Disability and Inclusion

Activity description

Did you know that 1 in 5 students in NSW public schools has a disability or additional learning needs?

As a department we are committed to building a more inclusive education system for students with disability. This is in line with our value of equity and our goal that every student is known, valued and cared for.

This pre-recorded video gives school-based staff an entry-level knowledge of their obligations under the Disability Standards for Education and an entry-level understanding of inclusive education.

The video includes:

  • information about our plan to improve outcomes for students with disability through the Disability Strategy;
  • a video of an in-school experience of inclusion;
  • video messages from the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell and Secretary Mark Scott about the importance of this work;
  • tips on what this might look like in practice for you in 2021; and,
  • information on where you can access further resources and support.

As a public education system, we have an important role to play in helping to foster and celebrate diversity.

Intructions - watch the video below and access the additional resources as required.

Disability and Inclusion overview

>> PRESENTER: Welcome to this short presentation on disability and inclusion. We'll take you through important work in the department to strengthen support for students with disability and our focus on inclusion.


We would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the various lands on which we meet, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Extending that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we have with us today.


Did you know that one in five students in NSW public schools has a disability or additional learning needs?


We are committed to building a more inclusive education system. This is in line with the department's value of equity and our goals that every student is known, valued and cared for, and that our education system reduces the impact of disadvantage.


Let's start by hearing a message from the Minister for Education and Early Childhood, Sarah Mitchell.


>> SARAH MITCHELL: 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 school's culture, policies and everyday practices.


>> PRESENTER: So what has the department been doing in this space?


In 2019, we released the Disability Strategy which responded to a parliamentary inquiry into the education of students with disability and additional needs.


Our Disability Strategy commits to building a more inclusive education system. In August 2020 we built on this commitment by releasing the Inclusive Education Statement for students with disability.


The Inclusive Education Statement includes six principles of inclusive practice. And we're working on a policy to clarify roles and responsibilities.


We know that children with disability achieve the best educational outcomes when they are engaged with their learning, have access to individualised support to meet their needs, and when school staff collaborate with their parents or carers in providing their individualised support and when everyone around them has high expectations.


>> MONTY HUI: Monty Hui is my full name and I am seven years old.


>> DANNY (MONTY’S FATHER): So when Monty was born, we discovered that there was an issue with his brain; a rare disease called pontocerebellar hypoplasia. It generally affects all of his muscles, but apart from that, in terms of his school life, his family life, 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.


>> NICOLE MOLLOY (SCHOOL PRINCIPAL): Monty's had a really successful first three years at Woollahra.


>> STUDENTS AND TEACHER: One, two, three!


>> NATALIE MALSEM (MONTY’S TEACHER): Monty is a kind, caring, enthusiastic student. He is a real go-getter.


>> NICOLE: We really work on having a mindset of inclusion and there should never be a sense that any child is disadvantaged because they have any individual needs.


>> MONTY: I also kind of like, 'Lest we forget'.


>> NICOLE: Sorry, which one?


>> MONTY: 'Lest we forget'.


>> NICOLE: Oh, 'Lest we forget'. That's beautiful.


>> DANNY: 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.


>> MONTY: Because I don't know how to walk.


>> NICOLE: 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.


>> DANNY: 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.


>> SUPPORT TEACHER: Hi, say hi.


>> MONTY: Hi.


>> NATALIE: Shh, shh shh shh shh.


>> STUDENTS: Shh, shh shh shh shh.


>> NATALIE: All right. Find your space, give a little shake, wiggle out the silliness.


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


>> STUDENT: Keep your hands underwater.


>> MONTY: I did it!


>> NATALIE: Is it a two on my head?




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


>> NATALIE: I was thinking that mine could be naughty Natalie.


>> MONTY: Marvellous Monty.


>> NATALIE: Marvellous Monty!


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


>> STUDENTS: What's the time Mr Wolf?


>> MONTY: Three o'clock!


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


>> MONTY: Yeah, I did some dancing moves.


>> NATALIE: 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.


Monty, can you go get your lunch?


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


>> DANNY: 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.


>> NATALIE: They like the feeling of helping each other, doing it for each other. They know how important it is to learn and to grow.


>> NATALIE: A polar bear!


>> DANNY: 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.


>> NICOLE: The lift is not going to be ready till 2021. We've created another library space until that's ready.


