What were the main aims of the initiative?

The Organisation of Provision to support Inclusive Education (OoP) project by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education set out to explore the question: how are systems of provision organised to meet the needs of learners identified as having disabilities under the UNCRPD (2006) in inclusive settings within the compulsory school sector?

Following a review of relevant literature and collection of country information, five sites were visited in order to explore the project themes. One key theme was increasing the capacity of mainstream schools to respond to learner diversity. A number of project findings highlight key issues for teacher education/professional development.


The project aimed to study how systems of provision could best be organised to meet the needs of learners with disabilities. However, the project outcomes have a wide application to all schools meeting the diverse needs of all learners.


Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.

The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education·(the Agency) is an independent and self-governing organisation established by member countries to act as their platform for collaboration. The Agency offers its 29 member countries the opportunity to learn from each other through different types of knowledge and experience exchange. (See: )

Working primarily with policy makers, the Agency follows work programmes that reflect both country priorities and agreed EU policies regarding inclusive education.

The following countries·took part in the Organisation of Provision project: Austria, Belgium (Flemish Community), Belgium (French Community), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, UK (England), UK (Northern Ireland), UK (Scotland), UK (Wales).


What issues/challenges does the example address?

The project explored a number of key themes, which were identified as priorities through early project activities:

Inclusion as a quality issue. The presence and participation of all learners in the school/classroom community enhances the quality of the educational experience.

Strengthening the capacity of mainstream schools to respond to diverse needs. This includes examining the role of specialist provision as a resource to support the mainstream sector and enabling teachers to be proactive in meeting a range of diverse needs in the classroom.

Collaboration and networking. Joint working - with parents, professionals and communities - enhances the effectiveness of educational and multi-agency support.

With regard to teacher education and on-going professional development, the project highlighted a number of key issues including the need to:

  • address the attitudes of teachers and support staff regarding the fact that inclusion is about ALL learners - not about the placement of individuals with particular needs
  • move from individual support in schools to enabling environments that skill up staff and increase their capability to respond to the full diversity of learners.
  • ensure strong leadership to encourage collaborative working as a way to develop all staff - and develop leadership skills at all levels of the organisation.
  • recognise that all staff are learners, responsible for their own professional development
  • develop a range of teaching/learning approaches to engage all learners e.g. team teaching, peer learning, coaching and mentoring etc.



How was the Initiative implemented?

Representatives from Agency member countries (primarily from Ministries of Education) identified the organisation of provision for learners with disabilities as a priority topic.

The project literature review set out a conceptual framework which recognised that in order to make progress towards a rights-based approach, countries need to move from organising provision in terms of individual support - often based on medical diagnosis - to analysing how systems are organised to support schools to meet the needs - and fulfil the rights - of all learners.

The project ran from 2011-2014. The Agency project team, together with members of an extended Project Advisory Group drawn from 8 countries visited 5 selected sites:

  • Essunga, Sweden
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Flensburg, Germany
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Valetta, Malta

Thematic seminars were also held in the above 5 countries allowing policy makers and national and local representatives from all participating countries to explore in detail the factors arising from the visits that have an influence on the success of inclusive approaches, taking into account different country contexts.


What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

The project highlighted the need to move from a system that rewards lack of success to a model of early support and prevention. Generally, support given to individual learners does not necessarily improve the capacity of the school system. If schools focus on the quantity rather than the quality of resources, they are unlikely to change the way they respond to learners. The inclusion process should therefore focus on building the capability of schools to cater for learner diversity through professional development and support for teachers and leaders.

The project identified key success factors necessary for the organisation of effective support for all learners in inclusive settings:

  • Conceptual clarity regarding inclusive education
  • Legislation and policy that recognises the synergy between the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989) and the UNCRPD in prioritising the rights of children with disabilities and ensuring consistent policy and practice at all system levels
  • A systemic view that focuses on developing the ‘inclusive capability’ of the education system as a whole and encourages strong links, collaboration and support between and within all levels (i.e. between national and local policy makers, education and school leaders, teachers, other professionals, learners and families)
  • Inclusive accountability that involves all stakeholders including learners and informs policy decisions to ensure the full participation and achievement of all learners
  • Strong, shared leadership to effectively manage change and work closely with parents, other agencies and the local community.

With regard to the professional development of teachers, the project identified the need for school leaders to support development opportunities and to:

  • ensure that teachers develop positive attitudes and take responsibility for all learners
  • work with a range of professionals, including in specialist settings to increase the capability of all staff to support all learners, including those with disabilities
  • support innovative approaches to school /classroom organisation, teaching, curriculum and assessment that support ‘equivalent’ learning opportunities for all in a learner-led system
  • ensure the efficient use of resources through collegiality and co-operation, developing a flexible continuum of support for all learners rather than allocating funding to specific groups.

The project also made recommendations relating to child rights and participation, conceptual clarity and coherence and the development of a continuum of support. Recommendations impacting on teacher education/professional development include:

Policy makers should:

  • develop a 'continuum of support' for teachers, support staff and in particular for school leaders through use of research, networking and links to universities etc.
  • develop the role of special schools as a resource to increase the capability of mainstream schools and improve support for learners. There is a need to maintain and further develop the specialist knowledge and skills of resource centre personnel in ways that enable them to support school staff (for example through counselling and collaboration) as well as provide a specialist network that will enhance support for learners, such as those with low incidence disabilities.
  • develop more accessible curriculum and assessment frameworks and support greater flexibility in pedagogy, school organisation and resource allocation so that schools can work in innovative ways to develop a continuum of support for learners, rather than fitting them into an existing system.


Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

Feedback was gathered from all participants following the project seminars. The Project Advisory Group and Agency staff team have reflected on project outcomes and learning points arising from the project process.


Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

The Agency’s current work on Raising the Achievement of all Learners in Inclusive Education (see: ) builds on the work of the OoP project, in particular exploring leadership and pedagogy as well as collaborative practice.


What are the main learning points?

The OoP project highlights the importance of a continuum of teacher education, with on-going support for teachers and school leaders. Existing resources, particularly the ‘social capital’ that exists within schools, should be used to support professional development through collaborative working and develop school capacity/capability to include all learners.


Are there further information about supporting materials?

All project materials including a literature review, site visit reports, seminar materials plus a final synthesis report and policy brief can be found on the Agency web area:

A resource to support collaborative policy development in inclusive education can be found at:


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Verity Donnelly

Project Manager, European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education

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