Ensuring inclusive education for children and young people with disability


    Supporting inclusive education is a central part of CYDA's work. We undertake ongoing systemic advocacy to ensure Australia realises inclusive education for all children and young people with disability. Our work is informed by the experiences, challenges and needs of students with disability.

    Transitions to school

    A child’s transition to the first formal year of schooling is one of the most significant transitions for a child with disability and their family. Being school ready is characterised by four elements:

    • the child’s readiness for school,
    • the school’s readiness for the child,
    • the capacity of families and communities to support the child and
    • the availability of early childhood services to provide developmental opportunities for the child.

    This has been represented as an equation:[i]

    Ready families + Ready early childhood services + Ready communities + Ready schools
    = Ready children

    [i] United States National School Readiness Indicators Initiative (2005)   

    Advocacy for school

    Australia does not offer young people and families an independent oversight body that ensures  education providers – in early childhood, school, post-school and adult education settings – are meeting their legal obligations and via which complaints can be independently investigated, monitored and resolved.

    The Disability Standards for Education (DSE) have been in place for 17 years and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) since 1992. Neither the DDA, the DSE or any state or territory based polices ensure an equitable and quality education for students with disability.

    As children with disability begin their 13-year school journey, families and caregivers need greater access to advocacy outside of the NDIS, including individual advocacy for families and young people with disability. Further investment from the Australian Government for independent disability advocacy will ensure students have their rights to inclusive education upheld and families/caregivers can more successfully manage the work and care balance with the time they previously spent on advocacy.

    CYDA’s work on education


    • What is inclusive education?

      Inclusive education is about everyone learning, growing and flourishing – together – in all our diversity. Inclusive education recognises the right of every child and young person – without exception – to be included in general education settings. It involves adapting the environment and teaching approaches to ensure genuine and valued full participation of all children and young people. It embraces human diversity and welcomes all as equal members of an educational community.

      See our Fact Sheet What is Inclusive Education?

    • What is the current state of play for students with disability?

      Every year CYDA completes a National Education Survey to advocate to government about inclusive education.

      The results from the 2019 CYDA National Education Survey are available in our report Time for change: The state of play for inclusion of students with disability.

      CYDA conducted the survey between August and September 2019. It provided important information on the school experiences of children and young people with disability, with 505 people taking part, including young people, families and caregivers.

      In our 2020 report Not even remotely fair: Experiences of students with disability during COVID-19, we explore the experiences of students with disability in relation to the educational changes made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research evidence from before the pandemic suggests that despite a number of policy commitments and initiatives at local and national levels, we have seen only limited progress in moving towards inclusive education and that children and young people with disability often fare poorly in the education system. This is despite the fact that all of the evidence suggests that inclusive education is not just better for children and young people with disability, but can have significant positive impacts for the whole classroom. 

      Although the shift to remote learning and the associated impacts of the pandemic have raised some new issues, several respondents indicated that the issues faced are more longstanding. Over the longer term the only way to prevent these issues arising in future waves of the pandemic or during other emergencies is to genuinely implement inclusive education practices. 



    • Can CYDA help us with individual advocacy at our school?

      Individual advocacy involves helping to resolve individual issues that children and young people with disability and their families are facing in their education. Many people contact CYDA seeking individual advocacy.

      CYDA is not funded to provide individual advocacy, however, there are many organisations that can help with individual circumstances. See our Get help section to find an organisation that can assist.

      It is vital that young people and families continue to contact CYDA and tell us about their experiences. This insight and knowledge informs us about change that is occurring and identifies areas where systemic changes are required. You can contact us if you need a referral, assistance or just want to tell us what is happening for children and young people with disability in their education.

    • What are the benefits of inclusive education?

      Research evidence overwhelmingly supports inclusive education. As well as positive outcomes for social justice and a sense of community and belonging, there are benefits for learning outcomes and for the social, behavioural and physical development of children and young people who do and do not experience disability.

      Our Fact Sheet What are the benefits of inclusive education? outlines the benefits for all students, students with disability, teachers and educators, and families and the broader community.


    • What is ableism in education?

      Barriers to inclusive education prevent children and young people with disability from learning and participating fully, with far-reaching and lifelong implications. Major barriers include negative attitudes and stigma around ‘difference’ and ‘disability’, inadequate education and professional development for teachers and specialist support staff, and systemic barriers, such as inadequate funding and support from education authorities. Underpinning these barriers is ongoing ableism.

      See our Fact Sheet Addressing ableism in education for more information.

    • Why is a transformation needed to create inclusive education in Australia?

      In our Fact Sheet Transformation to inclusive education: the next steps, we outline the steps needed to realise inclusive education in Australia.

      Leadership is required to bring about the substantial change needed to ensure every child and young person can fully and genuinely participate and have the contribution they make recognised.

      Driving change: A roadmap for achieving inclusive education in Australia’  has been developed by the Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education (ACIE) and endorsed by many organisations around Australia.  

      This is a 10 year plan recommending stepped change to realise inclusive education to ensure all students with disability are fully included in their education.

      The Roadmap for achieving inclusive education in Australia has two key sections:

      1. the outcomes that need to occur, stepped out over the next 10 years; and
      2. the key levers for change needed to realise these outcomes. 



    Sort Hide Filters