Thank you to all our contributors in 2022. We published over 100 blog posts this year from academics all over Australia, from research students to DECRA fellows, to deans and professors. Thank you all for being part of our community and many thanks to the AARE executive, especially newly-minted Professor Nicole Mockler.
Didn’t get to write this year? Want to contribute? Here are notes for contributors. Pitch to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is genuinely hard to choose the best because every single blog reveals new ideas and new thinking about education but I’ll just list our ten most read for 2022 (and of course, some of our older posts have racked up thousands and thousands of views). So many others were excellent and please look at our comprehensive archive.
Here we go! 2022 top ten.
Babak Dadvand on the teacher shortage.
Inger Mewburn: Is this now the Federal government’s most bone-headed idea ever?
Debra Hayes: Here’s what a brave new minister for education could do right away to fix the horrific teacher shortage
Kate de Bruin, Pamela Snow, Linda Graham, Tanya Serry and Jacinta Conway: There are definitely better ways to teach reading
Marg Rogers: Time, money, exhaustion: why early childhood educators will join the Great Resignation
Rachel Wilson: What do you think we’ve got now? Dud teachers or a dud minister? Here are the facts
Simon Crook: More Amazing Secrets of Band Six (part two ongoing until they fix the wretched thing)
(And part one is now one of our most read posts of all-time)
Alison Bedford and Naomi Barnes: The education minister’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea*
Martina Tassone, Helen Cozmescu, Bree Hurn and Linda Gawne: No. There isn’t one perfect way to teach reading
Thank you to all of you for making this such a lovely community, looking forward to hearing from you and a special thank you to Maralyn Parker who has now been retired from the blog for two years but is still a fantastically supportive human when I need urgent help.
The first of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conference. If you want to cover a session at the conference, please email email@example.com to check in. Thanks!
This blog was put together by Lara Maia-Pike, the centre coordinator in The Centre for Inclusive Education QUT and an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Thom Nevill & Glenn Savage, University of Western Australia The changing rationalities of Australian federal and national inclusive education policies
In this session the presenters discussed their recent paper focusing on developments of inclusive education in federal and national reform. They started by providing a historical and conceptual analysis of inclusive education policies, particularly during the period of 1992 to 2015.
Political rationality refers to logical ways of thinking about policy development. The methodology used in their paper involves intervention approaches to policy analysis, paying close attention to context and how meaning is constructed in policy. They identified three phases of policy development: one, standardisation, two, neo-social and three, personalisation.
Phase 1: Rationality of standardisation (1992-2005): mode of reason, clear consistent and national guidelines (for example DDA & DSE).
Phase 2: Review on the standards impact: emphasis on economic goods, producing wider education reforms (for example, the National Disability Strategy and NDIS). Banner of “education revolution”. Role in fostering economic productivity, emphasis of economic benefits of inclusion, broader productivity agenda.
Phase 3: The rise of personalisation, refers to how a service can be made more effective by tailoring to the needs of the students. Teachers can make education more inclusive and equitable by tailoring it to student needs (for example, the NCCD)
What are the implications? There is the shift from conceptualising inclusion collectively to personalisation of inclusion AND there is a responsibilisation of teachers and mothers.
Rationalities that underpin inclusive education policies evolved and mutated over time. Economic rationalities have rearticulated the meaning and practices of inclusive education.
Emerging and unexplored tensions between rationalities of standardisation and rationalities of personalisation.
Ilektra Spandagou, The University of Sydney Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Early Interventions; Tensions for Inclusion
The presenter explored how early intervention is constructed within the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. The concept of early intervention is deceptively simple, often refers to early actions that could prevent future complication or need. Early intervention goes beyond education and has been critiqued because often is not distinguished from early childhood development.
Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) (UN, 1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN, 2006) early intervention is a established right for children with disability. Early intervention in International Conventions often sits within Health-related conventions. Early intervention in the Sustainable Development Goals carries policy narratives and a collective approach across different regions of the world. Findings include universal interventions, general targeted initiatives, targeted-mixed interventions (targeting disadvantages with interventions that reduce poverty) and interventions specifically targeted to disability.
Universal interventions are varied, many are integrated programs that combine health, social and educational services. In some countries early interventions look into reducing poverty. Early interventions matter and can change the experience of disability. It sits across several fields which are often ignored from the field of inclusive education. While many of these initiatives in early intervention are necessary, the critique is that early intervention needs to be done in an inclusive way.
Kate de Bruin, Monash University Why Inclusive Education Reforms Fail in Australia: A Path to Dependency Analysis
The presenter focused on the question as to why policy reforms fail. The presenter discussed Path Dependency Theory, which is often applied in economics, and explains the resistance to change. The theory has three essential components: first, refers to initials’ conditions; second subsequent event and finally institutions reproduced it. Institutions become self-reinforced.
The initial conditions of Victorian education focused on creating a workforce to develop and sustain the economy. This led to the early critical juncture rise of Eugenics, which was enthusiastically taken by medical associations. Tools to screen for deviance and intelligence were developed, screening a large number of children. More and more children were identified, more and more assessors needed, growing exponentially, and leading to the creation of special schools. IQ tests became an intrenched mechanism leading institutions defend and reproduce segregation, through a legitimate-based mechanism. The moral argument was reconstructed by the legitimacy argument. During the 1980 categorical models were developed, where children had to meet a minimum threshold and category, and IQ tests were still used to segregate people, despite the development of conventions and legislation on the rights of people with disability regarding their education. With the development of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN, 2006), the right to inclusive education was clearly defined under the General Comment No.4, Despite human rights recognition and legal obligations to implement inclusive education, many institutions still benefit, including profit making, from segregation.
Recent blog posts and articles in The Age have yet again stirred debates about the reading wars. We are writing this piece as a call for unity because we agree with the recent blog authors that there is no “perfect way” to teach reading. However, we know from both research and practice that are unequivocally better ways that are both more efficient and more effective for a diverse student cohort, including the most disadvantaged.
Better ways to teach all students to read
Effective reading instruction involves using the most equitable and efficient teaching practices which result in the highest proportion of children in a class becoming literate. Such practices are informed by the most reliable evidence about the theoretical basis of a reading curriculum, its scope and sequence, and the pedagogies that are most effective.
To teach reading equitably, teachers must be equipped to use practices that are designed to be beneficial for the most diverse student cohort, not just those in the middle of the curve or better. This is more socially just because it results in fewer children needing access to scarce intervention and support resources.
To teach reading efficiently, teachers must be equipped to teach using methods known to have the greatest impact and provide the best support for all students to “crack the code” of the most complex writing system in the world, enabling them to move quickly beyond learning to read, into learning through reading.
The reading wars stem from differences in beliefs as to how this is best achieved.
What are these differences?
Champions of implicit teaching argue that immersing a child in a print-rich environment in conjunction with using incidental instruction creates an environment in which children can learn to love reading. These champions emphasise that extracting meaning from text should always be the highest priority in any teaching moments. Some in this “camp” even argue that explicit and systematic instruction in reading subskills is harmful and can damage students’ potential love of reading while de-professionalising teachers. We have not yet found any empirical evidence to support these claims.
Champions of a structured approach, a group in which we count ourselves, promote the use of a carefully planned scope and sequence of reading instruction using practices supported by strong research evidence. They argue that reading is made of teachable subskills best taught explicitly with some skills being pivotal to the acquisition of subsequent skills and needing to be mastered first. The most common example is phonic decoding or “cracking the code” being a precursor to reading automatically and fluently to aid comprehension, along with developing strong vocabulary skills and background knowledge. This does not mean that decoding is all that is taught at first but is done in an integrated manner using a rich and varied range of books to build children’s background knowledge and vocabulary. These claims are supported by decades of international research and three national inquiries.
