Inclusive Education

What does Inclusive education mean? 

Inclusive education requires that the needs of all children, including those who are autistic are included in the:

  • planning and provision of the school curriculum (whole life of the school)
  • learning and teaching resources and approaches

“Just not being someone on the outside looking in and be able to have the same opportunity and education” 

Young Ambassadors for Inclusion 2017

Inclusive education in Scotland aims to eliminate social exclusion that is a consequence of attitudes in responses to diversity in race, social class, ethnicity, religion, gender and ability. It starts from the belief that education is a human right and the foundation of a more just society. An inclusive approach, with an appreciation of diversity and an ambition for all to achieve their full potential, is essential to getting it right for every child and raising attainment for all.

The core principles of our inclusive approach in Scotland focuses on being present – attending school, participating – involved in all aspects of school life and achieving – the best they possibly can, in line with ability. These principles can be used as a means of seeing if inclusion has been successful.

The presumption of a mainstream  offer of education in Scotland establishes an expectation that all learning settings can support the needs of all learners effectively. For some learners with more complex needs, through the ASN planning process, it may be agreed that a more specialised environment may be required.

Children’s rights and entitlements are fundamental to Scotland’s approaches to inclusive education. It is supported by the legislative framework and key policy drivers including the Getting it right for every child approach, Curriculum for Excellence and the Framework for Professional Standards for teachers. These are underpinned by a set of values aligned to social justice and commitment to inclusive education. This means that inclusive education should be the heart of all areas of educational planning.

Scotland’s Inclusive Curriculum

Curriculum for Excellence is designed to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. The term curriculum is understood to mean – everything that is planned for children and young people throughout their education, not just what happens in the classroom.  Curriculum for Excellence is intended to help children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century, including skills for learning, life and work. Delivery of the curriculum is the responsibility of education authorities and individual schools under guidance from the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.

Curriculum for Excellence includes four contexts for learning: 

  • Curriculum areas and subjects
  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • Ethos and life of the school
  • Opportunities for personal achievement. 

Improving inclusive education to support autistic children and young people

Schools and local authorities have identified key areas which they feel are essential to sustainable improvement across the school community. Critical to successfully taking forward improvements in the eight areas outlined below is a requirement to focus on supporting the school community develop and understanding of autism and what inclusive practice means, the impact it can have on experiences and outcomes and attainment of autistic children and young people.


An empowered system is one that grows stronger and more confident, working in partnership to lead learning and teaching that achieves excellence and equity for all learners. Empowerment and collaboration for improvement happen at all levels in an empowered system.

For further information select here to access a developing resource designed to support our empowered system in its collective endeavour to improve children and young people’s outcomes. The resource and supporting guidance explore the contributions of eight key partners in an empowered system. They encourage collaboration, collegiality and mutual respect between all partners.

Leaner Engagement

Curriculum for Excellence supports children and young people so that they can gain the knowledge, skills, attributes and capabilities which underpin the four capacities required for life in the 21st century. Children’s rights, embedded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, are at the heart of Curriculum for Excellence. These rights include, amongst others, the right to participate through dialogues with adults based on mutual respect, and the right to an education. In education settings, children and young people need to be recognised more clearly as participants with rights alongside professionals and community members. Learner participation is needed for Curriculum for Excellence’s aims and purposes to be achieved across all contexts of learning. 

Learner participation is a key thread running through the How good is our school? (4th edition, hereafter, HGIOS?4) and How good is our early learning and childcare? (HGIOELC?) documents and is promoted as a key component within Scottish education policy. In schools and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings, learner participation is core to a good education. As part of all educational experience, it is young people’s right to have a say in matters that affect them. Our vision is that in all schools and ELC settings, all young people should have opportunities to:

  • Learn about their right to participate voluntarily in decision making
  • Be enabled to participate through a variety of ways of expressing their views 
  • Have a say in shaping educational provisions in their setting and beyond 
  • Learn through participating in decisions within a wide variety of educational activities and processes leading to meaningful impacts and outcomes 
  • Be involved in monitoring and evaluating young people’s participation and its impacts.

