About inclusive education
Inclusive education is where all children and young people are engaged and achieve through being present, participating, learning and belonging.
On this page:
What is inclusive education?
Inclusive education means that all learners are welcomed by their local early learning service and school, and are supported to play, learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of life at the school or service.
Inclusive education is underpinned by the belief that every learner has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of their family, whānau, community and to Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole. It asserts that our diversity is a strength and "draws attention to diversity and difference as a key part of quality teaching, honouring Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi." (ERO, p.16).
Inclusive education is also about how we develop and design our learning spaces and activities so that all learners are affirmed in their identity and can learn and participate together. Deliberate attention is also given to identifying and removing barriers to learning and wellbeing.
Benefits of inclusive education – educating for diversity
Diversity is a defining feature of our society and therefore of our communities, workplaces, schools, and early learning services.
Inclusive education provides learners with opportunities to:
- foster a learning culture of respect and belonging
- positively affect understandings and expectations about inclusion in their community and in wider society
- learn about and accept individual differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying
- be both teacher and learner, tuakana teina model
- experience diversity as a source of strength and a catalyst for innovation
- develop wide-ranging friendships
- develop strengths and gifts, with high expectations for each child beyond formalised assessments
- work on individual goals and pathways while participating in the life of the learning community alongside their peers
- involve family, whānau, and community in their education and in the activities of their local school or early learning service.
What guides inclusive education?
Te Whāriki supports a community culture where all children can be actively involved in meaningful play and learning with and alongside their peers.
Systems, processes, and practices need to be flexible and responsive to this predictable diversity, rather than expecting learners to fit around a fixed system of teaching and learning.
Our curriculum documents are non-prescriptive and allow for this flexible learning approach. Schools and early learning services have a mandate to develop their curriculum in a personalised way as they notice, recognise, and respond to the needs of all their learners and their communities.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership
Developing an understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and honouring the principles is a critical starting point in inclusive education in Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Whakamana: empowering all learners to reach their highest potential by providing high-quality teaching and leadership.
- Manaakitanga: creating a welcoming, caring and creative learning environment that treats everyone with respect and dignity.
- Pono: showing integrity by acting in ways that are fair, honest, ethical and just.
- Whanaungatanga: engaging in positive and collaborative relationships with our learners, their families and whānau, our colleagues and the wider community.
Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be used by schools to support the design of more flexible inclusive learning environments. It can help schools realise the vision of the New Zealand Curriculum where everyone is learning and achieving and diversity is seen as a source of strength.
UDL is a research-based framework. It helps school leaders and teachers:
- take a more systematic approach to designing useful flexible learning environments
- identify barriers to learning and participation hidden in teaching practices or the organisation of systems and processes
- provides a shared language for talking about inclusive practices and processes
- can be shared with students and whānau so that they can provide more specific feedback to teachers
UDL and differentiation
A differentiated approach is also part of the UDL framework. However the emphasis in UDL is on designing the least restrictive environment for all students. Taking this approach reduces the need for such extensive differentiation as students are able to independently customise the learning environment to meet many of their own needs.