A school leader’s guide for inclusive practices within schools

Effectively implementing the Disability Standards for Education (DSE) 2005

School leaders are central in making sure that school-wide strategies, policies and initiatives are in place to support the inclusion of students with disability, and to support teachers in providing accessible and inclusive learning environments.

The Disability Standards for Education (DSE) 2005 outlines the obligations for all Australian schools to make sure that students with disability are able to participate in the curriculum, and school activities, on the same basis as students without disability. While this does not mean that every student should have the exact same experiences, it does mean that students with disability should be provided with rigorous, meaningful and dignified learning opportunities and choices.

This guide references the Australian Professional Standard for Principals (Principal Standard) in outlining the roles and responsibilities of school leaders, relevant to the DSE. The Principal Standard creates and promotes a shared vision, clarity of understanding and a common language around effective, high impact school leadership (AITSL, 2019).

student with teacher

All changes to improve the implementation of the DSE – big or small – require a consistent commitment to reflection and adaption from school leadership.

To implement effective practices that can improve the student experience, learning outcomes and strengthen equity, there is typically a cycle of key stages; many jurisdictions provide a small set of stages within a similar cycle to as follows (see Figure 2).

  1. Assess: evaluate areas where inclusivity and opportunity are inadequate, where harassment or discrimination is present within the school, where the legislative requirements need to be embedded, and determine areas of improvement.
  2. Prioritise: determine changes required throughout the school, prioritise actions that will create the most impact on learning and wellbeing, and set goals for what needs to be achieved.
  3. Plan: develop plans, initiatives and strategies in a way that will allow for measurement, accountability, buy-in and successful implementation. Consider all available resources, such as teaching or support staff, school facilities and students’ guardian/s and associates.
  4. Implement: after making changes, monitor progress and the impact on students, so prompt responses can be made, and strategies can be adapted.

The best timeframes and method to analyse, reflect, plan, implement and monitor any changes to continually implement the DSE is best decided by the school leadership team. Each school operates within different contexts, systems, policies, school types and student populations that influence school planning.

This guide provides core guiding values to assist school leaders in implementing the DSE and support the provision of high-quality education that all students are entitled to receive. The Guiding Values were developed to reflect the student-centric vision and mission as demonstrated in the Principal Standard and can be broadly applied to all facets of school leadership and the profession of teaching. These Guiding Values provide a strong framework for leaders to understand, reflect and take action to incorporate the DSE in their roles and responsibilities, through reflective questions, key initiatives and practical examples.

Leaders who implement the DSE throughout all aspects of their school can foster a positive, inclusive culture that advocates acceptance and equity. If students with disability are provided with equal opportunities with students without disability, the greater the prospects are for all students to grow and thrive from receiving a quality education.

student with teacher