Inclusive Physical Education

Posted: Mon, 29 Jan 2018 10:00

Inclusive Physical Education

Whilst out in the field I still hear stories of disabled pupils not being fully included in physical education lessons within school. I also hear that schools and teachers are not fully aware of the physical activity and sporting opportunities for disabled children in a disability sport or an inclusive setting within the community. I have also spoken to a few parents who say they play a lead role in the inclusion within PE for their children. The parent of a non-disabled pupil would not need to play such an active role.

Quality physical education is vital for the overall health and wellbeing for all pupils. My particular interest is the provision of high quality physical education and sporting opportunities for disabled children within the school setting. Approximately 80% of young disabled people attend mainstream schools.

I have not been able to find much formal research on this topic. A Department of Education report 'Evidence on physical education and sport in schools: key findings' published in June 2013 found that the barriers of taking part in PE and sport for disabled pupils included inaccessible equipment and facilities, staff without adequate training and inaccessible programmes and curriculums (Auxter et al., 2010; Rimmer, 2008; Rimmer and Rowland, 2007; Stanish, 2010).

In 2011 the Whizz-Kidz Board found that 57% of disabled students said they took part in PE as much as other children whilst 33% said they did not. Of those who did not take part in PE as much as others, 33% felt that it was because of their disability, with 54% of wheelchair users suggesting that this was the case. It was also found that only 27% of manual wheelchair users and 22% of powered wheelchair users took part in team activities and games at all times.

An All Party Parliamentary Group in the UK recently pointed out that disabled children were being left out of opportunities to access to physical activity and that inequalities in provision for young children from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds and diverse cultural backgrounds were not prioritised:

Research carried out in 2009 by Liverpool John Moores University highlighted that that 84% of recently qualified PE teachers and 43% of trainee PE teachers identified that their teacher training had not given them the skills and knowledge to work with disabled pupils. In 2014 the Youth Sport Trust (YST) undertook a survey that suggested that whilst some PE teachers were making physical education and sport inclusive for all young people, there was still a significant proportion that did not possess the confidence, skills and knowledge to include disabled students in lessons.

The YST surveyed 52 leaders in school disability sport and compared the quality of physical education for disabled students in mainstream and special schools. Seventy three per cent of the surveyed leaders said disabled students in special schools experience higher quality PE and school sport opportunities compared to those in mainstream education. Lack of confidence, experience and training amongst teachers and lack of adequate equipment were highlighted as some of the main factors at play.

Only 29% of those surveyed thought teachers in mainstream education were able to direct disabled students to the most appropriate opportunities in sports clubs outside of school to develop their sporting ambitions and skills. In comparison 70% thought teachers in special schools had the knowledge to be able identify appropriate opportunities outside of school. It was also discovered that 81% of teachers also felt that potential Paralympic talent was being overlooked due to the lack of awareness and knowledge in mainstream schools around talent identification, opportunities and pathways in para sport.

Findings from the YST survey suggested teachers would benefit from more training schemes that look to address disability participation in sport, such as the Sainsbury's Active Kids for All Inclusive PE Training. This training is a partnership between Sainsbury's, the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) and the Youth Sport Trust and was developed to provide free training to teachers, trainee teachers and school staff to support them in the delivery of inclusive PE of a high standard.

Since its introduction the project has delivered more than 700 workshops in the UK and trained more than 10,400 teachers, trainee teachers and school staff. It is estimated that 240,000 disabled children and children with special educational needs have benefitted. An independent evaluation of the scheme showed a significant and sustained impact on the competence and confidence of the participants to deliver high quality inclusive PE. In addition 8 out of 10 of those trained said that their knowledge of inclusive PE strategies had improved, that they had applied the strategies in their delivery and that their students had benefitted.

Another inclusive sports initiative was the 'The Sainsbury's Active Kids Paralympic Challenge' that was a partnership between the supermarket, the Youth Sport Trust and the British Paralympic Association. From November 2015, it created opportunites for over 2.5 million pupils in schools across the country to be inspired by Paralympic sport in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The Active Kids Paralympic Challenges were inclusive activities and games in the sports of athletics, boccia, goalball and sitting volleyball. A study found that 64% of teachers said the programme increased their confidence and competence to deliver Paralympic sports opportunities 'a lot'. A total of 7617 schools registered out of 24372 schools in the UK. It seems unlikely that without the support of Sainsbury's, the YST & the BPA that the project will continue. It seems not to be embedded in the education system.

Whilst much good work has been done in the area of inclusive PE there is still more than can be done. This work should be set in the context of the wider work in PE with the overall aim of getting all children more active more often and providing appropriate pathways for disabled pupils whatever their aspirations in physical activity and sport.

Mark Bullock is an Advisor in International Inclusive Sports Development, promoting active & healthy lifestyles with a focus on opportunities for disabled people. Twitter: @mark__bullock

Tags: Featured, PE, Paralympics, Policy, Sport, school sport


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