“Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies” ~ Desmond Tutu
Inclusive education extends beyond the classroom and into all facets of the educational experience. Therefore, consideration of access and engagement across all schooling experiences needs to occur to ensure that all students have the opportunity to contribute and be valued alongside their peers.
All students should be able to access regular social spaces/playgrounds alongside their peers. A variety of social options (including structured activities) should be provided so that all students have choice about where and how they spend their social/break times.
All students should be supported to engage in appropriate social interactions through the modelling and teaching of pro-social behaviour. The Personal and Social General Capability of the Australian Curriculum provides opportunity for social learning to occur. This learning is aligned to subject area content and delivered concurrently throughout lessons in the regular classroom environment.
Adult proximity during social situations should also be considered. Reflection about the purpose, impact and effectiveness of close adult supervision should occur regularly – Why is adult proximity necessary? What other supports and adjustments could be made? Is the proximity enabling or limiting a student’s social interactions? Is there opportunity to fade or reduce proximity overtime?
All students should be supported to participate and engage in extra-curricula events and activities (including camps and excursions). Proactive decision making and planning about where, when and how should take into consideration the access and participation of all students. Universal design principles and consultation with students and parents should be used to inform this process.
As with curriculum access; adjustments to the physical, cognitive, communication and social aspects of events and activities also needs to occur to ensure equitable experience. Consultation and collaboration with parents, the student, and relevant specialist staff should occur to ensure that the most appropriate and inclusive measures are implemented.
Classroom spaces and the broader built environment should be accessible to all students. Consideration and review of how students enter and exit spaces, access work stations, maneuver within and outside of the classroom areas, utilise social spaces, and use amenities needs to occur. Operational procedures and timetable/room allocations may need to be flexible in their design, and building/improvement works may need to be undertaken to ensure universal access.
Professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and access and mobility specialists can assist in determining what modifications to physical spaces and equipment are necessary to reduce and remove barriers. As with any adjustments, students and parents should also be consulted.
Although routine, structure, and regular responses are important in maintaining predictable, consistent environments which contribute to optimised learning, an ability to be flexible also needs to be realised.
A standardised response to an event, predicament or circumstance does not always match the specific need or function of a student’s individual experience. Flexibility allows for adaptation and adjustment in an effort to better include all students. This flexibility may need to be actively planned for, or may need to be enacted on the spot.
Flexibility is required across all facets of the school environment and experience. Some basic examples of enacting flexibility includes:
- Alternate seating and/or location during assembly
- Varied transition times and procedures
- Alternate timetable format
- Varied classroom seating and workspaces
- Additional breaks and/or extra time
- Alternate entry/exit procedures
- Providing multimodal communication
Flexibility should not be confused with low-expectations or with the need for separate. Variation in routine, expectation and responses should still be paired with high-expectations and inclusive principles. Much of the flexibility required can be incorporated universally, allowing all students to benefit.