Welcome to Inclusive Education.

About inclusive education


Inclusive education is where all children and young people are engaged and achieve through being presentparticipating, learning and belonging.

Children describe some of the barriers they face. They explain the importance of respect, understanding, communication, and support.

What is an inclusive school?

At fully inclusive schools, all students are welcome and are able to take part in all aspects of school life. Diversity is respected and upheld. Inclusive schools believe all students are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners and work towards this within the New Zealand Curriculum. Students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and their learning needs are addressed.

Inclusive schools: 

  • have ethical standards and leadership that build the culture of an inclusive school
  • have well-organised systems, effective teamwork and constructive relationships that identify and support the inclusion of all students
  • use innovative and flexible practices that respond to the needs of all students.

Educating for diversity: A framework for thinking about inclusive practices

As each student brings unique and diverse experiences, needs, and strengths to their learning, education systems need to be flexible and responsive to this predictable diversity, rather than expecting students to fit around a fixed system of teaching and learning.

The New Zealand Curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa require that all students’ identities, languages, cultures, abilities, and talents are recognised. The Curriculum is non-prescriptive and provides for a flexible learning approach. Schools have a mandate to develop their curriculum in a more personalised way as they notice, recognise, and respond to the needs of all their learners and their communities.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based approach that can be used by schools to support the design of more flexible inclusive learning environments optimised for personalisation.

The UDL framework provides guidance on multiple ways to:

  • present information to support understanding
  • provide options for students to create, learn, and collaborate
  • stimulate sustained interest and motivation in learning.  

Using UDL in your school

In a school or classroom implementing a UDL approach, students are able to personalise their learning in environments where diversity and variability are expected and valued. At the outset, barriers to students’ learning will have been identified and minimised in partnership with the students and those that know them well. Supports for learning will be embedded into the environment and made available to all students, rather than reserved for individuals or small groups of students.

UDL and differentiation

A differentiated approach is also part of the UDL framework. However the emphasis in UDL is on designing the least restrictive environment for all students. Taking this approach reduces the need for such extensive differentiation as students are able to independently customise the learning environment to meet many of their own needs.

Foundation documents and useful links

Ministry of Education policy documents

Success for All – Every school, every child Ministry of Education policy document on inclusive education.

What an inclusive school looks like Ministry of Education information sheet provides a detailed breakdown of the elements of inclusive schools.

Evaluation tools

Inclusive Practices Tools by the New Zealand Council of Educational Research details three themes and three sub-concepts of inclusive education practices.

Evaluation indicators from the Education Review Office’s 2010 report on Including students with high needs provide detailed indicators that ERO looks for in inclusive schools.

Curriculum documents

New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa which require that all students’ identities, languages, cultures, abilities and talents are recognised.


Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective, a 2012 research project commissioned by the Ministry of Education

Education that fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special educational needs a 2010 New Zealand review commissioned by the Ministry of Education

Universal Design for Learning

National Centre on Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

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This is a Ministry of Education initiative

Building a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills, and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century.