Principles of inclusive practice for students with disability

Our continuing journey towards embedding inclusive practice across the education system will be guided by the following principles.

  • Students have a voice, and are supported to express their views. The capacity of students to solve problems, set goals, make decisions and self-advocate is valued and developed.
  • Students participate in decisions that affect them.
  • Students will be supported to achieve the best learning and wellbeing outcomes possible with the most appropriate learning program that suits their needs.
  • Parents/carers are engaged as partners in supporting authentic student participation.
  • We use feedback from students to drive continuous improvement in schools and across the system.
  • Teachers and school leaders develop individualised learning goals that set high aspirations for students, with ongoing review.
  • Students and their parents/carers are supported to prepare for and navigate key transitions from starting school, transitioning from year six to seven, and transitioning to post-school life.
Including Every Student at Blacktown Girls High School: Year 7 student Mikaylah has worked with her Itinerant Support Teacher Hearing since she was three.

Mikaylah: I got my cochlear when I was five, and got my hearing aids when I was three. When my friends ask me questions about me being deaf, I feel like they are very interested about it, and I don't mind telling them how it works and everything.

Sian: So Mikayla is quite deaf, almost profoundly deaf, and she has mild cerebral palsy, and she suffers from epilepsy, and she also struggles to retain information.

Rebecca Simm: Here at Blacktown Girls High School, we like to ensure that all students have access to every single opportunity that we can provide for them. So we celebrate the wonderful diversity of our students, and our staff, by including all students. The ethos for a school is that everyone belongs, whether it be from a culturally diverse background or whether it be students who have a hearing impairment, or vision impairment, or any disability. They're all very much part of the wonderful fabric of this school.

Mikaylah: Me and Mrs. Burke have been working together for 10 years now.

Jennifer Burke: I've been an Itinerant Support Teacher Hearing for 30 years. It’s a privilege to have worked with Mikaylah, from three years of age to now.

Mikaylah: Mrs. Burke is very helpful because I'm not getting so stressed with all the homework at once, and not knowing what to do in class. Starting high school was very scary, and a little bit nervous because I had no friends that I was starting with.

Sian: She still turned up, and she still walked in that gate with tears, but she came, and she made it happen.

Mikaylah: And how it is now, is I've made friends, and it's not so scary. My favourite subjects are HSIE and Music. The things I like most about school are seeing my friends and hanging out with them.

Jennifer Burke: They're excellent support buddies. They're prepared to put in that extra time to help her hear the things that they hear easily. The gossip, the jokes, the banter. For supporting Mikaylah at Blacktown Girls High, I have suggested many things, and the school has been very accepting of those suggestions.

Rebecca Simm: Part of Jennifer's professional development of Mikaylah's class teachers have been looking at the usage of the Wireless Communication Device and how to best use it in the classroom.

Mikaylah: Just pull this up.

Male Teacher: Okay.

Mikaylah: And then you just have to do that.

Male Teacher: Is that okay?

Mikaylah: Me trying to listen in class, it’s hard because most of the time, my class is noisy. It’s helpful with the WCD, but it can be a bit hard.

Jennifer Burke: Making sure that her technology’s working and it’s being used correctly, that’s vital.

Rebecca Simm: Even something as simple as when you are writing on the whiteboard, not to have your back facing Mikaylah. To ensure that in some classes, Mikaylah is seated at the front of the classrooms.

Jennifer Burke: Because she also needs to lip-read, as well as use her technology. They also provide written scaffolds. They also provide links on Google Classroom, so that she can preview or review material that’s been presented. One of the important supports within schools for children with a hearing impairment are school SLSOs, our School Learning Support Officers. Their role involves note-taking, oral interpreting.

Jennifer Burke: The teachers are very helpful.

Sian: If I have an issue, I can contact the school, and they'll drop everything to speak to me. Mrs. Burke and I are in constant communication.

Jennifer Burke: We make all sorts of adjustments in all the school environments, not just in the classroom.

