Inclusive Festivals of Sport as part of Path 2 Paris

Hundreds of young people with SEND attended inspirational Festivals of Sport in 20 locations across the country.

Path 2 Paris is a programme that has been established to help children and their families to get active together, try new activities, and most importantly, have fun. It uses the inspiration of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, to challenge children across the country to virtually travel to Paris by getting active. Each active minute translates to virtual kilometres, helping to power a virtual path to Paris.

By taking part, children will increase their active minutes whilst growing in confidence and learning lifelong skills including teamwork and resilience. The route to Paris will also teach the children about the athletes, their sports and the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Inclusion 2024 programme delivered by the Youth Sport Trust is a tier 2 partner of the Path to Paris initiative, specifically focussed on engaging young people with SEND using the excitement of the Paralympic and Olympic Games in Paris.

As part of Path 2 Paris, 20 Youth Sport Trust Lead Inclusion schools across the country are helping to deliver festivals of sport for hundreds of young people from special schools to help inspire them to get active and give them an opportunity to log even more virtual miles! We visited two of these events recently to find out more about what happens.

The Invincible Games in Essex

The ‘Invincible Games’, is the annual sports festival organised by Active Essex and the Multi-School Council. This year’s event tied in celebrations with the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games. Over 350 students from 18 special schools in Essex took part in a wide range of inclusive events and sporting activities, including Boccia, Seated Volleyball and Para Athletics, with all activities being decided on by the students.

The event was opened by Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball player Siobhán Fitzpatrick who encouraged the students to get involved with the events as you never know where it could lead…

“Try every single sport you possibly can because you never know where it will lead! When I was 11 years old I was told I couldn’t do sport, but then I found wheelchair basketball and now I’m a Paralympic athlete!”


Gill Newlyn from Davenant Foundation School, the Youth Sport Trust Lead Inclusion School for Essex told us more about the day.

“An event like today means the students can take part in competitive and meaningful sport. The event is completely student led, so the students said, we want basketball, football, boccia, New Age Kurling and that’s what there is today. Putting on the events they want helps them to really feel included and then if they enjoy today, there are pathways available for them to go on and continue playing sports after today.

We’re trying to make sure each young person has the opportunity to take part whether they are in a special school or not. We will include everyone in a day like today and if there is a certain sport they want to do, we will try very hard to make that part of the festival and we will do all we can to enable them to take part.

In terms of impact beyond sport, the schools often see a positive change in behaviour in students after attending something like this. Often, it’s the guidelines or parameters that sports have can help students to focus, and also of course they see the physical and mental health benefits from attending a day like today. Mixing with other students and staff from other schools is really beneficial. It definitely helps with confidence building as well so there’s certainly a wider impact beyond just sport.

The Path 2 Paris programme has been really good in helping us to involve students, particularly ‘pinning’ an event like today to the Olympics and Paralympics. The students have been tracking their activities and adding their miles to get to Paris and each school has been linked to a country that is competing. Some schools have done research and learned about that country and they all marched into the opening ceremony today behind that flag which made it really fun.”

Steve Bish from Active Essex described more about what the students got out of the day.

“Inspiration is the key. A lot of the feedback from previous years is that a day like today leads to the young people trying new things, taking up new activities and being more confident to do new things. The other really important thing is the young people really feel they are being listened to because they’ve designed the day themselves. They’re not just turning up to a day and trying a few random sports, they’re going to an event they’ve helped to plan and prepare, they’ve come up with the ideas for what it looks like, so for example the music was their idea. They feel like they have ownership of the day and that’s really important.

The main thing from Active Essex’s point of view is it inspires them to be physically active as much as possible and are open to trying new things.”

Young people trying out fencing with instructor looking on

Young people playing boccia inside a hall

The Parkside School’s Path 2 Paris Inclusive Sport Festival at East Anglia Sport Park  

The second event saw six secondary schools with 122 students in total attend a paralympic inspired festival competing in two different leagues, one for children with moderate learning difficulties and the other for those with severe learning disabilities. The event allowed the pupils to showcase their physical skills as well as their emotional regulation during competition. It was an inclusive event with adapted athletic activities as well as standard competition format ones.

All the events were led by local young leaders, who organised events including high jump, javelin, obstacle, long jump and shot put. The young leaders adapted the level of difficulty of each sport to cater for the young people on the day.

Talking about what the children got out of the day, a teacher from Fen Rivers School said.

“The children have overcome fears on the track. Some are experiencing track and field events that they can’t experience at school because we don’t have the facilities and the resources, so coming to an opportunity like this is so rewarding. We have a lot of children that have overcome big fears today and having chances they never have before.”

Some of these pupils with their behaviour wouldn’t normally be safe to come to these events and represent the school themselves and do as much as they have today. This is something that’s really helped their school studies and behaviour knowing that they’re coming to represent the school themselves and giving it their best effort.

They are really proud to be here, six months ago they might not have been”.

Each event on the day was organised and led by young leaders from Notre Dame school. As well as enabling over a hundred children to compete, they also gained experience in delivering sessions and gained confidence and leadership skills by doing so.

One of the teachers from Notre Dame added:

“These opportunities are fantastic for our young leaders through opportunities to lead activities in the community like today, we’ve seen an increase in confidence of the leaders. Some of our leaders were extremely nervous at the start of the year and are now delivering warm ups to their peers in PE and leading activities at sports festivals without support. This has also impacted their confidence and engagement in wider subjects in school too.”

This positive impact was highlighted by the Young Leaders themselves.

“It’s really nice to help other people. I feel like my confidence has grown and I can now project my voice more to make myself heard. It’s helped me when I’m doing other subjects like Spanish speaking, I have a lot more confidence”.

“It’s helped me in sports teams – the leadership part of helping other kids and telling them how to do it properly – it’s really good fun. It’s also helped me with ideas for future jobs – from this I volunteer at my local cricket club helping out with the Dynamos.”

To find out more about our work around Inclusion, including information about Inclusion 2024 and our Lead Inclusion Schools, please visit our website. You can find out more about Path 2 Paris here.

Inclusion 2024 is a programme funded by the Department for Education which aims to improve the quality of schools’ physical edcation, school sport and physical activity provision for pupils with SEND to create meaningful, accessible and inclusive opportunities.

The programme is delivered on behalf of a consortium of organisations including Activity Alliance, Nasen, British Paralympic Association and Swim England.

Published on 3 July 2024