Portugal’s updated new Inclusive Education Law will provide some of Europe’s most innovative and genuinely inclusive resources for the future.
Portugal is moving away from the rationale that it is necessary to categorize to intervene. The present decree-law provides a continuous and integrated approach to the school path of each student, assuring quality throughout all compulsory schooling.
The preceding Decree-Law has evolved since its origin in 2008, in accordance with Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
Since 2009, most of Portugal’s special schools have been converted into Resource Centres for Inclusion (CRI). CRI provide specialised support through their specialised professionals to schools, teachers, families and students. CRI facilitate access to education, training, work, leisure, social participation and autonomy. A national network of 25 Information and Communication Technology Resource Centres (CRTIC) has also been established to support mainstream schools. CRTIC assess the pupils’ needs, at the request of the schools, for the purpose of granting the assistive products/devices to access the curriculum.
Following a rigorous evaluation of the past ten years, the legislation has been further strengthened to guarantee truly universal access and inclusion for all. The key features of the new Decree-Law 54/6 July 2018 require schools to provide a multidisciplinary team to support inclusive education. It is the responsibility of the multidisciplinary team to:
- raise awareness of the educational community towards inclusive education;
- propose the students’ learning support measures be mobilised;
- follow up and monitor the implementation of the learning support measures;
- advise teachers about the implementation of inclusive pedagogical practices.
This new Decree-Law creates a new school support structure, the Learning Support Centre (LSC). It combines human and material resources, knowledge and skills with competencies of the school. The specific objectives of the Learning Support Centre are:
- to promote the quality of students’ participation in the activities of the class to which they belong and in other learning contexts;
- to support the teachers of the group or class to which the students belong;
- to support the creation of learning resources and assessment tools for the various components of the curriculum;
- to develop interdisciplinary intervention methodologies that facilitate the processes of learning, autonomy and adaptation to the school context;
- to promote the development of structured environments, rich in communication and interaction, which promote learning;
- to support the organisation of the transition process to post-school life.
Individual schools must document how their inclusive culture values diversity, emphasises autonomy and responsibility for inclusion at the individual school level – with external specialised support when required – and increases parental involvement.
All students with Individual Educational Programmes will have an Individual Transition Plan in place three years before the end of compulsory schooling. This plan will promote the transition to post-school life and, whenever possible, to the establishment of a professional activity.
Article 24 of the UNCRPD, as clarified by General Comment No. 4 (the Right to Inclusive Education), calls for ‘a transfer of resources from segregated to inclusive environments’ (paragraph 68).
With this new law on inclusive education, together with supportive political measures that are taking place, Portugal takes another big step towards truly inclusive schools. These schools will ensure that each student, regardless of their personal and social situation, will find answers that enable them to acquire a level of education and training which will, in turn, enable them to be fully socially integrated. For Portugal, ‘all’ truly means all.