IHC commissioned research into inclusive education because much has been written on the subject, but the pieces of the puzzle had not been put together in a New Zealand context.
Inclusive education is essential if disabled children are to achieve their basic human right to a decent education – and live meaningful, productive and successful lives in New Zealand.
This research outlines the thinking behind inclusive education, how it works in the classroom, and what parents can aspire to for their disabled children. It guides schools and teachers on how to make inclusive education happen in their classrooms.
For policymakers and governmental organisations, it spotlights the central issues in the debate about segregation versus inclusive education and calls on them to make inclusive education a priority for all New Zealand children.
Unfortunately, while some New Zealand schools are creating inclusive environments for disabled students, inclusive education is not a priority at senior levels in education. Without leadership, most parents have to fight hard to make sure their children, who are in regular schools, get support, have friends and learn well.
Disabled children and young people say they want to be at school with their peers from their communities, but sometimes they are bullied and left out of things at school. Teachers face a quandary when they don’t have the knowledge or resources to teach a diverse group of students, including those who are disabled.
To achieve inclusive education for all children, change is essential – we need better education policies, more positive values and practices in schools, and we need to listen to what disabled students themselves say.
IHC believes that despite the difficulties, the only way forward is through inclusive education. Its time has come. Inclusive education offers hope for greater achievement by greater numbers of students. All children can prosper in a responsive, safe and supportive learning environment.
For the first time in New Zealand, 'Learning better together' puts together a coherent picture of what we as disabled students, advocates, parents, teachers, principals, community leaders, ministry officials, policymakers and politicians can aspire to in schools.
'Learning better together' gives us the tools we need to make sure that nobody gets left out at school. IHC believes that inclusive schools will lead to inclusive communities where disabled people belong, are supported and contribute.