Sian: They're doing a really good job in encouraging her to grow and be a good person.

Rebecca Simm: I think that education’s for everyone. I think we all have a right to be included in public education, and I also think it’s our responsibility, as public educators, to include all students in our schools.

  • Teachers and schools work in partnership with the student’s parents/carers and support people to achieve the best outcomes for their child’s education.
  • Teachers and schools will use collaborative approaches to plan and achieve agreed and measurable outcomes for every student.
  • Teachers and schools will continue to seek the views of parents/carers to determine the most appropriate education program for students to ensure it continues to achieve the best learning and wellbeing outcomes possible.
  • Teachers and schools will work in partnership with families and carers to prepare students for key transitions.
  • Families have access to information about the support that is available for their child.
  • Students, and their families and carers receive effective communications and resources.
Including Every Student at Caringbah Public School: Year 1 student Mia and her mother Leila talk about how Caringbah Public School has worked with them.

Mia: When I was little, my leg didn't grow properly. So I had to get a prosthetic leg.

Susan: Caringbah Public School is a primary school in the southern suburbs of Sydney in Caringbah south. We have 330 students over 17 classes, and we're known as the country school in the shire. In Mia's case, we've formed a strong bond, a strong relationship with Leila and the family before she even started school.

Leila: Enrolling a child without a disability is a big thing. Enrolling a child with a disability is nerve-racking. And we've been through a lot and you spend a lot of time advocating and finding people who get it. So to be supported has meant a lot. Sorry.

Susan: When Mia first began at school, Leila was very keen to work together with us to ensure that we had enough information that we required about Mia and her needs. And she was very welcoming to the students of any sort of question that they had about Mia and her disability.

Leila: Sometimes people say, "We can't do that," but really, they can. Just have to think of other ways to do it, don't they? We spoke about differences in general. Obviously, we spoke about Mia, but we just spoke about being kind and inclusive and including everyone when we're playing and that differences are just part of life, we're all different.

Tara Hanlon: So I make adjustments to make sure that Mia feels always included in everything. I make sure that she can easily access the classroom. So she sits at the front and she can easily get in and out of the classroom.

Leila: The adjustments that the school has made for Mia have just been little things, I guess, in day-to-day things.

Tara Hanlon: We often include hopping events in our sports. That's something that she loves to do.

Mia: Instead of running, I do hop, skip, run.

Tara Hanlon: In the lead up to a Cross Country Carnival, Mia was a bit apprehensive about whether she'd be able to run the full lap around the oval.

Mia: Yeah, because running is a little hard for me.

Tara Hanlon: So we decided together with Leila that Mia would use her crutches as a support. And I would run with her. And after the first five steps of the running race, she quickly decided that she didn't need them.

Mia: I let them go. Because they slowed me down.

Tara Hanlon: And then she threw them at me and said, can you carry these? We ran the whole way around and Leila joined in and we all ran together and Mia have made it the whole way around. And it was so beautiful. We're really proud of Mia and she was proud of herself and it was just, yeah, really lovely moment.

Leila: So sometimes Mia does tired on the playground. That is probably one of her main complaints. She can't always keep up .

Susan: At lunchtimes we have a group, three days a week named Happiness HQ. Mia enjoys coming to Happiness HQ when she feels that she needs to have a quieter activity rather than the busyness of the playground.

Leila: It's been fantastic for Mia.

Tara Hanlon: I regularly chat with Leila regarding Mia's adjustments that need to be made in the classroom. We discuss any appointments that Mia has had and any additional needs that Mia has at the time. I, as a teacher, I have become increasingly confident in finding ways that support Mia in the classroom, and even though she has a prosthetic leg, she can do just as many things as everyone else. She may do them in a different way, but she can still do them.

Susan: Students with disability have rights to have an education in our schools. I feel that the disability and students with disability, it just brings so much to our school. It encourages understanding awareness, acceptance, compassion, empathy. And we love the fact that at our school, we do support a wide range of students with varying levels of need.

