Learning Diversity and Inclusion

Embracing Diversity and Including All

St Mark’s fosters a safe, equitable, inclusive learning environment of trust and support, underpinned by our Anglican identity and our School Values of Respect, Knowledge, Confidence, Responsibility, and Community. Our community welcomes and recognises the rights of all individuals, values diversity, and fosters equity, fairness, care, and respect.

Teachers aim to provide quality differentiation and reasonable adjustments in the classroom. The School’s language, policies, teaching strategies, and assessment practices work to support equity of access to education for all students, create inclusive learning environments, and identify and reduce barriers to learning.

The Learning Diversity and Inclusion team is led by the Head of Learning Diversity and Inclusion and includes Learning Support Coordinators, specialist support and enrichment teachers, and education assistants. The team develops individual education plans and strategy support plans to directly address the diverse needs of students, to support all students to achieve their fullest potential. They work in partnership with staff, students, families, health professionals, and external agencies towards the best possible outcomes for each child.

Support for students with specific learning needs might include whole class, small group, or individual work; specialist intervention programs; short term interventions; and working alongside class teachers to support all students.

Differentiation, Personalisation, Extension, and Support.

The St Mark’s Strategic Plan describes our priority to support students as lifelong learners who are committed to continuous improvement and equipped for their futures; and to develop differentiated, innovative and research-informed teaching and learning. Below is an explanation of what this can look like at St Mark’s, in practice, with a particular focus on differentiation, personalisation, extension, and support.


‘Differentiation’ is the teaching practice of adjusting planning, teaching, learning environment, learning process, learning product and assessment to address the diverse needs of learners, tapping into students’ interests, readiness, pace, knowledge, and skills. Teachers at St Mark’s work responsively to provide varied opportunities for every child to acquire knowledge, develop skills, extend their thinking, and demonstrate their understanding. Some aspects of differentiation are visible to parents, such as assessment documents, marking rubrics and feedback such as that on SeeSaw and SEQTA. Many aspects of differentiation occur in the classroom. For example, teachers deliberately group students within classes, use pre-assessment, regularly check in on students’ understanding, use a range of technologies to enhance learning, and provide a range of learning materials. When differentiation is happening well, it is seamless, intuitive, and based on teachers’ keen knowledge of their students, their professional expertise, and their practised professional judgement in the moment.


While differentiation is about teachers knowing their students and making responsive adjustments, ‘personalisation’ is learning in which students know themselves, are active agents in their learning, and make learning choices. At St Mark’s, students are given opportunities to personalise their learning by being supported to follow their passions, initiate learning projects, design learning processes, shape learning pathways, and engage in solutions to authentic problems (following OECD, 2018; Zhao & Watterston, 2021).

The St Mark’s Learner Attributes provide a framework for students to be owners of their own learning through effort, self-regulation, executive functioning, goal setting, reflection, communication, and collaboration.

The St Mark’s Future Ready courses in Years 6-10 provide learning that is innovative, interdisciplinary, and relevant, and that encourages students to actively engage in their own identities and the world around them, developing transferable skills and capabilities that will support their success and wellbeing in an uncertain future.

Class Composition

Class composition is one way to help us to ensure we are providing the best education and opportunities for each and every student. This is supported by teachers planning carefully, teaching intentionally, providing a range of resources, providing meaningful feedback, and designing purposeful assessments.

What are setting and streaming and are they effective?

The term ‘setting’ is used to describe grouping students into ability-based or achievement-based classes for specific subjects. The term ‘streaming’ is used to describe grouping students into ability-based or achievement-based classes for all or most of their lessons, so that a student is in the same class group regardless of the subject being taught.

A research report by the UK’s Education Endowment Foundation (2018) notes that on average students experiencing setting or streaming make less progress than those taught in mixed attainment classes. They conclude that streaming and setting are not effective ways to raise student achievement. In a study of over 11,000 Year 7 students, Becky Francis and colleagues (2017) found negative impacts of attainment grouping on those in low attainment groups, including poorer academic progress, lower self-confidence and poorer perception of themselves as learners.

In a 2016 paper, Olivia Johnston and Helen Wildy note that grouping students into ability-based groups has few advantageous effects on students’ educational outcomes, and that it can increase disadvantage for students placed in lower streams academically, socially, and psychologically. They note, however, benefits of streaming for higher ability students. This is supported by Bailey (2005) who argues that ability grouping of produces positive gains for gifted students, and that gifted students benefit from a more rapid pace of learning, independent work, and to work with like-minded and similar-ability peers.

