Country information for Greece - Legislation and policy
The wider policy context
The provision of free education to all citizens and at all levels of the state education system is a constitutional principle of the Greek State. Specifically, the Greek Constitution (Article 16 par. 2) sets out that:
Education aims at the moral, intellectual, professional and physical training of all Greeks, the development of national and religious consciousness and the creation of free and responsible citizens.
Education in Greece is compulsory from the ages of 4 to 15.
Law 1566/1985 describes the structure and operation of primary and secondary education. Article 1 par. 1 refers to the purpose of primary and secondary education:
… to contribute to the overall, harmonious and balanced development of the mental and psychosomatic strengths of all learners and to offer them the ability, regardless of gender and origin, to become independent personalities and live creatively.
The central administrative body for the education system across all fields, agencies and levels is the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. It makes the key decisions related to long-term objectives. It also regulates various issues, such as curricula content, staff recruitment and funding. At regional level, the regional education directorates oversee the implementation of the national educational policy. At local level, the directorates of primary and secondary education supervise all schools in their area and make sure they run smoothly.
Given this administrative background, the Ministry delivers policies and initiatives aimed at constantly providing quality of education for all pupils, including those with disabilities and/or special educational needs (SEN). In this context, inclusive education is among the priorities of the Greek educational system. Its recognition as the key to achieving the right to education has strengthened in Greece over the last decade. This is reflected in several national laws and ministerial decisions issued by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. These have been based on the internationally recognised characteristics of ‘a school for all’ and the European Union principles for inclusion and equal opportunities. Their target is to increase the capacity of schools to respond to the diversity of needs of all learners. Indicatively, among others they mention:
- the ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
- the first formal definition of Inclusive Education: ‘the educational approach that takes into account the diversity of learners’ needs and aims at overcoming barriers and ensuring equal access to learning of all pupils including those with disabilities’ (4547/2018);
- the introduction of a series of new support structures, such as PEKES (Regional Centres for Educational Planning). PEKES which have recruited 540 Co-ordinators of Educational Matters, some of whom specialise in special and inclusive education (Co-ordinators of Special and Inclusive Education);
- the introduction of the Centres for Educational and Counselling Support (KESYs), which aim to:
- identify institutional (and not just individual) barriers to learning at all levels;
- provide psychosocial support to all pupils, including pupils with disabilities;
- build capacity of mainstream schools so that they respond more effectively to all learners’ diverse needs;
- the establishment of School Networks of Educational Support (SDEY) and Diagnostic Evaluation and Support Committees (EDEAY) with article 39, Law 4115/2013;
- further promotion of the transition of special schools to Support Centres and the reorganisation and renaming of the abovementioned networks and comittes to ‘School Networks of Educational Support’ (SDEY) and ‘Interdisciplinary Educational Evaluation and Support Committees’ (EDEAY).
- the redefinition of inclusion classes with Article 82 of Law 4368/2016. The objective of the classes is ‘the full inclusion of pupils with disabilities and or special education needs into the school setting’. This marks a transition from the previous pull out model, which was criticised for reproducing discrimination inside the mainstream school.
The inclusion of learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities
Issues of attendance and support
Law 3699/2008 recognises disability as ‘a complex social and political phenomenon’. The state:
undertakes to ensure equal participation in society, independent living and economic autonomy for people with disability and special educational needs, as well as full consolidation of their rights to education and social and professional inclusion.
In 2012, Greece ratified the UNCRPD. As such, inclusive education principles were further reinforced and embodied in a number of relevant measures and initiatives.
According to Law 3699/2008, the state is obliged to provide special educational provision to all children who are recognised as eligible for additional support, at all levels of the education system. Specifically, the law aims for:
- full and harmonious development of pupils’ personality;
- the development of their potential and skills so that they can be educated or re-educated in mainstream school settings;
- improvement of their social acceptance and tolerance to ensure their full accessibility in all infrastructures (building, educational material, ICT) and the services they provide.
Article 3 of the law defines pupils with disabilities and/or special educational needs (SEN) as those who have significant difficulties in learning for the whole or some period of their school life, due to sensory, intellectual, cognitive or developmental problems, mental health and neuropsychological disorders that affect the process of their school adjustment and learning.
Low achievers and learners with learning disabilities that derive from external factors, such as linguistic or cultural diversity, are not considered to have a disability or SEN. Pupils with complex cognitive, emotional and social difficulties, delinquent behaviour because of abuse, parental neglect and abandonment or domestic violence, and pupils with one or more special intellectual skills and talents are considered to have SEN.
