Better quality physical education (PE) for young disabled students in mainstream schools is desperately needed, says London 2012 double Paralympic gold medallist, Hannah Cockroft.
Commenting in response to a new survey from national charity, the Youth Sport Trust, Hannah stated that whilst some teachers are making sports activities accessible for all young people, there is still a significant proportion that are not equipped with the skills and knowledge of how to include disabled students in PE lessons.
The Youth Sport Trust surveyed 52 leaders in disability sport from schools across the country, including some of the charity's Inclusion Partner Schools, which compared the quality of PE provision for disabled students in special schools and mainstream schools.
Almost three quarters (73%) said disabled students in special schools experience higher quality PE and school sport opportunities compared to those attending mainstream schools. Lack of experience, confidence and training amongst teachers and inadequate equipment in schools were highlighted as some of the top reasons.
Only 29% thought teachers in mainstream schools could signpost disabled students in their schools to the most appropriate sports clubs, compared to 70% who thought special schools were more than capable. 81% of teachers also thought that Paralympic talent is being missed due to lack of knowledge around disability sport in mainstream schools.
21 year old Hannah, who is an ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust:
"This doesn't come as a huge shock. I went to a mainstream nursery, primary and secondary school and was the only disabled child there so had some real challenges when it came to PE lessons.
"I dreaded them, as I knew I would get completely sidelined and told to get in the library or do something completely different that wasn't part of the PE lesson. I wasn't going to break in half just because I have a disability; all I wanted to do was get involved in the sports activities with my friends and not having these opportunities was a huge thing for me.
"It wasn't the teachers fault though; there weren't the support resources such as the Sainsbury's Active Kids for All Inclusive PE Training back then, so they didn't know what to do to include me in activities."
Other findings highlighted that seven out of ten (70%) of the teachers surveyed thought mainstream schools struggle to identify high level sports ability in a disabled person, whereas over half (56%) thought teachers in special schools could. Popular reasons for this included better support and guidance from national disability organisations and closer links with local clubs.
Findings from the survey suggest teachers would benefit from more training schemes that look to tackle the issue of disability participation in sport, such as Sainsbury's Active Kids for all Inclusive PE Training. The Inclusive PE Training is a partnership between Sainsbury's, the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) and the Youth Sport Trust, who deliver the programme in England.
The free training initiative, which is available to all mainstream primary and secondary and special schools in the UK, aims to develop the skills and confidence of 7,000 PE teachers to include young disabled people in PE and school sport activities by 2016. The initiative is also working with a number of universities who are utilising the training for their teacher trainees within both primary and secondary school settings.
"Some mainstream schools are doing a fantastic job at including their disabled students in activities but this should be happening in every school." highlights Hannah. "Luckily it didn't hold me back. However, there are loads of disabled kids that have really bad experiences of PE because they aren't included and this can shatter their confidence and self belief, affecting everything in their life.
"More training for teachers is desperately needed in schools so they feel more equipped and able to integrate disabled students into inclusive sports activities."
Tom Murphy, PE teacher at Davenant Foundation School who has taken part in the Sainsbury's Active Kids for All Inclusive PE Training commented:
"I didn't have much training at University around making PE lessons inclusive, which meant I was worried about my lack of experience when I first started teaching. The training has really opened up my eyes to how easy it can be to adapt activity to suit all children without changing it completely or excluding students."
The Youth Sport Trust has issued a 5 Point Plan for teachers to support them to make sports activities inclusive for disabled young people. Five tips include everything from setting progress and exploring challenges with disabled students to being creative, having inclusive equipment and giving young people a voice.
Teachers who want to attend the Sainsbury's Active Kids for all Inclusive PE Training can book their free place at http://www.inclusivepe-eng.co.uk/ or to find out more visitwww.sainsburys.co.uk/ActiveKids.