Which approach has the most evidence (with a capital “E”)?
There are different types of evidence and each approach above has an abundance of evidence to support it. However, the structured approach is backed by experimental and empirical research best suited to determining the effectiveness of a teaching practice in a classroom. Such research can also be further assessed through systematic reviews and meta-analyses, occupying the highest levels of evidence, meaning that confidence in the findings is higher.
Such research suggests systematic and explicit instruction in the reading subskills of phonemic awareness, decoding, and fluency are efficacious for teaching children to read more accurately and fluently in the early years. Research also indicates that students with learning difficulties and disabilities can master reading when they are provided early with systematic and explicit instruction, as opposed to incidental and implicit instruction, making this a more equitable approach to the teaching of reading.
What does this evidence suggest?
It is important to support teachers by providing them with knowledge and skills through a framework that supports teacher autonomy and decision-making to enable personalising of learning for students. However, the Four Resources model promoted in the recent blog is not the most helpful framework for reading instruction, nor does it have the most evidentiary support.
The Four Resources Model rests on a conceptualisation of reading as a component of critical literacy, being a “mode of second guessing texts, discourses, and social formations”. The architects of the model argue that teaching reading relies on teachers selecting practices based on how they view students’ existing economic, social, cultural and linguistic assets for which the model maps a range of practices to use in response. We have not been able to locate any robust empirical research that affirms the Four Resources model as a theory of reading, or as a framework for teaching reading.
The Cognitive Foundations Framework on the other hand, is an empirically-grounded and practical model for supporting teachers’ decision-making about instruction and support. It provides teachers with a clear map of students’ areas of strength and weakness in reading subskills. Such mapping provides teachers with a clear path to personalising teaching by identifying what individual students know and what they need to learn next to become skilled readers.
Figure 1: The Cognitive Foundations Network
Source: Graphic from Hoover and Tunmer (2019)
Our research and practice highlights the importance of preparing teachers to use approaches that are systematic and consistent across classes and schools. Teachers and leaders knowledgeable in these are the cornerstone of developing skilled readers and can ensure 95%-plus students achieve foundational skills.
Many teachers we have worked with speak of their regret when they think of the students in their former classrooms who did not successfully learn to read: children who they now realise could have become successful readers.
A call for unity
Every year that we spend debating is another year that many children do not receive the instruction they need to learn to read. This locks them out from all that education has to offer, entrenching deficit perceptions and economic disadvantage.
We need to focus on what we all share: a strong desire to create skilled readers and find ways to enhance the community standing of teaching by ensuring that knowledge that belongs to teachers is placed in their hands before they arrive in classrooms. Let’s give them the full set of professional knowledge and skills they need to truly personalise teaching and ensure every child learns to read and succeed at school.
From left to right (top row) Kate de Bruin, Pamela Snow, (bottom row) Linda Graham, Tanya Serry and Jacinta Conway
Kate de Bruin is a Senior Lecturer in Inclusion and Disability at Monash University. She has taught in secondary school and higher education for over two decades. As a high-school teacher she taught English for years 7-12, ran reading intervention, and provided cross-curriculum support to students with disabilities and learning difficulties. Pamela Snow is a Professor of Cognitive Psychology in the School of Education at the Bendigo campus of La Trobe University, Australia. In addition to experience in teacher education, she has taught a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate health professionals. Pamela is a registered psychologist, having qualified originally in speech-language pathology. Her research has been funded by nationally competitive schemes such as the ARC Discovery Program, ARC Linkage Program, and the Criminology Research Council, and concerns the role of language and literacy skills as academic and mental health protective factors in childhood and adolescence. Linda J. Graham is Director of The Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Her research focuses on responses to students experiencing difficulties in school and with learning. Tanya Serry is an Associate Professor (Literacy and Reading) in the School of Education and co-director of the SOLAR Lab. Previously, she taught in the Discipline of Speech Pathology. Her research interests centre on the policy and practices of evidence-based reading instruction and intervention practices for students across the educational lifespan. Jacinta Conway is a highly experienced educator who has spent 19 working in classrooms and educational leadership, overseeing and implementing a range of interventions and support for learners, both in primary and secondary settings. She currently works as a learning intervention specialist and consultant. Jacinta has a Bachelor of Education (Primary) and a Masters in Learning Intervention (Specific Learning Difficulties). She sits on the council for Learning Difficulties Australia.
