Bourke, Patricia E. (2010) Inclusive education reform in Queensland:

Bourke, Patricia E. (2010) Inclusive education reform in Queensland: Implications for policy and practice. The International Journal of Inclusive Education. 14(2), pp. 183-193.


In Queensland, Australia, the school system is being reformed to be more ‘inclusive’. However the enthusiasm for 'inclusive education' in Queensland seems to be waning amongst practitioners, and the confusion, frustration, guilt and exhaustion' that has emerged with teachers and support practitioners in the UK, is emerging amongst support practitioners and teachers in Queensland. This article argues that this is happening because inclusive education reforms that intend to provide an equitable education for all students regardless of cultural, physical, social/emotional and behavioural differences, are being introduced, but these policies, procedures and stuructures continue to label, isolate and segregate students within schools in the way in which segregated special education facilities did in the past. As well, new policies and structures are being introduced without practitioners having the time and support to critically examine the underlying assumptions about disability, difference and inclusion that underpin their practices.

  • Slee (2006) noted that inclusive education reform has taken a particular path that has led to a re-badging of ‘special education’ as ‘inclusive education’ in policy and educational discourses, rather than a completely different path that interrogates how educational classification systems govern a “descending order of human value” (Slee, 2006, p. 112)
  • Students with disabilities and learning difficulties continue to be identified in terms of medical or psychological deficits, as either not within the ‘normal’ range or standards of academic achievement or social-emotional control, or slow to achieve such standards.
  • Slee (2007) argues that the adoption of an unexamined discourse of inclusion by policy makers and special educators has led to teachers, administrators and politicians claiming that there is ‘trouble with inclusion.’ 
  • The concepts of ‘integration’ and ‘inclusion’ are still confused, and influence the ways in which teachers and specialist teachers utilize teacher aides to support students’ learning and
    socialization, often in ways that contribute to the stigmatization of students with peers
    rather than their acceptance.
  • The roles of support personnel in schools have been significantly restructured over time. From a resource/remedial teacher with one-on-one withdrawal of students for individualised instruction, the specialist teacher moved to team-teaching with the classroom teacher. (Page 6)
  • LSTs, the trained special education teachers, would spend even less time with students withdisabilities, less time in class with teachers, and more time managing and developing intervention programs and training staff, classroom teachers and teacher aides, to administer them.
  • A hierarchical model has emerged with teachers expressing concern and resentment that they are now more fully responsible for meeting the pedagogical needs of all of the students within their classes, including students with disabilities and complex learning and behavioural needs, and modifying and differentiating curriculum without readily available specialist support, except for the services of Advisory Visiting Teachers (AVTs) when requested.
  • Teachers in Queensland have been left feeling under-qualified, time poor, and frustrated by inclusive education reforms which add further levels of bureaucracy and managerial responsibilities to their already complex and demanding roles in large classrooms.
  • Thomas Loxley (2001, p. 17) argue further that teachers are confused by the “epistemic jungle of theoretical models” about learning. Teachers are also confused about what inclusion actually means with many holding personal assumptions about including students from a ‘special needs’ deficit model of disability. 
  • Teachers also struggle with the presence of another adult in the classroom (French, 2001; Ghere & York-Barr, 2007; Gunter et al., 2005; Howes, 2003), and are confused about how to utilise teacher aides to support learning (Giangreco & Broer, 2005; Hunt, Soto, Maier, & Doering, 2003).
  • Research has shown that not including teachers and teacher aides in decisions about how practices will be reformed to be more inclusive leads to feelings of imposition and resentment on the part of practitioners, and therefore negative attitudes towards professional development designed to inform these changes.
  • Carrington and Robinson (2004) found examples of inclusive practice in schools where support networks work collaboratively to include all students in the learning process. However there are many schools where varying assumptions about inclusion, and the subsequent deployment of resources such as teacher aides, cause confusion and marginalize support staff and students rather than including all.