Special educational support, or specialpædegagogisk støtte (SPS), is an option for special assistance for young people with a disability in Denmark so that they have the opportunity to get an education on equal footing with their peers. In this issue, we dive into what SPS is, how individuals or schools can apply for it - and the impact it has on students' lives.
Text: Michaela Medveďová
According to SPS - Specialpædadogisk Støtte, SPS is individual compensatory support linked to education only, meant to help people with disabilities compensate for the challenges that arise for them as a consequence of their disabilities.
According to EVA (Danmarks Evalueringsinstitut), this support can consist of the
Assistive devices, for example, compensatory literacy technology for students with dyslexia or IT aids for students with visual impairment
Personal or secretarial assistance for people who have mobility issues
Support hours for students with a mental disability
Teaching materials specially designed to help students with disabilities to study
Sign language and written interpretation
Students have the right to SPS if they have a disability that requires support to allow them to finish their education. They also must be attending programmes that are approved for receiving SPS.
In some types of education programmes, it is also necessary for the student to be a Danish citizen or to have equal status.
In which types of education can you obtain SPS? Who applies for it?
SPS is a possibility for students in the following types of education:
Higher education (videregående uddannelser)
SPS is requested by the SPS officer at your higher education institution on behalf of the student. The first step towards getting SPS is therefore contacting the officer.
Then, you must participate in an interview with the officer to discuss your special needs and considerations.
You must provide an application form, consent form, and documentation for your disability.
Adult and continuing education (voksen- og efteruddannelser - VEU)
The same applies.
Youth education (ungdomsuddannelser)
The same applies.
Independent or private schools (friskoler og privatskoler)
SPS is requested by the school - they can apply for grants for special educational assistance or aid if the Pedagogical Psychological Counseling (PPR) assesses that the student needs support for at least nine teaching hours a week.
Post-secondary or independent vocational schools (efterskoler og frie fagskoler)
The same applies.
Preparatory basic education (forberedende grunduddannelse - FGU)
The school applies on behalf of the student. In collaboration with the school, you create an educational plan that outlines your need for SPS. In addition, you need to provide an application form, consent form, and documentation for your disability.
However, there are unfortunately no guarantees that your application for SPS will be approved, as applications are processed on a case-by-case basis.
Should your application be denied, you can apply again with additional documentation or appeal the decision to the Appeals Board for the State's Education Support Schemes (Ankenævnet for Statens Uddannelsesstøtteordninger). You can also file a complaint with the Danish Agency for Education and Quality (Styrelsen for Undervisning og Kvalitet) and mark it "Complaint to the Board of Appeal for the State's Education Support Schemes" ("Klage til Ankenævnet for Statens Uddannelsesstøtteordninger").
If your application is denied and you decide to appeal, you must file your appeal within four weeks of receiving the decision.
How does the system work for students?
According to a survey by EVA (Danmarks Evalueringsinstitut), students with different impairments benefit from the availability of SPS as it increases their chances of completing their education and lessens the risk of dropping out of their education program. In addition, according to the survey's findings, students improve their professional competencies, participate actively in classes and group work, and plan their time. Schools are key in this effort as they need to quickly identify and initiate support for the students and adapt to their individual needs.
However, according to a report from the Education and Research Agency (Uddannelses- og Forskningsstyrelsen), students with a disability do not thrive compared to their peers without disabilities. This is reflected in several factors. For example, among students with a mental disability, 32% of students interrupt their studies within two years after starting, compared to only 24% among students without a disability.
Students with special needs also have decreased well-being and an increased average study time of almost four months compared to the average study time for their peers. The unemployment rate of recent graduates is also increased by 6.5% compared to their peers without a disability.
The completion rate of youth education is also lower - according to an analysis from the Labor Movement's Business Council, only 54% of young people with disabilities have completed youth education by the age of 25, compared to 80% of their peers without a disability.