The use of a teaching practice known as ‘differentiation’has become more common over time as educators have sought to respond to increases in the diversity of students enrolling in their local school. The term is now used widely by Australian teachers and school leaders, as well as policy makers.
Being able to claim and demonstrate high-quality differentiation in the classroom now informs teacher promotion and school improvement review processes. It is also one way schools can meet their obligations under the Disability Standards for Education, as differentiation is a means through which teachers make reasonable adjustments to curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and the learning environment.
Given the emphasis in Australian legislation, policy and practice, it is important that when we refer to differentiation, we are all talking about the same thing. However, if you were to ask 10 teachers what differentiation means and how they implement it in their classrooms, you could receive 10 different responses.
As education researchers with expertise in inclusive education, we were interested in the spread of differentiation and what it means to teachers and researchers. We are also curious as to the basis for some especially loud criticisms of it.
Criticisms based on inconsistencies and misconceptions
There are a range of criticisms of differentiation including that it:
Requires teachers to provide every student with individualised lessons
Increases teachers’ workloads
Makes teachers’ work complicated
Waters down the curriculum
Lowers expectations of students and their exposure to the academic curriculum
Is too difficult to implement in mainstream classrooms
We began this review because we knew that several of these criticisms are just plain wrong. For example, the goal of differentiation is to stretch students beyond what they can already do but not so much that they experience frustration or failure. It is about “teaching up”, not “watering down” the curriculum, where teachers raise expectations for all students and provide appropriate scaffolds to help students to experience success.
It is also not about “‘individualised instruction’”; rather, it offers “multiple avenues to learning” through proactive design. In fact, its emphasis on proactive planning aims to reduce teacher workload, not add to it. By building in accessibility and flexibility, it has the potential to save teachers time in the long run by teaching more efficiently and effectively from the outset, preventing the need to spend additional time replanning and reteaching the curriculum.
Some of these criticisms stem from a lack of definitional clarity. This problem was highlighted in Australian research as long ago as 2014, and has been recently confirmed by two reviews from the United States, published in 2019 and 2020.
A consistent and clear understanding of what is meant by differentiation is therefore vital in order to examine the validity of these criticisms and consider whether they correctly construe the motivation for its use.
To examine these issues in more depth, we undertook a comprehensive scoping review to synthesise what can be known from existing studies. We found that the research literature on differentiation contains a range of definitional inconsistencies and misconceptions about how differentiation is conceptualised and implemented.
This is a huge problem. How can we talk about, implement or indeed criticise differentiation in our schools if we are talking about and doing different things?
So let’s start with a definition
It is essential for teachers and researchers to work from a common understanding of differentiation and so as part of our research we first provided a clear definition. To construct our definition we drew on the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson, an American educator, author and speaker who is well known for her work with differentiated instruction over the last two decades.
This is what we, and others in inclusive education, mean when we use the term. It is:
the use of proactive planning and inclusive practices to create accessible learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners in heterogeneous classrooms, using flexible within-class grouping, as opposed to fixed ability grouping, year-level streaming or withdrawal to separate programs.
For further clarification, we use the term flexible grouping to refer to varied use of whole class and individual learning, alongside heterogeneous and homogeneous small group learning according to interest, learning profile, and readiness.
We conducted our scoping review of all peer-reviewed research literature published between 1999, when Carol Tomlinson published her influential book, The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners, and 2019, the year we concluded our search. Searches of seven research databases netted 1,235 records, to which we added another six identified through hand-searching.
