Development and Learning Support in Pre-primary Education
Development and learning support is always planned together with the guardians.
It is important to recognize the need for support before the child begins pre-primary education, so that support can be planned. The director of the day-care center, a consultant special teacher, and the education personnel together with the guardians discuss the child's need for support.
General, Enhanced, And Special Support
All children are entitled to sufficient development and learning support as soon as the need arises. The support measures are based on the child's strengths and developmental challenges. The need for support may vary from temporary to continuous, from less to more intensive, and from single form of support to several forms of support.
In pre-primary education, children are provided with general, enhanced, and special support. All children are entitled to general development and learning support and counseling. Enhanced support is meant for children who need continuous daily support. Special support is for children whose development and learning difficulties are so severe that they cannot participate in pre-primary education without special support. Children whose compulsory education has been extended are always entitled to special support.
Children who need enhanced or special support are usually placed in pre-primary groups together with other children. Support can also be provided by modifying the learning environment. For instance, working in small groups, the use of pictures and sign language, and a clear day structure are common support measures. Additionally, the group size can be reduced and the child can receive additional support from a group assistant or an early special education expert. ECEC-centers also have integrated special groups in which the children who need enhanced or special support can be placed. Children can be placed in these groups if their need for support has been diagnosed by a psychologist, a doctor or special health care professionals.
Children who need enhanced support will be provided with an enhanced-support plan, compiled together with the guardians, which will be part of the children’s pre-primary-education learning plan. Children who need special support will be provided with a decision on special support and a plan for arranging individual education (HOJKS), which is the children’s pre-primary-education learning plan. The plan for arranging individual education includes the practical measures and pedagogical solutions that are put into practice to ensure sufficient special support for the child.
Extended Compulsory Education
Severely disabled children are included in extended compulsory education. These are, for instance, visually- or hearing-impaired children, otherwise physically or mentally severely disabled or developmentally delayed children. Furthermore, a difficult illness can be a reason for extended compulsory education.
Extended compulsory education means that the child starts compulsory education a year earlier than usual. Compulsory education is not extended in the middle or at the end. The decision on extended compulsory education is usually made before the child begins pre-primary education. Additionally, the child receives a decision on the need for special support. Children in extended compulsory education are entitled to free pre-primary education at the age of five. They continue to the mandatory pre-primary year at the age of six. Children in extended compulsory education who participate in pre-primary are entitled to supplementary day care.
Postponed School Entry
Normally, children start school the year they turn seven. Sometimes experts recommend that a child start school a year later. If it is suspected that a child will not be ready to start school at the age of seven, psychologists will perform a school-readiness assessment. For more information on the school-readiness assessment, contact the child's pre-primary, consultant special teachers, or psychologists. A child whose school entrance has been postponed is entitled to pre-primary education at the age of seven.
Postponement of school entry is a child-specific decision which is influenced by many factors. The postponement has to be carefully planned in cooperation with guardians, a psychologist, a consultant special teacher, a pre-primary teacher, and the district coordinator of special education or the district coordinator of language and cultural groups.
The postponement can be beneficial, for instance, for children who are not ready to begin school because of immaturity (e.g., children born at the end of the year, prematurely born children or children who have been adopted to Finland at pre-primary age). Postponement can also be beneficial for some children who start in extended compulsory education at the age of six. (However, it should be noted that according to §9 of the Basic Education Act, pre-primary education can last a maximum of two years, and some children who are in extended compulsory education have started pre-primary already at the age of five.)
After receiving the decision on the child's school readiness, the guardians can apply for postponed school entry for their child. Applications are available on the Internet and at the school psychologist's office.
Welfare Work in Pre-primary Education
Welfare work in pre-primary education involves ensuring the children's overall wellbeing. Pre-primary welfare work includes precautionary communal welfare work which includes: supporting the wellbeing of the pre-primary community with the help of various methods and individual welfare work which includes the counseling bureau's health services, psychologist and curator services, and the services of a multidisciplinary team of experts.