Authentic inclusion

The road to real inclusion, taking one step at a time

According to April Remfrey, international schools need guidance, support and clear standards to follow in order to become more inclusive.

Inconsistent provision

As the number of children attending international schools continues to grow, developing inclusive practice and opening more pathways for all learners should also be happening. Some international schools really do embrace their students’ unique abilities and needs by developing and expanding their learning support departments and creating educational opportunities for all students. However, provision is inconsistent and often lacking.

A Growing challenge

We know there are nearly 13,000 international schools around the world serving over six million students. The largest labour organisation in the world tells us that 15% of the world has a disability. Using this estimate, 15% of the students served in international schools equates to about 900,000 students. The actual numbers may be lower due to the admissions processes of most schools, but they are still likely to be substantial and they simply cannot be ignored.

There are some very good examples of learning support and excellent practice in international schools. Unfortunately, space can be extremely limited, admissions criteria are rigid and good learning support is not available in every location. There is no doubt in our mind that more schools in the international community need to admit students of all ability levels and create meaningful educational outcomes for all.

Global standards lead to better practice

So, where do we go from here? We believe creating system-wide, global standards of practice will help establish a solid foundation for the successful inclusion of all students.

With that in mind, we have designed tools that will integrate the foundations of inclusion in the  following areas of practice:

Area 1: Create global, accredited standards of practice

Curriculum and general accreditation standards in international schools are commonplace. Schools typically choose a standardised curriculum(s) such as IB, British or American curriculum, etc.. Based on the curriculum of the school, parents can be fairly certain about the processes that will be used to educate their child and what outcomes can be expected.

In addition to systemised curriculum, school accreditations help guide what they should strive for as best practices for student success, organisational leadership, and other expectations for professional growth.

However, standards in international schools for inclusive practices are lacking, leaving unclear expectations, low accountability, and varied experiences for students. When surveying a set of parents searching for inclusive schools, 91% said they would be highly influenced by schools that had been officially recognised by an independent accreditation body.

Creating standards of inclusive practices would ensure all international schools have adequate knowledge and understanding in categories such as curriculum and instruction, personnel, and pathways to qualification.  These standards should be paired with an accreditation process that encompasses the full school ecosystem to uphold accountability and to be clear to families which schools have shown evidence that they are working toward a set of guidelines.

Area 2: Create an accredited additional secondary curriculum

Once students reach the age of fourteen, their educational journey should begin to focus on the future after leaving school. Some students in this age group may need a pathway that falls outside of the curriculums provided by BTEC or IB Career Related Program. Others  would also benefit from an accredited curriculum that builds life skills and independence, but more importantly, lead to qualifications that reflect directly employable skills.

Such a curriculum has been built on the shoulders of the successful creation and implementation of the Steps Thailand programme which was established in 2016. Steps believes that everyone has the right to a sustainable, fulfilling career. They run vocational training centres and bakery and coffee shop demonstration locations for young adults across Thailand. Some of the trainees have worked with Steps because traditional education doesn’t work for them.

During the creation of Steps Thailand, a considerable bank of workplace readiness tools have been perfected. These tools have allowed neurodivergent individuals to build their skills in the areas of hospitality, informational technology, and office administration, just to name a few.  These tools are now ready for a wider audience of young learners to reach the outcomes promised by international schools: to create citizens ready to support and enhance the global marketplace.

For the kids and for the world

This is not just about the students – it is about everyone. Global reports indicate a loss of nearly three trillion dollars in lost GDP when persons with disabilities are excluded from the workforce.

There is a way to do better and there is no time like the present. If you are a school, business or NGO you can almost certainly become more inclusive if you are supported properly as well.

We can do that and you can find out more about how Steps can assist your journey to inclusion here:


April RemfreyApril Remfrey  is the COO of the Steps Community and an internationl inclusion consultant.



Feature and support images 2 & 3 kindly provided by Steps

Support image 1: by geralt on Pixabay

More about Steps Community

Steps provides schools, businesses, social enterprises, and other agencies with the opportunity to both begin and grow their inclusive practices to create environments, teams, and processes that support the neurodivergent individual and community:

  1. Inclusive practice standards for schools, social enterprises, and businesses to strive for as a pathway to becoming accredited by an external body.
  2. A curriculum pathway to become workplace ready for students aged 14+
  3. Inclusion training directly and through partner organisations for schools, social enterprises, and businesses to help them grow their inclusive practices.
  4. Demonstration locations in which neurodivergent friendly workplaces are modelled and become touchstones for the general public.