  • All students are welcomed and supported to build relationships with their peers.
  • The school community embraces all learners, has respect for, and values diversity.
  • Leaders in schools and those supporting schools model inclusion in all aspects of their work.
  • Students are supported to develop their social and emotional skills to create a positive school environment.
  • Learning environments are welcoming and accessible for students, families and the wider school community.
Including Every Student at Barmedman Public School: Year 3 student Khloe attends a rural school with just eight other students.

Christina Haisell: Barmedman Public School’s situated in the Riverina, about 80 ks from Wagga Wagga. We’ve got 9 students here and the town I think has about 200 people in the actual town, a little bit more with the farming community as well. So we’re like a little family and we want everyone to be included here.

Rebecca Smith: This school’s ethos is all about being inclusive of our students with disabilities.

Christina Haisell: It’s been really important to us.

Christina Haisell: Morning. How are you? Come on through.

Khloe: I’m so excited.

Khloe: My name is Khloe. I’m going Barmedman Public School.

Rebecca Smith: Khloe’s in Year 3. Khloe’s a really bubbly person. When it comes to her disability, she just gets on with life. It doesn't seem to hold her back and just joins in with everything, gives everything a go.

Christina Haisell: Khloe has Williams syndrome and an intellectual disability. So, Khloe finds it difficult to use her fine motor and gross motor skills. We also make adjustments with her reading and maths and other key learning areas.

Christina Haisell: Khloe’s responded really well to all of the adjustments and she’s made great progress.

Rebecca Smith: Khloe has an individual learning program, which we have set specific outcomes for her to meet and goals for her to reach in class.

Christina Haisell: Her work is adjusted to her ability as words in which she learns in her level reader are also based on her ability.

Khloe: Miss Haisell helped me with reading. I do handwriting and do spelling.

Christina Haisell: Khloe now does her speech pathology lesson over Zoom, once a fortnight.

Speech pathologist: Practising talking about something that’s coming. This is called future text. Do you think you can guess what else we will have at the birthday party tomorrow?

Khloe: Presents.

Speech pathologist: Can you put that in a sentence?

Khloe: Yeah.

Rebecca Smith: Khloe’s taken to the adjustments really well. Her reading levels are steadily growing. She’s improving in her writing, her task boxes, she can do that independently. So she’s working on her numeracy with those. Yeah. And she’s working really well.

Christina Haisell: Other students are really good with Khloe. They help her out when needed, but have also learned that she needs to be able to try things herself and not to do things for her.

Holly: Khloe is my younger sister. I always help her with homework, and also when she doesn’t hold her pencil right, I help her.

Nicoli: Khloe is my friend. We play hide and seek. We work together. I help her get onto the game she wants.

Rebecca Smith: She's got a chair that she sits in for her core muscles to make her more stable.

Christina Haisell: That stops her from getting tired and fatigued very quickly.

Rebecca Smith: I love working in this little country school, really good community. The kids are awesome. And you do get that one on one and good rapport with the kids.

Christina Haisell: Supporting students with disability has always been something really important to us here. And it's been always really important to us to make sure that they're included in everything that we do here at Barmedman Public School.

  • Students with disability are supported to access the same curriculum and syllabus outcomes as their peers, in developmentally appropriate ways. Critical to this is student-centred education planning, reasonable adjustments and differentiated teaching, learning and assessment activities.
  • Teachers use evidence-based practices that address the diverse needs of students in their classes.
  • Teachers and school leaders work in partnership with a range of services to provide personalised support. This includes allied health workers, other government agencies, specialists and the community to meet the needs of students at school.
  • School staff use resources flexibly and adjust the use of resources to reflect changing student needs.
  • Teachers and school leaders monitor the progress of individual students against their learning goals, focus on strengths and address areas for improvement where needed.
Dylan's story: Hobartville Public School

Upbeat music.

