Inclusive education is not a passing “fad” or the latest educational philosophy. It is a legally-supported, evidence-based way of delivering education that recognises the individual characteristics of all students, offers pedagogic alternatives that cater for the diverse educational needs of each child and respects the fundamental human rights of every child to be a part of their communities.
To achieve success in your child’s inclusion at school, it is important to understand what it is and what it isn’t.
When it comes to the word “inclusion” – you may find the people you are talking to don’t have the same level of understanding about what this means. Put simply, inclusion is much more that just physically “being there” – it’s what happens when you make sure that someone isn’t left out – of the classroom, the learning and curriculum, the playing, the relationships and every other aspect of school life. Children with disability or diverse learning needs are at greater risk of being excluded – so inclusion is all about making sure this doesn’t happen.
- all students included in the general education classroom all day, every day;
- all students working in naturally supportive, flexible structures and groupings with other students regardless of individual ability;
- all students presumed competent;
- students are supported (where needed, such as through curriculum adaptations and differentiated teaching) to access the core curriculum; and
- all students known and valued as full members of the school community, developing meaningful social relationships with peers and able to participate in all aspects of the life of the school.
Inclusion is NOT:
- students only being allowed to participate in the class if they are “keeping up” academically – this includes:
- frequent “pull-outs”;
- working separately in a corner of the classroom with the education assistant while the teacher instructs the rest of the class; or
- students being given a separate “special curriculum” or “program” (as opposed to being supported where needed, including through curricular adjustments, to access the same core curriculum); or
- demonstrating independence or self-sufficiency as a condition of entry.
This handy chart by The Inclusive Class also helps you understand what inclusion is and isn’t!
Myths about inclusive education
- Myth #1: The general education classrooms won’t provide the support that students with disability need. REAL DEAL: Our laws provide for supports in regular schools and good inclusive practices happen in schools in Australia and elsewhere (eg Italy has been educating ALL students together since the 1970s!).
- Myth #2: Students with disability do better when they are educated in separate schools or classrooms. REAL DEAL: 40 years of research emphatically disproves this myth.
- Myth #3: Students with disability in the general classroom have a negative impact on the learning of other students. REAL DEAL: Research shows no academic detriments and some academic benefits plus socio-emotional gains for ALL students.
- Myth #4: A student can’t be included unless they can keep up with the pace of the general education curriculum. REAL DEAL: Universal design for learning and adapted teaching are about making the general curriculum and learning in a regular classroom accessible to ALL learners!
- Myth #5: Schools include students with disability as a favour, to help them feel part of society. REAL DEAL: Inclusion is a fundamental right, enshrined in international, Commonwealth and State legislation and instruments.
Schools that have inclusive school cultures and adopt structures, systems and methodologies that are aimed at responding to the diverse needs of ALL its students – like “universal design for learning” and differentiated teaching – generally don’t need to make as many adjustments to accomodate students with disability or diverse learning needs because they have already done the work to establish a school climate, premises and processes that assume their participation.
Sometimes it is hard for parents, who probably did not grow up in inclusive learning environments themselves, to imagine how their child can be included in a regular school – this is where speaking to other families and finding out about how they are making it happen for their child is invaluable. Some real stories illustrating good inclusive practice can also be found in this document – “Exemplars of Practice” – released by the Australian Government.
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