E.M. Kulesza, I. Kucharczyk, U. Gosk, B. Kosewska

The Maria Grzegorzewska University (POLAND)
Problem Statement:
Along with the political and social transformation in Poland, changes in the educational system which applied to students with special needs were taking place too. The educational reform put into practice on 1 September, 1999, changed the structure of the school system from a two-tier system, which was in effect from 1968, to a three-tier one (excluding university education). Following the reform, primary school was shortened from eight to six years. Compulsory three-year lower secondary school became the next stage of education. As the educational system is changing again and lower secondary education will be phased out in 31st August, 2019 [1], it will be interesting to observe the placement dynamics of student with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in primary and lower secondary schools during the educational transformation, i.e. between 1999 and 2017.

Purpose of Study:
The study aims to examine the situation of students with SEN following the legal changes introduced in Poland at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the educational reform and regulations directly concerning students with SEN. The size of the SEN student population in six-year primary schools and three-year lower secondary schools will be analysed in detail according to setting types, disability types and the inclusion rate.

A wide variety of methods complementing each other was used, such as analysis of legislative documents, analysis of government documents, analysis of statistical data published by the Central Statistical Office (CSO).

Results of the Study:
The number of students in primary schools and lower schools has been diminishing for over 20 years in Poland and this trend is also visible in the case of students with SEN. They constituted 3.2% of all students in all types of primary schools and 4.5% of all students in all types of lower secondary schools in the 2016/2017 school year [2].
In the 2016/2017 school year, the number of students with mild intellectual disabilities diminished, but it was still the largest group among pupils with SEN in primary (25.1%) and lower secondary schools. The number of students with autism, motor disabilities, and multiple disabilities is growing on both levels of schooling.
Statistical data reveals an exceptionally high rate of students transfer from special schools to inclusive settings, especially at the beginning of the 21st century. In the 2016/2017 school year the inclusion rate of students with SEN oscillated around 66.9% in primary education and around 51.1% in lower secondary education.

Educational solutions adopted in Poland fit in with the trends observed in other Eastern European countries.

[1] “Act of 14 December, 2016. Educational law”. Journal of Laws of 2017, Item 59. 2017, August 11. Accessed 26 November, 2018. Retrieved from
[2] Central Statistical Office, Education in 2016/2017 School Year, Warsaw, 2017. Accessed 22 November, 2018. Retrieved from