According to Law 3699/2008 (Article 6, par.1, as amended), pupils with disabilities and/or SEN may receive education in the following mainstream settings:
- in a mainstream class, supported by the class teacher. This type of education is for pupils with mild learning difficulties;
- in a mainstream class with individualised parallel support, provided by special education teachers. This type of education is provided to:
- pupils who can follow the classroom curriculum, with the appropriate individual support;
- pupils with more severe SEN when there is no other special education setting (special school, inclusive class) in their local area, or when parallel support becomes necessary (based on the KESY report) because of the pupil’s needs;
- in specially organised and staffed inclusion classes, operating in mainstream schools. Inclusion classes provide two types of educational programmes:
- common and specialised programme, up to 15 hours per week;
- specialised team or personalised programme of extended timetable for learners with more severe needs.
Law 4368/2016 (Article 82) (GG 21 A/2016) redefined the objectives of inclusion classes to avoid learners being discriminated against by being pulled out of mainstream classes to attend inclusion classes. Law 4368/2016 stresses that the main aim of the inclusion classes is full inclusion of children with special education needs and/or disabilities in the class environment. In this context, teachers of inclusive classes support the pupils within the mainstream classroom, in co-operation with the class teachers. They differentiate activities and educational practices and adapt the educational material and the educational environment. Support is only exceptionally provided on a one-to-one basis, in a separate inclusion classroom. In this case, the main target of the teaching intervention is future full inclusion of the pupil in the mainstream class.
These types of mainstream provision cater for the needs of the majority of learners with disabilities and/or SEN. When the attendance of pupils with disabilities or/and SEN becomes particularly difficult in mainstream schools or inclusion classes due to their needs, they:
- attend special education schools;
- attend schools or departments that operate as autonomous units or annexes of other schools within certain hospitals, rehabilitation units, discipline institutions for the under-aged, chronic disease institutions that include children with disabilities and special education needs;
- receive tuition at home if they cannot attend school because of short- or long-term health problems.
Appropriate school setting recommendations are among KESY competences. The parents take this into consideration when choosing their child’s school.
A series of other measures have also been introduced to respond to the needs of learners with disabilities and promote their educational inclusion. These include:
- free assessment and counselling services;
- the provision and implementation of Individual Education Plans (par. 5, art. 6);
- the provision of school nurses on a one-to-one basis (4186/2013, art. 28, par. 18, Circular 91409/D3/3-6-2016) and special support staff (Law 3699/2013, art. 18, par.1-2,as amended by article 56, Law 3966.2011, and Circular, issued by the Deputy Minister, no. 90911/D3/9-6-2015);
- co-education programmes between mainstream and special schools (par. 3a, article 82, Law 4368/2016), which aim to raise awareness and eliminate the gap between special and mainstream schools;
- relevant in-service training for teachers and other participants with special focus on issues of differentiation and accessibility;
- accessible educational and instructional material.
Issues of physical and digital accessibility
According to Law 3699/2008, accessibility provisions for learners with disabilities across the entire education system and the implementation of Universal Design for all in education are mandatory. Therefore, priority areas for actions within the Greek educational system include issues of accessibility to:
- the physical environment;
- information and communication;
- educational material;
- support services.
Specific reasonable accommodations catering to the needs of individual children are provided, alongside addressing the general accessibility of schools.
With regard to digital accessibility, a large pool of educational resources is now available that can cater for different learner needs. Important achievements include:
- transcription by the Computer Technology Institute and Press ‘Diophantus’ of all existing primary and secondary education textbooks into Braille writing code and the adaptation of all books from primary to upper-secondary school to various fonts for partially sighted learners;
- adapting several school books and teacher books into accessible digital and easy to read formats for deaf learners, learners with autism and learners with intellectual disabilities. This was completed under the NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) Act ‘Design and Development of Accessible Educational and Instructional Materials for Students with Disabilities’ which was implemented by the Institute of Educational Policy;
- developing the first multimedia material for teaching Greek sign language in kindergarten and the first two grades of primary school, and educational software for various categories of disabilities under the NSRF Act.
All the above accessible material, plus the UN Convention text in all formats, is available on the Institute of Educational Policy website. The materials are made available to schools depending on the learners’ needs and at the schools’ request.
With the goal to enhance and implement digital accessibility and the provision of reasonable accommodation, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs also provides technical aids to learners (such as PCs and laptops with adequate software, Braille technology, assistive technology, etc.). These aids are free of charge, following a recommendation from KESY.