Research indicates:

  • There are benefits for high-achieving and high-ability students from being grouped together for learning with like-students.
  • There are negative impacts on set or streamed low attainment groups, academically, socially, and psychologically.
  • Once students are in a lower stream it is often very hard for them to move.
  • Overall, grouping students into achievement or ability groups is likely to have little effect or negative effects on student progress and self-concept. It is not an effective way to enhance student learning progress, and it may be counter-productive.

Class Composition at St Mark's

Classes for differentiation, support and extension

In Years K-5 students are placed into mixed ability class groups, with Learning Diversity and Inclusion staff working alongside class teachers to provide support and enrichment as required. Each child, regardless of their academic achievements, is provided with opportunities to extend their thinking,

In Years K-5 children identified as gifted, talented, and high ability may be provided with additional enrichment and extension opportunities beyond that which is already offered in the class.

In Years 6-8 there are six streams or class groups, with seven English and seven Mathematics classes to allow for targeted instruction in these areas. In Year 6, the seventh English and Mathematics classes are ‘Engage’ classes, designed to provide support for students in their transition into the Secondary school. For Years 7 and 8, an Engage class continues to be offered in Mathematics only, to allow for targeted support for those students who benefit from simplifying mathematical content and slowing the pace of learning. The Heads of the English, Mathematics, Science and Humanities and Social Sciences Departments work alongside the Head of Middle School and Head of Learning Diversity and Inclusion to group students in ways that allow them the best opportunities for academic success and mobility. This takes into account the abilities and attainment of students, as well as class size appropriate for student needs.

Students selected for Extension in Years 6-10 need to demonstrate high potential and high achievement.

In Year 6 there is a streamed Academic Extension class which is also a Homeroom group, allowing pastoral care and transition to be a focus for all students in Year 6.

In Years 7 to 10, Extension becomes more specialised, with Extension classes in Mathematics, English, Science and Humanities and Social Sciences. In Years 9 and 10 students begin to specialise as they select elective subjects and begin to consider post-school pathways. Extension classes continue to provide opportunities for higher ability and attainment students to excel, and prepare them for pathways into subjects such as Literature, Mathematics Methods, Mathematics Specialist, Physics and Chemistry. Teachers of Extension classes devise programs, pace, learning, and assessment to those with higher ability and attainment in their subjects. This approach allows Extension students to work at a more rapid pace, and to engage in higher reasoning and challenging concepts.

In Years 9 and 10, there continue to be seven English and Mathematics classes. For those students identified as requiring additional support, English Engage and Mathematics Engage provide smaller classes, the capacity for measured pace of learning, and targeted support for students likely to be suited to a General pathway.

In Years 11 and 12 students refine their future career aspirations and select individualised pathways to University or Vocational/Industry.

Identification of students to inform Extension classes, Engage classes, and class composition

The process and selection of students to Extension and Engage classes, in Years 6 to 10, is supervised by the Head of Teaching and Learning and the Heads of Middle and Senior School, and involves the Heads of the English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Science, and Learning Diversity and Inclusion Departments.

Identification of students is a thorough, data-informed process that works to formulate classes that allow each child to achieve their best. A range of data are analysed and considered, including performance in standardised tests (such as ACER, NAPLAN, Allwell, and MYAT), as well as tests that measure potential for learning (such as the ACER General Ability Testing and the WISC-IV, WISPSI, and Stanford-Binet). Student achievement in School assessments and subjects, along with teacher observations and recommendations, are also taken into account. High achieving and highly able students who are not identified for Extension classes have opportunities for enrichment and extension through differentiation in mainstream classes.


Bailey, S. (2005). Module 6: Gifted and Talented Education Professional Development Package for Teachers. Australia Department of Education, Science and Training.

Education Endowment Foundation. (2018). Setting or streaming. Retrieved from: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/pdf/generate/?u=https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/pdf/toolkit/?id=127&t=Teaching%20and%20Learning%20Toolkit&e=127&s=

Francis, B., Connolly, P., Archer, L., Hodgen, J., Mazenod, A., Pepper, D., Sloan, S., Taylor, B., Tereshchenko, A., & Travers, M. C. (2017). Attainment Grouping as self-fulfilling prophesy? A mixed methods exploration of self confidence and set level among Year 7 students. International Journal of Educational Research, 86, 96-108.

Johnston, O., & Wildy, H. (2016). The effects of streaming in the secondary school on learning outcomes for Australian students–A review of the international literature. Australian Journal of Education, 60(1), 42-59.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2018). The future of education and skills: Education 2030. OECD.

Zhao, Y., & Watterston, J. (2021). The changes we need: Education post COVID-19. Journal of Educational Change, 22(1), 3-12.