Our definition was broad and theoretically derived and hinged on practices enacted to meet the needs of all learners in heterogeneous classrooms. We therefore excluded studies that incorporated practices inconsistent with this definition such as ability grouping, year-level streaming or studies in which there was withdrawal of students to separate programs. We also excluded studies informed by misguided practices such as differentiating for learning styles or intelligence strengths, or by ability grouping and segregation as there is either no evidence to support their use or because there is clear evidence against their use.
Multiple screening stages (for those interested in the details of our research process, particularly when it comes to what we excluded and why, please go to our full paper) resulted in a final sample of 34 journal articles. Our review of these 34 articles was guided by two research questions, both of which were exploratory, rather than explanatory:
Are there any discernible patterns in peer-reviewed empirical research conducted on differentiation in school settings between 1999 and 2019 with regard to aim, location, school phase, participant types and methods used?
What are the principal research foci of these studies, how do they conceptualise and research differentiation, and how might research on differentiation be improved?
Our findings on the research evidence on differentiation were variously pleasing, surprising and of great concern to us. We found that while some teachers can find differentiation a challenge to implement or to implement well, echoing the concerns of some critics, this was not ubiquitous. Indeed we found that the range and depth of teachers’ use of differentiated teaching practices was enhanced by strong and committed leadership. It was also supported by quality professional learning, which contributed to staff buy-in and a school-wide culture of teacher collaboration, as well as supporting the quality and frequency of teacher implementation of differentiation.
We also found great diffusion in how differentiation was conceptualised making it difficult to produce clear findings about whether differentiation works. Despite this, the reviewed studies that examined the impact of differentiation consistent with our definition generally indicated that it typically produced improvements in student learning when compared to regular practice, with some suggestion that this may be even greater in more disadvantaged schools. There was little evidence to support criticisms that differentiation waters down the curriculum or lowers expectations and no studies advocating for the creation of individual lesson plans for individual students. Given the number of studies and participants that are represented in our review, this effectively dispels these criticisms as myth.
The diversity of focus and methodological approaches across the 34 studies, however, prevents a structured comparison of findings and therefore weakens the evidential basis to make stronger claims of either differentiation’s effectiveness or indeed its ineffectiveness. In particular, strong claims were hampered by the fact that:
Half the 34 studies were conducted in the United States and most in the elementary (primary) school phase with very few studies focusing on secondary schools.
Survey and case study designs were dominant, as was research of influences on teacher practice.
Only a small group of studies focused on differentiation’s impact on student outcomes and these typically only examined specific elements of differentiation or in specific academic domains, such as science or reading.
The majority of studies were undermined by methodological weaknesses—such as a tendency to rely on convenience samples and to use weak forms of survey methodology, as well as to attempt to determine the impact of differentiation using only student achievement scores—validating some concerns about the state of the research on differentiation.
Poor design weakened the strength of the overall findings because of the incommensurability between the measures used by participants from different schools and districts, and the incommensurability of practices across cases.
Although there were some studies that investigated the impact of differentiation using rigorous procedures, the majority of research was compromised by the use of small sample sizes and researcher-developed instruments with no clear theoretical or empirical foundation.
A lack of transparency due to poor reporting and very little cross-referencing between studies led to the majority ‘remaking the wheel’ rather than working together to create a coherent evidence-base.
Our research suggests that research on differentiation can and should improve, if the understanding of the practice is itself to improve.
Far too many studies are conducted without a coherent and theoretically informed definition to guide the development of instruments or to provide an appropriate lens through which to analyse the data collected. Having now read a vast number of articles, each claiming to be about differentiation, we observe that new research on this topic must build from and improve on previous studies. This is important to avoid researchers approaching the topic with the assumption that there is common agreement as to what differentiation is, or proposing their own new definition.