Effective learner participation means that a good education can become relevant, valuable, and supportive of achievement and attainment. Teachers and school leaders are distinctively positioned to enable learner participation. 

Select here to access an Education Scotland resource ‘Learner Participation in Educational Settings (3-18)’

Family Engagement

Parents, carers and families are by far the most important influences in a child’s life. Their support can play a vital role at all stages of education.

Parents who take on a supportive role in their children’s learning make a difference in improving achievement and behaviour. The active involvement of parents can help promote a learning community in which children and young people can engage positively with practitioners and their peers.

Parental Engagement

Parental engagement is recognised in the National Improvement Framework as one of seven key drivers in achieving excellence and equity in Scottish education. The engagement of parents and families can help raise attainment for all and help to ensure every child has an equal chance of success. The National Improvement Framework parental engagement driver includes actions to support improvement in parental engagement, parental involvement and family learning.

The term parental involvement relates to the involvement of parents and carers in the life and work of the early learning and childcare setting or school. This can include parent representation on Parent Councils or associations, involvement in establishment self-evaluation and improvement work, and volunteering with fundraising activities or by sharing skills and knowledge to enrich the curriculum.

The term parental engagement most commonly refers to parental (and family) engagement in their children’s learning. This engagement can be at an early learning and childcare setting or school, in the home or the wider community.

Early Identification, Monitoring and Support

The early identification of barriers to learning experienced by a learner is effective in maximising supportive learning and teaching and also supporting the individual learner’s wellbeing and understanding of themselves. Many learners describe important social and emotional benefits from having their learning differences recognised.

Recognising early signs of difficulties and adapting learning and teaching approaches are a regular part of the daily routine for teachers supporting all children in an education environment. For those learners who may have additional learning needs it is important that these needs are met in the best possible way by accurate and timely monitoring and support.

To ensure children and young people progress and achieve to their maximum potential, effective assessment mechanisms are essential to identify the support needs of learners at an early stage.

Curriculum for Excellence provides a framework for assessment which is designed to support learners and their learning journey from the age of 3. Through a range of approaches, and a quality body of evidence, practitioners are encouraged to work together with wider partners to make professional judgements around progress, and next steps and to identify any support requirements.

Professional Learning – an understanding of inclusion and Autism

Practitioners engage in professional learning to stimulate their thinking and professional knowledge and to ensure that their practice is critically informed and current. Professional standards and educational policies both support and inform professional learning. It is important to examine and consider them in action and understand the connections and coherence across educational policies and the professional standards.

Using this Toolbox to develop and awareness of autism spectrum disorder will support practitioners help their autistic learners. Pedagogy and approaches which can effectively support inclusive practice also benefit and support a wide range of learners needs.

Further information can be found in the Professional Development section of this Toolbox.

Curriculum Accessibility

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) provides an inclusive, flexible framework that can be used to provide a range of progression pathways appropriate to learners’ needs and local circumstances. An inclusive curriculum involves adopting teaching methodologies and activities to facilitate learner engagement and to move the learner towards higher levels of achievement. An inclusive and flexible curriculum provides more equitable opportunities for children and young people to develop and use the skills and abilities necessary to become an active part in the workforce.

The term curriculum is understood to mean – everything that is planned for children and young people throughout their education, not just what happens in the classroom. Curriculum for Excellence includes four contexts for learning: Curriculum areas and subjects. Interdisciplinary learning. Ethos and life of the school.


Differentiation is a key skill and requirement for all teachers to ensure the needs of all their learners are met. Creating resources, which are accessible for learners with additional support needs, will also support a wide range of learners. The impact a barrier to learning has varies in degree according to the learning and teaching environment. To ensure learners can access the curriculum and engage with the learning and teaching, staff will need to make adaptations and differentiate their approaches and resources and this may happen in a number of ways.

