Inclusive education is about ensuring that all students, regardless of disabilities or other differences, are able to fully participate, learn, develop and succeed in Victorian government schools.
Since 2015, over 420 projects have been funded through this program – providing primary, secondary and specialist schools with new facilities such as outdoor sensory gardens and learning areas, specialist play and recreation equipment, and adapting indoor learning spaces to be more inclusive.
The 2023–24 Victorian State Budget allocated an additional $10 million to this fund, bringing the total investment in the fund to $80 million.
Round 9 of the Inclusive Schools Fund has been announced.
The VSBA School Grants team assess and administer the Inclusive Schools Fund.
The Inclusive Schools Fund (ISF) promotes small infrastructure projects that make a big difference to meeting the educational social needs of children and young people with disabilities and additional needs by promoting inclusive and innovative practices in schools.
The ISF is part of the Victorian Government’s inclusive education agenda that aims to promote inclusive and innovative practices in schools to better support children with disabilities or additional needs. You can find out more about the inclusive education initiatives, resources, support and guidance on the for the Department of Education (the Department).
Since 2015, over 420 projects across the state have been announced as part of this funding commitment to the ISF.
ISF funding is intended to:
- increase participation and improve learning outcomes for students with disabilities or additional needs through strengthening and developing inclusive government school environments;
- promote inclusion in classroom organisation and teaching approaches that tailor to the needs of all learners on the same basis, including those with disabilities or additional needs; and
- create innovative school environments based on inclusive best practice and universal design for all schools to consider in facility planning and design for students with disabilities or additional needs.
Round 9 of the Inclusive Schools Fund was open for applications from 7 June 2023 to 21 July 2023.
An additional $10 million was committed to the ISF in the 2023/24 State Budget, bringing the total investment in the ISF program to $80 million.
The maximum funding amount available is $300,000 (GST exclusive).
Schools can co-contribute to projects up to an additional $200,000 (GST exclusive), but this must be confirmed in writing on school letterhead, signed by both the School Principal and School Council President.
The maximum total value of any project is $500,000 (GST exclusive).
If your application is unable to demonstrate compliance against all eligibility criteria, it may be ruled ineligible and withdrawn from consideration.
- A government school registered with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority.
- Operating on land administered by the Department of Education and Training.
- Consistent with the project categories outlined at 3A.
- Works better addressed through the , including:
- Works to provide building access, including ramps or handrails
- Works for an individual student, including modifications for vision or hearing impairments
- Works required to make a facility compliant to the relevant disability and additional needs legislation and standards, including toilet/shower modifications.
- Significant capital works, including any of the following elements:
- new buildings
- building extensions
- purchase of relocatable buildings, including “pods”
- Maintenance funding for wear and tear on existing facilities.
- Works already commenced, partially commenced, or completed.
- Staffing costs
- Information Technology costs
- Loose or unfixed furniture
- Portable equipment, including specialist disability equipment
- Air conditioning/split systems
We consider universal design to be best practice and ISF is intended to deliver inclusive environments to schools that ensure access and participation for all.
Applications can be submitted for the ISF under one of 3 categories:
- Indoor inclusive learning spaces – internal upgrades and refurbishments to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of students. For example, areas that can be used flexibly for different purposes throughout the day, including wellbeing centres and sensory spaces.
- Outdoor inclusive learning spaces – outdoor areas that can connect in with teaching practices and provide spaces for students to voluntarily visit to de-escalate with proper supervision. For example, sensory gardens, outdoor learning/assemblies.
- Inclusive playgrounds – Inclusive playgrounds make it as easy for everyone to play, encouraging all children to be more physically active. For example, playground equipment and soft fall or synthetic under surfacing.
Universal design principles
We recognise that principals and school staff are not building/design professionals. However, the 7 Principles of Universal Design are intended to be simple and straightforward. They are:
- Equitable use
- Flexibility in use
- Simple and intuitive design
- Perceptible information
- Tolerance for error
- Low physical effort
- Size and space for approach and use
We strongly encourage principals to review and engage with these 7 principles of universal design before you start planning an application. Additional external resources are listed in Section C below.
We would also advise you to seek expert advice from physiotherapists and occupational health therapists to ensure that the proposed works will benefit children will additional developmental and sensory needs as intended.
The following links are provided as a starting point for considering best practice approaches to inclusion. You are encouraged to undertake your own research to identify solutions that will meet the identified needs of your school.
Department of Education and Training
Sport and Recreation Victoria
Australian Inclusion Resources
Third party quote
Once you have a clear vision for your proposed project, you will need to obtain an appropriate, third-party quote for your proposed works, which must include:
- The trading name of the organisation providing the cost estimate or quotation;
- their Australian Business Number (ABN); and
- itemisation of individual costs to demonstrate all expenditure is eligible under the Program Guidelines.
This quote is a mandatory document.
Conversations with building professionals to seek a quote can be a good way for schools to develop a more accurate idea of what can be achieved and probable costings.
VSBA project delivery – building professional fees
All successful projects funded through ISF will be delivered by the VSBA.
