twins walking to school
This module will help you understand our education system in relation to obtaining the additional school resources and funds to support students with disability, and also understand how your own school operates within that system.

Additionally, the module provides a framework to facilitate collaborative and student focused discussions between parents and educators in order to see how they might boost the allocation of resources, and how they can use what they already have to support the student better.

“For parents to trust the system, teachers need to pull back the curtain and explain what is available, be transparent about resource allocations and how we can make what we have work best for their child.”


Sky border


  • All children can, and deserve to learn
  • Student centred
  • Open and regular communication underpins effective collaboration
  • Collaboration is integrated into teacher and School practices and procedures
  • Student voice is paramount – every discussion and decision must have student voice considered


  • All children can, and deserve to learn
  • Student-centred
  • Open and regular communication underpins effective collaboration
  • Collaboration is integrated into teacher and School practices and procedures
  • Student voice is paramount – every discussion and decision must have student voice considered
Sky border
Let’s understand our school
Every school has its own unique way to operate. It is important we share a clear understanding of how our school operates and how this might impact on our student.

It is important that both teachers and parents are aware of the organisational structure within each school: “Who is who in the school”.  Parents are often unaware of the processes that are involved within the school setting. Department jargon and lack of awareness of the key roles played within educational settings can cause misunderstanding, lack of communication and a loss of shared knowledge about the student.

Staff working with our student, or those who may be required to work with the student, need to come together to work collaboratively to ensure the student is supported. Classroom routines, playground routines and how they are used; including the internal school workings – policies, procedures and protocols, all need to be shared and explained.


Let’s take a few moments to complete a brief diagram outlining the different staff and their involvement within our school environment. You can use the “Who is who in the school” resource for this.

Who is who in the school
Who is who in the school

It is important to have a thorough understanding of who are the staff in your school and what their roles are, and how they can assist you. Please read over the completed “Who is Who in the School” Document (once completed by your child’s teacher).

Who is who in the school
Who is who in the school
Let’s understand our education system
“As a teacher I already had an excellent understanding of the processes needed from the school’s perspective. I was able to be very involved in this. The school being honest about what they could and couldn’t do and the willingness to work together to address difficulties”


Resource allocation, sometimes referred to as funding, is the way our schools access the additional resources and funds within the system to support your child. Some of this is by means of extra money that is allocated to school due to the needs of individual students. Some of the funds are for specific supports for an individual. Some funding is given to be shared in the school for additional staffing, physical resources and technology, staff training, releasing staff to plan and attend meetings. These are just some of the ways extra resourcing is used.
“My son’s teacher lets me know what resources she uses in the class, so I can also purchase identical copies for home use. The consistency of resources makes life much easier for my child. For example, we have the identical dictionary and thesaurus at home, just like the one in his classroom. The familiarity of resources minimises his anxiety”


Our education system currently relies too much on using labels and diagnoses to access resources for students living with disability. However, they are usually not helpful otherwise.

Using labels for other than this purpose does challenge a strengths-based, student centred positive approach to risk. All the effort in focusing on the individual, what they can already do, and what they are aspiring to achieve, is highly at risk as soon as we start to refer to these labels in any form of our interaction with, reference to, planning for, and assessing achievement. They have a place (unfortunately) in our system to allocate resources, and that should be their only purpose.

“Arguably the word ‘disabled’ has developed to support an ableist ideology. The labelling of a person as disabled placed them in a category separate from the able-bodied population. This separating has contributed to the ableist ideology of exclusion and oppression. The use of the term ‘disability’ therefore portrays people with impairments as the binary opposite of people without impairments”

(Adapted from Harpur, 2012:329)

Research suggests that there are increasingly narrow definitions of the ‘normal’ child and the accompanying rise in the number of labels for children who differ from the ‘norm’. Labels such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and many more. It was stated that many more children, especially boys, are being labelled (adapted from Goodley, 2011 cited in Mallet & Runswick-Cole, 2014). The proliferation of the acronym is said to be a phenomenon in itself. “One could choose almost any letter of the alphabet, add a ‘D’ to it and find a category defining school aged children as a problem or as having a particular problem that is to be recorded in the school files” (Baker, 2002:677, cited in Mallet & Runswick-Cole, 2014).