>> NATALIE: It is challenging at times meeting his needs but it's worth it. It's worth it to see it on Monty's face, like it is worth it. Sorry, but it really is, 'cause he's such a lovely boy!



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


>> PRESENTER: Isn't it wonderful to see this school's great work with Monty and his family?


This is also important because diversity is the norm not the exception in Australian society. Australians with disability have diverse talents and strengths. Many prominent Australians have spoken about their disability, and about the importance of recognising disability as part of our diverse society. There has been a profound shift in public awareness when it comes to disability. Laws such as the Disability Standards for Education, the NSW Disability Inclusion Act, and the service changes in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, have helped foster increased understanding of people with disability and raised expectations for people with disability.


Our public education system has an important role to play in supporting the rights of people with disability and promoting inclusion more broadly.



Let's look at some statistics for people with disability in Australia. Close to 18% of the Australian population has a disability. And in 2018, around 33% of people with disability completed year 12, compared with 85% of the total population and approximately 16% of people with disability completed a Bachelor's degree compared with 27% of the total population.


In NSW, demand for support in schools for students with disabilities is growing. And we know that schools have students with increasingly diverse and complex needs.


There are many examples of inclusive practice in our system but we also know that the experiences of students with disability and their families are inconsistent. During the 2016 parliamentary inquiry, for example, some families spoke of low expectations, social exclusion, and inadequate educational outcomes.


The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability which commenced in April 2019 also acknowledges that people and children with disability still experience attitudinal, environmental, institutional, and communication barriers to achieving inclusion within Australian society.


Our research for the Disability Strategy also found a variety of experiences in our schools. Some families reported amazing experiences and said their children were flourishing academically and socially in mainstream and specialist settings alike. Students have told us about the positive impact of being included in all aspects of school life and what a positive impact the right adjustments can make to their experience at school. We want to replicate these positive experiences in all of our schools.


So, what are our obligations as educators to ensure students with a disability receive the support they need?


The Disability Standards for Education were developed by the Australian Government in 2005. The standards apply to all areas of education and to government and non-government schools. All principals and teachers have legal obligations to ensure every student is able to participate in the curriculum on the same basis as their peers through rigorous, meaningful and dignified learning. This doesn't mean every student should have the same experiences. On the same basis means that students with disability should have the same opportunities and choices in their education as students without disability. Training on the standards is available to all school staff via MyPL and is mandatory for all school leaders.


The Disability Standards for Education define disability broadly to cover physical, intellectual and emotional impairments. A disability does not need to be confirmed or diagnosed for it to come under the disability standards legislation. The standards cover disabilities that meet the criteria any point in time. For example, the "impairment" may be temporary like a broken leg. The definition under the Disability Standards is different to the department's disability criteria which is used to determine requests for particular support such as Integrated Funding Support.



The Standards cover a range of aspects across education including enrolment, participation, curriculum development, accreditation and delivery, student support services, and elimination of harassment and victimisation.


One of the key obligations within the standards is to make reasonable adjustments for students with disability. A reasonable adjustment is something that you do as a school or teacher to assist a student with a disability to participate in teaching and learning on the same basis as other students. This can include curriculum adjustments, instructional adjustments, or environmental adjustments. An example of a reasonable adjustment is allowing a student with anxiety to present their project to a small group of peers, rather than to a whole class.


Under the standards, schools must consult with the student or their family before making a reasonable adjustment. Other people such as specialists, health professionals and advocates may be consulted too. This enables all participants to share information about the student's needs and consider the best way to meet them while balancing the needs of others.


After consultation, if a school decides a reasonable adjustment is necessary, generally it must be made. It must then be reviewed and updated as the student's needs change over time. If you are unsure of what reasonable adjustment can be made for a student or the best way to engage families, the first step is to get support from your school learning and support team. There are also many examples of adjustments available on the NESA website or the NCCD website.


All students have the right to enrol at their local public school. We have a legal obligation under the standards to provide for prospective students with disability, to enrol at our schools on the same basis as prospective students without a disability. It is unlawful to discriminate against students or their families because of disability.


Schools should ask students and their families if their disability affects their ability to enrol, and if it does make adjustments so the student has the same enrolment choices and opportunities as students without disability. This may include meeting the student with disability and their family to explain the enrolment process and the full range of support options available just as one example.


An accessible curriculum is a cornerstone of the standards and aligns with our commitment of high expectations for all students. Schools must reasonably ensure that programs are designed so students are able to participate in them on the same basis as those without a disability and without experiencing discrimination. This includes both learning and assessment.