Children talking.

Woman talking to camera.

I have three children that attend Hobartville Public School.

I have Dylan, who's in year one. He's in the support unit.

My eldest son Ethan is in year three. He's been attending the unit since kindergarten.

On screen text: Kylie, Parent.

And then I have my daughter that has just started kindergarten. She's in mainstream.

And it's just fantastic having all three children at the one school. I love the school.

On screen text: Dylan’s story: Hobartville Public School

Female school principal talking to camera.

On screen text: Lisa Crawford, Principal.

We're a school of about 340 students and 32 of those students are in our support unit.

Having a support unit really benefits for those kids that thrive in a small class setting. They have lots of visuals in the classroom. They're a quieter environment.

Female teacher talking to camera.

On screen text: Cate Clark, Teacher.

We have five classes in our support unit from kindergarten to year 6.

Female school principal talking to camera.

Every student has an individual learning plan. The curriculum is differentiated to meet their specific needs.

Female teacher talking to camera.

We have a number of students with autism.

Young boy talking to female teacher.

My weekend with my family.

Is there anything else you want to write?

Also my mum.

Ok, are we going to say and my mum.

Woman talking to camera.

Dylan has been diagnosed with autism level 2. He finds quite a few things challenging in day to day life.

Acoustic music.

He's a kind, loving soul, loves cuddles from his mum and his dad, loves his family and loves his power tools.

Female teacher talking to camera.

Dylan loves routine and structure. He loves predictability. If you're going to change the routine, he wants to know and he will remind you of it.

Female school principal talking to camera.

The students in our support unit are treated exactly the same way as every child in the school. They are included in the assemblies, classrooms, playgrounds, peer support programs, sport, dancing, creative arts.

Female teacher talking to camera.

We follow the same curriculum as everybody else.

We often do a lot of activities with the mainstream classes.

Inclusion is not just placing a child somewhere. Inclusion is making sure that the students have the skills and the comfort to be doing the activities that we’re asking them to do.

So at the moment we're on the rotation where the children are involved in sculpting.

If students have a real strength in English or maths, they will actually do, say, the mathematics part of their day in the mainstream class.

Male teacher talking to male student.

They went to the stick house did they?

And those two went to the brick helm.


Female teacher talking to camera.

We've been doing a dance program with Stage 1.

One of our teachers he's been doing a lot of work with robotics across the school K to 6.

Male teacher talking to class.


Children talking.


Upbeat music.

Woman talking to camera.

I love Hobartville.

Dylan’s individual needs are supported by him being able to learn at his own pace with the confidence to proceed at his own pace.

I feel all of my children are included in the school.

They can play together and feel comfortable wherever they are, whether or not it's in the classroom or out in the playground.

NSW Government logo.

End of transcript.

  • Students with disability have equitable access to quality teaching that meets individual needs, delivers excellent educational outcomes and empowers students and their families with agency and choice to improve their school experience.
  • Teachers, school staff, and school leaders are supported to strengthen inclusive practice and personalised planning to meet individual student needs. Support includes evidence-based resources, professional learning, mentoring and supervision.
  • Teachers are supported to provide adjustments and differentiate their teaching for the diversity of students in their class.
  • Teachers are supported to assess and monitor the progress of students with disability. We will develop the evidence of the effectiveness of available tools.
Jorden's story: Penrith Valley School

Piano music.

Teenage boy speaking to camera.

On screen text:

Well, it started in year seven. I was getting into fights and talking back to the teachers. Constantly getting suspended, constantly being in the principal's office.

On screen text: Jorden, student.

Any time that the school rang my Mum, she'll know what it's for.

I was going down a really bad path.

On screen text: Jorden’s story: Penrith Valley School.

The office called me down to, to the principal's office. They handed me the note and they said this is the note so you can go to Penrith Valley, you know.

Acoustic music.

And I just started, you know, breaking down, I didn't want to leave.

