Girl leaning over laptop, papers on her desk, head in her hands from frustration

Unpacking the learning at home – a guide for parents

This 10 minute video guide is aimed at parents looking for ideas to support their children’s learning at home.

The guide was developed in response to COVID-19 but the strategies are just as relevant once your children return to school and bring their work and assignments home.

The guide is underpinned by the Universal Design Learning Framework and highlights the importance of having a clear learning goal; choice and flexibility in the way the learning can be carried out and empowering your child to take control of their own learning.


The overlooked challenges of a PDF worksheet

In the rush to provide work for students to complete as part of their learning at home, many teachers have gone to the trusty PDF library to create their lessons. Today’s blog post looks at some of the often times overlooked challenges that PDF documents can pose for learners.

Is a PDF the best option?

In the following video we look at a sample PDF provided as a revision activity for Science and unpack some of the challenges that a learner would experience in completing the tasks required on the PDF. WE then explore some quick fixes the teacher could undertake before posting the PDF to make the learning more accessible for students.

If PDF is the best option, make it fillable

For many learning tasks, PDF documents may be the best solution. However, if the learning requires student’s to enter information into the document then making the PDF a fillable document will make the task much more accessible.

PDF2go is a free online PDF editor that teachers or students can use to make a pdf fillable, reducing stress and time wondering how to complete a worksheet.

features list for pdf2go


More challenges with PDFs … for students and teachers

Converting pdfs with images (often pages from textbooks or work booklets) to Word docs and worse still to Google docs can be a frustrating and time-consuming process when the formatting doesn’t transfer. A good old screen shot, paste and crop provides a quick fix, not forgetting to change the layout options (we usually opt for square text wrapping).  Easy when you know how.

The following video explains some of the challenges posed to the learner when PDF versions of textbooks are sent home as learning activities.

Returning completed work can also pose challenges

If students have been provided with hard copies of the work that needs to be completed or if they need to scan completed tasks to send back to you for marking, a quick and easy way is to use the scanning functionality that is available on most smartphones.

Scanning documents using an iphone:

Scanning documents using an android phone

Giving instant feedback to students on comprehension activities and other class quizzes

Join us for a live webinar

  • Have you been struggling to pull together quality learning experiences for your students while they are learning at home?
  • Do you want to explore innovative ways that you can provide choice to students in how they learn the content?
  • Are you finding it challenging to prepare lessons that ALL students can access?

Join us for a live webinar where we unpack a streamlined process for developing quality learning experiences and share practical tips and strategies to manage your planning during these changing times.

WHEN: Monday 27 April from 1.30 – 3.00pm (AEST) OR Wednesday 29 April from 4.00-5.30pm (AEST)

Cost: $50

(includes access to all resources shared and created in the webinar and the full recording of the presentation)

The webinar will focus on:

  • Unpacking a process to plan quality learning activities for home-based learning
  • Creating relevant and engaging learning experiences that can be undertaken at home with or without technology
  • Considerations when planning for learning at home
  • Tech-based resources to support learning for all.


Limited spaces, book in now

Webinar chat: Planning for quality learning at home

Sarah Humphreys and Janice Atkin hosted a live webinar chat to discuss what’s working for teachers, parents and students and what’s not in this brave new world of learning at home.

We share the recording of this chat in five parts below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Transcript of conversation

[gview file=””]

Learning from home for students with disability during COVID-19

This week we have been reflecting on the impact of learning from home or students with disability, in particular students with communication and social needs. In this podcast I chat with Gail Williams, Deputy Principal of a special school in Queensland and Dr Bree Jimenez, Research Consultant with Mater Dei School in NSW and Research Associate with the University of Sydney.

Both acknowledge the energy and commitment of their teachers over the last couple of weeks in shifting their practice to support their students with learning from home. They identify the particular challenges for their students that include the nee to see and hear their teachers as well as addressing learning needs that go beyond the learning areas.

They highlight the importance of harnessing genuine person-centred planning as the way forward – a shared responsibility in identifying student/family prioirities and ways to support these priorities. We may need to slow down and give consideration to the fact that learning does not always have to be about something new, it could be about providing opportunities for repeated practice of what we’ve already been doing.

You can listen to the full podcast by selecting the play button below.

Learning versus getting the work done

We’ve been reflecting on the past week that saw all of our schools shift to online learning and thinking about what we’ve learnt from it.

We have learnt that…

  • direct contact with a class teacher, regardless of the mode or frequency, is valued and enjoyed by students. It fosters community and a sense of belonging as well as providing instruction and feedback. It is also reassuring to parents to know that teachers are still there guiding their children as we all adapt to this new way of learning. 
  • you can scan documents by selecting the camera icon in the Notes feature on an iPhone. Very handy for students wanting to draw, hand-write and return their work to their teachers or for teachers to share a quality scanned document with their students.
  • is a free online PDF editor that teachers or students can use to make a pdf fillable, reducing stress and time wondering how to complete a worksheet.
  • converting pdfs with images (often pages from textbooks or work booklets) to Word docs and worse still to Google docs can be a frustrating and time-consuming process when the formatting doesn’t transfer. A good old screen shot, paste and crop provides a quick fix, not forgetting to change the layout options (we usually opt for square text wrapping).  Easy when you know how.
  • continuing a reactive approach to making documents accessible for individual students is not sustainable nor is it equitable. 


