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Reform Support
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Supporting reforms to improve the quality of education and training systems and ensure equal access to it

Funding Programme
  • 2022

Combatting disparities in access to inclusive education in Portugal, Italy and Spain

In Italy, Portugal and Spain, significant initiatives have been spearheaded in the area of inclusive education for over three decades, resulting in important legislative and policy milestones. Despite such path-breaking legislative reforms, important challenges remain such as disparities in the implementation of inclusive education in practice. 

The project aims to support the Ministries of Education from Portugal, Spain and Italy to improve the design and the implementation of quality inclusive education policy in the three countries. 

The project is funded by the European Union via the Technical Support Instrument and implemented by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE) in cooperation with the European Commission.


Italy, Spain and Portugal have approved major legislative reforms to foster a more inclusive education system over the past 5 years. Despite these important legislative developments, key challenges remain on the implementation side, mostly related to the poor professionalization of support know-how and tools, the lack of a quality control system that link inclusive measures to inclusiveness outcomes, the decentralised nature of the national education (namely in Spain and Italy), or the insufficient allocation of resources. 

In Spain, the most recent Education Act (2020) constitutes a concrete commitment to the effective management of diversity in the classroom, insofar it sets out to provide mainstream schools with the necessary measures to care for and accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. Despite these important legislative developments, key challenges remain on the implementation side. The decentralised nature of the Spanish education system (whereby the regions retain significant control over the implementation of education policies) constitutes a further challenge, when it comes to seeking consensus to undertake decisive reforms.

Portugal has laws and regulations in the education system to lift children out of poverty and increase their access to education such as the adoption of a new legislative framework for inclusive education in 2018. However, such provisions are not implemented in a uniform manner across all administrative regions. Instead, a range of challenges remain, which go beyond purely financial challenges, and include challenges related to particular socio-cultural, infrastructural, administrative, and other types of realities on the ground. 

In Italy, a legislative decree, issued in 2017 aims at renewing many aspects of inclusive education, previously regulated by the framework law on the rights of people with disabilities in the social, educational and work spheres (Law 104/1992). In order to improve the effective implementation of this new framework, a greater involvement of the families in a constructive debate is needed. Technical support will allow for stakeholders to examine relevant practices and benefit from peer advice to support an integrated dialogue with school staff, families and all relevant parties.

Support delivered

The project will help the authorities carry out the following measures:

  • An in-depth analysis of the inclusive education systems currently in place across the three countries (including, inter alia, existing legal,  governance and institutional frameworks, current human resources, quality assurance mechanisms and funding streams); 
  • A comprehensive stakeholder engagement process within and across the three countries to discuss ways of improving the functioning of the systems, identify challenges, share experiences and shape the proposed recommendations;
  • A set of recommendations and concrete new measures to improve the current situation in each of the three countries, including recommended timelines and responsible actors;
  • Support to develop a concrete methodology and potential new tools to facilitate the monitoring and evaluation procedure; 
  • A series of capacity-building measures implemented in a concerted manner for the three countries, to assist the implementation of the recommended actions, and support their long-term sustainability. 

Expected results

The technical support is expected to help the education authorities from the three countries to improve the design and increase the quality and consistency of the implementation of the policy measures underpinning inclusive education in Portugal, Spain and Italy. 

Useful link

Addressing disparities in access to inclusive education in Italy, Portugal and Spain | European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (