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Making Schools Responsible for Students with Special Needs

Background and aims

In recent decades, several initiatives of the Dutch government aimed to support regular schools in meeting their students' special educational needs (SEN). New policies such as Together to School Again or the Pupil-­Bound Budget were developed and implemented. However, the effects of these policies have been somewhat disappointing. Regular schools still refer large numbers of SEN students to special schools. Similar experiences have been reported in other countries.

The Dutch government is currently considering new procedures and regulations that address, among other things, the regular school's responsibility for students with special needs. The basic idea is that the local regular school should be made responsible for all students in its catchment area, including students with SEN. Under this School's Duty to Care policy, schools in a region will be required to cooperate as a group. They will receive special needs funding in the form of a fixed lump sum.


As proposed by a Dutch research team at the University of Groningen, the overall question is whether and how it is possible to make it less easy for school boards, school offices/principals and teachers to hand over responsibility to special schools.


To find answers to this question, the Dutch team invited colleagues from a selected group of countries to take part in a small-­scale international research project. Colleagues were asked to answer a set of six questions relating to school responsibility in their country and to appraise two vignettes representing common cases of referral to special education. Based on the country reports, the Dutch team drafted an overall report, which was discussed and revised at a one-­day seminar with all experts present.


The country reports for Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Norway, Scotland and Sweden are available below. The overall report will not be available online. Its main findings are likely to be published as a journal article.




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