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