous assessment of performance for pupils with SEN takes place in special schools in a similar way to mainstream schools. For pupils with intellectual disabilities or very severe disabilities, assessment is confined to reports on personal development.

Assessment for special education is based on multi-disciplinary reports. Parents can apply for assessment. If an institution makes an application, the parents must be informed and consulted. Parents can object to a placement decision. Special education is divided into categories relating to the particular requirements of the pupils concerned and operates on the basis of special educational principles.

In Länder with corresponding laws, the education of pupils with SEN is increasingly accepted as a common task for all types of schools. This means a changing attitude towards learners with disabilities and their education. Furthermore, it particularly means a changing view of educational assessment and diagnosis. Special needs education is less institution-related; it centres upon individual, personal and ecological aspects of learning and the living environment. Education systems must be competent in arranging special educational provision – in special schools as well as in mainstream schools.

In 1994, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) passed the Recommendation on Special Education in the Schools of the Federal Republic of Germany (Empfehlungen zur sonderpädagogischen Förderung in den Schulen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It clarifies the need to overcome traditional categories of people with disabilities, in favour of more differentiated approaches of support and individual development. Qualifications and perspectives of basic developmental levels must be involved in the ‘pupil and environment analysis’ (Kind-Umfeld-Analyse). Consequently, eight key elements for identifying and diagnosing learners with SEN were established: motor, perception, cognition, motivation, communication, interaction, emotion and creativity.

In terms of specific content, diagnosis and subsequent support mainly emphasise:

  • learning capacity and behaviour, especially scholastic learning and the ability to cope with disability in the learning process;
  • speech, speaking, the communicative act, handling speech problems;
  • emotional and social development, experience and self-control, dealing with disturbances, inexperience and behaviour;
  • intellectual development, handling intellectual disability;
  • physical and motor development, dealing with severe physical disabilities;
  • hearing, auditory perception, the ability to handle a hearing impairment;
  • vision, eyesight, visual perception, the ability to deal with a visual impairment;
  • state of health and state of mind, the ability to cope with a long-term illness.

The diagnosis of SEN must be a precise definition of individual special needs. It must guide the decision about the process of education and the place of support. To ensure appropriate support measures, a qualitative and a quantitative profile of the pupil is required. Consequently, information from the following areas is important:

  • Development of learning and behavioural strategies
  • Perception and the process of perception
  • Social relationships
  • Communication and interaction
  • Individual and educational circumstances in life
  • The school environment and possibilities for change
  • The vocational environment and the necessary supporting factors.

In general, the criteria for identifying SEN are similar for early years education and the transition period. Given the different levels of responsibilities, medical and psychological assessment may play a supplementary role.


Last updated 05/02/2020


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