Education for all: A look at inclusive schools

 

At Kennington Primary School in Bendigo, students with hearing impairments learn in regular classes with support from teachers of the deaf. Like other students, they are embraced.

 

The Bendigo Deaf Facility is based at the school. An Auslan LOTE program across the school also encourages all students to learn Australian Sign Language.

 

Principal Travis Eddy says the facility is a great example of the school’s inclusiveness, but certainly not the only one. Mr Eddy says the school also has students with physical disability, learning difficulties, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

 

Where needed, he and his team prepare individual plans involving physical, emotional or learning support. “We do our best to ensure that every child gets what they need,” he says. “I’d like to think that all government schools are like that.”

 

With 650 students, including seven children who are deaf, Kennington Primary also has an extensive Wellbeing Program. Mr Eddy says all students benefit from this approach and learn important lessons about difference.

 

“When people choose to come to Kennington, we welcome them, support the family and support the needs of their children, so they can reach their full potential,” he says.

 

What is an inclusive school?

Schools that are inclusive welcome children of all abilities and ensure that their facilities are suitable. By law, all Australian schools must make a reasonable effort to include students with disability. For example, it may involve modified toilets, drinking fountains, desks and outdoor tables, captions for visual material, tailored teaching, a modified curriculum and access to other supports.

Several organisations promote inclusion in schools, such as Aussie Deaf Kids, which lists inclusive schools on its websiteThe I CAN Network embraces the contribution people living with autism can make, and builds networks across schools, universities, TAFEs, communities, businesses and governments.

 

Advice for parents

The Association for Children with a Disability (ACD) offers parents a Support Line, Workshops and peer support, Information and resourcesIt also has fact sheets on Choosing a school, Working in partnership with your child’s school, Reasonable adjustments, Raising a concern with a school, Children’s rights in education, and Making a complaint about your child’s education.

 

“The majority of children with disability in Victoria attend mainstream school,” says ACD’s CEO, Karen Dimmock. “The best education outcomes for children happen when families and schools work together.”

 

ACD says students with disability have the right to enrol in a school on the same basis as those who don’t, and schools must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them. “This can include making changes to the curriculum and programs, teaching approaches, the classroom, or accessing support services,” it says.

 

Under the Disability Standards for Education, schools and education providers must make reasonable adjustments so that students with disability can participate on the same basis as other students.

 

This can include making changes to the curriculum and programs, teaching approaches, the classroom, or accessing support services.

 

ACD says principals strongly influence a school’s inclusion approach and facilities. Some have a staff member responsible for supporting students with a disability.


“Be upfront about your child’s needs,” it says. “The aim is to choose a school that will work for your child, hopefully over many years. Encourage them to give you open, detailed responses that will help you to make the right decision for your child and family.”

 

What parents should ask a potential school:

  • How would the school meet your child’s medical, personal care or physical access needs?
  • How would the school meet your child’s learning needs and what supports they could provide?
  • How has the school supported other students with disability?
  • What systems does the school have in place for planning, monitoring and adjusting the learning and supports for students with disability?
  • What is the school’s approach to supporting positive student behaviour, including for students who might need additional support in this area?


Source: Association for Children with a Disability, acd.org.au

 

What the law says

Nationally, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) applies to schools. The Disability Standards for Education clarify school obligations.


All state and territory education providers, including government and independent schools, must comply with the DDA and the relevant disability discrimination legislation of their state or territory.

 

All education providers must also comply with the Disability Standards for Education 2005. The Australian Human Rights Commission produces a guide that outlines the law and possible breaches.

 

For example, the Victorian Government has a policy for students with a disability that defines inclusive education and outlines schools’ legal obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate students with disability. 

 

An inclusive education system enables all students to be welcomed, accepted and engaged so that they can participate, achieve and thrive in school life. 

 

The Victorian Government’s policy says that inclusive education: 

  • ensures that students with disabilities are not discriminated against and are accommodated to participate in education on the same basis as their peers
  • acknowledges and responds to the diverse needs, identities and strengths of all students
  • occurs when students with disabilities and additional needs are treated with respect and are involved in making decisions about their education
  • benefits students of all abilities in the classroom and fosters positive cultural change in attitudes and beliefs about disability, in and beyond the school environment
  • contributes to positive learning, engagement and wellbeing outcomes for students.

Source: education.vic.gov.au.

 

Read up your state’s policies for more information:

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