5 opportunities and 5 challenges the NCCD offers schools and teachers

5 opportunities and 5 challenges the NCCD offers schools and teachers

Monash University

The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data is more than just a funding model, it empowers teachers and schools to better understand the needs of their students with a disability and make decisions about their learning. But it also comes with its challenges.

Monash’s Umesh Sharma, Fiona May, Louise McLean and Christine Grove look at key opportunities and challenges associated with effectively implementing the NCCD.

The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) is an annual collection of information about Australian school students with disabilities. It allows schools, teachers, education authorities and governments to better understand the needs of their students with disability, and how to best support their learning and improve outcomes.

“The NCCD identifies the functional needs of students and then identifies adjustments that need to be put in place in order for them to access and participate in education on the same basis as students without a disability.”
Judy Connell, Manager Learning Diversity, Catholic Education Melbourne

NCCD data informs the Commonwealth funding allocations for students with disability, under the Australian Education Act 2013. It is also used to inform policy and program design.

The NCCD is a major reform. It empowers teachers to judge the type and level of adjustment in teaching and learning that a student with a disability needs. This is not done anywhere else in the world.

Collaboration and commitment are needed to address challenges and pursue opportunities

Embedding such a reform across all Australian schools requires high levels of collaboration and commitment from stakeholders at all levels, including school personnel, policy makers and academics.

Key stakeholders from across Australia came together at a recent forum held at Monash. The idea was to better understand the benefits associated with the NCCD and discuss the barriers.

The Monash-hosted NCCD forum brought together key stakeholders from around Australia.
The Monash-hosted NCCD forum brought together key stakeholders from around Australia.

At the forum our group identified five benefits/opportunities and five challenges for the schools. Each challenge offers a chance to do things differently, while the opportunities can significantly improve the educational outcomes of all students with disabilities included in the NCCD count.

“Forums like this remind us that the focus is not on funding, it’s not on accountability, it’s not on auditing, it’s actually about the students.”
Nigel Bartlett, Manager, Funding and Accountability, Independent Schools Victoria

Five opportunities

A framework for personalised learning and support for students with disabilities

The NCCD plays a critical role in providing personalised learning and support to students with a disability and in improving the quality of education they receive.

Where possible, the NCCD’s ability to strengthen personalised learning and support should be communicated and emphasised at all levels of the system – schools, sectors, jurisdictions, academics and policy makers.

“[We are] seeing a change in inclusive practice across our schools, which is wonderful. We are better able to target [student] needs in a really respectful way and give them what they need so that they can access and participate in their educational programs.”
Megan Cavanagh, Manager of Disability Services, Department of Education in Tasmania

A tool to drive inclusive teaching and learning in schools

When applied within a whole-school approach, the NCCD helps improve the inclusion of students with a disability in schools. It increases their opportunities for learning and their developmental outcomes.

All staff should be supported to engage with the NCCD and be involved with school-based moderation processes.

Effective professional learning leads to better NCCD outcomes

Staff should be able to access high-quality professional learning so they can better understand the links between the Disability Discrimination Act, the Disability Standards for Education and the NCCD.

Such training can substantially improve the quality of the NCCD data, boost the school’s ability to use the NCCD to support personalised learning and support, and result in better educational outcomes for students with a disability.

Developing national-level training that helps achieve a consistent understanding of the NCCD is also useful.

Adopting a whole-of-school approach tends to improve data quality

Staff can better understand and apply the NCCD if they are able to regularly use it in their work. Similarly, schools that adopt a whole-of-school approach towards implementing the NCCD tend to be better at encouraging staff to engage with it. As a result, the NCCD is implemented better and the school receives higher quality data.

Training staff in how a whole-of-school approach to education planning also links to good data collection and makes the NCCD’s implementation in schools stronger.

Including the NCCD in pre-service training will save time and resources

Pre-service training programs for teachers, counsellors and psychologists provide an ideal opportunity to teach the future workforce how to effectively implement the NCCD.

If graduate teachers and professionals understand how the NCCD works, then they can contribute towards NCCD decision-making processes as soon as they start working. This saves time and resources for schools in terms of staff training on NCCD and also improves data quality.