Schools then need to consider if any reasonable adjustments need to be made to enable the student to access the curriculum on the same basis as others. For example, ensuring resources are available in a format that is appropriate for the student and that the resources are made available in a timely manner.


If adjustments are made for teaching and learning then similar adjustments should be made for assessments. This is true from kindergarten through to Year 12. Adjustments to assessments might include adjusting the process, like offering scaffolds or extra guidance, or adjusting the activities such as giving students options for how to present their response.


The process that schools should follow to determine the appropriate curriculum options and adjustments is the collaborative curriculum planning process. For more information on this process you can access resources on the NESA website.


So what does the Inclusive Education Statement say?


The Inclusive Education Statement sets out six principles of inclusive practice. There is a clear link between the Statement and the Disability Standards for Education. For example, curriculum inclusion is a principle of inclusion and a requirement under the Disability Standards for Education.


We will also release an inclusive Education Policy to further clarify the roles and responsibilities of schools in relation to the education of students with disability. Here is our secretary, Mark Scott, talking about the importance of inclusion in our schools.



>> MARK SCOTT: There are many excellent examples of inclusive practice in our schools. We want to improve the consistency of these examples and ensure our students and their families have consistently great experiences. As part of our value of equity, we ensure every student has access to high quality public education. I'm calling on our principals, leaders, teachers, school learning and support officers and those who support them to champion inclusive education in everything you do. Inclusive education is a shared responsibility for all of us who work in the department and I'll look forward to working together with you as we improve education for all.


>> PRESENTER: So what might this look like in practice for you in 2021?


Encourage student voice and get to know your students with disability, their strengths, interests and passions.


Have high expectations for what they can achieve and support them to express their views about their needs and wants.


Work closely with parents and carers, this is one of the key success factors to improving learning outcomes for children with disability.


Include students with disability in all parts of school life: playground activities, excursions, sport, arts, and culture events.


Encourage friendships and social connections.


Plan teaching and learning to cater for a wide range of needs from the very beginning.


A well-differentiated program using the principles of universal design for learning is inclusive for all students not just those with disability.


Ensure students are given the reasonable adjustments they need to access a physical classroom and all learning experiences.


Collaborate and share knowledge with colleagues on making adjustments and differentiation and seek support from your learning and support team when needed.


And finally be a champion for change, aim to promote diversity and value inclusion in everything that you do.


There's a range of existing supports to help you in this work. Complete the Disability Standards for Education Training on my MyPL.


There are seven versions, depending on your role. We have mandated the Disability Standards for Education Leaders course for staff who are substantive, relieving or acting as directors education leadership a principal, deputy principal, assistant principal or head teacher.


Join the Disability Learning and Support statewide staffroom to engage in ongoing professional discussions.


Visit the NESA and NCCD websites for information about adjustments and the collaborative planning process.


Visit the AITSL website for support in meeting teaching standards related to disability.


And visit the Disability Learning and Support webpage for more information on personalised learning support and professional learning.


Consider completing MyPL courses on topics such as understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder, Personalised Learning, Dyslexia and significant reading difficulties, supporting behaviour and student wellbeing and more.


This work is also a shared responsibility and we are working to support you further by building workforce capability, investing in research into what works and improving the family experience.


Our projects include, delivering an Inclusive Practice in Education Scholarship to support teachers to study a masters of inclusive education.


New trauma informed practice training.


A new parent and carer online hub to support families of students with disability in enrolment and transitions.


A single resource hub for staff when working with students with disability.


Streamlining the access request process.


Trialling innovative ideas in schools across the state through our Innovation Program.


And improving the accessibility of Tell Them From Me.


Lastly, how can you get involved?


Email our team to sign up to our newsletter, ask questions or give feedback and share stories of effective practice.


Sign up to our Inclusive Education Champions Network and go to the intranet to find the Inclusive Education Statement and supporting resources.


Thank you for listening and we wish you all the best with your students in 2021.





Further information

The complete Disability Standards for Education training is available on MyPL. There are seven versions depending on your role. The leaders training (course code: RG10974) has been mandated for staff who are substantive, relieving or acting as:

  • Directors, Educational Leadership
  • Principal
  • Deputy Principal
  • Assistant Principal
  • Head Teacher

Visit the Inclusive Education intranet page to find out more about this work or email the Disability Strategy team with any questions.

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