Mara Sapon-Shevin in her book “Initial Steps for Developing a Caring School”, outlines that the following needs to happen for effective change to occur within schools:


  • Take the labels off the students –  Announcements over the public-address system, school newsletters, award assemblies can all identify students by name and accomplishment without labels. All students in the school can be referred to by name, as individuals.  There is no need to divide classrooms or students into those who are special or regular. They can all be discussed and referred to as just classrooms and students.
  • Take the labels off the teachers –  Encourage and support all teachers to see themselves as responsible for all the students in the school. Teachers should be thought about in terms of their expertise areas, and decisions about which students they interact with based on who might benefit from their knowledge and expertise.  
Let’s face a common dilemma
When an honest and open conversation about what our student needs and what resources the school is using to support our student is held, a common dilemma is faced. There are never enough resources to go around! Collaborative, student focussed parents and educators are compelled to be creative in order to see how we might boost the allocation of resources for our student within the system or school allocation, and how we can use what we have better or differently to support our student.
“Having a strong understanding of curriculum and assessment processes along with a strong understanding of how these can be used flexibly, is essential to personalised learning. This may require a special educator and classroom teacher to work together to combine their expertise, putting pressure on resources, but is a more effective use of time”


“The various constraints on the school in relation to resources, I worry about what impact this will have on inclusion”


The power of peers
“Students contribute to the learning of other students and to the school community more broadly”

(Learning and Wellbeing Framework – New South Wales Department of Education)


The other key support in schools are the peers and they can often be overlooked in favour of support from adults. It is important to challenge this thinking and explore all the natural supports available in the school. One of the biggest mistakes made in inclusion is assuming that help and support must always come from an adult. When a teacher’s aide is velcroed or glued to the child we can create almost two separate classrooms. One where the class teacher works with the rest of the class and the teacher’s aide only works with the student with disability.  The research also indicates that the perception from the class peers is that the student with disability is ok as they have an adult looking after them and they become very reluctant to jump in and help the student with disability in activities and group work.

Research indicates that peer teaching is very successful. Children of the same age share similar language and problem solving abilities. Within a social atmosphere, the way that kids can relate to each other is done much more easily, than with adults.

(adapted from Mara Sapon Shevin)

Philosophy in Practice – Mara Sapon Shevin
Philosophy in Practice – Mara Sapon Shevin
Peer support interventions were developed to offer an effective, practical approach for assisting students with disability to access the general curriculum and to further develop meaningful peer relationships. Within peer support interventions there is the expressed goal of increasing both access to the general education curriculum and the facilitation of social interactions in general educational settings that may not have otherwise occurred within these contexts. Peer support involves one or more classmates without disabilities providing academic and social support to a student with disability. These classmates then take a direct role in accessing the general curriculum under the supervision of one or more adults. Peer support strategies have been shown in research to either maintain or enhance student’s academic engagement within the classroom and with the general curriculum. Research also indicates that peer support interventions also improve a broad array of social outcomes – from brief interactions through to sustained social contacts.

(adapted from Carter & Kennedy, 2006)

Read more:

Promoting Access to the General Curriculum Using Peer Support Strategies

Encourage Friendships for Children with Disabilities


The Power of Peers (Video) – Family Advocacy

Inclusion can support the social and emotional development of non-disabled students

Attending class alongside a student with disability can yield positive impacts on the social attitudes and beliefs of non-disabled students. A literature review describes five benefits of inclusion for non-disabled students:

  1. Reduced fear of human differences. Accompanied by increased comfort and awareness (less fear of people who look or behave differently)
  2. Growth in social cognition (increased tolerance of others, more effective communication with all peers)
  3. Improvements in self-concept (increased self-esteem, perceived status, and sense of belonging)
  4. Development of personal moral and ethical principles (less prejudice, higher responsiveness to the needs of others)
  5. Warm and caring friendships.

