Charity welcomes long-awaited SEND and alternative improvement plan

Today the Department for Education published the long-awaited SEND and Alternative Improvement plan. As 500 teachers and leaders in education come together at the Youth Sport Trust’s annual Conference to hear about the role PE and sport can play in young people’s education to improve mental health, the charity has responded to Government plans.

Vicci Wells, Head of Sport at the Youth Sport Trust, said:

“As a national children’s charity, we very much welcome the publication of the SEND and alternative improvement plan. We know that currently 50% of parents in Britain with a child with disabilities aged four to 18 say their child does not feel comfortable taking part in sports with other children. Children with disabilities are less likely to enjoy PE lessons and games in schools compared to their non-disabled peers (47% compared to 60%).

“The playing field is not level, and it is vital the Government’s SEND improvement plan now brings about inclusive and meaningful change for SEND pupils. We would like to see the Government go further to ensure every educator is supported to create a culture of inclusion and foster a sense of belonging for every child at school. It is also vital every Alternative Provision setting when set up has space where pupils can move and play indoors and outdoors.

“Through our own programmes like Inclusion 2024 which is funded by the Department for Education, we are working to support educators and young people. We would like to see more investment in programmes like this. To date Inclusion 2024 has helped 5,000 practitioners to improve quality of PE and school sport provision for around 150,000 pupils. An additional 4,000 teachers are being upskilled in inclusive PE training with the creation of a new national knowledge platform. These types of programmes are life changing for the educators and young people involved.”

Minister for Schools Nick Gibb gave a virtual address at the charity’s Conference in Telford today highlighting the vital importance of PE and school sport for young people’s wellbeing.

He said: “PE and school sport has always been an important part of school life. The benefits are well recognized, not just in directly helping pupils to be healthy and enjoy sport with all the longer-term benefits that brings, it can also benefit the school as a whole, helping to build relationships between pupils and the staff helping to create calm school environments with high standards of behaviour where pupils enjoy academic success…PE and sport should feature in the timetable and extracurricular activities for all pupils.

“Even in a good school some children face barriers to taking part in sport and I’d like to recognize the great work of the Youth Sport Trust and consortium partners through the DfE funded Inclusion 2024 programme. The consortium leads a network of 50 schools who last year supported over 1,300 other schools. Alongside providing advice and guidance to schools, the Inclusion 2024 programme is supporting inclusive festivals of sport that harness the inspiration of the Commonwealth Games and is expanding the My Personal Best project that improves engagement in PE in alternative provision.”

The new SEND improvement plan comes as the Youth Sport Trust recognised young people and schools who are harnessing the power of PE, play and sport to support young people with SEND in education at its Conference Awards ceremony last night which was attended by special guest and former Lioness Jill Scott MBE.

It celebrated a school in Mansfield which was placed in Ofsted special measures which then set about transforming how young people with SEND feel about attending school by placing PE and sport at the heart of the curriculum. The charity also celebrated 17-year-old Billy Etherington who has Tourette’s, ADHD and was at risk of school exclusion, for harnessing the power of sport to stay in education and go on to secure an apprenticeship.

To find out more about how Inclusion 2024 is increasing and improving opportunities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to engage and participate in physical education and school sport, please read our latest report.

Published on 2 March 2023