Scottish Universities Inclusion Group

(formerly Scottish Teacher Education Committee Inclusion Group)

We are a collaborative group of teacher educators working in universities across Scotland to prepare teachers to be able to work inclusively to support the learning of all young people.

The Scottish Universities Inclusion Group is a working group of the Scottish Council of Deans.

Scottish Universities Inclusion Group Background and Annual Report (January 2021)

Aims of the Scottish Universities Inclusion Group
Our understanding of Inclusion
Membership of the group
The National Framework for Inclusion
Applications of the National Framework for Inclusion
Useful links
Contact us

Aims of the Scottish Universities Inclusion Group:

Colleagues from all Schools of Education in Scottish Universities work collaboratively to:

  • Ensure that teacher education programmes across Scotland embed inclusion in their initial teacher education courses and support new teachers to understand their professional responsibilities to support the learning of all children.
  • Support teachers at all stages in their careers to recognise, value, and respond positively to the diversity of children in schools.
  • Support teachers in all stages in their careers to draw from contemporary research-informed understandings of inclusion as they reflect on, and develop their practice.
  • Challenge, where appropriate, practices or attitudes that act as barriers to inclusion.
  • Undertake research to inform and develop ongoing work relating to inclusion in schools.

The Scottish Universities Inclusion Group works with other organisations to support the development of these aims. These include Scottish Government, Dyslexia Scotland, and partner universities in the Netherlands.

Our Understanding of Inclusion:

Inclusion is an ongoing process to enhance the participation of all children in the life and learning of the school whilst acknowledging and addressing issues that may create barriers to participation. As school communities become increasingly diverse, teachers are called upon to work creatively to respond to the rights of all children by provision of learning opportunities which are available for everybody.

Our understanding of inclusion takes an open ended view of learning, believing that all children can improve their capacity to learn. Whilst recognising that any learner may require additional support at some stage, inclusive schools would seek to provide support in sensitive ways that do not stigmatise or mark children out as different. This may involve re-consideration of professional roles, responsibilities and relationships between classroom teachers and their professional colleagues.

Membership of the Group:

We are a group of teacher educators, including course directors and inclusion specialists from all the Scottish Universities offering initial teacher education. Our experience ranges from early career researchers through to Professors and a strength of the group is the way in which we support one another to develop as academics.

This photograph shows members of the group with Dutch colleagues, working together to enhance teacher education for inclusion.

Each School of Education has up to two core members in the Group. Additionally, associate members work alongside the group as colleagues in each institution.

group with Dutch colleagues
Group core membership:

University of Aberdeen: Kirsten Darling-McQuistan, Archie Graham

University of Dundee: Dianne Cantali (chair), Mary Knight

University of Edinburgh: Professor Lani Florian, Lynne Pratt

Edinburgh Napier University: Colin McGill

University of Glasgow: Ines Alves, Margaret Sutherland

University of Highland and Islands: Hayley Barnett

Queen Margaret University: Sian Jones

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: Angela Japp

University of Stirling: Stella Mouroutsou, Andrea Priestly

University of Strathclyde: Jane Catlin, Jane Essex, Yuchen Wang

University of the West of Scotland: Louise Barrett, Lisa McAuliffe


The main activity of the group has been the development and dissemination of the National Framework for Inclusion, linked to the GTCS Standards for Teacher Registration, to provide a reflective tool to support teachers in all stages of their careers to enhance their inclusive practices. This was published in 2009 and updated in 2014. The latest version of the framework can be found here:

The National Framework has been used in teacher education programmes across Scotland and introduced to local authority staff through CPD events. We have presented our work at conferences, nationally and internationally, and published in a peer reviewed journal.

Our collaborative ways of working, together with the development of the Framework, have sparked international interest, and we have hosted visitors from European nations who are interested to find out about our work.

Currently we are involved in a partnership with five Dutch universities, who are interested in developing a network similar to our own in order to support the development of teacher education in the Netherlands.

The National Framework for Inclusion

The 2014 edition of the Framework for Inclusion can be found here:

The Scottish Government has recognised that teachers need to be well prepared and appropriately supported throughout their careers if they are to succeed in meeting the increasingly diverse needs in Scottish schools. Both the Donaldson review of teacher education, Teaching Scotland’s Future and the McCormac Review of Teacher Employment called for lifelong learning for teachers.

In 2008, with the support of the Government, Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), now the Scottish Council of Deans set up a working group consisting of course directors and inclusion specialists representing all seven universities involved in initial teacher education to develop the National Framework for Inclusion ( The remit of the group was to develop a Framework, which would identify the values and beliefs, the professional knowledge and understanding, and the skills and abilities, to be expected of student teachers and of qualified teachers at whatever stage of their career.

This edition of the Framework, which was launched in April 2009 (STEC, 2009), highlighted the underpinning principles of inclusive practice, social justice, inclusion and learning and teaching, in the context of relevant education policy and legislation. It adopted a broad definition of inclusion covering additional support needs, poverty, culture and language, also informed by and aligning with relevant aspects of UK Government’s Equality Act (2010) ( in order to promote participation, achievement and equality. The Framework also linked to Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive, 2004), which aims to ensure that all children and young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

The Framework was a first step in developing a coherent national approach to dealing with inclusion and has been highly influential in supporting teacher education programmes to ensure that all teachers have the knowledge skill and appropriate attitudes to respond effectively to all learners. Since its publication in 2009, all new primary and secondary teachers trained in Scotland have benefited from the approach to inclusion promoted by the Framework. In addition, some of the Scottish Universities are using the Framework to guide continuing professional development.

