Five individuals attended a focus group, coordinated by Purple Orange as part of the Inclusive School Communities Project. The focus group was facilitated by the Project Leader and an Inclusive School Mentor, a young leader from the disability community. The discussion was structured around key questions although participants were able to freely share their stories and experiences. Participants shared rich insights on the topics of inclusion and belonging at School; school community and culture; and feeling welcomed, included and valued at school. The responses summarised in the report above can offer schools striving to be inclusive a range of things that are helpful to consider and ideas for how habits of welcome and inclusion can be embedded in their school policies and practices. Whilst the findings indicate that the concepts of inclusion and belonging are hard to define, the stories shared by participants in this focus group provide thrust for schools to invest in creating cultures that recognise and accept diversity and ensure everyone is a valued contributor to the school community.
School is an important time in all of our lives. It’s when we explore what we like to do, learn social skills and begin to develop our identity. But school isn’t all self-discovery and excitement; students face pressure academically and socially. These things are challenging for everyone, but if a school doesn’t support its students to be fully included, it’s even harder.