This evaluation examined how well schools include students with high needs. Approximately three percent of students identified as high needs. For the purposes of this evaluation, inclusion involved students with high needs successfully enrolling, participating and achieving in the academic, extra-curricular and social life of their school.

This evaluation found that approximately half of the 229 schools reviewed demonstrated mostly inclusive practice. This judgement is based on the context and students of each school and on the overall systems and responsiveness of the schools.

The most inclusive schools operated under three key principles:

  • having ethical standards and leadership that built the culture of an inclusive school;
  • having well-organised systems, effective teamwork and constructive relationships that identified and supported the inclusion of students with high needs; and
  • using innovative and flexible practices that managed the complex and unique challenges related to including students with high needs.

A further 30 percent of schools had some inclusive practices. While these schools had ‘pockets of inclusiveness,’ major weaknesses limited the extent to which inclusiveness was found throughout the school. Systems, teaching, attitudes or approaches at each of these schools meant that, in some significant way, students with high needs were not fully included in the academic, extra‑curricular or social life of the school.

The remaining 20 percent of schools were found to have few inclusive practices. The key differences between these schools, and those above, was the level of ethical and professional leadership shown towards including students with high needs. While these schools were inclusive in some less important ways, overall, students with high needs were not included in significant aspects of each school’s academic, extra‑curricular and social activities.

The key question that emerges from this review is: how can more schools become better at including students with high needs? Schools invest in various professional development courses that provide specialist knowledge to teachers and support staff. Similarly much of the professional support available from Group Special Education (GSE) and Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) is aimed at supporting the inclusion of individual students. More can be done to use school-wide professional learning and development processes to make schools more inclusive.