The 2010 evaluation focused on students with significant physical, sensory, neurological, psychiatric, behavioural or intellectual impairments. These students with high needs make up approximately three percent of the student population. The evaluation defined inclusion as students with high needs successfully enrolling, participating and achieving in the academic, extracurricular and social life of their school.
The evaluation found that approximately half of the 229 schools reviewed demonstrated mostly inclusive practices in responding to students with high needs.
The most inclusive schools operated under three key principles:
A further 30 percent of schools had some inclusive practices. While these schools had ‘pockets of inclusiveness’, their systems, teaching, attitudes or approaches meant that students with high needs were not fully included in the academic, extracurricular or social life of the school. The remaining 20 percent of schools were found to have few inclusive practices.
Primary schools were a little more likely than secondary schools to demonstrate mostly inclusive practices – 53 percent compared with 47 percent of secondary schools. They were less likely to have few inclusive practices – 14 percent compared with 30 percent of secondary schools.
In 2011, ERO surveyed schools about their inclusion of students with special needs, including their assessment of whether they had ‘mostly inclusive’or ‘some inclusive’ practices. Broadening the definition to students with special education needs, rather than students with high needs, resulted in some schools including their provisions for many students such as gifted, English language learners, and boys. This probably led to 88 percent of schools reporting that they had mostly inclusive practices. Only 12 percent reported that they had some or a few inclusive practices. Approximately 90 percent of schools had at least some students with special needs and/or requiring an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Schools outlined a wide range of initiatives to support the inclusion and learning of students with special needs. These included:
The main challenges schools identified were funding, access to specialist advice and support, students with behavioural needs, students with high needs and employing appropriate staff.
Analysis of reports to boards found that most schools did not report on the actual gains made by students with special needs. Instead, they reported general progress or improved attitudes, or described the contribution they had made to including students with special needs. Only 15 percent of schools provided their boards with any achievement information regarding students with special needs. The lack of achievement information limits a board’s ability to understand how effectively the school includes students with special needs.
This evaluation found that 77 percent of primary schools were mostly inclusive. Sixteen percent of schools had some inclusive practices and seven percent had few inclusive practices. Schools had made some school-level changes to support inclusion, such as PLD and reviewing a school’s collaborative approaches and teacher’s aide strategies for high needs students.
Across all four reports, ERO identified the need to improve assessment, monitoring of progress and analysis of achievement information to identify effective practices. Schools also need to improve their reporting to the board about provisions and outcomes for students with special education needs.