Education and Down Syndrome
There is clear evidence that inclusive education leads to better academic and social outcomes for both students with and without a disability.
A comprehensive literature review on inclusive education found that all students learn more and achieve more in an inclusive education setting. It concluded that inclusive educational settings offer substantial short and long-term benefits for students with and without disabilities’.
The research highlights that students with disability in inclusive education have:
- greater academic gains including language and mathematics skills
- improved social skills
- greater involvement in school activities
- greater likelihood of mainstream employment later in life
- higher rates of independent living.
Many Australian children with an intellectual disability however, are not accessing an inclusive education.
The most recent ABS Survey of Disability and Carers (2018), found that a third of children with disabilities (aged 5 to 14) were attending either a special school or were receiving education within a segregated classroom.
Amongst children with Down syndrome, a 2017 Down Syndrome Australia survey found:
- 46% of students were attending mainstream schools
- 46% were attending special schools or a special unit within mainstream school
- the remaining 8% were in other settings including mixes of mainstream school/special school.
- 25% of parents who had children in a segregated setting, felt that this was not their preferred setting and that they would prefer their child to be in a mainstream school environment.
Research into community attitudes about segregation in education provides an insight into the attitudes which persist about the rights of children with disability to access inclusive education. A 2021 survey of community attitudes toward people with disability in Australia found that 13% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘Children with disability should only be educated in special schools’.
A further 22% had a neutral or ambivalent response to the statement. Only 61% of respondents agreed that schools are accepting of children with disability. This highlights the challenges faced by many families as they seek to access mainstream education options.
 Alana Institute, 2016
 Alana Institute, 2016, p2
 ABS, 2018
 Down Syndrome Australia, 2017
 Bollier et al, 2021
 Bollier et al, 2021
Alana Institute (2016). A summary of inclusive education. Retrieved from http://alana.org.br/wpcontent/uploads/2016/12/A_Summary_of_the_evidence_on_inclusive_education.pdf
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) 4430.0 – Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4430.02018?OpenDocument
Bollier AM, Sutherland G, Krnjacki L, Kasidis V, Katsikis G, Ozge J & Kavanagh AM. (2021). Attitudes Matter: Findings from a national survey of community attitudes toward people with disability in Australia. Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health, The University of Melbourne. doi: 10.26188/15176013
Last updated: June 2022