To achieve this, we believe future research on differentiation could:
clearly define differentiation as a range of evidence-based practices that teachers can use to meet the needs of all learners in heterogeneous classrooms
investigate the planning and enactment of these practices in both primary and secondary general education settings
use rigorous mixed-method research designs capable of assessing the adequacy of those practices for meeting the full range of individual learning needs, whilst determining the effect on students’ engagement, educational experiences, and academic outcomes; and
monitor implementation fidelity and the impact on teachers’ work.
We see our paper and our considered definition of differentiation grounded in prior research as a starting point to build useful evidence on differentiation for schools and teachers in Australia. If we are to use differentiation to meet the needs of students with and without disabilities in our schools, teachers need to be on the same page and confident in the evidence behind the practices they are using.
Professor Linda Graham is Director of The Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Her research investigates the role of education policy and schooling practices in the development of disruptive student behaviourand the improvement of responses to children with language, learning and behavioural difficulties.
Dr Kate de Bruin is a senior lecturer in inclusion and disability in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. She has taught in secondary school and higher education for two decades. Her research focuses on inclusive education in policy and practice, examining system, school and classroom practices that are supported by evidence, and that promote quality and equity for all students, with specific attention to students with a disability.
Dr Carly Lassig is a Lecturer in The Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) at QUT with a passion for social justice, equity and inclusion. Her research and teaching interests include: inclusive education, disability, differentiation, Universal Design for Learning, gifted education, and creativity. Carly’s PhD, “Perceiving and pursuing novelty: A grounded theory of adolescent creativity” investigated young people’s experiences of creativity within and beyond the school environment. Carly’s background is as a primary and middle years teacher, having taught nationally and internationally.
Dr Ilektra Spandagou is an Associate Professor of Inclusive Education at The University of Sydney. Ilektra worked as a special education teacher and completed her PhD at the University of Sheffield in the area of inclusive education. She worked as a researcher at the University of Sheffield,and as a lecturer at the University of Athens and the University of Thessaly, Greece before moving to The University of Sydney. Her research interests include disability, classroom diversity, and curriculum differentiation.
Sure enough, representatives of parent and teacher groups have emerged to back Senator Pauline Hanson’s claims that children with ‘autism and disabilities’ should be removed from mainstream classroom.
Primary principals in south western Sydney were reported as saying a shortage of places in special schools and classes is leading to the placement of students with disability or special needs into regular classes with a teacher who is “not sufficiently qualified”.
No description of the necessary qualifications was provided in the article but the implication was clear: special qualifications are needed to teach special students. In other words, a regular teacher education qualification just doesn’t cut it.
At about the same time Dr James Morton, who is Chairman of the AEIOU Foundation and parent of a child with autism, in an interview on ABC radio criticised universities for failing to prepare teachers to teach students with disability. His chief complaint was that units specialising in autism are not mandatory in undergraduate teacher education programs and accused universities of not investing in Australia’s future.
Then we had Professor Kenneth Wiltshire of the UQ Business School who argued via an opinion piece that the states had pulled a “con job… late last century” by promising “disabled students could become mainstream in every way by being included in conventional schools”. He then claims the states only supported inclusion because they were “cost-cutting by closing many special schools”.
While confused and lacking any supporting evidence, Wiltshire’s article echoes points made in the other two examples:
special students need to be educated by special teachers in special places,
regular classroom teachers are not qualified to teach students with disability and/or universities are failing to adequately prepare them
there are not enough special teachers and special places (because of inclusion and the closure of special schools).
Is there truth to any these claims?
In short, no.
Firstly, research consistently shows that educating students with disability in special places does not guarantee better academic or social outcomes, better employment prospects or post-school options and social inclusion. Quite the opposite, in fact.
This does not mean that they will do well in mainstream schools built for a narrow range of students. It means that local schools must evolve to cater to the full range of students. And this means teachers and teacher preparation must also evolve.