Professional bodies such as the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, Australian Psychology Accreditation Council and the Australian Association of Social Workers can mandate key competencies related to NCCD that need to be acquired for course accreditation.

“The exchange of best practice is really, really useful. As a Commonwealth Government, what can we do to actually help the states and territories and the sectors to address challenges in a way that builds on the work they are doing and not duplicate mistakes?”
Judy Petch, Director, Commonwealth Department of Education and Training

The NCCD allows kids with disabilities to be included into mainstream schools.
The NCCD allows kids with disabilities to be included into mainstream schools.

Five challenges

The level of NCCD knowledge within schools varies substantially

While some school staff know a lot about the NCCD, others understand a lot less. All school personnel need to comprehensively understand the Disability Discrimination Act and how schools can use the NCCD. This is necessary to count students with disabilities who need adjustments, but also to understand how adjustments are best made using a framework for personalised learning and support.

How this could be addressed

  • Provide targeted professional learning to all school staff to ensure teacher judgements are more consistent and improve the quality of NCCD implementation.
  • Support pre-service teachers, psychologists and school counsellors to develop knowledge and experience with the NCCD by:
    • incorporating NCCD into professional training programs that universities offer
    • providing opportunities for experience with the NCCD during course placements
    • creating learning communities to share knowledge and practice.

Schools are uncertain about the data they need to collect

Schools are not clear on how much evidence they need to collect, how best to collect it or where the data should be stored.

How this could be addressed

  • Develop and communicate clear and consistent guidelines about the evidence the NCCD requires
  • Share this information across sectors and jurisdictions
  • Incorporate into pre-service training programs for teachers, psychologists and school counsellors.

“We want to come up with some easy-to-use guidelines for schools to address these challenges,”
Professor Umesh Sharma, Monash University

The effectiveness of adjustments for individual students is not measured

The NCCD requires schools to collect information about what adjustments are made for an individual student. It does not measure the effectiveness of these adjustments.

How this could be addressed

  • Schools should be encouraged to monitor the effectiveness of adjustments for each student.
  • Determine progress against set goals. If there is no improvement, adjustments should be changed.

Insufficient opportunities for collaboration

If the NCCD is to be effectively implemented, high levels of collaboration are needed within schools and across jurisdictions and sectors.

Although there is strong collaboration in some areas, not all educators have adequate opportunities to collaborate with their peers about the NCCD.

How this could be addressed

  • Increase whole-of-school school engagement in NCCD implementation, including school-based professional learning and moderation opportunities.
  • Establish learning communities across schools, networks or regions to provide further opportunities for collaboration – particularly for schools in rural and remote areas.
  • Explore opportunities for cross-sector collaboration within jurisdictions.

“We’re all supporting students and families, so if we can learn from each other, there is huge value in doing that.”
Judy Connell, Manager Learning Diversity, Catholic Education Melbourne.

The model doesn’t allow planning for students’ potential future needs

The NCCD focuses on the current adjustments that students are provided. It does not allow for potential future adjustments to be considered and planned for.

How this could be addressed

  • School staff could be supported to develop a better understanding of the links between the Disability Discrimination Act, the Disability Standards for Education and the NCCD through professional learning opportunities.
  • This may provide staff with further opportunities to consider how the NCCD can be used to promote current and future planning and can drive personalised learning and support for students with disability.

About the NCCD Forum

The National Consistent Collection of Data Forum was held on 30 May 2019 at Monash University.

This was the first time professionals from different sectors came together to discuss the NCCD's potential for supporting students with disabilities.

The video below summarises the event.



The Monash team would like to acknowledge various members of the NCCD forum who shared their views about the challenges and opportunities relating to NCCD implementation. We would also like to acknowledge for extensive contributions made by the following presenters (Professor Spence Salend, Professor Michael Arthur-Kelly, Judy Connell, Freida Lai, Nigel Barlett, Janeen Hicks, Megan Cavanagh, Amelia Campbell, and Zoe Morris).