Differentiation and individualisation involve the teacher providing instruction and accommodating the learning needs of a group of learners or individual learners, respectively. In contrast, personalisation entails the learners driving their own learning, being responsible for connecting learning with their own interests and actively participating in the design of their own learning. (Bray and McClaskey, 2014).

Professional Learning and Teachers

Scotland’s inclusive education system and flexible curriculum framework highly values teacher professionalism. We have been investing in building teachers’ skills and capabilities and, since 2012, have a suite of Professional Standards accredited by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
The standards for initial teacher education and registration, career-long professional learning and leadership are all underpinned by a set of values aligned to social justice and commitment to inclusive education.

Attainment and Achievement

It is important to recognise and support children’s and young people’s attainments and achievements. This can help to develop their confidence and motivation for learning. It can also help them to reflect on their learning and plan appropriate next steps.

However it is also important to have cognisance of learning which autistic learners participate in outside the classroom, at home and in the wider community. Achievement covers learning in other areas of the life of the school, and in the variety of activities children and young people are involved in, for example:

  • Hobbies and interests, such as participating in a sport
  • Youth work
  • Volunteering
  • Caring for a relative
  • Activities they undertake in the life of the school, such as Eco Schools or Buddying
  • Recognised awards or programmes, such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or John Muir Award.

Through these activities, they develop important skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work that can be of real value to them as they grow up. We need to recognise the full range of achievements our autistic learners gain and understand the skills they have including beyond the classroom. 

Building the Curriculum Series (click here)

The Building the Curriculum document series provides advice, guidance and policy for a wide range of different aspects of Curriculum for Excellence for practitioners, schools and education authorities. All of the documents within the series are relevant to support the development of inclusive education in particular, Building the Curriculum 3 (BtC3) sets out a range of entitlements for all children. These include the commitment that every child and young person is entitled to support to enable them to: 

  • Gain as much as possible from the opportunities which Curriculum for Excellence can provide  
  • Move into a positive and sustained destination. 
How good is our school? 4th Edition (click here)

How good is our school? provides a suite of quality indicators that support staff in all sectors to look inwards, to scrutinise their work and evaluate what is working well for learners and what could be better.

Supporting Inclusion is featured across all 3 categories and the 15 quality indicators within HGIOS 4.

  • Leadership and Management 
  • Learning Provision 
  • Successes and Achievements 

This self-evaluation framework is designed to promote effective self-evaluation as the first important stage in a process of achieving self-improvement. Reflecting on inclusion when evaluating practice to see what is working well and what needs to improve will support the educational experiences and outcomes for learners who for whatever reason experience barriers to learning.

How good is OUR school? Parts 1 and 2 (click here)

How good is OUR school? Parts 1 and 2  aim to support schools to engage children and young people in self evaluation and school improvement in ways that enhance learning.

A strong, inclusive school ethos and a community that actively listens to children’s and young people’s views underpins effective learner participation. This resource is in two parts:

Part One: 

A guide for staff and partners working with children and young people will support self-evaluation of your current approaches to learner participation. It is intended to be used by school staff and partners working collaboratively with children and young people to evaluate what is working well and consider what would support increased learner participation.

Part Two:

A self-evaluation framework for use by children and young people includes some suggested activities to support children and young people to evaluate the quality of relationships, learning and teaching, school and community, health and wellbeing and successes and achievements.

Responsibility for all – Curriculum for Excellence (click here)

Literacy, numeracy and Health and Wellbeing are the responsibilities of every teacher. All staff have a responsibility to develop, reinforce and extend learning in the following areas: 

  • Health & Wellbeing – Some aspects of the health and wellbeing framework are the responsibility of all adults, working together to support the learning and development of children and young people. 
  • Literacy – All practitioners are in a position to make important contributions to developing and reinforcing young people’s literacy skills. 
  • Numeracy – Numeracy across learning provides essential analytic, problem solving and decision-making skills across the curriculum. 

Autism can impact on all three areas in varying degrees and in various ways depending on the individual child or young person. Personalising learning is a key focus of Curriculum for Excellence, ensuring learning, teaching and assessment is planned with the learner at the centre and that support is targeted to