Validating the British Index for Inclusion for the Australian Context

In response to the "Index for Inclusion" (Booth & Ainscow, 2002) Joanne Deppeler and David Harvey presented a paper entitled Validating the British Index for Inclusion for the Australian Context: stage one.  This presents a summary of the outcomes from the first stage of a three year program funded by the Australian Research Council Strategic Partnership Industry Research Training (ARC-SPIRT) scheme and the Catholic Education Office in Victoria.

"This study is innovative not only because it uses a set of standards to frame the goals and foci for professional development, but also because it uses the school’s involvement in inclusive reform as the basis for teacher commitment and interaction" (pp168).

This longitudinal study, in Catholic primary and secondary schools, investigates the effectiveness and sustainability of a whole-school approach to improving inclusive practice, strengthening transition networks outside the school and improving learning for students with disabilities. The first stage of the project evaluates the recently developed Index for Inclusion (2000). The Index clearly provides a valuable starting point, but as it was developed in the UK, there is a need to establish its validity for use in the Australian context. There is a need, therefore, to ensure its content fits with local ‘cultures’ including Commonwealth legislation and State and school-level policy legislation. The paper reports on a six-phase process of validation and modification including both quantitative and qualitative analyses and the resulting trial versions of four questionnaires (Deppeler and Harvey 2004 p155).

Deppeler and Harvey (2004) outline that despite federal and state legislation in place there are still barriers to the inclusion of students with disability.

In Victoria, Australia, moves to support inclusive education have been
reflected in changes to State level policy, higher levels of funding to support
the identification of students with disabilities, and teacher professional
development initiatives (Department of Education Victoria 1998). Despite
these moves to facilitate the inclusion of all students in schools, there is
research evidence that substantive barriers to inclusion still exist.
(Deppler and Harvey 2004 p156).

Issues highlighted in background studies included

  1. Teachers appear to lack the skills to teach multilevel curriculum and identified a need for increased funding and resources in order to support students with disabilities.
  2. Inclusive policies are seen by many teachers as contributors to excessive workloads
  3. Many support programmes focus heavily on aid support for individual students rather than making any changes to pedagogy or systems in place.
  4. Difficulties are met through student centric approaches based on student diagnosis as opposed to school organization changes.
The aim of the project was to develop a standards index that could be used by schools to review and improve current processes that facilitate inclusion and strengthen transition networks with organisations outside the school (pp159).
The researchers conducted the study in three phases - 1. Review of the British Index. 2.  Audit of schools using the newly developed Index. 3and 4. determine the indicators that provide foci for school improvement. 5. School organisation questionnaire. 

It was decided that the British Index was considered too large and unwieldy to use in its original form, hence the decision to construct four separate questionnaires for the four major stakeholder groups affected by the project. This decision was also informed by the argument made by Booth et al. (2000) that the full range of indicators identified by the Index was not relevant to all parts of the school community (pp.167).
These questionnaires are considered to be only one element of a standards framework that can be used by schools to review and improve processes that facilitate inclusion. It is also the case that, despite its comprehensiveness, the Index for Inclusion does not directly address questions of leadership or curriculum. Both have been included in the new questionnaires (pp167).