Program offers schools a comprehensive approach to disability inclusion

Program offers schools a comprehensive approach to disability inclusion

A groundbreaking collaboration between Monash University’s Krongold Clinic and the Victorian Department of Education is promoting disability inclusion across all student year levels.

The new initiative builds upon the AllPlay Learn research program, first launched in 2019, which comprises of a website, professional learning courses on inclusive practices, and a suite of twenty-four resources aimed at strengthening inclusive school communities.

The program has now been extended to include a suite of resources that increase awareness about the benefits of inclusion, and outline the ways in which reflection and understanding, partnerships and learning from families and students with lived-experience, can enrich inclusive practices and enhance student agency.

“The AllPlay programs, including AllPlay Learn, were founded from a deep understanding of the powerful ways in which communities can meaningfully and significantly improve the outcomes of young people,” Dr Bethany Devenish, a research fellow at Monash University’s Krongold Clinic told The Educator.

Dr Devenish said it is clear from the research literature that inclusive school communities hold a wide range of both short-term and long-term benefits for all students, families, school leaders and teachers.

“Inclusive school communities provide more flexible learning environments that result in fewer behavioural challenges, and improved learning outcomes, school completion, enrolment in higher education, and employment outcomes, for students with and without disability,” she said.

“Students in inclusive school communities experience increased confidence through watching their peers overcome challenges, and are better able to identify others’ needs, develop meaningful friendships, engage with a wider range of community members, and become more accepting and understanding of diversity.”

Dr Devenish noted that families within inclusive school communities are also shown to become more accepting and understanding of diversity, and experience improved connection within the school community, and confidence they can commit to work or study.

“The value placed by inclusive school communities on positive school community and wellbeing supports improved wellbeing and job satisfaction for school staff, increases positive engagement between staff and students, and helps teachers develop a more diverse skillset that improves their confidence, preparedness, and positive social and working relationships,” she said.

“Our most recent suite of resources, ‘Strengthening Inclusive School Communities’ highlights these benefits, and provides resources and guides that support teachers, school leaders, families, and students, to collaboratively create inclusive school communities.”

Dr Devenish said while the AllPlay Learn suite was developed for the policies and contexts of Victorian primary and secondary school settings, the evidence base that informs the suite is drawn from Australian and global research.  

“As a result, many of the strategies and principles within the suite will be relevant across all states and territories,” she said.

Dr Devenish said the Strengthening Inclusive School Communities suite was developed with and by a diverse team of researchers, psychologists, stakeholders from government, teachers, and students and families with lived experience of disability.

“A researcher with lived experience of disability and parenting children with disability was involved in the conceptualisation and development of all resources within the suite, and led the final stages of development and delivery of the suite of resources in 2023,” she said.

“To ensure the AllPlay Learn program is developed and enhanced by the experiences and voices of students with disability and their families, our team continually engages in inclusive, participatory research and community engagement with students with disability and their families.”

Dr Devenish said researchers at the Krongold Clinic have been very deliberate in developing a platform that allows teachers and leaders to walk away with very clear and simple strategies that they can implement to create inclusive school communities.

“Importantly though, while the strategies and resources outlined are simple to implement, they were selected because research has found these strategies result in measurable and significant changes to the inclusion, engagement, and wellbeing or learning outcomes of students with disability and their families,” she said.

“Our hope is that these resources will support schools to develop a culture of ongoing reflection about the simple strategies they can implement to create inclusive communities.”