(Staub & Peck, 1995)

click on the + sign to see 12 ways peers benefit from working with students with disabilities
  1. Greater academic achievement, and class participation
  2. Increased opportunities to receive and provide social support
  3. Improved grades and homework completion
  4. Acquisition of new support and advocacy skills
  5. Additional attention and feedback from adults
  6. Lasting friendships
  7. Source of accomplishment and personal growth
  8. Appreciation for the importance and value of inclusion
  9. Increased class and school attendance
  10. Increased self-confidence and assumption of greater responsibility
  11. Deeper knowledge about, and understanding of specific disabilities
  12. Greater appreciation of diversity and individual differences

(Adapted from Social Lives and Learning, Kennedy n.d)

Peers are a powerful support, and the ultimate goal of an inclusive learning environment is for peers to accept and support each other.  This can be achieved through finding opportunities for peers to engage with shared ideas/interests as well as teachers modelling of respectful support (particularly for younger students).  One way we create such opportunities is through play-based learning tasks, and learning activities which are accessible for all students.  Children generally love to celebrate each other’s successes in learning.


Prior to any conversations it’s good to have thought about what we want to talk about!
Let’s think about what information is available in regards to our specific school, and the system our student is enrolled in, and what we may need to share with each other.

We are aiming to have enough of an understanding to be able to have honest and frank conversations, and create collaboration about what we need, what we have, and how we can best use this for our student.

“Knowledge of school practices always helps. My husband is a teacher so he was able to share information to help me understand the school’s position. Funding and resourcing are huge, as well as relevant policies. These have a big impact on agreed adjustments for school”


Please click on the icon that applies to you to see the content
In module 1 you completed a number of check lists and other information that will now be good to think about. Using the documents from module 1, let’s now think about and consider what supports you might need in the classroom, on the playground, library, excursions or other areas at school.
Do you have everything you need?

“The more we understood as parents, the more we could be sure we weren’t asking for things that weren’t at least the expected, and minimum for all other students. Understanding the school’s processes meant we knew what to ask for”


What resources are available in my child’s school?

Who do I need to know and what do they do?

What internal workings/policies/protocols of the school do I need to be aware of?

Is there any flexibility required in any of these to ensure my child is supported and adjusted for accordingly?

Who is working with my child in the school?

What additional supports, curriculum, instructional, environmentally are being used with my child?

Are there any gaps we can work together on to either request more resourcing or adjust current support to meet these gaps?

What can I ask the teacher to contribute to help here?  How might my child be able to add into this/be involved?

Our school’s resources – parent
Who are we working with in the school?

A teacher said: “It’s important to have all staff on board. All teachers were given a copy of his IEP (Individual Education Plan) and are made aware of what he needs to get through each class. My student has access to the school counsellor if he needs them. He has a learning support teacher assisting in the classroom, and when we have had issues the executive were very quick to come on board and support and act to ensure we all work together to make a plan and to have mentors to help my student through. It is very positive when you know who you can go to for support and advice in your school to support your student and you.”

What additional supports, curriculum, instructional, environmentally are being used with our student.  What policies will be used to guide our work with our student?

Are there any gaps we can work together to either request more resourcing or adjust current support to meet the gaps? What can I ask the parent to contribute to help here? How might the student be able to input?

Our school’s resources – teacher
Let’s talk about it
“We need to pull back the curtain and work together to enable full support of our student”

Teachers and Parents from collaboration

Share – Parent and teacher pre-work: work on who’s who in the school, share this information and also what are the school’s policies and procedures


Consider – Clarification of who is important we work with, or go to for certain information or support within the school.

Is there any flexibility required in any of these policies, practices to ensure my child/student has access, and is supported and adjusted for accordingly?


Impact – How might this information now be noted and integrated into how our student is understood, taught, and valued?

Share – Student pre-work and teacher pre-work on additional supports


Consider – Are there any gaps or changes we can work together on, to either request more resourcing or adjust current support to meet these gaps?


Impact – How might this information now be noted and integrated into how our student is understood, taught and valued.

Conversation guide –  School resources and additional supports
Conversation guide –  School resources and additional supports
Let’s share something positive to start with – on the topic of something we have discovered about our student or more generally.

What has been discussed, decided upon?

Has the student been consulted before, during, and in regards to the outcome?

What needs to be followed up, who will do this, by when, and how will we know it’s been done? Is there a review required?

Who else is it important we share this information with? How will we do this? Who will do this? – (consider other staff, replacement teachers, peers).

Now go back to the “Conversation Guide” document for this module and complete the “actions” section.