Woman speaking to camera.

On screen text: Jacqui Dahl, Principal.

Coming to Penrith Valley is about a new start and it's about working out where you'd like to go and having the opportunity to build your skills so that you can get there.

Penrith Valley School is a school for specific purposes. It's for students who have found mainstream classes very challenging.

Many of our students will have a number of things that they've been diagnosed with.

Might be depression, might be anxiety, conditions like PTSD, ADHD, ODD. Could be autism.

Male school teacher talking to students.

Monday morning, milk carton’s empty. Only bread and butter, can’t rely on my mother.

Male school teacher talking to camera.

On screen text: Jake Matthews, Teacher.

We have smaller classes at Penrith Valley. We have a great opportunity for them to get some one on one tuition. They've got great opportunity to work on some behaviour management strategy. Mindfulness is one, wellbeing is another. A lot of trauma informed practice so we mentor them.

Teenage boy talking to male school teacher.

I said some good stuff about my mother and now I’m saying I can’t rely on her?

Actually, it’s a little bit deeper than I can’t rely on my mother. Basically what we’re saying is that you want to be responsible, you want to be mature.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

Walking away, you know, breathing, you know, anything to sort of calm me down.

Woman talking to teenage boy while boxing with him.

Stand up and again.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

I do boxing and martial arts. So that is a very big sort of stress reliever.

AIM, you know, the Aboriginal program.

My name’s Jorden. I’m from the Kamilaroi tribe.

That has really helped me, you know.

Woman talking to camera.

On screen text: Sadini Handunnetti, AIME mentor.

Jorden's been a great participant in the AIM mentoring program. He's attended our program days and has become a really strong part of the network of students here at the school.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

I learned guitar, piano. I've learned how to sing.

Rap music.

Milk carton’s empty.

Come on, this is it.

Sun is storming. Still I got plenty. Hate it when they don’t understand my brother.

Male school teacher talking to camera.

And as you see him rapping, you know, he's getting into it and just loves being around all the guys, all the indigenous kids in the class.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

In history, I've been, titled as the top history student.

I'm doing work experience at Bunnings.

Male school teacher talking to camera.

It's a prime example of what any child coming to Penrith Valley has the opportunity to do is what Jorden’s done.

Guitar music.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

Currently I am beginning my transition back.

Woman talking to camera.

For Jorden and for a number of our students, transitioning back to a mainstream school is very, very important.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

When I finish year 12, I will either go to uni or TAFE and at the moment I'm really pulling towards TAFE.

Woman talking to camera.

This is an absolutely new beginning. Jorden's going back to St Clair High School as a different person.

Teenage boy talking to camera.

I'm proud of myself, you know. From what I have, I’ve done in the past to what I've done now, I feel like it's a very big change and it needed to happen.

NSW Government logo.

End of transcript.

  • Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of school life, and is supported by culture, policies and everyday practices in NSW public schools. Inclusive practice is evident in classrooms, schools, school leadership, and across all staff who support schools.
  • Leaders are champions of change and actively promote inclusive practice.
  • Leaders in schools and those supporting schools model inclusive practices in all aspects of their work.
  • We will continue to build the capability of all NSW public schools to meet the needs of their local students.
  • We support building the evidence base of what works to improve outcomes for students with disability.
  • We will adopt a whole school, whole system approach to measure progress to drive ongoing improvements in learning outcomes for students with disability.
  • We support students and their parents/carers to prepare for and navigate key transitions from early childhood to starting school, transitioning from year six to seven, and transitioning to post-school life.
  • We use feedback from students, parents/carers and school staff to drive continuous improvement in schools and across the system. We will incorporate best practice infrastructure design in how we build and modify our schools to ensure that learning environments promote inclusion.
Monty's story: Woollahra Public School

Playful music.


On screen text: Monty.

Young boy talking to camera.

Monty Hui is my full name and I am seven years old.

On screen text: Monty’s story: Woollahra Public School.

