What is inclusive education?

Inclusive education means all students, including students with disabilities, are welcomed by their school and supported to reach their full potential. Inclusion is most effective when schools aim to create a culture that celebrates diversity and builds on the strengths of each student. Inclusive schools nurture professional learning communities that empower teachers to create optimum learning outcomes for students with disabilities through the use of best practice approaches and current, evidence-based strategies.

The Disability Standards for Education (2005) underpin inclusive education in Victorian schools. These legal standards are based on a human rights framework and have been introduced in order that students with disabilities can participate in education on an equal basis with their peers. Schools need to comply with three main obligations under these standards—consultation, reasonable adjustments and elimination of harassment and victimisation.

What is an inclusive teacher?

An inclusive teacher supports all children to participate, learn and succeed in all aspects of education.

What are disabilities and developmental challenges?

Children with disabilities and developmental challenges might include those who have limitations in mobility (such as difficulty or inability to walk), the way they think or behave (e.g. intellectual disabilities, autism, behavioural/emotional disorders), and sensory difficulties (e.g. vision/hearing).

How to be inclusive of all children

1. Build partnerships with the child and their family

Building connections with the child and their family can support inclusion. Work together to identify learning goals, and to create positive strategies to achieve these goals. Many families inform their school that their child has a disability at the time of enrolment at school. However, some families may not wish to disclose that their child has a developmental challenge or disability, or they may not be aware of it yet.

If you notice that a child requires support in the classroom you can sensitively discuss this with their family. When talking with family members, focus on the learning task/s the child is finding difficult, as well as the child’s strengths. Read more about communicating with families in our teacher guide to parent-teacher meetings. Work with the child’s family to develop effective learning strategies and modifications for their child. Learn more about Individual Education Plans on our transition to primary page.
If a child struggles with learning tasks or behaviour over a period of time despite the development of strategies to assist, teachers can suggest that their parent seek further help and advice from their general practitioner, paediatrician, other medical or allied health professionals or Student Support Services. You can learn more about the early signs of specific disabilities and developmental challenges below.

2. Learn the basics

You can make a positive difference in a child’s life by providing an inclusive environment. Not sure where to begin? See the basics guide for a list of simple things teachers can do to make a difference. Next, find out more about the language used when talking about a child's disability and how to use strengths-based language that focuses on their strengths, interests and personality traits.

The AllPlay Learn primary teacher online professional learning course can help build your skills in supporting children with disabilities and developmental challenges.

3. Collaborate with other teachers and staff

Collaboration between colleagues supports positive student education experiences at school. Primary teachers and staff working with children with disabilities and developmental challenges may need to learn new knowledge, skills and try new approaches. 

Primary teachers can support each other to be inclusive and work out the best ways to tailor the content of their classes.  They can talk together about learning plans and strategies that have worked well with children, as well as those that didn’t. This way teachers can learn from each other’s experiences and will feel more supported.

Peer mentoring can build a teacher’s skills and confidence. You may consider inviting a specialist school teacher who has worked with children with developmental challenges to work with you for a day, or collaborate with allied health professionals to develop the most effective ways to include children with disabilities and developmental challenges in your program.

Teachers can also promote and support a whole-school approach to inclusion.

4. Learn about the different types of disabilities

Learn about the different strengths children may have, and read evidence-based strategies that are effective in school settings.

  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Blind and low vision
  • Communication and language disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing
  • Intellectual disability
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Physical disability
  • Specific learning disability
  • 5. Learn about common challenges

    You might see children in your class needing support for different kinds of challenges. These might be challenges following instructions, staying calm or building relationships. You can read more about some common challenges children with disabilities may have and find strategies and tips to support your teaching.

    6. Bringing it all together

    The inclusive teacher strategies provide a summary of evidence-based strategies for including all students in primary school.
    To support a child with a disability or developmental challenge in the classroom you can use the inclusive questions for teachers.
    To support a child with a disability or developmental challenge with behaviour, the ABC framework may be helpful.

    AllPlay Learn resources

    Access AllPlay Learn's primary teacher resources and primary stories below.
  • Playing footy at school? Try the AllPlay Footy resources
  • Dancing at school? Try the AllPlay Dance resources