Between 2003 and 2005 the New Zealand Ministry of Education facilitated and funded a major research and teacher professional learning and development (PLD) programme to support teachers effectively include all learners.
This programme of research and teacher PLD, Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE) focused on supporting teachers develop strategies to examine inclusive practices in primary and secondary school contexts. At the time, the aims were to:
- Provide professional learning for teachers to support learners who require significant adaptations to the curriculum
- Facilitate and encourage reflective practice and action for change
- Identify and develop emerging understandings and knowledge of effective pedagogy and teaching practices that have an outcome focus for learners
- Build and sustain learning communities within and across schools.
- Enhance the learning and participation of all learners
- Support for teachers through professional learning and development opportunities in order that they can provide environments where all children and young people can learn
- Develop further understanding about “what works” for children, under what circumstances and in what contexts
- Inform ongoing policy development
Through this work it was clear that wider school cultures and policies influenced teacher decisions, and therefore more systemic changes and reform would facilitate the process.
As a trial, the Index for Inclusion was introduced as a process into 5 primary schools in New Zealand. This became part of a pilot project within this EPPiSE programme of work. Schools (usually teachers, principals and teacher-aides) were involved in exploring their existing pedagogical and learning practices and how inclusive these practices were for all students.
The Index became a powerful tool to commence dialogue between teachers, teacher aides, principals, parents and students. It became an encompassing change for many schools; teachers who commenced the process by identifying the Index as a ‘special education’ tool, later realised it supported broader school reform. As one principal noted, the Index for Inclusion was the
‘springboard to kick it [school reform] off. It is a process that “enabled schools to confront and initiative changes to their policies and practices for more inclusionary practices”’
(Bourke et al., 2007, p. 57).
The Index for Inclusion was used by schools as a tool to begin exploring how their policies, practices and cultures enabled all students within their schools to achieve and belong. Through simply reading the Index, asking themselves questions and identifying the areas to focus on, schools began on their pathway to change and initiative reform in their policies and practices.
All schools used an external facilitator who supported an internal ‘key person’(internal driver) within the school to keep the momentum going. The internal driver within the school was often a SENCO (special education needs coordinator) or senior teacher interested in inclusive education. The schools’ experiences around the use of the Index show that inclusion has no end point, or ‘one right track’, to describe when all students, teachers and teacher aides belong.
Current practice (2013)
The New Zealand Council for Education Research has been contracted by the Ministry of Education to develop a school-based online tool to support teachers to determine the extent of their inclusive practices. The NZCER was influenced by the principles and approach of the Index for Inclusion. Their work has culminated in developing Inclusive Practices Tools (ITP) designed to be used by primary and secondary schools who embark on a self-review process.
Other work using the Index for Inclusion in New Zealand
Chris McMaster is working with a secondary school using the Index for Inclusion. In this work he began the process as ‘an advocate and facilitator’ and transitioned into a supporting role as the school took greater responsibility for the process. This work is currently in progress. Chris can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bourke, R., Holden, B., & Dharan. V. (2007). ‘You think you’re doing it, but now I question myself. Using a self-review process in New Zealand schools for learning and change.’ The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, Vol 7 (2), 57–66.
Carrington, S., Bourke, R., & Dharan, V. (2012). ‘Whole school review and development for more inclusive schooling’. In Carrington, S., & MacArthur, J. (Eds), Teaching in Inclusive School Communities (347–372). Milton Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
Current relevant New Zealand websites
Education Gazette: 'Including students with high needs':
Special Education Online: 'Inclusive practice':
'Learning better together: Working towards inclusive education in New Zealand schools':
People to contact
Dr. Roseanna Bourke
School of Educational Psychology
Dr. Vijaya Dharan
Institute of Education