With the VSBA taking responsibility for delivering these projects to the highest safety standards, we have the flexibility to deal with underlying issues, latent conditions, and the professional experience to deliver the best possible outcome for each project.
To enable the VSBA to deliver these projects, we advise you to apportion approximately 20–25% of your total project cost to cover the cost of building professional and contingency fees to monitor and ensure successful delivery of projects. This is in addition to the total cost of equipment, materials, and labour for your project.
For example, if you are requesting $300,000 in grant funding, then the total cost of the proposed works (including equipment, labour, and materials) should not exceed $240,000 to provide for building professionals, quantity surveyors, asbestos hygienists, and contingency allowances under ISF. This will diminish the likelihood of your project scope needing to be reduced at a later stage if successful.
Alternatively, if the total cost of the proposed works (including equipment, labour, and materials) totals $100,000, then we recommend you request $120,000–$125,000 in total funding.
The Assessment Criteria have been designed to assist you in presenting the strongest possible case for your school against the identified Program Principles.
Due to high demand and to support more schools to benefit from projects, for Round 9, if total applications exceed the available funding, schools that have not previously received funding under Rounds 1–8 of this grant program may be prioritised for funding consideration.
Applications will be required to respond to the following assessment criteria:
- Demonstrate the current and future student population demand for the proposed works.
- Demonstrate the current and future infrastructure need for the proposed works.
- Demonstrate how the proposed works will improve learning outcomes and increase participation for students with disabilities or additional needs.
- Demonstrate how the proposed works will provide school and community benefits.
- Demonstrate how the proposed works support the seven universal design principles.
- Demonstrate a commitment to maintaining your school.
Supporting documentation – Appendix B
Please remember that none of the suggested key documents for the merit criteria provided at Appendix B are mandatory. These are all merely recommendations of types of evidence that might help support your responses.
The best way to approach the supporting documentation is to identify the most convincing pieces of evidence for your school’s specific situation that best help demonstrate the criterion listed in the guidelines.
It is less effective to upload the same, identical documents for every criterion or upload multiple versions of the same type of evidence. For example, uploading 10 years of PSD data for Criterion 1 would be less effective than directly addressing each of the sub-points detailed in Appendix B through the text responses and attachments. An application that includes relevant supporting attachments will score higher than one which only has text responses.
Clear attachments that are directly targeted to each criterion and specifically referenced within the text responses will result in the highest merit scores.
Applications for Round 9 opened on 7 June 2023 and closed at midnight on 21 July 2023.
Applications must be made by the Principal or by an authorised representative with explicit, written approval from the Principal.
Late applications will not be considered.
SmartyGrants online system
Applications should be submitted under the school’s main email address to ensure ongoing access to the information for future school staff.
All sections of the application form must be completed for applications to be eligible for consideration.
You can make changes to your application at any time until you submit your application.
Please remember to click the “Save” button within the application form occasionally to prevent data loss.
As part of the application process, you MUST provide the following documents:
- Third party quote which must include:
- Company’s trading name,
- Company’s ABN, and
- Itemisation of individual costs (refer to page 8)
- SAMS plan (available on ) or campus map that is clearly marked to illustrate what parts of the land or building will be changed by your proposed project
- Recent photo(s) of the area for the proposed works
- (As required) If the school is proposing to co-contribute to this project, then a letter must be provided:
- On school letterhead,
- Stating the project name and contribution amount,
- Confirming that the funds will be immediately available, and
- Signed by both the Principal and the School Council President.
All other documents outlined in Appendix B are examples of types of evidence that a school could include to better support their responses.
- Third party quote which must include:
Once applications close, we will:
- Assess all applications for eligibility as per the eligibility criteria;
- Assess all eligible applications for merit against the assessment criteria;
- Refer highly ranked applications to other teams and business units for further review to:
- Assess potential risks and issues with proposed works;
- Review the proposed works to ensure compliance with relevant legislation and standards; and
- Review the proposed works for alignment with the program objectives.
As part of the assessment process, other areas of the Department will be consulted to further inform the suitability of projects against the criteria.
As part of the assessment process, we may refer some applications to a quantity surveyor to ensure project cost estimates are sufficient. Schools will be contacted if this occurs and will need to provide site access to the quantity surveyor. If the costing developed through this process is greater than the maximum funding amount, then we may discuss a revision in scope.
The attendance of a quantity surveyor at your school site is not a guarantee that a project will be funded.
Projects will be recommended for funding primarily based on their rating against the assessment criteria, however, the VSBA may also consider:
- the prevalence of children with disabilities or additional needs attending your school;
- the distribution of approved projects across applicants, local government areas and education regions; and
- the availability of funding, noting that the number and value of eligible, highly rated projects may exceed the total available funding.
We will provide a list of recommended projects to the Minister for Education for approval. The Minister will make the final determination with respect to outcomes.
The Minister reserves the right to allocate funding from this program to any application made by a government school to address the strategic priorities of the program.
We understand the significant time and effort that goes into preparing these applications, so we try to put the same time and care into the assessment process.
All applicant schools will be contacted regarding the outcome of their applications as soon as possible, so we appreciate your patience in this matter.
Successful projects will be published on the VSBA website.
