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What is inclusive education, and how can you implement it?

We discuss the meaning of inclusive education, and explore ways that you can implement it within the classroom.

Inclusive educator assists disabled child with school work

A fair and inclusive environment makes for a happy and healthy classroom. Teachers strive to maintain optimal classroom settings, and one of the best ways to do so is to implement inclusive education. 

If you’re a teacher who wants to make a difference and enhance learning opportunities for all of your students, this article is for you. We will discuss what inclusive education means, its importance, and explore how you can implement inclusive education in the classroom. 

What is inclusive education? 

Let’s begin with a definition of inclusive education. We can define inclusive education as a teaching model whereby all students, regardless of their ability, learn together in one environment. 

The aim of an inclusive education environment is to ensure that all students are treated fairly and get equal opportunities. Within an inclusive education environment, student diversity and uniqueness should be celebrated without discrimination. 

Sadly, there are still instances of children being treated differently based on their unique qualities. No students should be ostracised or segregated based on their differences or learning capabilities. Nor would any teacher ever consider doing this, if they knew what to look out for.

Some issues that students are often discriminated against include disability, race, gender, their household income or the language that they speak. Inclusive education aims to combat discrimination against all students. 

These issues are not only present in physical classrooms but in online and blended learning environments too. Our microcredentials, Online Teaching: Accessibility and Inclusive Learning and Online Teaching: Embedding Social, Race, and Gender-Related Equity offer a range of skills to equip you to teach an inclusive online lesson.

Studies have shown that the number of students with known disabilities is increasing. We need to be able to accommodate these students and give them equal access, as they all have a right to education

Types of inclusive education

All students are different and therefore have different individual needs. It’s important to choose the right type of inclusive education for your students based on their individual requirements.

Full inclusion

This teaching model is centred around the theory that all students belong within the main classroom. A full inclusion model means that students with visible or hidden disabilities will always work alongside their peers.

If a school is using the full inclusion model, they will need to closely monitor student progression and ensure that the plan is working for students. If a full inclusion plan is too much, a partial inclusion plan can be implemented instead. 

Partial inclusion

This teaching model is also built around allowing all students to learn and interact with the main classroom. However, partial inclusion also involves separated learning for students that need additional support outside of the classroom. 

For students involved in a partial inclusion plan, they will still spend the majority of their learning time in the main classroom. However, they will also spend time away from the main class to receive additional support from special education teachers. 

Some of the additional support given could also be disruptive if carried out in the main classroom; take speech-based lessons, for example. Partial inclusion is more flexible and allows classroom separation when it would be more beneficial for all students. 


With the mainstreaming method, disabled students will begin their education journey in a self-contained classroom away from the main classroom. 

If students are performing well within their self-contained classroom, they can be integrated into the main classroom based on their readiness. This method can be less daunting for some students, and allows them to gradually become a part of a fully inclusive classroom.

If you’re interested in learning more about how school systems support learning for all, check out our Right to education: breaking down the barriers course. 

Key features of inclusive teaching and learning

How you implement an inclusive education environment will differ between schools and situations. However, there are some key aims to keep in mind when creating your inclusive classroom plan. Let’s look at some important factors of this teaching model:

  • All students have an equal right to education
  • Classrooms should be made up of students with mixed abilities
  • No children should be separated from main groups based on discrimination
  • Appropriate activities should be planned and each student’s personal needs taken into consideration
  • Create an accessible environment (e.g. wheelchair ramps, and visual alternatives to lesson content for students with hearing impairments)
  • Support should be provided to all students to assist and allow them to reach their full potential

Importance of inclusive education

A welcoming and diverse educational environment can massively improve the wellbeing of students. But what makes inclusive education so important? 

Student confidence

Traditional methods of dealing with students with disabilities or learning difficulties can have a harmful impact on a students’ self-worth. Separating them into small groups and teaching them away from the main classroom pushes the idea that they are different and should be treated differently. 

Studies have shown that students with learning disabilities have lower self-esteem than those without, so we need to be careful and try to combat this. 

By giving all students the opportunity to mingle and be a part of the class, students will hopefully feel a sense of belonging and take part in positive peer interactions. However, there are instances where students may need additional support away from the classroom, such as after school classes for help with specific subjects. 

This does not mean that they cannot be a part of the main classroom for the larger chunk of their school days. In cases where students would benefit from being taught away from the main classroom for certain reasons, partial inclusion may be better than full inclusion. 

Improved communication skills

An inclusive classroom allows for all students to improve their ability to communicate with one another. If students were segregated, their social circles would be much smaller, and they would have fewer opportunities to interact with the wider classroom.

With an integrated classroom, students are able to interact with a wider range of students with a variety of abilities. This will open up opportunities for them to strengthen their communication skills and adapt to a varied level of social interaction. 

Additionally, this will help prepare them for the after school world and make the students career-ready. Once students have entered the workforce, they will be working alongside diverse communities with a range of abilities. It only makes sense that we prepare them for that and simulate the environment in the classroom. 

