Country information for Poland - Systems of support and specialist provision

The national legislation does not define special educational needs (SEN). The term is, however, broadly understood as depending on a learner’s individual needs. The need for additional support may result from, for example, a disability, specific learning difficulties, social disadvantage, behavioural or emotional disorders, long-lasting illness, traumatic situations or special talents.

Psychological and educational support is offered to all learners with SEN and their parents, within pre-primary schools, schools and other institutions in the education system, including counselling and guidance centres. Aside from specific arrangements as part of special needs education (see below), support may include:

  • classes to develop aptitudes, learning skills or emotional and social competences;
  • corrective and compensatory or remedial classes;
  • speech therapy classes;
  • individualised learning paths or programmes or individual teaching at home for learners who cannot attend school due to their health.

Special education (organisation of special teaching, including the use of relevant teaching methods) is an integral part of the education system. The following groups of learners receive special education, based on a decision on special education (SE certificate) issued by a counselling and guidance centre:

  • learners with disabilities, including mild, moderate and severe intellectual disabilities; deafness or hearing impairment; blindness or visual impairment; motor disability, including aphasia; autism, including Asperger’s syndrome; multiple disabilities;
  • socially disadvantaged learners;
  • learners at risk of social disadvantage.

At each education stage and in any type of school, particularly gifted pupils may follow:

  • an individualised study programme for one or more subjects/types of class included in the school curriculum for a given year;
  • an individual learning path, which enables them to finish school earlier.

The school education system offers early development support to the youngest children from diagnosis to enrolment in primary education. The support aims to stimulate children’s psychological, motor and social development.

Special education is provided in:

  • mainstream nursery schools. This could be within mainstream groups, special groups for learners with disabilities and an SE certificate (except children with a mild intellectual disability), or in integration classes for learners with an SE certificate together with their non-disabled peers;
  • other pre-primary education settings;
  • special nursery schools for disabled children with an SE certificate (except children with a mild intellectual disability;
  • mainstream schools at all levels, where pupils may attend mainstream classes, special classes for learners with an SE certificate, or integration classes for learners with an SE certificate together with their non-disabled peers;
  • special schools: primary schools, including primary schools for learners with mild, moderate or severe intellectual disabilities, three-year (secondary) schools preparing for employment (for learners with moderate or severe intellectual disability or multiple disabilities), general and vocational secondary schools and post-secondary schools.

Nursery schools and schools which only have integration classes are referred to as integration nursery schools or integration schools.

Other institutions providing education to learners with an SE decision include youth education centres, youth social therapy centres, special education and care centres and special educational centres.

Only learners with an SE decision attend special nursery schools, special schools, special groups and special classes in mainstream settings. Special pre-primary groups in mainstream settings are not organised for children with mild intellectual disabilities.

Parents are free to choose a setting for their children.

Where necessary, entry into primary school may be deferred for children with disabilities until they reach the age of nine. The duration of their education may be extended by one year in grades 1–3, by two years in grades 4–8, and by one year in a post-primary school. Learners with disabilities and those who are socially disadvantaged or at risk of social disadvantage may attend primary school until the end of the school year in the calendar year in which they turn 20, or 24 in post-primary school. The duration of education may be reduced from three to two years for learners who are socially disadvantaged or at risk of social disadvantage who attend stage one sectoral vocational schools in youth education centres, youth social therapy centres, correctional facilities and youth hostels. In this case, the hours of compulsory educational classes scheduled for the three-year period should be maintained, except physical education classes, for which the number of hours is established in the legislation.

In integration nursery schools or schools and integration classes in mainstream nursery schools or schools, the maximum class size is 20 learners, including up to five with disabilities. There are upper limits for the size of special classes, depending on the type of disability (for example, up to four learners with autism, including Asperger’s syndrome; up to eight learners with a moderate or severe intellectual disability and up to 16 with a mild intellectual disability; up to 16 socially disadvantaged learners or learners at risk of social disadvantage).

Learners with SEN – except those with moderate, severe or profound intellectual disabilities – follow the national core curricula for pre-primary , general and, where appropriate, vocational education in schools at all levels. Learners with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities follow a separate core curriculum in primary schools and special schools preparing for employment. For those with a profound intellectual disability, mainstream nursery schools and schools organise compulsory education in the form of group or individual rehabilitation and education classes. For learners who are unable to attend a nursery school or school due to their health condition, individual teaching may be organised.

Each learner in special education has an individual education and therapy programme (IETP), based on the SE decision. The IETP is developed by a team of teachers and specialists, where necessary in collaboration with a counselling and guidance centre. It specifies, for example, special classes or activities appropriate for the individual’s developmental and educational needs and psycho-physical abilities. This includes, in particular, rehabilitation classes for learners with a disabilities, social rehabilitation classes for a socially disadvantaged learners, or social therapy classes for those at risk of social disadvantage. These are designed to improve learners’ functioning and enhance their participation in the life of their school and/or in the family and social environment. IETPs are revised where necessary based on a periodic multi-faceted specialist assessment of the learners’ functioning.

Rehabilitation classes for learners with disabilities include therapy and rehabilitation activities. Depending on the learners’ needs, they may be conducted in a group or on an individual basis. In pre-primary institutions, the number and duration of these classes is adjusted to individual needs.

Education provided to all three groups of learners with an SE decision, except for those with a moderate or severe intellectual disability, in all settings (mainstream, integration or special) is based on the same core curricula and outline timetables. Thus, in general, learners attend the same compulsory classes as their non-disabled peers, but may be exempt from taking some subjects/classes (such as a second foreign language, computer science or physical education).

Like in mainstream schools, learners with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities in special schools follow separate core curricula and outline timetables. The outline timetables include compulsory classes in personal care and social functioning, communication skills, creativity and physical education in special primary schools, as well as training for employment in special (secondary) schools preparing for employment.

For learners who are unable to attend school due to their health, an individual teaching programme is organised (E. Kolanowska, 2021: The System of Education in Poland 2020).

Counselling and Guidance Centres (CGCs) are educational institutions which provide professional support for schools. Children, youth, parents and teachers receive CGC services. These centres diagnose children and young people, provide therapy for learners and parents and support teachers in solving problems, among other things. CGCs also carry out activities in the field of prevention and educational support for schools and institutions. These activities include:

  • helping teachers to identify learners’ individual needs and abilities;
  • providing support for teachers in solving learners’ educational and behavioural problems;
  • activities to prevent addictions and other problems for children and young people;
  • mental health education for children and young people, parents and teachers;
  • providing support for teachers in co-operation with teacher training institutions and pedagogical libraries.

Public CGCs are run by the district level of the local government and are subsidised by the educational element of a general subsidy.

Residential special schools support inclusive mainstream schools. Work to develop a new role for special settings as resource centres has begun in Poland under two European Social Fund projects: Developing the Specialist Support Centres for Inclusive Education model (2019–2023) and Piloting the Specialist Support Centres for Inclusive Education (2019–2023). These centres will lend textbooks, teaching materials, aids and specialist equipment to schools. The projects will develop the centres’ standards of equipment, lending rules and financing mechanisms.


Last updated 02/03/2021


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