My Experiences at EUCAPA 2024: A Journey of Inclusion and Inspiration

Our Head of Sport Vicci Wells had the privilege of attending and presenting at the European Congress of Adapted Physical Activity (EUCAPA) 2024 conference in Seville.

The experience of attending and presenting at a conference brimming with insightful discussions, pioneering research, and inspiring exchanges was both enlightening, and uplifting. This year's event, ahead of the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics, focused on the theme "Participation and Inclusion in Sport for Quality of Life - Paris 2024 Horizon." As an attendee and presenter, I had the unique opportunity to delve into the heart of adapted physical activity and sport science, witnessing firsthand the dedication of professionals committed to improving the quality of life for individuals of all abilities.

The Aims and Intent of EUCAPA

EUCAPA serves as a European platform for promoting and disseminating experiences, results, and findings in adapted physical activity (APA) and sport science. The fundamental purposes include:

  1. Encouraging European cooperation in the field of physical activity for the benefit of individuals of all abilities.
  2. Promoting, stimulating, and coordinating scientific research and experiences in APA across Europe, and supporting the application of research results in various professional practices such as education, adaptation, inclusion, coaching, leisure, recreation, and rehabilitation.
  3. Making scientific knowledge of APA and practical experiences accessible to all interested national and international organizations and institutions.

I am proud to share that the Youth Sport Trust was successful in our abstract submissions around our work through Inclusion 2024, allowing us to present on two critical areas within the PE and Inclusive Sports strand. We presented alongside Swim England, Inclusion 2024 Consortium partner and valued colleagues of the leadership of the school swimming and water safety strand of the work, ASK Research, the external evaluators of the programme, and Parkside School - a Youth Sport Trust Lead Inclusion School doing exceptional inclusive practice across Norwich (and now internationally!). This collaboration was a testament to our ongoing commitment to supporting young people, particularly those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), in accessing inspiring and meaningful physical education (PE) and school sport opportunities.

Highlights from Our Presentations

At EUCAPA 2024, we highlighted several key initiatives and findings from our work, particularly focusing on:

  • National Learnings from Inclusion 2024: We shared the impact of the Inclusion 2024 initiative, the grant from the Department for Education in SEND Inclusion in PE and Sport on young people with SEND in PE, physical activity and school sport, demonstrating significant improvements in participation and engagement.
  • School Swimming and Water Safety for SEND Students: Our work in this area, led by our partners Swim England and 16 Lead Inclusion Schools across the country has provided crucial insights into how to effectively teach swimming and water safety to young people with SEND, ensuring they are safe and confident in the water.
  • Inclusive Sport Festivals: Leveraging the magic of the Paralympic Games, these festivals have been instrumental in promoting SEND inclusion in school sports, offering young people exciting and inclusive sporting opportunities. We were able to bring to life our most recent collaboration through ‘Path to Paris’ in partnership with Paralympics GB.
  • Sport Sanctuaries: We showcased our thought leadership in creating Sport Sanctuaries, spaces designed to engage more young people in PE, school, and life, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for all.

Insights Gained from the Conference

One of the most enriching aspects of the conference was the opportunity to hear from other countries about their inclusive practices. For instance:

  • Finland's "Finland in Motion" project emphasized the importance of nationwide initiatives to promote physical activity among all citizens.
  • Belgium shared innovative approaches to promoting physical activity outside the classroom, highlighting the role of community and environment in fostering an active lifestyle.
  • The President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) spoke about the profound societal impact of the Paralympic Games, illustrating how such events can inspire and drive change on a global scale.
  • Discussions on strength (shared by Spain) and balance (Ireland and Wales) were particularly enlightening, given the new Chief Medical Officer guidelines identifying these as critical areas for disabled pupils.

Reflections and Conclusion

Sharing our best practices and learning from global colleagues has been incredibly rewarding. The exchange of ideas and strategies has not only broadened our perspectives but also reinforced our commitment to inclusion and participation in sport. EUCAPA was an unparalleled platform for learning, sharing and inspiring change. I leave even more motivated to continue our mission, armed with new insights and strengthened by the knowledge that we are part of a global community striving for a more inclusive and active world.

As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded of the power of sport to unite, inspire, and transform. The conference underscored the importance of collaboration, innovation, and dedication in our collective mission to create a more inclusive world through physical activity and sport.

Adiós, Sevilla. Gracias por una experiencia increíble!

Published on 20 June 2024