Man talking to camera.

So when Monty was born, we discovered that there was an issue with his brain.

On screen text: Danny, Parent.

A rare disease called Ponto cerebellar hyperplasia. It generally affects all of his muscles. But apart from that, in terms of his school life, his family life, you know, he does everything the same as everybody else.

We always wanted all of our kids to go to our local school because that's our community.

Woman talking to camera.

On screen text; Nicole Molloy, Principal.

Monty’s had a really successful first three years at Woollahra.

1, 2, 3.

Female teacher talking to camera.

On screen text: Natalie Malsem, Teacher.

Monty is a kind, caring, enthusiastic student. He is a real go-getter.

We really work on having a mindset of inclusion. There should never be a sense that any child's disadvantaged because they have any individual needs.

Young boy talking to female teacher in playground.

I also kind of like lest we forget

Sorry which one?

Lest we forget.

Oh lest we forget. That’s beautiful

Man talking to camera.

The school was very supportive in getting the school ready for Monty's inclusion. So one thing I was quite concerned about initially was how Monty would get around the school.

Young boy talking to camera.

Because I don't know how to walk.

Woman talking to camera.

These buildings were built in the 1800s with no kind of sense of a need to be inclusive and have access and meet the needs of kids with disabilities.

Man talking to camera.

Engaging the school as early as possible is something I'd encourage every family to do.

The bathroom was renovated. Ramps were put in for Monty to enter kindergarten.

Children talking.



Female teacher talking to children in classroom.

Find your space, give a little shake, wiggle out the silliness

Female teacher talking to camera.

All the children have learning needs, diverse learning needs. And so it's just getting to know Monty.

Female teacher talking to children in classroom.

Children talking.

Is it a 2 on my head?

Man talking to camera.

So teachers like Natalie are fantastic. What Monty needs is someone that has the confidence to try things.

Female teacher talking to children in classroom.

I’m thinking that mine could be naughty Natalie.

Marvellous Monty.

Playful music.

Female teacher talking to camera.

I think he can do anything he wants to. And I've really encouraged that independence.

Uplifting music.

Children playing.

3 o’clock.

Especially in collaboration with Danny and Jess, Monty's parents. He will give anything a go, and with a smile on his face.

Young boy talking to camera.

I do some dancing moves.

Female teacher talking to camera.

I use a range of things to support Monty. So there's the iPad, we use the iPad to support Monty with all his writing.

We also have to make adjustments when it comes to like cutting and pasting. So I've worked with the OT to get scissors that work with Monty.

And of course, there's the mobility.

Female teacher talking to class.

Monty can you go get your lunch?

Female teacher talking to camera.

How we're going to get Monty safely outside and fluently so he's not left behind.

Man talking to camera.

Kids just get inclusion. They don't need to be taught. And they are amazing at treating Monty like every other kid and supporting him as well at the same time, in a really nice way.

Female teacher talking to camera.

They like the feeling of helping each other. Doing it for each other. They know how important it is to learn and to grow.

Female teacher talking to class.

A polar bear.

Man talking to camera.

We ran into a few challenges last year. We had a bit of trouble getting access to the school library.

The library is Monty's favourite place. He loves to read. So I would do anything to make sure he gets that experience.

Woman talking to camera.

The lift's not going to be ready till 2021.

We've created another library space until that's ready.

Female teacher talking to camera.

It is challenging at times meeting his needs. But it's worth it. It's worth it to see it in on Monty's face like it is worth it. Sorry, but it really is because he's such a lovely boy.

Woman talking to camera.

It's important because that that's our job. No child is disadvantaged and equity drives everything that we do.

NSW Government logo.

End of transcript.

By building a more inclusive education system we will actively contribute to the NSW Department of Education’s commitment to equity and excellence means every student can learn, grow and belong at school. They do this in a safe and inclusive environment that celebrates the strength of our vibrant, diverse and multicultural community.

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