Non-material reasonable accomodations
To increase the capacity of schools to respond to the diversity of needs of all learners, a series of non-material reasonable accommodations are provided. These include:
- special arrangements for pupils with disabilities regarding attendance. They can be absent from school for 30% more than the standard time allowed for absence if they receive therapy or rehabilitation treatment certified by a state hospital or another public medical institution (L. 3699/2008, par. 3, article 6);
- special arrangements regarding examination procedures. Law 4547/2018 (art. 7) allows written exams to be replaced by oral or other forms of exams for some categories of disability during primary and secondary, post-secondary, tertiary (university entering national A level exams) and National Foreign Language Exam System exams;
- special provision regarding the examination mark of the second foreign language taught (Law 4452/2017). For learners with disabilities and/or SEN who attend primary and secondary general and vocational education schools, the examination mark of the second foreign language taught is not counted in the final grade calculation. This provision is available at the parents’ request (Law 3699/2008, article 6, par. 3A, based on Law 4452/2017, article 11, par. 1b);
- special provisions regarding university entrance. Learners with severe medical conditions may enter universities up to 5% over the allocated number of newly enrolled learners, provided that they have successfully graduated from an upper-secondary school at home or abroad (Law 3794/2009, article 35).
Learners with disabilities and/or SEN (apart from specific learning difficulties) are distributed in classes of the same grade so that no more than one attends each class. If this is not possible, then the maximum number of learners in the class may be reduced by three. The number of pupils with specific learning difficulties attending a mainstream class cannot exceed four. If this is not possible and no inclusive class is in operation in the school, then the number of learners in the class may be reduced by three (Law 4452/2017, article 11).
Issues of special concern
Early years education
Education of all learners, including learners with disabilities and/or SEN, is compulsory from the age of four. Learners may attend mainstream kindergartens with the appropriate support (i.e. parallel support, inclusive class, special auxiliary personnel, school nurse) or special kindergartens. Attendance in kindergartens lasts for two years, but in special kindergartens it can be extended to the age of seven.
Laws 3699/2008 and 4547/2018 provide for the design and implementation of early intervention programmes. Law 3699/2008 mentions that systematic interventions at pre-primary age are provided by special kindergartens through the development of early intervention classes (article 2, par. 6c and article 8, par. 1). The Institute of Educational Policy (IEP) is responsible for designing early intervention programmes in special kindergartens, which become part of their curriculum.
According to Law 4547/2018, developing early intervention programmes in schools is also among the responsibilities of the supportive structures (i.e. Centers for Educational and Counseling Support, KESY; Interdisciplinary Educational Evaluation and Support Committees, EDEAY). EDEAY may plan early intervention programmes in co-operation with KESY, the Community Mental Health Centres or the competent municipality services. They may also organise training programmes for parents on this matter.
Inter-ministerial co-operations (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour) are expected to promote the implementation of early intervention programmes.
Transition from special to mainstream education
In primary education, the transition from special to mainstream education is provided for by Presidential Decree 79/2017. In particular, article 9 provides that learners from special schools may enrol in mainstream classes if their parents wish and KESY recommends that the learner is enrolled in mainstream school.
Learners’ transitions from special to mainstream secondary schools are provided for by the current institutional framework (Ministerial Decision 79942/DG4/21-05-2019 – GG 2005 B).
The transition from special to mainstream education can sometimes be facilitated through co-educationprogrammes between special and mainstream schools (Law 4368/2016, article 82). These are designed to implement the principles of inclusive education. The Teachers’ Board of the special or mainstream school can choose different co-curricula depending on the needs of the learners. These could include:
- a programme of co-operation between classes or school units through the implementation of joint actions; -
- a programme for the inclusion and participation of certain learners with SEN in specific general-purpose school curricula at a fixed frequency.
Programmes for the transition of pupils to another educational level or educational context are also implemented by KESY staff, in collaboration with teachers and parents. KESY is also responsible for practices ensuring the smooth transition to adulthood and the labour market (Law 4547/2018).
Transition between grades/levels of education
In many schools, at the initiative of school principals and teachers, transition programmes from one grade to another for all learners are implemented through organised pupil visits to the next grade schools. Presidential Decree 79/2017 (GG 109A), article 14, par. 3, provides for co-operation between kindergarten and primary school to ensure the smooth transition of pupils from one grade to another. Specifically, after the end or before the beginning of the school year, the kindergarten Teachers’ Board holds pedagogical meetings with the primary school principal and the teachers who will teach in the first grade of primary school. In these meetings, staff inform each other of issues related to teaching and learning in kindergarten and primary school, and the education and progress of kindergarten pupils who will attend primary school.
Transition programmes for pupils in the sixth grade of special elementary school are implemented in co-operation with their parents and guardians, in accordance with Article 10 of Ministerial Decision 79942/DG4/2019/FEK2005B. The relevant KESY ensures their smooth transition to the appropriate secondary education framework recommended by the KESY.
