Finland is one country politicians often cite when telling educators in England to aspire to greater achievements. One area where Finland is clearly doing different things to England is in the use of special education.
Over the past decade, the number receiving special education in Finland has increased from less than 5 per cent of the comprehensive school population to some 8 per cent in 2008. This meant that some 47,300 pupils in Finland were receiving special education.
In England, where the trend has been towards encouraging more inclusion of pupils with special educational needs, the number of pupils receiving a full-time special education has been around the 80,000 mark for some time, despite a school population many times larger than that of Finland.
Finland has only been collecting data on comprehensive school pupils with part-time special education since 2001, but 22 per cent of pupils received such education in the 2007-08, a slight decrease on the previous year, possibly due to the rise in those receiving more intense special education. Although it isn't possible to just add together the part and full-time percentages together, because some pupils in full-time special education may also receive additional part-time education, it would seem that approaching 30 per cent of comprehensive school pupils in Finland are receiving some form of special education
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.