After your child has finished folkeskole (mainstream school), the optional next step is Danish
secondary education. we explore efterskoler that accommodate your special needs child.
Text: Sara R. Newell / Nikolaos Papadopoulos
In this article, we’ll explore special education options in specialefterskoler (special education residential schools) and almen efterskole (mainstream residential schools), which provide special education assistance and support.
What is an efterskole?
The Danish concept of efterskole is a form of self-governing, independent secondary or continuing education where pupils can complete 8., 9., and 10. grade. It’s a unique form of boarding school, where students between 14 and 18 years both study and reside. This gives them a chance to live among their peers and immerse themselves in specific areas of interest, such as music, theatre, sports, art focus, horseback riding, etc.
There are three types of efterskole - those that offer general continuing education, those that focus on children with dyslexia, and those that accommodate children with special needs.
Specialefterskoler in a nutshell
Special education residential schools (specialefterskoler) open their doors to pupils with different needs ranging from learning difficulties, developmental disabilities, or developmental disorders such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder. Currently, the Efterskolerne.dk portal lists 18 special education residential schools.
Specialefterskoler receive special state subsidies to provide extra support for special needs students, which typically means additional teachers with expertise in special education, smaller class sizes, and offering differentiated teaching and assistance.
Almen efterskoler with special education assistanceand support
Some mainstream residential schools (almen efterskoler) offer a certain number of spaces for children with special needs. Most often, this entails personal assistance or mentorship related to practical difficulties at school and a certain amount of education and assistance that should help the child develop strategies for compensating for their disabilities.
The school’s website will often provide information about whether they provide special education services and how many available spaces they have each school year.
If your child attends an almen efterskole with extra pedagogical support and/or supplementary tutoring, extra tuition fees may be required.
Choosing the right option for your child
Every year residential schools hold an open house on efterskolernes dag (residential school day), where it is possible to visit prospective schools together with your child. In addition, some schools hold open houses several times a year.
Whether you are considering a specialefterskole or an almen efterskole which offers special education, it can be a good idea to gather information beyond what you will find on the school’s website. We recommend that you contact relevant disability organisations for recommendations. Some organisations provide a list of potential specialefterskoler, such as this list provided by the Danish National Autism Association at autismeforening.dk
It can also be a good idea to inquire through parent and disability networks, Facebook groups, or other relevant associations and groups for recommendations about any specific efterskoler you may consider.
Additional support in education
When you have applied, it is up to the school in question to evaluate if they have the necessary resources, knowledge, and experience to accept your child as a pupil.
When your child has been accepted into an efterskole, it is the school that decides how support will be organised, as well as the extent of the special assistance. During the enrollment process, we recommend that you contact the school for information about your child’s specific needs, and if relevant, you request that the school take Pedagogical Psychological Services (Pædagogisk Psykologisk Rådgivning, PPR) recommendations into account. The school will often ask you about your child’s needs when processing the application.
Additional support in free time
Your child is also entitled to municipality-subsidised additional support in their leisure time - for example, counselling. To receive extra assistance, your municipality must assess your child’s needs and determine the required level of support usually covered by school employees.
Be aware that it is often a long and cumbersome process to apply for assistance through the municipality, and whether extra assistance is granted or denied will often vary from municipality to municipality.
Efterskole is not free and requires that you pay tuition. However, if your child is a Danish citizen or has equal status, you will receive a subsidy from the state based on your total household income. You can also apply for individual supplementary student support (individuel supplerende elevstøtte), which will be decided and paid out by the school.