Inclusion Policy

What should be in our inclusion policy?

This page will help you write your inclusion policy - one of the five mandatory IB policies.

Activities which help you work towards a common IB understanding of the following pedagogical terms: inclusion, differentiation, special educational needs.

An exploration of six principles of good practice for promoting equal access, as identified by the IB.

What's inclusion? Maybe this is a good place to start

Some great messages in this quick video - would be useful to explore with staff:

Valuing all learners

Inclusion is about responding positively to each individual’s unique needs; identifying and removing barriers to learning, and developing collaborative cultures built on mutual respect, support and problem solving.

What does the IB mean by 'inclusion'?

"Inclusion is an ongoing process that aims to increase access and engagement in learning for all students by identifying and removing barriers.

Inclusion is an organizational paradigm that involves change. It is a continual process of increasing learning and participation for all students. It addresses learning support requirements and questions the broader objectives of education, the nature of pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. It is an educational approach to which all schools should aspire.

Inclusion is facilitated in a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, support and problem-solving involving the whole school community."

Inclusion is all about removing barriers to learning and considering these barriers from multiple perspectives. "Barriers to learning may be found in the way schools are organized and resourced, their cultures and policies, the approaches to teaching and learning, the physical aspects of buildings and the ways in which individuals within the school community interact on a daily basis."

Learning diversity and inclusion in IB programmes, IB, 2016:1)

Teaching for neurodiversity

I recently came across the concept of neurodiversity by reading an article by Dominic Griffiths on ‘Training teachers to see beyond labels’ (IMPACT 8 | Spring 2020, Chartered College of Teaching). The ‘neurodiversity’ approach is based upon the fundamental idea that all humans are neurodiverse, that learning differences are a normal part of human variation, and that this variation might be considered as a human ecosystem. Instead of ‘labelling’ students as SEN teachers should recognise and respond to individuals’ profiles of learning strengths and needs. Therefore, every teacher is a teacher of SEND and need to make reasonable adjustments in their teaching in order to meet diverse learning needs. Everyone is included within the spectrum of neurodiversity. This approach proposes teaching to the differing individual dimensions of strengths and needs of each student in order to approach each learner holistically.

The following image, originally created by Craig Froehle draws attention to the importance of designing learning experiences with inclusion in mind. How do we remove barriers to learning? You may also like to read THIS article based on this image.


The IB has identified principles of good practice that promote equal access to the curriculum for all learners across the continuum and are essential to the development of the whole person.

  • Creating optimal learning environments: effective, welcoming, healthy and protective, culturally and gender sensitive for all learners. Schools should create the social and emotional conditions for learning and promote environments that welcome, celebrate and embrace the diversity of all learners.(See Creating the optimal conditions for learning)
  • Affirming identity and building self-esteem: if a student feels affirmed their self-esteem will grow and so will their ability to learn. The identity of each learner (e.g. by needs, language, culture etc.) must be affirmed. “Conditions that do not affirm identity result in learners with poor self-esteem. Consequently, such learners will be unable to develop many of the qualities, attitudes and characteristics of the learner profile.” (Learning diversity in the International Baccalaureate programmes, 2010:5).
  • Valuing prior knowledge: Teachers need to access what each individuals’ prior knowledge is, and it could be different for each individual. It is only when new knowledge can build on prior knowledge that true learning takes place. “When planning the range of new learning that can take place in any individual, previous learning experiences or prior knowing must be taken into consideration.” (Learning diversity in the International Baccalaureate programmes: Special educational needs within the International Baccalaureate programmes, 2010:6).
  • Scaffolding: It is important that teachers provide scaffolds of small steps to help each individual learn new things. There are many types of scaffolds including graphic organisers, working in small collaborative groups, using mother tongue to help understanding, demonstrations etc. “Scaffolding is a temporary strategy that enables learners to accomplish a task that would otherwise be impossible or much more difficult to accomplish.”
  • Learning plans celebrate learning success, build on strengths and circumvent difficulties to develop the whole student. They describe the individual reasonable adjustments (accommodations and modifications) required to achieve expected learning outcomes. The IB therefore does not specify what the learning plan should look like but suggests that an effective learning plan will: (1) acknowledge student strengths and interests; (2) are developed collaboratively; (3) focused on individual strengths and challenges rather than medical and psychological labels; (4) learning outcomes are considered relevant by students, parents and teachers; (5) learning progress are evidence-based; (6) learning plan meetings are student-led. The IB guide to inclusive education: a resource for whole school development (2015) provides a full set of reflective questions to guide schools when developing learning plans.