Transition to the labour market
Postsecondary Year Apprenticeship Class:
The institution of apprenticeship was introduced by Law 4415/2016 which amended Law 3699/2008. It entered into force in the 2018–2019 school year for the graduates of the Unified Special Vocational Lower- and Upper-Secondary Schools (ENEEGY-L). If they are not employed or trained, graduates from ENEEGY-L can enrol in the Postsecondary Year Apprenticeship Class with their peers from general vocational schools (EPAL), following the ENEEGY-L Teachers’ Board recommendation and KESY assessment (Ministerial Decision F9/137984/CC4, article 3 – GG 3459/Vol. Β΄/13-09-2019).
In the Postsecondary Year Apprenticeship Class, learners attend a faculty laboratory lesson once a week in the region’s vocational school and a training course at the workplace that lasts 28 hours per week divided over four days. Pupils who participate in the Apprenticeship Class receive a wage which equals 75% of the minimum wage of unskilled workers (under 25-years old). They are also insured. The Postsecondary Year Apprenticeship Class leads to an officially recognised diploma. Pupils who complete the apprenticeship course and pass the exams receive a vocational skill certification under the existing legislation (EOPPEP). The diplomas correspond to level 5 of the National Qualification Framework.
There are special provisions for learners with disabilities so that they have equal apprentiship opportunities. They are supported by:
- a second teacher from the same faculty of the ENEEGY-L in the weekly laboratory lesson;
- a social worker or psychologist from the ENEEGY-L. They visit the workplace every day during the first week of the learner’s placement, then once a week. This enhances the learner’s smooth adjustment into the workplace. They also inform employers about the reasonable adjustments to be made.
School Co-operatives in special education schools:
Ministerial Decision 15717/D3/01-02-2016 (GG 310B) provides for the extension of school co-operatives in special education schools, with the following objectives:
- developing learners’ social and pre-occupational skills;
- developing school vocational guidance;
- ensuring that learners are given the opportunity to practice;
- links to the labour market.
Inclusion and the education of other socially vulnerable social groups (Roma, refugees, etc.)
Education and support for vulnerable pupils is an issue of high priority for the Greek Ministry of Education. Several supportive educational mechanisms are in place to increase equitable access to mainstream education for all learners.
Educational Priority Zones (ZEP)
Law 3879/2010 (article 26, par. 1a and 1b) (GG 163 A/2010) introduced ‘Educational Priority Zones’ (ZEPs) to promote the equitable access of all learners in the educational system and improve learning outcomes.
The aim of the Reception Classes ZEP is the participatory-active and effective education of primary aged learners who have little or no knowledge of Greek (Roma, foreigners, refugees, vulnerable social groups, etc.) to allow them to be included in the Greek educational system.
Within the framework of intercultural education, there is a flexible scheme of institutional and educational intervention for learners with little competence in the Greek language. This enables schools to select the scheme that will provide further teaching support to help pupils adjust and be fully included in their mainstream classes. The institutional scheme comprises two distinct sets of courses within school timetable: Reception Classes (TY) I ZEP and II ZEP.
Reception Classes I ZEP is intended for learners with a minimum or zero level of competence in the Greek language. It lasts for a school year, but may be extended. It offers an intensive Greek language course. Learners who attend Reception Classes I ZEP also attend some subjects in their mainstream class (e.g. physical education, arts). Reception Classes II ZEP is intended for learners with an average level of competence in the Greek language, but which may cause difficulties in a mainstream class. Pupils who attend Reception Classes II ZEP are supported in the Greek language and/or in other subjects, either in the mainstream class with parallel support (second teacher in class) or out of the mainstream class. Attendance lasts for three years.
Reception Structures for Refugee Education
Law 4547/2018, article 73, Enrolment in the Reception Structures for Refugee Education (DYEP), stipulates that the learning aims of DYEP are directly associated with refugee learners. It aims to enable learners to gradually adjust to the new national, cultural and school environment, as well as exposure to Greek and European culture and literacy background. Attendance at DYEP lasts for one school year, which may be extended to two years. The Teachers’ Board of the respective school unit may allow the learner to promptly enrol in a mainstream primary or secondary education class, provided that they are capable of attending all school subjects. When their studies in DYEP are completed, on recommendation of the teachers and the person in charge in DYEP, learners receive a certificate of attendance.
Child refugees with disabilities can be included in the most suitable educational environment after their educational assessment by the Centres for Educational and Counselling Support (KESY).
Besides attending mainstream school classes, Roma pupils may also attend Reception Classes of Educational Priority Zones (ZEP).
According to articles 6 and 7 of Presidential Decree 79/2017 (GG 109/A):
- School principals must not only encourage Roma children to enrol and attend, but also seek Roma children living in the area of their competence and ensure their enrolment and attendance.
- All Roma children are admitted to school, regardless of whether they have registered in the official population registers or not.
Additionally, the Ministry of Education promotes actions and programmes in primary schools where Roma pupils attend, in order to respond to school and social exclusion, school drop-out, etc.
Last updated 07/02/2020