Effective strategies for supporting students with disability and additional needs

It's important to select effective evidence-based strategies that are most appropriate in the context of your school.

Selecting effective evidence-based strategies that are most appropriate in the context of your school, your students with disability and/or additional learning needs, and your budget, requires:

  • careful and strategic planning
  • identifying and using additional expertise beyond your school
  • a collaborative approach between teaching staff, specialist staff, network staff and school leadership
  • collaboration between school and parents/ carers
  • a commitment to progress monitoring
  • a commitment to case management for students with moderate to high level disability, and for all students as required
  • processes, systems and procedures for managing the complexity of support
  • building staff capabilities.

The evidence collected for the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) provides insights about the students with disability who are receiving adjustments in your school.

Ideas for effective practice

Capturing growth and improvement can be done in various ways, and the following ideas include, but are not limited to, fostering staff knowledge of evidence-based practices, growing staff capability, and effective strategies to improve school process, practices and the environment.

  • The Teaching and learning toolkit from Evidence for learning, available through the CESE website, provides a summary of educational research, designed to inform practice by identifying the most effective approaches to improving student attainment. It references up-to-date international and domestic research and applies it to an Australian context.
  • All 8 quality teaching strategies from What works best: 2020 update (CESE) are also highly relevant to supporting students with disability or additional learning needs.
  • Information about personalised learning and support provides further detail about four elements that together supports a wide range of students with disability and additional needs.

Reflective questions

  • What are we doing to ensure teachers are using evidence-based practices?
  • How are we encouraging staff to use the materials and guidance provided by our department?

  • A suite of 8 online learning courses support all classroom teachers and other educational personnel in both primary and high schools to respond to the diverse additional learning needs of students. The courses are conducted in cohorts, both school-based and open, using a blended model of online learning combined with mandatory face to face sessions. These sessions are supported by a department trained tutor. The courses are all registered professional learning with the NSW Education Standards Authority.
  • Disability Standards for Education course: A package of accredited and NESA registered e-learning lessons on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), with a focus on the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards), has been developed to provide professional learning for teachers. These lessons are highly recommended for all NSW Public Schools' staff, and are now mandatory for school leaders (Directors Educational Leadership, Principals, Deputy Principals, Assistant Principals and Head Teachers). Completion is required by 31 January 2021.
  • Assessment for Complex Learners Trial can be filtered by an array of variables, including formats that can be developed for in-school training for building staff capability.
  • The Personalised learning with technology online course can be used by schools to build the capabilities of staff in making informed decisions regarding the most appropriate technology needed for students with disability and additional needs. The course is NESA registered for 6 hours of professional development.

Reflective questions

  • How are we building the capability of staff to support the learning growth of students with disability and additional learning and support needs?
  • How do we identify the learning needs of the staff in our school?
  • Can all of our school staff demonstrate an understanding of their obligations under the Disability the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards)?
  • Have school leaders completed the mandatory training on the Disability Standards for Education?

  • Teachers and school staff working collaboratively to identify and respond to the additional learning and support needs of students is essential. This includes consultation and collaborative planning between school staff and students and their parents and carers, as well as collaborative planning between teachers, support staff and specialist staff within and outside education where needed to address individual student needs. The NCCD resources and tools provides guidance about consultation.
  • A range of school based teaching staff are available to support your students.
  • School Services can support you with planning for excellence for all students with additional learning needs. Contact School Services Finder through your school portal.
    • Learning and wellbeing advisor: Coordinating and delivering responsive services, programs and initiatives supporting learning and engagement for a diverse range of students, including Aboriginal students, students with a disability and/or additional needs.
    • Learning and wellbeing officer: Supporting the delivery of a range of Learning and Wellbeing services and programs to enhance student wellbeing and to meet the needs of a diverse range of students, including Aboriginal students, students with a disability and/or additional learning needs and those at risk of disengaging.
    • Learning and wellbeing coordinator: The Learning and Wellbeing Coordinator is responsible for providing leadership, coordination and management of wellbeing services, programs and initiatives.
    • Coordinator NDIS transition: The Coordinator National Disability Insurance Scheme Transition provides strategic advice and support to schools on the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as it relates to schools.
  • School Learning Environments and Change team can support schools in implementing innovative and flexible learning environments that can support all student learning.

Reflective questions

  • Are all students with additional learning needs supported to access the full curriculum?
  • Do our teachers regularly demonstrate that they are making reasonable adjustments?
  • How are you recording and maintaining the evidence of those adjustments and their effectiveness?
  • What processes are in place to ensure effective collaboration and consultation with all key stakeholders occurs when personalising the learning for students with disability?
  • How do we make the best use of our learning spaces?
  • How are we using the specialist staff from within our organisation?

Learn more

Find out more about School Excellence in Action.


  • Teaching and learning


  • Access and equity
  • Additional needs
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Educational accountability
  • Health, safety and wellbeing
  • Professional development
  • School Excellence Framework
  • Teaching

Business Unit:

  • School Performance – South
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