Education terms

Disability Royal Commission hearings sometimes use terms that most Australians aren’t very familiar with. We’re keeping a list of these and trying to explain them in plain language. Please feel free to contact us if you have suggestions for words that should be included.

Click here for general DRC terms.

terms used in Education hearings


Support plan: The school, family, and student work together to make a plan for how to support the student in their learning. This plan can include adjustments that the school makes to accommodate the needs of the student. This can include physical modifications, or changes in practice in the classroom. It might be called a support plan, an Individual Education Plan (IEP), or Individual Learning Plan (ILP).

Inclusive education vs special (segregated) education: Inclusive and special, or segregated, education are two different ways students with disability can be taught in Australia. Inclusive education means students with disability are involved, accepted, and supported in the school and school community with all other students. This means that they learn in the same classrooms as their peers and are not segregated into different programs. Schools with inclusive education generally provide the necessary adjustments, whether physical or otherwise, to remove any barriers to learning and engagement in their classrooms, and to support the students, without removing them from their class. Special or segregated education means students with disability spend their time in separate programs, such as support units, special education programs, or in schools for special purpose. These programs are intended to provide the support and adjustments students with disability need away from mainstream classrooms.

People often support segregated education by saying it’s cheaper to have all the students with disability in one place so teachers and other specialists don’t have to travel around different schools. However, segregation can increase the risk of abuse and neglect, and inclusive education is a human right according to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Read more about our work with the CRPD here.

Special schools or SSPs (schools for specific purposes): A separate school only for students with disability. They usually have smaller class sizes than mainstream schools. The school may also have health facilities and specialists like occupational therapists on staff. ‘School for Specific Purposes’ is the name they have in NSW. Other names include Schools of Special Educational Need and Specialist Schools.

Support unit or Special Education Program (SEP): A form of segregated education where a mainstream school has a special class or group of classes for students with disability. This means that although students with disability are technically at a mainstream school, they still learn separately to other students. This may be called a Learning Support Centre or another similar name.

Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD): The Federal government collects data every year about Australian school students with disability, and the support they get. This information helps schools, teachers, and government bodies understand the needs of students with disability and how they can be best supported at school. Individual schools are asked to identify students that need any adjustment in relation to a disability, and record how adjustments are implemented in the classroom and school to support the student. From 2018, Federal funding for schools to use when making disability adjustments has been based on NCCD data. You can find more information on the NCCD website, including an FAQ.

EAP (Educational Adjustment Program): A way of organising government funding for disability support at schools. The program helps children who may need specific adjustments related to six impairment categories:

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • hearing impairment
  • intellectual disability
  • physical impairment
  • speech–language impairment
  • vision impairment.

This may refer to something a State government does separately to their Federal (NCCD) funding, or to something they used to use before the NCCD came in.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL): This is a framework of flexible teaching which is meant to be inclusive of all learning types. It encourages students to express themselves and engage with the curriculum in different ways. This is intended to help all students, who all have different learning types, to take in, think about, and work with the content in a way that helps them learn best.


ARD: Assistant Regional Director. This person would help manage a particular department for a specific region. For example, someone may be the ARD of Disability and Inclusion for North Queensland.

HOD: Head of Department. This person is the head of a department at a school.

HOSES: Heads of Special Education Services (HOSES) are responsible for special education units or classes delivering educational services to students with disability. Some schools and departments have shifted these roles to be more focused on inclusion practices rather than special education programs.

QSIL: Quality Schools, Inclusive Leaders (QSIL) is a Queensland Government program which aims to teach school leaders how to create an inclusive school environment and a flexible curriculum, and how to work with students whose learning is affected by complex life circumstances (not limited to disability).

Early Childhood Development Programs (ECDPs): The Queensland Government provides early childhood development programs (ECDPs) and services to support children with disability who are 0–5 years old. This might include specialist teachers at childcare centres or home visits. These programs look at impairment categories of “autism spectrum disorder (ASD), hearing impairment, intellectual disability, physical impairment, speech-language impairment and vision impairment.”