BLOG: Why we need to do more to make sport inclusive for all

Following Disability Awareness Day (15 July), Development Manager for the Youth Sport Trust’s Inclusive Sport Programmes Vicci Wells, discusses inclusivity and ensuring accessible, inspiring and meaningful opportunities for all.

Children with disabilities have fewer opportunities to participate in sports – both in social and school environments. Disabled people are also twice as likely to be physically inactive as non-disabled people.

Take a moment for the above two statements to sink in. Is this the case in your school? As a governor or trustee, how do you know?

As a primary school governor and in my work with schools through the Youth Sport Trust Lead Inclusion school network, I see a lot of schools which champion inclusivity exceptionally well. Yet we still hear startling and shocking examples of where this isn’t the norm - and it is this that has moved me, particularly with reference to inclusive physical education and school sport.

All children and young people in our schools have the right to access high quality and meaningful physical education and school sport. It is so much wider than this though as highlighted by a survey which showed 72% of schools and children’s groups stated that a lack of participation in sport contributed to social isolation, lack of confidence and reduced life experiences among children with disabilities. Teachers reported in this same survey how this lack of participation in sports lessons has a knock-on effect to a child’s confidence and their wider educational attainment.

Only this week I have witnessed several online conversations between governors across the country who were concerned about a lack of consideration for young people with disabilities to take part in sport. A school governor took to social media to highlight a story about her son who was so anxious about sports day at their school that he did not want to attend for fear of being socially isolated. It saddened me to hear that as a young man with a disability he felt there were not any activities available to best meet his needs without causing extreme pain. The governor felt let down by the school and asked fellow governor colleagues for advice.

The advice given was very powerful - consisting of ‘if we don’t like something- change it’ and ‘involve young people to bring about change!’ It is these values and ideas that we truly believe in at the Youth Sport Trust. We have developed free resources with tips and ideas for schools in England via Top Sportsability to ensure no child is forced to stay on the side lines.

As part of the advice given, there were a greater number of governors offering opinions including ‘he could do other jobs - perhaps sell the ice lollies?’

On one hand this may unleash a future Richard Branson and develop this young individual’s entrepreneurial skills, but would we feel this is acceptable inclusion on a whole school sports day?

As a national children’s charity, we believe in a future where every child enjoys the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport. We have a whole wealth of free information which we can signpost schools to. We can also support them to identify the extremely important questions we should all be asking. Unfortunately, the above scenario is not an isolated incident, I have heard similar examples this year- which seem to always gather momentum during whole school engagement events, such as sports days.

Free resources for schools around inclusivity

SEND Governance Review Guide - The remarkable people at Whole School SEND, London Leadership Strategy and Driver Youth Trust have recently published the SEND Governance review guide.  if you haven’t seen this resource you can access a free copy through the link. This is a fantastic tool for fellow colleagues to utilise at board meetings to ensure confidence not only in the inclusive nature of our schools but also the board itself.

Sainsbury’s Active Kids for All (Inclusive PE training) - Research found 8 out of 10 recently qualified PE teachers felt their initial teacher training had not sufficiently prepared them to work with disabled children. This is a free training and resource to support teachers, trainee teachers and school staff to provide a high quality PE curriculum for all young people. Promote to your schools and check out details of your nearest courses.

School Games inclusive sport – By being a part of the School Games, schools can receive a range of support around inclusive sport. The School Games is the Government’s strategy for competitive school sport strategy. Project Ability sits within this and provides a number of free resources designed to support schools in reviewing their inclusive practice. The Inclusive Health Check is also available and is an interactive self-review tool designed to support schools. Last year almost 9,000 schools completed one. As governors do you get to see this and do you know who completes it? Is it typically the PE lead or is this completed in partnership with the SENCo?

Questions to ask your governing body for best practice:
  1. Do all our governors understand their accountability towards young people with SEND?
  2. Does our school have a clear vision for high quality Physical Education and school sport for all young people that contributes to the whole school development plan?
  3. What progress are our pupils with SEND making in the school?
  4. What do parents think about our school’s provision for young people with SEND- and what do pupils think?

For more information and support around best practice and the Youth Sport Trust’s strategic objective to remove barriers to sport for all young people visit strategy.youthsporttrust.org

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