Inclusive education

Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that demonstrates universal acceptance and promotes a sense of belonging for all learners.


Inclusion is not just about learners with special needs. It is an attitude and approach that embraces diversity and learner differences and promotes equal opportunities for all learners in Alberta. Alberta’s education system is built on a values-based approach to accepting responsibility for all children and students.

Every learner has unique needs. Some learners have profound and ongoing needs and others have short-term or situation-based needs. This calls for flexible and responsive learning environments that can adapt to the changing needs of learners.

For some learners, the most responsive and flexible learning environment may include:

  • instruction and support in a grade-level classroom with same-aged peers
  • individualized instruction in smaller group settings
  • a specialized classroom or setting
  • one-on-one instruction
  • a combination of all the above

When teachers use evidence-based instructional practices and strategies to support student engagement, it can lead to greater achievement and success for all children and students.

A robust continuum of supports and services includes:

  • Universal supports and services incorporated into the inclusive learning environment for all learners, including but not limited to, quality instruction and providing welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments. High-quality approaches are available to and benefit each learner.
  • Targeted supports and services designed for groups of learners who require additional supports or interventions to be successful with their learning. These are designed to build specific skills and reduce barriers that interfere with learning or social-emotional well‑being.
  • Individualized supports and services designed for individual learners to address specific areas for growth, barriers or personal circumstances that may be impacting the ability of individual learners to participate in or benefit from learning opportunities. They are intended for fewer individuals with more severe or pervasive challenges that require changes to supports and services beyond the universal and targeted supports provided.

Universal supports are applied throughout the continuum. Learners receiving targeted or individualized supports also receive universal supports.

See the Resources section below for further information on implementing a robust continuum of supports and services.


Inclusive Education funding is allocated to school authorities through a formula that aims to ensure an equitable distribution of funding. Funding is not determined through coding.

School authorities distribute the funding they receive based on the needs of students within their school communities.

Enhancing access for specialized assessments for school authorities

Alberta’s government allocated up to $10 million to help address issues around accessing specialized assessments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public, separate, francophone and public charter school jurisdictions were eligible to submit an application for children/students requiring assessments who were not able to receive an assessment during the pandemic and are currently waiting.

School jurisdictions were required to complete a referral application form and submit the form to the service coordinator during the submission periods.

Applications are now closed.

For more information, contact Mandel & Associates Ltd. at 403-286-8425 or Dayna Jansen at [email protected].

Principles of inclusive education

The following 6 principles are key to achieving Alberta’s vision for an inclusive education system. These principles can guide and inform value-based and learner-centred decisions related to policies, practices and actions at every level of Alberta’s education system.

  • Anticipate, value and support diversity and learner differences – Welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments create a sense of belonging for all learners and their families.
  • High expectations for all learners – Creating a culture of high expectations begins with an accessible curriculum and meaningful and relevant learning experiences. Educators and families act on the idea that, with the right instructional supports, every learner can be successful.
  • Understand learners’ strengths and needs – Meaningful data is gathered and shared at all levels of the system—by teachers, families, schools, school authorities and the Ministry—to understand and respond to the strengths and needs of individual learners.
  • Remove barriers within learning environments – All education partners work together to remove barriers within the learning environment so that all learners are successful and can participate in the school community.
  • Build capacity – Government, school and system leaders, teachers, education professionals, families and community partners have ongoing opportunities, relationships and resources that develop, strengthen and renew their understanding, skills and abilities to create flexible and responsive learning environments. Capacity building takes place at the personal, school and system levels.
  • Collaborate for success – All education stakeholders, including school and system staff, families, community partners, post-secondary institutions, teacher preparation programs and government are committed to collaboration to support the success of all learners.

Video discussion guides

Inclusive education video series: Valuing all students

Inclusion is not about eligibility or criteria, but rather it is about making the best educational decisions for the student.

Watch nine videos from the Inclusive Education Video Series to learn more about inclusive education topics, including valuing all students, changing how we talk about disabilities and using a positive behaviour approach to support learning. Each video comes with a conversation guide.


Inclusive Education Policy

Alberta Education’s mission to continue providing inclusive learning opportunities is evidenced in the Inclusive Education Policy in the Guide to Education.

Alberta’s education system is built on a values-based approach to accepting responsibility for all children and students. Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that demonstrates universal acceptance of, and belonging for, all children and students.

“To support children and students in attaining the goals as stated in the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, school authorities must ensure that all children and students (Kindergarten to Grade 12), regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, family status or sexual orientation, or any other factor(s), have access to meaningful and relevant learning experiences that include appropriate instructional supports.”
2021-22 Guide to Education: ECS to Grade 12, page 27.

Indicators of inclusive schools

Indicators of Inclusive Schools is a resource that:

  • offers information and tools that leaders can use to support schools and school systems to reflect on how their schools are demonstrating a commitment to inclusive education
  • helps school staff to develop strategies and action plans that strengthen inclusive education and ensure equitable access for all learners

Information from this resource can be used to inform the 3-Year Education Plan and provide assurance to school communities that every student has equitable access to education.