Quality of education

Every child should have equal access to high-quality education from their local schools. By offering an inclusive classroom environment, you can be sure that all students are offered the same level of education. Since separated classes for disabled students are often smaller, their lessons can vary from that of the main classroom. 

Teaching all students in one place ensures that no students are missing out on any of the curriculum. Teachers will also have different teaching styles and paces, so being taught by the same teachers can ensure that all students have equal access to the lesson content.

That being said, lessons should still be adapted to fit the needs of all students. Differentiated learning opportunities allow for each student’s educational needs to be met, and optimise their environments and let them reach their full potential.

How can I implement inclusive education in the classroom? 

It’s clear that an inclusive classroom can be beneficial for many students; it’s crucial to give all students a fair chance to learn in the right environment for them. Let’s look at some of the ways you can implement inclusive education in the classroom.

Cooperative learning

A great way to implement inclusive education in the classroom is to present tasks and activities in a way that encourages cooperative learning. By learning in groups, students are all given the opportunity to participate. When arranging group work, you may want to designate fair groups rather than giving students the opportunity to pick themselves. 

As well as giving students the chance to be a part of something, they will also be able to develop crucial social skills amongst each other. Group learning doesn’t just benefit those with disabilities or behavioural differences. It encourages all students to work alongside a range of different people and encourages inclusion even further. 

Specialised training

To make sure that teachers are creating the best possible learning environment, they should be equipped with the necessary tools and training. If you are a teacher and you’re keen to improve student inclusion, upskilling and acquiring additional training would be very beneficial.

Courses and training related to inclusion or student diversity can be very helpful for acquiring tips, techniques and strategies. Training in areas of student issues such as trauma awareness, autism or SEN (special educational needs) can prove incredibly useful. These courses can equip teachers with the knowledge of how to deal with struggles that students may be facing.

Our Good practice in autism education course is a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about the topic. 

This training should not be limited to teachers, but instead should be offered to teaching assistants too. SEN training for teaching assistants can help develop the skills needed to focus on disabled students and provide any necessary additional support. 

SEN support has increased by 12.2% in the UK between 2020-2021, so classrooms are already heading in the right direction. 

Adapted lessons and tasks

Traditional teaching isn’t always ideal for students with visible disabilities or learning difficulties. The curriculum should be altered to accommodate these students and make lessons more versatile. You could do this by making lessons more immersive to keep students engaged. 

A more engaging approach to learning could be helpful to those who struggle with learning from text-based content. You can do this by incorporating more videos and pictures into lessons, involving educational games or object-based learning to increase engagement. A lot of students learn through play, and this can be an engaging way to immerse them in lessons.

It’s important to know your students and take into account their specific needs when providing educational material. Make sure that all students are engaged in your lessons and actively participating in tasks. If you identify an issue with student engagement, consider reviewing the intended learning outcomes and how you could take steps to adapt your lessons to explore new approaches 

Use diverse methods of marking 

Assessing all students’ work in the same way isn’t always the best way to approach marking work. Some children may struggle with certain types of assignments, or struggle to put their thoughts onto paper. 

You can be more inclusive with your marking by assessing the content and ideas separately from English and grammar, for example. You could also assess effort as an additional points system. When giving feedback to students, make sure that it is clear and comprehensible to the student, and check with them that they understand your suggestions. 

It can be beneficial for students to see examples of others’ work, or attempts on assessments,  however you do not need them to compare or be competitive with grades or the feedback they have received

The last thing we want to do is have a negative impact on students’ confidence, and potentially cause them to regress and not put their best efforts into homework and classwork. 

You do not need to make grading and assessment into a competitive exercise for your learners. Peer comparisons may only further limit currently unmet potential.

You may want to set individual goals that are specific to each student, rather than setting high expectations for students that aren’t performing as well. If you’d like to learn some tools and techniques for communication, check out our Communicating with vulnerable children course. 

Supplementary materials 

Offering additional materials in the class can be incredibly helpful for students with visible or hidden disabilities, as well as anyone who needs a bit of extra support. Most students, even those who appear highly attentive, will struggle to just absorb information from simply watching or listening to a lesson. You will want to add an exercise or task to this content, however small, to ensure they can put what they are learning into longer team comprehension 

Providing them with learning aids such as calculators or physical science models can help develop a students’ understanding of the lesson. Pictures and flashcards can prove particularly useful to students struggling with language barriers.

Reteaching topics or recapping lessons is a great way to help students that may have a harder time understanding lesson content. You can also offer additional textbooks or help sheets to students, or even record the lesson and make it available for them to recap at home.

Final thoughts

We hope this article has helped develop your understanding of inclusive education and its importance. The implementation of inclusive education is vital for the development of all students. 

By following the tips in this article, you can nurture confident students that are given equal opportunities to learn regardless of their ability level. If you’re interested in learning more about how to make education inclusive, check out our Education for all course.  

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