Portugal background information


How the official decision of special educational needs (SEN) in the country relates to the agreed EASIE operational definition

Operational definition

An official decision leads to a child/learner being recognised as eligible for additional educational support to meet their learning needs.

Criteria for an official decision of SEN

  • There has been an educational assessment procedure involving a multi-disciplinary team
  • The multi-disciplinary team includes members from within and external to the child’s/learner’s (pre)school
  • There is a legal document which describes the support the child/learner is eligible to receive and which is used as the basis for planning
  • The official decision is subject to a formal, regular review process

Educational assessment procedure in the country

The educational assessment procedure is undertaken by each school’s/school cluster’s department of special education and the psychology service. The child’s/learner’s specific needs are assessed, based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health for Children and Youth (ecological approach), involving parents in the process. When necessary, the school requests the participation of the health services.

How the multi-disciplinary team is comprised in the country

The multi-disciplinary teams comprise mainstream teachers, specialist teachers, psychologists, parents and, whenever needed, therapists. Most team members are internal to the school, but some may be external.

The legal document used in the country to outline the support that the child/learner is eligible to receive

The legal document is called the Individual Education Plan (IEP). It has information on:

  • the assessment of the child’s/learner’s special educational needs, which is carried out from a functional perspective;
  • the additional support and adaptive pedagogical methods;
  • the human resources needed;
  • the assessment process.

How the document is used as the basis for planning in the country

It is important to note that schools have a high level of autonomy to define the IEP. The central government allocates the resources based on the needs identified by schools in their IEPs.

The formal, regular review process in the country

Each child’s/learner’s IEP must be revised:

  • at the end of pre-primary education;
  • at the end of the first cycle of primary education (fourth grade);
  • at the end of primary education (sixth grade); 
  • at the end of lower-secondary education (ninth grade).

The IEP must also be revised whenever there is any change that compromises what is planned.


Proxy indicator for the 80% benchmark used for the country’s data collection

The EASIE work uses an 80% benchmark of inclusive education. This is defined as:

An inclusive setting refers to education where the child/learner with SEN follows education in mainstream classes alongside their mainstream peers for most – 80% or more – of the school week.

Proxy indicator used

Actual data is available to verify the 80% benchmark.

Details on what the country proxy is

Children/learners with SEN who attend a mainstream formal educational setting must be in their classroom for 100% of school time. Exceptions to this situation are those with profound changes to the national curriculum. The national questionnaire asks how many children/learners spend 80% or less time in the classroom.

Why this proxy was used

To answer the EASIE questionnaire.

Difficulties in using the proxy

No difficulties.

Specific country issues in applying the proxy indicator

No issues.


Detailed description of what ‘out of formal education’ means within the country

The 2011 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) defines ‘formal education’ as follows:

[…] education that is institutionalised, intentional and planned through public organizations and recognised private bodies and, – in their totality – constitute the formal education system of a country. Formal education programmes are thus recognised as such by the relevant national education or equivalent authorities, e.g. any other institution in cooperation with the national or sub-national educational authorities. Formal education consists mostly of initial education […] Vocational education, special needs education and some parts of adult education are often recognised as being part of the formal education system. Qualifications from formal education are by definition recognised and, therefore, are within the scope of ISCED. Institutionalised education occurs when an organization provides structured educational arrangements, such as student-teacher relationships and/or interactions, that are specially designed for education and learning.

(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011, International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011, p. 11).

Do the country definitions of formal, non-formal and informal education differ from the ISCED definitions?

No, Portugal uses the same definitions as ISCED.

How specific cases – such as home-educated children/learners – are considered

Home-educated children/learners, regardless of their situation, must be enrolled in a public school, in the appropriate ISCED level of education.

Children/learners who are considered out of formal education (meaning those not in formal education as defined by ISCED)

By law, all children aged 6 years old or more must be enrolled in a formal education programme until they complete upper-secondary education or until they reach the age of 18.

How the population of children/learners who are out of formal education is defined

Not applicable.


Provision of data on private sector education

The data collection covers all sectors of education, including numbers for the child/learner population in the private sector.

Private sector education in the country

The private sector comprises government-dependent private schools and independent private schools, as defined in the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/Eurostat manual.

Child/learner population counted for each relevant question

The statistical procedures applied to public schools and the private sector are the same.

Specific issues with providing data on private sector education and how these have been overcome in the data collection

By law, private schools must provide the data necessary for producing the official education statistics.


ISCED level age ranges

The following are the most common (pre)school entrance ages and (pre)school leaving ages for the different ISCED levels:

Age range in the country at ISCED level 02 (pre-primary): 3 to 5

Age range in the country at ISCED level 1: 6 to 11

Age range in the country at ISCED level 2: 12 to 14

Age range in the country at ISCED level 3: 15 to 17



Additional remarks, comments or explanations on the country background information

General information: Data collection process related to public schools under the tutelage of the Ministry of Education – Administrative data; data collection process related to private schools and public schools under the tutelage of other ministries – electronic questionnaire. SEN information for all types of schools: electronic questionnaire.


2012/2013 and 2014/2015 data background information

This country updated its background information for the 2014/2015 and 2016/2017 datasets. PDFs of the background information for the 2012/2013 dataset and the 2014/2015 dataset are available.

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