Developing Inclusive Practice to Support Priority and Special Needs Students

The Challenge

Due to a growing number of Priority Learners, the teachers and SENCO were struggling to effectively meet the learning and behavioural needs of all their learners. Poor oral language, social skills and behaviour were all areas of concern. Coupled with this was the challenge of building inclusive and safe effective learning environments. The teachers wanted help!

These were the concerns:

  • The number of Special Needs students was increasing as the school was becoming a ‘magnet school’
  • Teachers were struggling to meet the needs of Priority Students and were concerned about the other students
  • Students and parents were resentful of the time taken to ‘deal’ with these students
  • Many of the Special Need students did not feel included in the classroom – no friends
  • Teachers were trying to differentiate but had come to rely on Teacher Aides, when available, to work with the Special Needs students
  • All students needed help with social and communication skills
  • Transitions between classes were areas of stress for Priority Needs students as each teacher had different behavioural expectations and teaching methods
  • Teachers didn’t feel supported and valued around the amount of ‘extra’ work required
  • Classroom management practices were deficit based and not positive, despite being a PB4L school
  • The SENCO was feeling overloaded as teachers removed students for minor infringements rather than deal with it themselves
  • Teachers had no pedagogy for creating a safe and inclusive learning environment

The Solution

After talking and meeting with the staff, we decided that developing a shared pedagogy for creating a safe and inclusive environment was crucial. This pedagogy would also set up a support network in the classroom so the teacher was not the sole means of support.

Our hunch was if we implemented this pedagogy, classrooms would be more inclusive, and teachers would have more time to teach, versus managing the class.

Action Plan:

Increase teacher capability through a 10 hour training session in Kagan Structures for Active Engagement

Three Key Areas

  1. Set up a caring, safe and inclusive classroom culture
  2. Create an in-class support network – strategic learning pairs and teams
  3. Shared pedagogy to increase student engagement, oral language, social skills, classroom management, and raise achievement


  • Facilitated professional dialogue to identify and analyse existing barriers and challenges
  • Modeled and used cooperative structures and learning teams to support Priority and Special Needs learners
  • Built teacher capability to support Priority and Special Needs learners
  • Developed an inclusive and equitable class culture where diversity is appreciated and safety is assured
  • Created learning teams where Priority and Special Needs learners feel respected, connected and safe
  • Increased oral language development through multiple opportunities to share in pairs and teams


Classroom culture improved, becoming more inclusive and caring, with Special Need students feeling included and respected. With the  reduction in behaviour problems, there were less students being removed from the room, resulting in raised student acheievement due to increased learning time. Students learned key values such as empathy, tolerance, kindness and patience. Teachers’ now had a support network as they were all on the same page. Transitions became less stressful for the Priority Students due to shared pedagogy for instruction, and expectations around behaviour.

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