We passionately want all young people to have a sporting chance

by Niamh Reilly, Inclusion Programme Officer, Youth Sport Trust

At the Youth Sport Trust, we passionately want all young people to have a sporting chance by developing opportunities for those with special educational needs and disabilities. We want to eliminate barriers for young disabled people wishing to participate in sport and make it accessible for them, be that taking part, mentoring or leading.

In 2011, the Youth Sport Trust developed a huge network of over 60 schools who work to improve the quality of physical activity for disabled students. Schools in our National Lead Inclusion School Network are doing a fantastic job at engaging both students and teachers, and we’ve seen firsthand how young people’s lives have turned around.

Chloe Hammond is just one example, supported by both Durham Johnston and Durham Trinity School and Sports College, a lead Inclusion School for Durham, in 2013. She was going into Year 9 and her experiences of PE, her sporting activity and competition in the past had been limited. She has cerebral palsy and used a powerchair during the school day.

Chloe was assigned a learning support assistant, who had attended the Sainsbury’s Inclusive PE Training; a partnership between Sainsbury’s, the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) and the Youth Sport Trust. It is a free initiative, which is available to all mainstream primary, secondary and special schools in the UK, and aims to develop the skills and confidence of PE teachers to include young disabled people in PE and school sport activities.

With the support of her learning support assistant, Chloe has taken part in every PE session and lots of after-school clubs. Her confidence has developed immensely, from a scared and timid child who was frightened to get involved and handle sports equipment, to a confident pupil who will take the lead teaching others.

Chloe now enjoys representing both the school and local area in every sporting opportunity open to her, taking the lead and supporting younger competitors. It has been a complete transformation.

Historically, many young disabled people attending mainstream schools are not given the chance to participate in meaningful PE lessons, but Sainsbury’s Inclusive PE Training has trained hundreds of school staff members throughout the UK to ensure that every child can engage in inclusive PE lessons alongside their peers.

Any teacher that feels they need support in this area can sign up for free.

Stories like Chloe’s show how with the right support for students and teachers, young disabled people can feel empowered to be included in all sporting activities. I feel proud to be part of such a committed network who are giving young people a voice though inclusive sport.