The 2016 Australian Senate Report made recommendations for teaching skills that would improve workforce capacity for inclusion: universal design for learning, differentiated teaching, and cooperative learning.
With this knowledge, teachers can identify what support students need to access the curriculum, engage in classroom activities, and achieve at school. These skills are emphasised in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, which since 2012 have underpinned the accreditation of university teacher education courses.
The Standards make clear that all classroom teachers are qualified to teach students with disability and/or additional needs. To be accredited, university teacher education courses must also cover four key focus areas that directly relate to students with disability: (i) differentiating teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities, (ii) supporting learning of students with disability, (iii) supporting student participation and engagement, and (iv) managing challenging behaviour.
Every graduating teacher must provide evidence that they meet each Standard to achieve registration to teach. To maintain their annual registration, existing teachers must provide evidence that they have engaged in professional learning relating to the Standards.
Clearly, there is a framework to ensure that registered classroom teachers are qualified to teach students with disabilities and/or additional needs, and for universities to prepare their graduates to do so. The benefits are seen in numerous schools and classrooms across the country, but there is scope for both teacher preparation programs and schools to embrace inclusive teaching practices.
Finally, the claim that places in special schools and classes have declined because of inclusion and the subsequent closure of special schools is completely false.
This is clear from a range of data sources.
Research from New South Wales has shown that proportion of enrolments in separate special educational settings in Australia’s largest education system has been increasing since the 1990s. In other words, the “mainstream” is shrinking.
These findings are supported by national data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) which shows that there was a 35% increase in the number of students with disability attending special schools between 2003 and 2015.
But most telling is this: Prior to the 1992 Disability Discrimination Act, before we signed the 1994 Salamanca Statement, and before “inclusion” was really a thing, there were 444 special schools accounting for 4.4% of all schools in Australia.
Almost three decades later — after the 2005 Disability Standards for Education, the 2008 Melbourne Declaration, and a multitude of reviews and inquiries nationally – there are now 461 special schools, accounting for 4.9% of Australian schools.
That represents an 11% increase in the number of special schools and this has occurred despite evidence that inclusion leads to more positive outcomes for students with disability.
We may well be living in a post-truth world but none of the empirical evidence supports the claims being made by Hanson’s backers.
Professor Linda Graham works in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Linda coordinates Inclusive Education Theory, Policy and Practice, a core unit in the Faculty of Education’s Master of Inclusive Education and leads QUT’s Student Engagement, Learning & Behaviour Research Group (@SELB_QUT), and is a member of the Board for All Means All – Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education. She has published more than 80 books, chapters and journal articles, and is leading two current large scale projects investigating educational responses to students with learning and behavioural difficulties. Linda blogs at drlindagraham.wordpress.com.au and can often be found on Twitter: @drlindagraham
Dr Kate de Bruin works in the Faculty of Education at Monash University Her current research investigates evidence-informed practice and policy in inclusive education, with a focus developing teacher capacity for using inclusive pedagogies in ways that improve equity and quality schooling for all students, and she regularly provides professional learning to school teachers in these areas. She has worked with government departments on projects such as the Victorian Inclusion Support Programme, and the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data for Students with Disabilities.
Dr Ilektra Spandagou is a senior lecturer at the Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney. She worked as a special teacher in mainstream settings before she completed her PhD at the University of Sheffield, UK, in inclusive education. She has worked in inclusive education in three countries: as a researcher at the University of Sheffield, UK, and as a lecturer at the University of Athens and the University of Thessaly, Greece, before moving to The University of Sydney. Her research interests include inclusion, disability, comparative education and classroom diversity. Her current research projects focus on inclusive policy and practice within a rights perspective. A common thread of this work is a conceptual understanding of inclusive education as a transformation project requiring a paradigmatic shift in perceptions of both ability and education. Her publications include the book ‘Inclusive Education: International Policy & Practice’ (co-authored with A.C. Armstrong and D. Armstrong) published by Sage in 2010.