New inclusive education initiative with South Australian Government and universities

9 Oct 2023

Autism CRC is working with the South Australian Government and universities, as well as the Positive Partnerships team, to deliver greater learning in inclusive education practices to pre-service teachers in South Australia. The aim is to improve the knowledge, skills and confidence of South Australian pre-service teachers to support diverse learners in inclusive classrooms. Autism CRC will also work with the South Australian Department of Education to deliver similar professional development supports and resources for in-service teachers and school leaders across the state.

The Australian-first initiative is being funded by the SA Government and was launched in Adelaide on 3 October by the Premier, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas MP, SA Minister for Education, Training and Skills, the Hon. Blair Boyer MP and Assistant Minister for Autism and Assistant Minister to the Premier, the Hon. Emily Bourke MLC. 

“Providing aspiring teachers these skills will improve the level of support and understanding in classrooms across the public and non-government school sectors”, said Mr Malinauskas.

The University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Flinders University and Tabor College will work together to elevate the disability and inclusive education learning for trainee teachers from 2024. A research evaluation to assess the impact of the further learning will also be run for the first two years of the program.

The universities and Tabor College will have access to new pre-service teacher training modules developed by Autism CRC. The modules align with national frameworks of Initial Teacher Education and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Graduate teacher professional standards. They build upon and make use of the resources of Autism CRC’s national inclusive education practice platform, inclusionED. Topics covered include: Neurodiversity in the classroom; Universal design for learning; Using inclusionED to support diverse learners; unpacking and approaching classroom challenges; Goal setting; and, Understanding the Disability Standards for Education.

The University of Adelaide, University of South Australia and Tabor College will incorporate these learning modules within their teaching education programs. Flinders University, which already delivers Inclusive and Specialised Education degrees, will incorporate the latest findings from the research project.

From Semester 2 2024, students from each university will also benefit from autism training developed by Positive Partnerships during their course.

Speaking at the launch, Kate Daniel, member of an autistic family, said, “Schools and educators have a unique and privileged opportunity to help create inclusive and neuro-affirming environments and culture within school classrooms and communities. Better preparing our teachers by providing a disability and inclusion component of their teaching degrees will assist in creating inclusive and informed schools.”

This is a positive step towards building the capacity of teachers and school systems across the state to provide truly inclusive classrooms, ensuring parents and children can have greater confidence and choice in their local schooling options.

Also speaking at the launch was Sam Weaver, a young autistic entrepreneur who started his own popcorn business at just 12 years old. Sam accredited his success at school to a couple of primary school teachers who really understood and supported him.

Ms Daniel highlighted that, “An inclusive society benefits everybody…. I hope it [the project] creates learning environments that are safe, educators who are knowledgeable allies, children and young people that feel confident in self-advocating and connected communities who embrace diversity and celebrate it.”

“It would give me greater confidence in the education system to know there is a tertiary, embedded level of training and understanding across the teacher cohort in their degrees in regard to autism”, said Ms Daniel.

Federal Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP, welcomed the South Australian government’s decision to implement the program and said this was an important step towards filling knowledge gaps in the education sector.

Read the South Australian Government Media Release

Read the Australian Government Media Release

About inclusionED

inclusionED is an online professional learning community co-designed with educators, for educators. inclusionED practices are used across the country to support diverse learners, including autistic students. It provides evidence-based and research-informed teaching practices and tools to support diverse learners in inclusive classrooms. inclusionED has been designed to support the implementation of differentiated teaching strategies (under the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data). Each practice on inclusionED is mapped to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and where relevant, the Australian Curriculum.