  • Assessment should be accessible in terms of design, content and medium to give every student the opportunity; be ongoing, diverse and relevant to the learner; be focused on learner progress; allow for differentiated assessment with different entry and exit points; be explicit so that the purposes and outcomes of the assessment process are understood by all; measure both product and process—what type of learning, how and under what conditions.(Learning diversity in the International Baccalaureate programmes: Special educational needs within the International Baccalaureate programmes, 2010:9).

Supporting students with SEN

Key facts

  • The term ‘special educational needs’ encompasses cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs.
  • IB philosophy is very pertinent to this issue: IB celebrates diversity (including diversity of students’ needs); the Diploma Programme is holistic and focused on developing the whole child (therefore the IB does not adopt a deficit ‘medical’ model of SEN); the IB promotes collaborative learning (and not just individualistic progress - all have much to learn from each other); IB approaches to teacher and learning point to the importance of inquiry-based learning and differentiated teaching, where teaching approaches need to be adapted to meet student need.

Sources of information


Activity 1: Special Educational Needs Quilt of Quotes

The following quotes are taken from IB documentation on special educational needs and inclusion. Display them as quotes on the wall in the form of a Quilt of Quotes. Use the Quotes that speak to me protocol to explore what the IB means by assessment.

  • Ask each person to individually look at the ‘Special Educational Needs Quilt of Quotes'. Try to read everyone. Then choose the quote that most speaks to you.
  • Table groups - each person picks a relevant quote. Tell  the “story” and significance of the quote to rest of group and explain how it exemplifies current and future practice.
  • Have a group discussion around the quotes. Which themes come out of your choices – how do the quotes shape your understanding of what the IB means by inclusion and differentiation?
  • Make sure your write these themes down on slips of paper to use in the next activity. Collate all the slips (themes) from the staff discussion.


Ensure that in addition to the quote on the wall you have copies of the quote so that staff can take one away back to their table to discuss. Copies could be put in see-through folders below the quote in the quilt.

The following quotes are taken from Learning diversity in the International Baccalaureate programmes: Special educational needs within the International Baccalaureate programmes, unless otherwise stated.

The Quotes

“Difference and diversity are central in IB World Schools where all students enrolled in IB programmes should receive meaningful and equitable access to the curriculum.”

“In some schools special education is provided as a supplement to general education provision whereas in others the two are entirely separate. In recent years, the appropriateness of separate systems of education has been challenged, both from a human rights perspective and from the point of view of effectiveness…. With the right skills training, strategies and support, the majority of students with special educational needs can be successfully included in mainstream education.”

“The IB supports the premise that schools should be organized in such a way that student diversity of all kinds can be included as a resource, seeing individual differences not as problems to be fixed, but as opportunities for enriched learning. Diversity is a positive resource with regard to what it means to be internationally minded and interculturally aware.”

“Over time, changes have taken place that have altered the focus from a medical model of a student with a deficit to a focus on the whole child. This focus has shifted to practising differentiation through identifying a student’s learning style, scaffolding their learning, and differentiating the curriculum in order to develop the student’s true potential.”

“Recent research has found that ‘‘certain individuals or groups of children may benefit from adaptations to general teaching approaches, but in general pupils with SEN do not need qualitatively different pedagogy.” There is a shift from specialist teachers solving issues to collaborative planning by all teachers who are part of a student’s education anywhere along the learning continuum.”

“Inclusion is more about responding positively to each individual’s unique needs. Inclusion is less about marginalizing students because of their differences….Inclusion is a process by which schools and others develop their cultures, policies and practices to include all students.”

“The school community and other authorizing bodies should actively seek to remove barriers to learning and participation. All students should have access to an appropriate education that affords them the opportunity to achieve their personal potential.”

