Inclusive education for students with disability

Our commitment

Inclusive education means all students can access and fully participate in learning, supported by reasonable adjustments and teaching strategies tailored to meet their individual needs.

The Inclusive Education Statement for students with disability furthers our commitment to improving learning and wellbeing for students with disability in every school.

We are committed to making inclusive education real for all our students with disability in our mainstream schools and their support classes, and schools for specific purposes. Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of school life, and is supported by culture, policies and everyday practices.

The Inclusive Education Statement for students with disability builds on the commitment to inclusion set out in the Disability Strategy and developed together with educators and families.

NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell, launches the Inclusive Education Statement for students with disability

I’m very excited to be launching the department of education’s Inclusive Education Statement for Students with Disability today.

Schools are the cornerstone of our communities. And they should welcome and nurture diversity.

We know that when our students feel included and welcomed, they can learn to their fullest potential.

Every student with disability in our public schools must be known, valued and cared for.

Inclusive education means just this; all our students can access and fully participate in learning, regardless of where they are from or what their circumstances are

We have a responsibility to ensure students are supported by reasonable adjustments to their learning environment and teaching strategies that are tailored to meet their individual needs.

Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of school life. It is supported by a school’s culture, policies and everyday practices.

We are committed to improving learning and wellbeing for students with disability in our mainstream schools and their support classes, and in schools for specific purposes.

Our continuing journey to embed inclusive practice in every classroom will be guided by the following principles.

  • Student agency and self-determination.
  • Parent and carer inclusion.
  • Social and cultural inclusion.
  • Curriculum inclusion.
  • Workforce capability for inclusion, and,
  • System inclusion.

Our schools will continue to work with parents and education experts to find the most appropriate setting for every child to learn.

We will listen to students and parents to create individualised learning goals with high aspirations for all our students.

This the next step in our Disability Strategy journey to build a more inclusive education system.

As Minister for Education, I’m really proud that NSW is leading the way when it comes to inclusion in public schools.

I look forward to hearing from students, families and educators about how we can make NSW the best education system in the world for students with disability.

NSW government logo.

End of transcript.

Support resources

We have seen many excellent examples of inclusive practice in NSW schools.  We want to build on this and share effective practice across our schools.

We want our teachers to have the right skills and confidence to meet the diverse needs of students, supporting them in learning to their fullest potential. 

We are currently working to build evidence on what supports students with disability to achieve the best learning outcomes. This is because there is currently a lack of clear evidence about the effectiveness of different approaches. We have commissioned an independent review of the evidence as part of this.

Practice resources and a policy to support inclusive practice will be developed over 2020 and beyond. We will listen and work with students, parents and educators to develop these resources.

This is the next step in our journey to continually improve our education system so it meets the needs of our students with disability as set out in the Disability Strategy launched in February 2019.

If you would like to find out more about this work please email the Disability Strategy team.  

Inclusive Education Statement

Our statement is available as an accessible document:

You can also access it in multiple formats:

Inclusive Education Statement for students with disability

Purpose

The NSW Department of Education is committed to building a more inclusive education system. An education system where every student is known, valued and cared for and all students are learning to their fullest capability. This Statement marks the next stage of our work to further embed inclusive practice in NSW public schools. It is part of the commitment to the pursuit of excellence and the provision of high quality educational opportunities for every child, across all of NSW public schools.

What we mean by inclusive education

In NSW, the Disability Strategy 2019 outlines the vision for building a better education system for students with disability in NSW public schools. We worked closely with teachers, disability and education experts, families, carers, and other stakeholders to develop priority focus areas and a definition of inclusive education.

Under the Strategy, inclusive education in NSW is defined as all students, regardless of disability, ethnicity, socio-economic status, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation or faith, can access and fully participate in learning, alongside their similar aged peers, supported by reasonable adjustments and teaching strategies tailored to meet their individual needs. Inclusion is embedded in all aspects of school life, and is supported by culture, policies and everyday practices.

Inclusion means education environments that adapt the design and physical structures, teaching methods, and curriculum as well as the culture, policy and practice of education environments so that they are accessible to all students without discrimination.[1]

This Inclusive Education Statement is informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, in particular Article 24 on Education. The Australian and NSW Governments have a comprehensive legal and policy framework in place that supports the principles within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability.

By ratifying in 2008 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Australia joined other countries in a global effort to promote the equal and active participation of all people with disability. The National Disability Strategy 2010 - 2020 focuses our efforts towards achieving a society that is inclusive and enabling, providing equality and the opportunity for each person to fulfil their potential.[2]

In NSW, we strive to embed inclusive education across all of our public schools.

We remain committed to providing students with an education that best meets their individual needs and supports them with learning to their fullest capability. We also acknowledge the importance of parental choice regarding the type of education provided to their child.

Principles of Inclusive Practice for Students with Disability

Our ongoing commitment to inclusive education

This Statement focuses on the principles of inclusive practice for students with disability, whilst recognising that improving inclusive practice benefits all students. There are many other aspects of inclusion that the Department addresses, including through our Aboriginal education policy, multicultural education policy and anti-racism policy. We are focussed on achieving and maintaining consistent inclusive practice and high standards across our education system.

Inclusive education in NSW public schools is an ongoing process of reflection, evaluation and reform at all levels across the Department: in classrooms, schools, and networks, and in policy, practice, projects and culture.

We are committed to growing inclusive practice, sharing knowledge across the system, and building the capacity of our NSW public schools to meet the needs of their local students in an inclusive school culture.

We have high expectations of all students. We will continue to work with parents/carers and disability and education experts to personalise support so that every student is engaged and learning to their fullest capability.

For most students, this means attending their local school with individualised support, noting that more than 80% of students with disability currently learn in mainstream classrooms in mainstream public schools. For some students, it may also mean attending more than one learning environment during their education. For example, attending a school for specific purposes, or a support class in a primary or secondary school. All education programs in place for a student with disability need to be regularly reviewed with the student and their parents/carers to determine its ongoing appropriateness.

We will focus on continuing to build inclusive practice across all our schools: identifying where effective practice and high standards are already occurring and where there is further support and development needed along the inclusion journey. For all students the paramount focus is the best education and wellbeing outcomes for the student.

Principles of inclusive practice

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

1. Student agency and self-determination
  • 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.
2. Parent and carer inclusion
  • 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.
3. Social and cultural inclusion
  • 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.

4. Curriculum inclusion
  • 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.

5. Workforce capability for inclusion
  • 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.
6. System inclusion
  • 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.

By building a more inclusive education system we will actively contribute to the NSW Department of Education’s strategic vision to be the best education system in Australia and one of the finest in the world.



[1] UNICEF, Inclusive Education: Understanding Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Page 3.

[2] Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, National Disability Strategy 2010 – 2020. Page 3.

School videos

Watch videos showcasing how our schools are supporting and including students with disability below.

Monty's story: Woollahra Public School

Playful music.

Laughs.

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.

Sshh.

Sshh.

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.

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.

Excellent.

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.

Teamwork.

Children talking.

Laughs.

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.

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.

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