In May 2012, we held a National conference, ‘Working Together for Inclusion: University and School Partnership and Teacher Professional Development’ to consider how universities and local authorities might work together to continue to make progress in this most important area. The conference illustrated the importance of a joint dialogue about inclusion, and the need to develop a shared understanding about the challenges and opportunities for local authorities and universities to work together. Among the priorities discussed by the delegates was the need for:

  • a structure of support for newly qualified teachers;
  • teachers with advanced knowledge to support colleagues in their schools to develop more inclusive practices (e.g. mentors);
  • better use of the knowledge of teachers who have undertaken post graduate study;
  • better dissemination of the research informed practice that is undertaken as part of post graduate study.

Subsequently, with the support of Scottish Government, the Framework was refreshed in 2014 so that it would be consistent with the new professional standards for teachers which came into force in September 2012.

The 2014 edition of the Framework retains its aim to be comprehensive but not prescriptive, leaving Scottish universities free to determine how best to turn the underlying principles into practice.  It is question-based to encourage teachers to accept a shared responsibility for finding answers and further questions with the support of the web-based repository, which may be useful beyond Scotland. It attempts to promote inclusion as being the responsibility of all teachers in all schools and has tried to identify and to address the needs of teachers at all stages of their careers and to emphasise the need for career-long and life-long learning.

Applications of the National Framework for Inclusion:

University of Dundee

The Framework is used in the BA Childhood Practice degree, particularly in the ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ module to encourage students to undertake audits of practice and as a starting point for discussion on how children are included in the setting.

The Post-Graduate Certificate / Diploma / Master’s degree in Inclusive Education also draws from the Framework to generate questions and discussion about inclusion within a teacher’s setting; this leads to an action plan being written to improve an aspect of inclusion.

In the MA (Hons) Education and PGDE (initial teacher education programmes) the Framework is used to inform modules, for example:

  • 1st year module design is underpinned by principles of inclusion
  • PGDE Primary and Secondary both have specific sessions on inclusive practice and sessions on inclusion in a wider sense.
  • PGDE Secondary – the Framework is used to explore inclusion in the classroom with challenge questions used to generate discussion amongst students e.g. Who are the children and young people who are at risk of discrimination and / or being overlooked, resulting in barriers to participation and learning?

University of Strathclyde: Work with Instrumental Music Services Scotland (IMS)

Since 2014 we have been working with this service at a national level to support their development of inclusive practice. This was in response to recommendations set out in a Scottish Government (2013) report which recognised a need for a more inclusive approach and also for the professional development of staff to support this.

Over the last three years we have worked with IMS services from across Scotland utilising the Framework for Inclusion as a tool to support this development work. This work is ongoing; the most recent event was at the Heads of Instrumental Services Annual Conference on 2nd February 2017.

The Framework is adaptable and is not used in a prescriptive way. At one event the following questions were considered:

What would an inclusive instrumental service look like in your LA?

How will you know that you were on your way to achieving this?

What will you do to make this happen?

Following this session one head of service sent an email communicating that the local authority had taken stopped selection procedures and their website now reads, ‘The Instrumental Music Service tries to accommodate for every child who wants to learn an instrument. Any testing is to establish a starting point, not to block access.’

University of the West of Scotland

In UWS, the Framework is used across a range of modules in the initial teacher education programmes and in the MEd in Inclusive Education. For example, questions such as What do we make of difference? In what ways can schools help overcome inequalities and challenge discrimination? What are the policies that influence the development of practice and provision in the area of inclusion? are addressed in the BA1 module Society and Lifestyles, while questions such as what are the conditions that promote children’s development? What are the different forms of support? What are the implications for working with and through other adults? are considered in the BA2 module ‘Inter-professional Working’.

The UWS primary and secondary PGDE students are introduced to the Framework at the start of the programme and are provided with opportunities to engage with the reflective questions it contains throughout the year. When they are on campus, the students consider the questions with reference to academic literature and other relevant resources, while when they are on placement, they explore the questions through professional dialogue with the staff in their school. Towards the end of their PGDE year, the students are given opportunities to synthesise the insights they gained across the two contexts and to reflect on the implications for their practice during the probation year and beyond.

In the UWS MEd in Inclusive Education, the Framework questions aimed at teachers and advanced professionals are weaved through the modules and guide the reflection process that is central to the progamme. Questions are revisited regularly and are considered from different angles, depending on the focus of the module. For example, the question What are the opportunities, tensions, dilemmas, contradictions and problems for inclusion when interpreting and implementing current policy and legislation? is examined in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, and Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs in the respective modules, while the question How might critical engagement in enquiry, research and evaluation enhance teaching and learning? is central to the inclusive enquiry module and to the dissertation.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland – Designed for Diversity:

The National Framework for Inclusion:

Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2009:

Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014:

Getting it Right for Every Child:

The Scottish Universities Inclusion Group have published an academic paper about their work:
Barrett, L. Beaton, M. Head, G. McAuliffe, L. Moscardini, L. Spratt, J. & Sutherland, M. (2015) Developing inclusive practice in Scotland: the National Framework for Inclusion, Pastoral Care in Education: An International Journal of Personal, Social and Emotional Development, 33:3, 180-187, DOI: 10.1080/02643944.2015.1070896

Contact Us

Please send email to Dianne Cantali (group chair) at