“Inclusion is an “organisational paradigm” that involves change. It is an unending process of increasing learning and participation for all students. It is an ideal to which schools can aspire, but which is never fully reached. However, inclusion happens as soon as the process of increasing participation is started. Thus, differentiation is inclusion in practice. Inclusion and differentiation are most successful in the contexts of learning communities where there is a culture of collaboration that encourages and supports problem solving.”

“There has been a tendency in some schools to assume differentiation is merely another word for helping underachievers. In practice, planning a unit of work or developing coursework to provide a range of learning approaches for achieving common goals should show that all students benefit from the differentiated process.”

“Differentiation was acknowledged as sound practice and principles for all students, particularly when the work of Gardner and Sternberg came to the fore in education. The work of Gardner on multiple intelligences has broadened the whole concept of ability. Sternberg’s Triarchic model of thinking styles reinforces the fact that as well as having the ability to do something differently, learners also have the ability to think differently, and to apply these thoughts in a different way to others in their cohort. Learners have a preferred way of thinking before doing that must be considered if an optimum match is to occur at various times throughout their schooling. If this match does not occur then many learners will become unhappy and disenchanted with the learning process and, therefore, may not achieve their true potential until they leave the education system. We, as teachers, must be sensitive to this variety, and be flexible enough in our thinking to accommodate those who may not perform in the generally accepted way. Tomlinson states that differentiated instruction may be conceptualized as a teacher’s response to the diverse learning needs of a student. Differentiation is seen as the process of identifying, with each learner, the most effective strategies for achieving agreed goals.”

“Tomlinson and Eidson (2003) state: “If, as teachers, we increase our understanding of who we teach and what we teach, we are more likely to be flexible in how we teach.”

“Differentiation should be visible and transparent in policy documents in order to meet IB expectations for authorization and evaluation.”

“Students with learning support requirements may need support and arrangements for both teaching and learning. Once a student with learning support requirements is enrolled in the school, it is the responsibility of the school to meet the student’s learning needs, including suitable arrangements for teaching and assessment.” (Candidates with assessment access requirements).

Although a number of inclusive assessment arrangements are available for students with learning support requirements, some subjects may pose difficulties for certain candidates. Careful consideration should be given to a candidate’s choice of subjects. The subjects chosen should allow them to demonstrate their strengths and empower them as learners. Schools may consult with the IB Assessment centre before confirming a candidate’s subjects. The inclusive assessment arrangements provided to a candidate must be planned in advance to give a candidate ample time to learn to use them effectively during classroom activities. 2.1.5 The inclusive assessment arrangements provided for a candidate must be carefully individualized, planned, evaluated and monitored. They should be based on current, and not past, requirements. (Candidates with assessment access requirements).

Activity 2: Reflect and Discuss

  • Highlight the IB standards and practices that apply to inclusion
  • Ensure you have a common understanding of the philosophical links between the following terms: special educational needs, inclusion, and differentiation.
  • To what extent does your school apply the IB principles of an inclusive education? What are the implications for the development of your policy and practice?
  • How do you celebrate people who have special educational needs? Do you have photos of famous people with needs around the school?
  • We could describe the inclusion continuum as ‘Segregated – Integrated – Included’. What does inclusion look like in your context? Where are you on the continuum?
  • It has been said that “it is not difference, but the difference we make of it, that matters”. (Minow, M. Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion and American Law. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press.1990). Discuss.

Imagine you are an anthropologist. Choose, find, or create an artifact that represents your inclusion policy.

This is how Julie Canty-Homier, MYP Coordinator, Enseignante de FLS, LaSalle Community Comprehensive School in Canada, explains her choice:

I would create something with blocs.  Old wooden ones to give an artifact look to my creation. The idea would be that to build a community, we need all shapes and colors.  It is not with only one type pf blocs that we can achieve such a complexed construction but with a combination of shapes and colors.  Considering that different shapes means different types of learners, this artifact would show that we include all type of learners in our school - inclusive policy.  Some students might be stronger in science, whilst others in languages.  Some students might learn better as a team, others individually.  If there is a desire to learn, students have a place in that construction.  

