Denmark

Key documents: Danish Constitution, several circulars concerning the education of students who are unable to attend school due to illness, Executive order on Primary Schools Special Education for Students with General Learning Disabilities, Circular on Special Education Needs Assistance, Guidance on special education of students with general learning difficulties, Guidelines for referral of pupils to special education and other special educational assistance, Statement of opinion assessments, etc. for students receiving special education and other special education assistance in primary and lower secondary schools, Special Education and Other Special Assistance in Folkeskolen, Guidance on primary school special education and other special educational assistance, and the Draft Law amending the Law on the elementary school, the Act on Private Independent Schools etc. Act and the folk high schools, continuation schools, home schools and trade schools (boarding schools). 

Characteristics: Even though no specific policy exists for the education of children with autism in Denmark, the right to education is very well established in the Danish education system. Nevertheless, general disability policy that regulates the provision of adequate inclusive and special education is included across Danish education policy. It created an education environment that heavily emphasises the proper addressing of special education needs to the point where the grading of schoolwork can be altered to review the goals of the individual child rather than to compare the child with other children. 

Overview

  • Access to free education has been a legal right of all children in Denmark as far back as 1814 and compulsory since 1855 [1]. However, at this time it only covered 7 years of education (ages 7 to 14).
  • The Danish Constitution reiterated the right to education in 1953 [2].
  • A report on special education from the Danish Ministry of Education was the first to properly recognise students with intellectual disabilities and other problems as students with special education needs [3].  
  • Several specific circulars followed up this reports, each focusing on one particular group of special education needs. 
  • The 1978 Executive order on Primary Schools Special Education for Students with General Learning Disabilities recognised the importance of supporting children with special education needs and explicitly aimed to promote their development into economically active adults [4].  
  • The accompanying 1979 Circular on special education needs assistance also recognised the importance of organising special education needs education in a way that considered the total needs of each individual [5]. For instance, maximum class sizes were set in this Circular to aid the development of children with special education needs. 
  •  The Guidance on special education of students with general learning difficulties [6] and Guidelines for referral of pupils to special education and other special educational assistance [7] were progressive in three ways. Firstly, they emphasised the importance of recognising special education needs early, in order to minimise the long-term impacts to the child’s development. 
  •  Secondly, they outlined that although the organisation of special education needs would generally be a municipal responsibility, where the costs of this would be prohibitive to the municipal budgets, a second tier of support should be provided at a county level.
  •  Finally, they made clear the importance of always including the parents of the child in discussions with the schools and the authorities. 
  •  The Statement of opinion assessments, etc. for students receiving special education and other special education assistance in primary and lower secondary schools established that where there was agreement between school, student and parents, formal grading could be overlooked in favour of a written opinion on the achievement of the student’s individual goals [8].
  •  In 1990, the Danish Ministry of Education replaced all the specific guidelines concerning specific handicaps (general learning disability, behavioural and psychological conditions, language and speech problems, etc.) with one overarching guideline: Special Education and Other Special Assistance in Folkeskolen [9]. 
  •  This change in the guideline for Special Education emphasised the need to look at the individual student’s specific needs and less attention on the specific diagnosis or type of handicap. 
  •  With the introduction of the Guidance on primary school special education and other special educational assistance [10], there was a development towards holistic aims of special education needs with a specified focus on the child's academic, personal and social potentials and competencies in the community.
  •  In 2012, the Danish Parliament passed a new law on Special Education with the goal to reduce the number of students who receive special education outside of the mainstream classes in Folkeskolen (a combination of primary and secondary schools) [11].


References
[1] Danish Ministry of Education. About the Folkeskole. 2018. Available from: http://eng.uvm.dk/primary-and-lower-secondary-education/the-folkeskole/about-the-folkeskole
[2] Folketing. The Constitutional Act of Denmark. 1953. Available from: https://www.thedanishparliament.dk/Publications/~/media/PDF/publikationer/English/The_Constitutional_Act_Of_Denmark_2013.pdf.ashx
[3] Danish Ministry of Education. Folkeskolens Specialundervisning. 1961. Available from: https://www.foxylex.dk/media/betaenkninger/Folkeskolens_specialundervisning.pdf
[4] Danish Ministry of Education. Executive Order on Primary Schools Special Education for Students with General Learning Disabilities. 1978. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=73318
[5] Danish Ministry of Education. Circular on public school special education and other special educational assistance. 1979. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=74569
[6] Danish Ministry of Education. Guidance on special education of students with general learning difficulties. 1979. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=76633
[7] Danish Ministry of Education. Guidelines for referral of pupils to special education and other special educational assistance. 1979. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=75532
[8] Danish Ministry of Education. Statement of opinion assessments, etc. for students receiving special education and other special education assistance in primary and lower secondary schools. 1980. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=72959#
[9] Danish Ministry of Education. Notice of public school special education and other special educational assistance. 1990. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=73491
[10] Danish Ministry of Education. Guidance on primary school special education and other special education assistance. 2008. Available from: https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=114197
[11] Danish Parliament. Draft Law amending the Law on the elementary school, the Act on Private Independent Schools etc. Act and the folk high schools, continuation schools, home schools and trade schools (boarding schools). 2012. Available from: https://www.ft.dk/samling/20111/lovforslag/L103/som_vedtaget.htm#dok