Diversity of learners
NSW schools are diverse. Students have a variety of interests, needs, abilities, backgrounds and learning preferences. The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is committed to ensuring curriculum is inclusive of all students, regardless of disability, ethnicity, cultural background, socioeconomic status, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation or beliefs.
NSW syllabuses are inclusive of the learning needs of all students. Syllabuses accommodate teaching approaches that support student diversity. This includes Aboriginal students, students with disability, gifted and talented students, and students learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D). Students may have more than one learning need.
- Read NESA’s Statement of Equity Principles
Further information about planning, programming and assessing to meet the needs of the diversity of learners can be found on the NESA website:
Aboriginal students in NSW are some of the youngest members of the oldest continuous cultures in the world. Aboriginal students have diverse cultural and community needs.
Understanding and respect by others of Aboriginal cultural knowledge and the contemporary impacts of colonisation histories supports Aboriginal students’ educational success at school.
Regular exposure to Aboriginal cultural knowledge, skills and understandings and cultural programs supports students to maintain and further develop their cultural identities.
Some Aboriginal students may require literacy and numeracy support.
Curriculum strategies and considerations
Curriculum strategies and considerations for teaching Aboriginal students include:
- recognition of individual Aboriginal student identity, cultural knowledge, language learning, community connection and/or responsibilities
- knowledge and valuing of Aboriginal English in its various forms as a dialect of Standard Australian English
- teaching and learning that reflect knowledge of local Aboriginal Languages, cultural practices and communities, and the interests of Aboriginal students
- knowledge and understanding of the linguistic, cultural and economic diversity of Aboriginal Peoples in New South Wales
- knowledge of sociocultural and economic factors that may affect some Aboriginal students and/or parents/carers
- learning adjustments to accommodate health factors that affect Aboriginal children and which impact their learning, such as otitis media
- goal-setting through personalised learning that is negotiated between teachers and individual students, involving parents/carers to provide individualised strategies for engagement and improvement, and, for some students, post-school aspirations
- knowledge, valuing and inclusion of culturally responsive pedagogies
- use of current terminology in the classroom for representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures and for school communication
- all students learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures through content in syllabuses.
Some Aboriginal students may also be supported through appropriate teaching, learning and assessment activities as part of a collaborative curriculum planning process.
For further information, see Aboriginal Education.
Students with disability
All students are entitled to participate in and progress through the curriculum. Under the Disability Standards for Education 2005, schools are required to provide additional support or adjustments to teaching, learning and assessment activities for some students with disability.
Adjustments are measures or actions taken in relation to teaching, learning and assessment. They enable a student with disability to:
- access syllabus outcomes and content
- demonstrate achievement of outcomes.
Students with disability can access outcomes and content from Years K–10 syllabuses in a range of ways. Students may engage with one of the following:
- syllabus outcomes and content from their age-appropriate stage with adjustments to teaching, learning and/or assessment activities or
- selected syllabus outcomes and content from their age-appropriate stage, relevant to their learning needs or
- syllabus outcomes from an earlier stage, using age-appropriate content. Access content points have been developed for students who are working towards the Early Stage 1 outcomes or
- selected Years 7–10 Life Skills outcomes and content from one or more syllabuses for students in Stages 4 and 5.
Decisions regarding curriculum options, including adjustments, should be made in the context of collaborative curriculum planning with the student, parent/carer and other significant individuals. This ensures that syllabus outcomes and content reflect the learning needs and priorities of individual students.
Supporting students with intellectual disability
In Kindergarten to Year 6, some students with intellectual disability may be working towards the Early Stage 1 outcomes. To support these students, teachers can use the access content points provided. Teachers should consider that access content points:
- do not represent a developmental continuum
- can be selected to suit the needs and priorities of individual students
- can be used on their own, or in conjunction with the accompanying Early Stage 1 content
- should be taught through age-appropriate content.
In Years 7–10, some students with intellectual disability may be best supported to access the curriculum through the Years 7–10 Life Skills outcomes and content. When using Life Skills outcomes and content, teachers should consider:
- other ways of supporting the student to access regular course outcomes, including reasonable adjustments, before deciding that a student should access Life Skills outcomes and content
- that outcomes and content can be selected to suit the needs and priorities of individual students.
For further information, teaching advice and resources, see Special Education on the NESA website.
Gifted and talented students
Gifted and talented students have specific learning needs that may require adjustments to the pace, level and content of the curriculum. Differentiated educational opportunities assist in meeting the needs of gifted and talented students.
Generally, gifted and talented students demonstrate the capacity to:
- learn at faster rates
- find and solve problems
- make connections and manipulate abstract ideas.
There are different kinds and levels of giftedness and talent. Gifted and talented students may also have learning disabilities and/or be learning English as an additional language or dialect. These needs should be addressed when planning appropriate teaching, learning and assessment activities.
Curriculum strategies for gifted and talented students may include:
- differentiation: modifying the pace, level and content of teaching, learning and assessment activities
- acceleration: promoting a student to a level of study beyond their age group
- curriculum compacting: assessing a student’s current level of learning and addressing aspects of the curriculum that have not yet been mastered.
School decisions about appropriate strategies are generally collaborative and involve teachers, parents/carers and students. The strategies reference documents and advice available from NESA and the education sectors.
Gifted and talented students may also benefit from individual planning to determine the curriculum options, as well as teaching, learning and assessment strategies, most suited to their needs and abilities.
For further information, teaching advice and resources, see Gifted Education on the NESA website.
Students learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D)
Many students in Australian schools are learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D). EAL/D students are those:
- whose first language is a language or dialect other than Standard Australian English
- who require additional support to assist them to develop English language proficiency.
EAL/D students come from diverse backgrounds and may include:
- overseas and Australian-born students whose first language is a language other than English
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students whose first language is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language, including Kriols/creoles and related varieties, or Aboriginal English
- students who have migrated to Australia, temporary visa holders from non-English speaking countries, students who have a refugee background, students returning to Australia after extended periods in non-English speaking settings, as well as international students from non-English speaking countries
- children of adults who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing use Auslan as their first language
- students with learning difficulties or disability
- students who are gifted or who have high potential.
EAL/D students enter school at different:
- ages and stages of schooling
- stages of English language learning.
They have diverse talents and capabilities and a range of prior learning experiences and levels of literacy in their first language and in Standard Australian English.
At the same time EAL/D students are learning a new language, they are also learning the knowledge, understanding and skills of the syllabus through that new language. They may need extra time with explicit support and informed teaching that addresses their language needs, and level or phase of language proficiency.
For EAL/D students, learning progressions such as the English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) Learning Progression and ESL Scales can provide detailed information about the English language development. Teachers can use these resources to address the specific needs of English language learners in their classes and to assist students to access syllabus outcomes and content.
Identification of students’ language proficiency and appropriate supports in teaching, learning and assessment should be collaborative and involve EAL/D teachers, parents/carers and students where appropriate.
For further information, teaching advice and resources, see English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) support on the NESA website.