This is how Hannaneh Hajiaghababa, MYP coordinator and DP ToK examiner, Iran, explains her choice:

I believe this picture can illustrate both inclusion policy and admission policy, in addition to assessment policy. It emphasizes on uniqueness of each learner which is one main belief in IB system. We should provide an environment which is accepting all learners with different desires, interests, learning styles, abilities and strengths. It also, focuses on an authentic assessment which is another main point in an IB learning environment.


Key issues to consider

  • What special needs do our students have?
  • What information do we / should we hold on our students with SEN? Where should it be held and who should manage it?
  • Who will have access to student files?
  • How do we / will we manage the passing on of information at transition points in a students' life?
  • What expertise do we have to meet those needs at present?
  • What do we already do for our students with SEN?
  • What testing and screening tools do we use? Which tests are our staff qualified to administer?
  • Which external agencies do we / should we work with in supporting students with SEN e.g. psychologist, speech therapist, musical etc.)?
  • What are the support mechanisms and resources we have at our disposal to support students with SEN (e.g. special arrangements, teaching assistants etc.)?
  • What role do individual learning plans have?
  • How do we ensure that students with SEN have equitable access to the curriculum?
  • What expertise will we need?
  • What are the local and national legal requirements of teachers and schools in meeting the needs of students with SEN?
  • How will our provision for SEN be coordinated and monitored?
  • How do we / will we document our provision for SEN?
  • How does / will our provision for SEN be supported by our professional development programme?
  • Where do we need to improve our provision for SEN?

Case Study: Colorado Springs, USA

What if all staff members actually supported our diverse student population including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students?

We have a diverse student population including nearly 40% of our students who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and a number who identify as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Non-binary) and we have a free/reduced meal program of nearly 60% of our student population. Our teaching staff is not nearly as diverse – and there is much work to do in an effort to address diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • Staff should be mindful that they are teaching in a programme that promotes tolerance and understanding
  • Staff members should be attending DEI workshops and take the content seriously
  • Staff members should seek to address their own bias/prejudices and to keep them out of the classroom
  • Staff would be preparing appropriate lessons that are of interest to our students and foster inquiry into the student’s experiences
  • Staff should be mindful of how their words and actions can restrict learning by our students 
  • Working together our student discipline rates would not be skewed towards our BIPOC students being disciplined at higher rates
  • Working together our LGBTQ+ students would be welcomed by all staff members and addressed by the students chosen name and preferred pronoun

Anton Schulzki, IB Middle Years Coordinator, William J. Palmer High School, Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Case Study

Dear Families,

Welcome to the ASB. We are thrilled that your child and your family are joining our community this school year. In the next few weeks, you'll be receiving a wealth of information to help you and your child transition into our school community. You'll connect with parents, educators, and students, all of whom will be ready to help you navigate our school system. And, while understanding those systems and procedures is important for supporting your children's transition into ASB, what is of equal importance is understanding ASBs inclusion policy and framework.

The inclusion policy is guided by two of our core values: Each person has equal intrinsic value | All people have potential for growth.When we design for inclusion we do it from the perspectives of cognitive inclusion. And, from the perspective of social, emotional and ethical inclusion.

In designing for cognitive inclusion, we use a Multitiered Systems of Support framework to assure that all viable support systems are available, provided, and maintained. We ensure that our educators and leaders have the knowledge and skills to personalize learning for all students.

In addition to cognitive inclusion, social and emotional inclusion is at the core of our work. With the SEE Learning curriculum as our guide, ASB designs a learning environment in which students understand the personal, social, and systems domains of social-emotional learning. We use the Learning for Justice Social Justice standards in unit of study across our divisions to engage students in issues of equity, diversity, and justice.

A core component of the success of our inclusion policy is data. Use gather evidence of student's knowledge, skills, and understanding in both academic and social-emotional learning and we use this evidence of learning to design a curriculum to meet the needs of our diverse learners.

Like many the policies at ASB, the inclusion policy drive the way we design school for our learning. At the core of our design is your child; we want to ensure they are seen, valued, and heard. And, we look forward to partnering with you to ensure your child feels a deep sense of belonging in our community.

Published by kind permission of Kelli Meeker


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