Special support and neighbourhood school allocation in Finland: a study on parental school choice

Sonia Lempinen, Anna-Maija Niemi

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Although freedom of parental school choice has expanded to the Finnish education system, the government has maintained the principle of neighbourhood school allocation. Moreover, the Finnish education system has recently undergone a reform of its special needs education; all pupils are entitled to receive support in three categories of general, intensified or special. The focus of this article is to examine parental positions on school choices in relation to the parents’ social class and their children’s support needs in basic education. The results of the study are based on a quantitative questionnaire, which collected responses from 208 participants drawn primarily from four different municipalities in Finland. The study found that the category of a child’s support, rather than the socio-economic class of the parents, determined the child’s school allocations. Furthermore, the more support the parents felt their children needed, the more importance they placed on special education practices and less on the neighbourhood school allocation. In addition, the parents’ opinions were found to differ based on social class, rather than category of support. In conclusion, we argue that the social segregation of students with special educational needs can be avoided, if the principle of neighbourhood school allocation is preserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Special Needs Education
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)102-117
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences
  • Special support
  • neighbourhood school allocation
  • School choice

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