Some of our musings …

  • We wonder how many of you out there have been grappling with the same challenges to ensure all learners have access to the online materials?
  • We wonder how many of you are Learning Support teachers and feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of keeping on top of this task?
  • We wonder what is happening in the meantime for the students at home who require support with reading comprehension, picture communication boards, time management, vision, new vocabulary, organisation, motivation? 

A brave new world …

There could not be a more relevant time to stop preparing learning materials for the ‘average’ student and start designing learning materials for all students. The first step is shifting your thinking:

  • Instead of asking what will I give my students to do, ask what do I want my students to learn?
  • Instead of asking what will my students submit, ask how could my students show me what they have learned?
  • Instead of giving everyone the same task, offer authentic choices that will excite, motivate and engage all of your learners (a full day of worksheets is not going to sustain engagement).

Don’t think of this as something new but just a different way to apply the collective knowledge in your schools to more efficiently and equitably meet the needs of all of your learners.

We’ve designed this checklist based on the Universal Design for Learning framework to help you when designing learning at home activities


Let’s not just shift our way of working in the classroom to the digital space, let’s shift our teaching practices to encourage quality learning at home that goes beyond keeping our students busy.

Our top 5 tips for shifting your thinking:

  1. Link the learning to an activity students can do at home.
  2. If you are thinking of sharing a pdf –  STOP – ask yourself how your students need to interact with it. Make it a fillable pdf or provide alternatives.
  3. Offer genuine choice in the way students can go about their learning, taking into consideration the resources and support that they may or may not have at home.
  4. Keep it personal/stay connected – give individual feedback, record yourself giving instruction, use video conferencing.
  5. Remember you’re not alone in this! Talk to colleagues or check out a live chat we held on challenges and strategies to deliver inclusive home-based learning. 


Sarah Humphreys and Janice Atkin

Planning online learning activities that are inclusive of all students

With the current COVID-19 situation here in Australia, many teachers have been directed to develop online and home-based learning activities for their classes. When preparing these lessons it is important to take into consideration the variability of your learners to ensure that all will be able to access the learning intended.

Sarah, our co-founder has put together this great checklist to help make sure that any activities your develop are inclusive and accessible for all.


We’d love to hear how you are catering for your students’ variability and the sorts of activities you are creating. Let us know through our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Using UDL to guide the development of inclusive online learning.

We wanted to reach out to our school communities to let you know that we are here to support you make online learning accessible and inclusive of all of your learners.

The shift to online learning, whether that be at home or at school, is going to take some time to get used to. Some of our students will adapt readily, others may find the transition more difficult. There are many variables to consider and that is why we have created a resource, drawing from the UDL guidelines, that we hope will guide and prompt your thinking as you design your online materials.

We will continue to share ideas and resources over the coming months to support inclusive online learning. So please get in contact – let us know if this resource has been helpful for you or if you would like more support from us.


Submission – NSW Curriculum Review

The NSW Curriculum Review aims to enhance the effectiveness of school education in NSW. At Inclusive Schools Australia we believe that a 21st century curriculum must be inclusive of all learners and this can only be achieved if the curriculum is truly developed with all learners in mind from the outset. For too long we have had a curriculum for most but not for all. NSW schools currently rely on add-ons and exemptions to support students with the greatest challenges. Life Skills outcomes and content are the current ‘add-on’ which result in ‘exemptions’ from the same academic rigour and assessment practices associated with the regular curriculum. This is neither helpful for teachers nor equitable for students and has resulted in:

  • a default curriculum for special schools and support units from Year 7 onwards.
  • an opt-out curriculum for students who are disengaged or struggling (academics; behaviour; mental health).
  • an opt-out curriculum for teachers/schools struggling to manage challenging students, particularly when Life Skills assessment data does not count.
  • a simplified curriculum for non-specialist high-school teachers running a support class or special school class across the whole day on a primary model.
  • an alternative to the Australian Curriculum content – there is no Australian Curriculum content tagged in any of the Life Skills syllabuses. That is not to say it is not present, but it indicates an alternative syllabus development process that permits content to be omitted for students who cannot access the regular course outcomes.
  • a curriculum that supports segregation and low expectations. Without assessment expectations other than achieved or achieved with support teachers can essentially teach what they like against the same outcome/s for an extended period.

We believe the focus for an inclusive curriculum should be on providing alternative access rather than alternative content. Read our full submission to the NSW Curriculum Review in which we compare curriculum models nationally and internationally and highlight the advantages of developing and delivering curriculum using the Universal Design for Learning framework.