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Further education with STU

When young adults finish their compulsory or efterskole education, they have the right to access programmes for continuing their education. In this article, we cover the rules for further education.

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Sara R. Newell / Michaela Medveďová

If your young adult has a disability that does not allow them to complete a standard form of secondary education, they have the right to access Særligt tilrettelagt Ungdomsuddannelse (STU). STU can be translated as an Individually Designed Education and is intended as an option for youth with special needs to continue their education.

What is STU?

According to the Ministry of Children and Education, STU programmes offer the following:

  • It takes three years to complete.

  • It is an option for continuing education for young people with physical or mental disabilities who are < 25 years of age and who have completed their compulsory education.

  • It is an option for youth whose disabilities keep them from enrolling in standard secondary education, even if they were to receive special assistance.

  • Have the primary purpose of assisting special needs youth further their professional, social, and personal competencies to lead as independent a life as their disability allows.

Once a young person with special needs has completed their compulsory education, they can apply for STU through their local municipality. In some cases, compulsory education will be completed after a young person has finished 9th grade, in other cases after 11th grade, depending on the young person’s individual situation.

If you and your child believe that STU would be a good choice, you should contact your municipality about setting up a meeting to discuss applying for STU. However, be aware that it is up to the municipality to decide whether they believe that your child falls within the target group for having access to STU and, if so, which STU school your child may attend.

We therefore strongly recommend that you are well prepared to argue your child’s case when meeting with a municipality caseworker. Preparation could include collecting relevant information regarding your child’s special needs, e.g. medical and education reports, reports from psychologists and/or therapists, and preliminary research on which STU programmes you believe would benefit your child’s development.

If the municipality concludes that your child is in the target group for STU, they must take the wishes and interests of the young adult into account. Unfortunately, in some cases, this is not always the reality.

What does STU consist of?

The three-year programme begins with a 12-week clarification course where the municipality counsellor, parents, and young adult draw up an education plan based on the child’s wishes and ideas for future employment. With 840 hours per year, the education can consist of general subjects, internships in companies, rehabilitation training, or employment training. The course plan can also include education in independent living, finances, or housekeeping, and it may also help support the youth’s interests and hobbies.

The education is financed by the municipality and, therefore, free. The course plan can consist of different education and training components - STU can occur at many STU schools. STU programmes are exam-free and do not result in an education diploma comparable to diplomas earned at standard continuing education programmes. However, upon completion of STU programmes, students are awarded a competency certificate detailing the skills, competencies, and knowledge they have gained and how they fulfilled the goals of the STU programme.

STU must be concluded within five years from when the young person enrols, although exceptions can be made because of illness or other extenuating circumstances. According to DUKH (Den Uvildige Konsulentordning på Handicapområdet), the municipality also has the right to suspend your child’s STU education if their attendance is not sufficient. However, such a decision should be thoroughly substantiated.

What issues could you face - and where to appeal?

Thomas Holberg, a political consultant at Lev (Livet med udviklingshandicap), writes that four challenges need to be addressed with regard to STU:

  • Young people don’t always have enough of an impact on which STU school they attend.

  • There is a lack of overview of STU school and programme options.

  • STU schools are not subjected to any quality requirements.

  • Transitioning from STU into the next phase of adulthood is often difficult for young people who attend STU programmes.

If you are unhappy with your municipality’s decisions, for example, on target group assessment; denial of access to STU programmes; the granted STU school; the content of the education plan; or the suspension of STU, you can appeal to the Complaints Board for Special Education (Klagenævnet for Specialundervisning).

According to Ligeværd, the most common basis for appeals is that young people are not allowed to attend the STU of their choice and that decisions made by the municipality regarding the choice of STU schools lack proper justification.

In a survey posted by The International in the Facebook group #enmillionstemmer, we asked: What were your (or your child’s) experiences being granted STU? We received responses from 166 people.

Young people with disabilities should influence their own lives, access continuing education programmes that can support them in the transition from childhood to adulthood, and discover their strengths and abilities.

Although there are good quality STU schools to be found, there is much work to be done to ensure easier access to these schools and ensure that young people with disabilities have a real influence on how and where they continue their education.

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