Abstract

This paper presents findings from a large-scale, in-depth study of secondary schools in one Australian state that were achieving exceptional outcomes. The element of that study on which this paper focuses is equity and inclusion. We examine the Equity programs operating in seven sites where schools were including students experiencing some form of disadvantages significant enough to hinder their engagement with the school curriculum. These forms of disadvantage included students with intellectual disabilities as well as students from Aboriginal, non English-speaking and low socio-economic status backgrounds. At these sites, schools implemented equity programs targeting a range of student needs. It was noted that the success of those programs was largely dependent on the relationships between teachers and students and between teachers and their colleagues. Four themes emerged from analysis of interview and observational data; i) teachers focused on students' learning needs, ii) teachers worked collaboratively in effective teams in communities, iii) programs had adequate and well-managed resources and, iv) programs were developed to meet students' needs. Central to all of these themes was the learning needs of students. Rather than paying ‘lip service' to aspects of disadvantage, students in these schools were actually being included in the process of learning and programs had as their central focus the learning needs of individual students.

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