Thom Nevill

How to succeed at inclusion

The first of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conferenceIf you want to cover a session at the conference, please email to check in. Thanks!

This blog was put together by Lara Maia-Pike, the centre coordinator in The Centre for Inclusive Education QUT and an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Thom Nevill & Glenn Savage, University of Western Australia The changing rationalities of Australian federal and national inclusive education policies

In this session the presenters discussed their recent paper focusing on developments of inclusive education in federal and national reform. They started by providing a historical and conceptual analysis of inclusive education policies, particularly during the period of 1992 to 2015.

Political rationality refers to logical ways of thinking about policy development. The methodology used in their paper involves intervention approaches to policy analysis, paying close attention to context and how meaning is constructed in policy. They identified three phases of policy development: one, standardisation, two, neo-social and three, personalisation.

Phase 1: Rationality of standardisation (1992-2005): mode of reason, clear consistent and national guidelines (for example DDA & DSE). 

Phase 2: Review on the standards impact: emphasis on economic goods, producing wider education reforms (for example, the National Disability Strategy and NDIS). Banner of “education revolution”. Role in fostering economic productivity, emphasis of economic benefits of inclusion, broader productivity agenda.

Phase 3: The rise of personalisation, refers to how a service can be made more effective by tailoring to the needs of the students. Teachers can make education more inclusive and equitable by tailoring it to student needs (for example, the NCCD)

What are the implications? There is the shift from conceptualising inclusion collectively to personalisation of inclusion AND there is a responsibilisation of teachers and mothers.

Key insights:

  1. Rationalities that underpin inclusive education policies evolved and mutated over time. Economic rationalities have rearticulated the meaning and practices of inclusive education.
  2. Emerging and unexplored tensions between rationalities of standardisation and rationalities of personalisation.

Ilektra Spandagou, The University of Sydney Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Early Interventions; Tensions for Inclusion

The presenter explored how early intervention is constructed within the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. The concept of early intervention is deceptively simple, often refers to early actions that could prevent future complication or need. Early intervention goes beyond education and has been critiqued because often is not distinguished from early childhood development. 

Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) (UN, 1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN, 2006) early intervention is a established right for children with disability. Early intervention in International Conventions often sits within Health-related conventions. Early intervention in the Sustainable Development Goals carries policy narratives and a collective approach across different regions of the world. Findings include universal interventions, general targeted initiatives, targeted-mixed interventions (targeting disadvantages with interventions that reduce poverty) and interventions specifically targeted to disability. 

Universal interventions are varied, many are integrated programs that combine health, social and educational services. In some countries early interventions look into reducing poverty. 
Early interventions matter and can change the experience of disability. It sits across several fields which are often ignored from the field of inclusive education. While many of these initiatives in early intervention are necessary, the critique is that early intervention needs to be done in an inclusive way. 


Kate de Bruin, Monash University Why Inclusive Education Reforms Fail in Australia: A Path to Dependency Analysis

The presenter focused on the question as to why policy reforms fail. The presenter discussed Path Dependency Theory, which is often applied in economics, and explains the resistance to change. The theory has three essential components: first, refers to initials’ conditions; second subsequent event and finally institutions reproduced it. Institutions become self-reinforced.

The initial conditions of Victorian education focused on creating a workforce to develop and sustain the economy. This led to the early critical juncture rise of Eugenics, which was enthusiastically taken by medical associations. Tools to screen for deviance and intelligence were developed, screening a large number of children. More and more children were identified, more and more assessors needed, growing exponentially, and leading to the creation of special schools. IQ tests became an intrenched mechanism leading institutions defend and reproduce segregation, through a legitimate-based mechanism. The moral argument was reconstructed by the legitimacy argument. During the 1980 categorical models were developed, where children had to meet a minimum threshold and category, and IQ tests were still used to segregate people, despite the development of conventions and legislation on the rights of people with disability regarding their education. With the development of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN, 2006), the right to inclusive education was clearly defined under the General Comment No.4, Despite human rights recognition and legal obligations to implement inclusive education, many institutions still benefit, including profit making, from segregation.