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What is inclusive education?

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“Inclusive education means that all students are welcomed by their school in age-appropriate settings and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of school. Inclusive education is about how schools are developed and designed, including classrooms, programmes and activities so that all students learn and participate together1.” 

All students benefit from inclusive education, not only students with disability.

The right to an inclusive education is supported in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities 2006 (CRPD), the first binding document to explicitly endorse quality inclusive education. Australia is a signatory to the CRPD, which in Article 24 sets out obligations to ensure inclusive education that provides accommodations and supports for persons with disabilities to access the general education system ‘on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live’ (United Nations General Assembly, 2006).

However, Australia’s existing discrimination legislation has not sufficiently produced inclusive education for students with disability 2.

Education approaches used in Australia

It is helpful for parents to understand the difference between the various approaches used by education settings for disabled students in Australia when thinking about school placement for their child who is deaf or hard of hearing 3.

  1. Segregation – the education of students with disabilities is provided in separate environments designed or used to respond to a particular impairment or various impairments, in isolation from students without disabilities. Many students who are deaf or hard of hearing learn in hearing support units within mainstream school settings. While this approach can be a desirable option for students and parents alike, this is not considered an inclusive educational setting. 
  2. Integration – placing persons with disabilities in existing mainstream educational settings with the understanding that they can adjust to the standardised requirements of these settings, i.e., no particular adjustments are made for the student’s needs. Placing students who are DHH in mainstream classes without changes to curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, does not constitute inclusion.
  3. Inclusion involves a process of systemic reform embodying changes and modifications in content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies in education to overcome barriers with a vision to provide all students of the relevant age range with an equitable and participatory learning experience and the environment that best corresponds to their requirements and preferences.
Is my child receiving an inclusive education?

The four key features of inclusion might be a useful starting point for parents wanting to evaluate whether or not inclusive practices are in place in their child’s educational setting. In inclusive education settings, the student should be present, participating, achieving and supported 4.


  • The student learns in an environment which that best meet their needs.
  • The student is fully engaged in the life of their school, through the inclusive ethos, culture and values of the school.
  • The student receives a full-time education, including flexible approaches to meet their needs.


  • The student’s voice is heard in decisions about their education, including decisions on where they learn.
  • The student has the opportunity to participate and engage as fully as possible in all aspects of school life, including trips and extracurricular activities.
  • The student is supported to participate in their learning.


  • The student is achieving their full potential.
  • The student has access to a varied curriculum tailored to meet their needs.


  • The student benefits from the ethos and culture of the school, inclusive learning and teaching practices and relationships.
  • The student is given the right help, at the right time, from the right people, to support their wellbeing in the right place.
  • The student is supported to participate in all parts of school life.
  • The student is supported to overcome barriers to learning and achieve their full potential.

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