The Principal of Ashfield Public School, Damien Moran, shares how students with disability at the school are being included in this guest column.
The NSW Department of Education has a Disability Strategy that guides all public schools in the practice of maintaining educational environments where all children, of all ability are engaged in an inclusive education.
At Ashfield Public School the Disability Strategy is articulated in our school motto, Every child, every opportunity. Our commitment is that students with a disability will have the same expectations for success and achievement as they work towards the same educational outcomes as other students in their grade.
Our school has a support unit, with a total enrolment of 17 students across three classes. All students are diagnosed with a disability. A consequence of being educated in a specialised setting is that there are minimal opportunities for support unit students to learn alongside their peers in mainstream classes.
So this year, Ashfield Public School created the opportunity by introducing Collaborative Classrooms, an initiative whereby all support unit students enter mainstream classrooms to learn alongside their peers.
The logistics of Collaborative Classrooms has been challenging. Firstly it has required the allocation of school funds to hire four extra School Learning Support Officers (SLSOs). With all students moving across the school to their collaborative classroom, SLSOs have been crucial to ensuring that each child is well supported within the mainstream class.
Next Collaborative Classrooms has required investing in intensive professional learning for teachers and SLSOs, with a particular focus on a universal design for learning. This approach is about all students working towards the same outcome, with teaching strategies and learning situations that cater for individual difference.
Teachers have increased their confidence and teaching expertise to differentiate the curriculum to accommodate different abilities. Our students have increased in compassion and understanding when engaging with diversity. Our school is breaking down the labels of support unit and disability. Parents are seeing their children included. And our students with disability are working alongside their peers.
Have you got a great story about how a school is improving outcomes for students with disability, in either a mainstream or specialist setting? Please email us as we are keen to share it in our newsletter.