The VSBA will deliver all successful projects using contractors from the VSBA’s State-wide Minor Works Contract and manage all reporting requirements, payments, and acquittals for these projects.
The information you provide will be dealt with in accordance with the Public Records Act 1973 and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014.
Alternate delivery arrangements
There are rare exceptions when we determine that a particular project funded through ISF would provide a better value for money through school self-delivery. These projects are handled on a case-by-case basis and are generally only feasible for low-value projects under $50,000.
If successful in receiving funding under Round 9, you can discuss delivery arrangements in detail with the ISF Delivery team.
General program enquiries
You are also advised to consult with your nearest Regional Office regarding your proposed project.
The Regional Provision and Planning Managers are:
Step 1 Read the Program Guidelines thoroughly.
Step 3 Review Section 2: Eligibility Requirements to ensure your proposed project is appropriate for this grant program.
Step 4 Determine the specific building/construction works that will be required for your proposed project under 1 of the 3 project categories: indoor inclusive learning area, outdoor inclusive learning area, or inclusive playground.
Step 5 Obtain a third-party quote for the proposed works, seeking advice from your regional Provision and Planning Manager as required.
Step 6 Review Section 4: Merit Assessment Criteria to plan your responses and Appendix B to gather supporting evidence.
Step 8 Wait for outcomes.
We recognise that each school’s situation is different, so please provide text responses and upload evidence that you feel best supports your school’s application.
Responses that fully and directly address each criterion, including every sub-point, along with specific, targeted attachments included as supporting evidence will result in the highest merit scores.
Assessment criteria 1
Demonstrate the current and future student population demand for the proposed works.
Responses should demonstrate Suggested key documents Number of students recorded under PSD Data collected for Program for Students with Disability (PSD) Number of students for whom reasonable adjustments are made Data collected for Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) Number of students overall benefiting from the proposed facility Current enrolment list School population trend, current figures, and outlook Future enrolment projections, or evidence of localised growth trends Geographic location of the school linked to the projected student population outlook School zone or intake area, or evidence of localised growth trends
Assessment criteria 2
Demonstrate the current and future infrastructure need for the proposed works.
Responses should demonstrate Suggested key documents Current state of infrastructure at school – specifically the area for proposed works Recent photograph(s) Any recent major capital works at the school DET funding history for capital works Clear and detailed accounts of how and why the current infrastructure is inadequate Student experience/case studies, or staff/professional reports Proposed project cannot be funded through existing school funds Detailed accounting of existing school funds, or financial documentation
Assessment criteria 3
Demonstrate how the proposed works will improve learning outcomes and increase participation for students with disabilities or additional needs.
Responses should demonstrate Suggested key documents Clear and comprehensive explanation of how proposed works address current inclusion issues Student experience/case studies, or staff/professional reports Description of how the proposed facilities will provide benefits linked to student learning outcomes Research of intended benefits, recent studies, or advice from inclusion expert Clear, detailed explanation of how proposed works will increase participation for students with disabilities and additional needs Student experience/case studies, or staff/professional reports
Assessment criteria 4
Demonstrate how the proposed works will provide school and community benefits.
Responses should demonstrate Suggested key documents Teaching modification strategies with the establishment of the proposed facilities Curriculum or lesson plans adapted for new spaces Connection between school strategy for inclusion and the proposed works School inclusion policies/plans with description of how these proposed works support the school’s inclusion strategy Acknowledgement from relevant stakeholders outlining their assessment of need and resources required Letters of support from teacher, therapist, or relevant stakeholders Support from within the school and local community Teacher/staff survey or testimonies or letters of support
Assessment criteria 5
Demonstrate how the proposed works support the 7 universal design principles.
Responses should demonstrate Suggested key documents Acknowledgment and understanding of the 7 universal design principles Evidence that the school considered these principles in developing the project, such as notes from internal discussions or emails with third party contractors How the proposed works support the 7 universal design principles Clear description of how the proposed works support all 7 of these principles, or detailed project plans Application of these principles within the school Detailed description, or advice from inclusion expert
Assessment criteria 6
Demonstrate a commitment to maintaining your school.
Responses should demonstrate Suggested key documents Engagement with the Rolling Facilities Evaluation process through the School Maintenance Plan portal
An endorsed School Maintenance Plan (SMP)
School has been completing condition, routine maintenance work and essential safety measures Essential Safety Measures report has been completed and Priority 1 and 2 defects (identified by the Rolling Facilities Evaluation) have been addressed on time
- Bendigo Primary School
- Coolaroo South Primary School
- Eaglehawk Secondary College
- Horsham West and Haven Primary School
- Huntingdale Primary School
- Irymple Primary School
- Jackson School
- Jindivick Primary School
- Kingsbury Primary School
- Lorne – Aireys Inlet P–12 College
- Manor Lakes P–12 College
- Moolap Primary School
- Mount Waverley Primary School
- Myrrhee Primary School
- Preston North East Primary School
- Rockbank Primary School
- St Albans Primary School
- Sunbury Primary School
- Surfside Primary School
- Templestowe College
- Warracknabeal Special Developmental School
- Woodville Primary School
Reviewed 05 December 2023