Leadership in the development of inclusive school communities

by Jude McArthur


In this short and engaging article Dr Jude McArthur from Massey University gives an overview the research she and others have undertaken in the schooling sector about the experiences of young people who have disabilities. (Similar findings are raised in the ECE area too.)

She connects the key themes to what school leaders can do to support developing their schools as inclusive communities.

The article sets out the problems students can have from feeling different, issues around bullying, feelings of isolation and low teacher expectations. It then offers practical ideas for what principals and others in leadership positions can do to support schools to move towards inclusion.

It ends by reminding us that inclusive schools and classrooms prepare all children and young people for a quality adult life.

Reflective questions

  • Bullying is a problem for many students. Look at how your school bullying policy works positively to include learners with disabilities. Are your teachers consciously applying the policy for this student group? Discuss with your leadership team how you will raise awareness about this issue for all teachers. Do you need to work further on your policy?
  • What can you do to raise teachers’ expectations of students with disabilities? Look at the example given of how a student raises the low awareness of a teacher. In what ways could you invite students’ with disabilities to help you with this issue (or other issues raised by this article?) Look at how you will solve the problems of awareness among teachers and other students and introduce practical programmes to address the problems.
  • Look at ways in which you could improve teaching and learning in your school by raising awareness about addressing the needs of any diverse groups in your school. Are there innovative strategies which could be introduced into your school that would welcome and value all students? Consider ways in which you could get your staff throughout your school on board with effective strategies for inclusion.


McArthur, J. (2012). Leadership in the development of inclusive school communities. Leading Lights. Edition 3. Newsletter of the New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society. Reproduced with permission.

Useful links

Ministry of Education resources:

Inclusive education on TKI

Positive Behaviour for Learning

Success for All (PDF)

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