Physical education (PE) is vital and there’s a reason the National Curriculum ensures that all children should have the opportunity to engage in PE. It is important that children develop an enjoyment and passion for physical education! In this article, the experts at TTS discuss how education professionals and parents alike can promote inclusive PE and make it inclusive irrespective of ability.
Inclusive education should be across the whole curriculum, and in short, is based on the fundamental right of all learners to a quality education that meets their basic learning needs, and encourages their personal development to the fullest extent. Schools embrace and consider the diversity of backgrounds and abilities to be a learning opportunity rather than a barrier!
In order to make this possible for young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), schools are required (under the Equality Act 2010) to make reasonable adjustments to their provision. This provision should not only allow them to access but also succeed in physical activities. Despite the lack of specialist PE-trained staff in primary schools, catering to children with special needs can often be more about creativity than technical knowledge. It needs to be fun, and both teachers and children alike need to feel more confident and competent when engaging with physical education.
A high-quality physical education curriculum inspires all pupils to succeed and excel in competitive sport and other physically-demanding activities. So in this article, we’ve pulled together 10 top tips for schools to consider when planning for inclusive PE.
1. Plan, prepare and anticipate
Imagine the PE lesson through the eyes of the child and anticipate the barriers to learning they may face. Adapting accordingly and think about planning the session to make it as accessible as possible. In more activities than you think, pupils with SEND will be able to take part in the same way as their peers. In others, differentiation or adaptation will be needed. This may include modified or personalised activities, parallel activities (working towards the same objective with a different activity), playing disability sports, or change the resources used.
The responsibility for inclusion lies with the teacher, and lessons should be planned to ensure that there are no barriers to every pupil achieving.
Practice makes perfect, and all young people learn through repetition and practice. Those with SEND are likely to require even more opportunities to practice skills over and over again. This may involve revisiting skills, or working to a slower pace and focus on the same skill over a half term. Be patient, and progress with their level of learning, and you will all see the progression.
3. Relevance and purpose
Everyone is different, and for some young people, walking, sitting and standing can already be physically demanding activities. Young people with SEND, particularly those with complex physical needs, may require a more personalised curriculum that focuses on the development of their motor skills. Consider the starting point of your pupils and whether the planned curriculum is relevant.
4. All about motor skills
Motor skills are the basis for physical development. As in all lessons, start by baselining and identifying the next steps for the young person. Plan for skill progression, starting from larger movements and reducing in size. For example, if you are working to develop a young person’s ability to feed themselves, start with larger scooping actions such as moving beanbags from one container to another and then gradually reduce the size of the movement. Remember that gross motor skill development will come before fine motor skills (not forgetting to develop core muscles too).
Use the physical profile of the children to plan for the resources you use. Providing different variations of a resource, for example; different sizes, colours, heights and textures, can make a lesson or activity accessible for all. It’s likely that larger resources may provide additional support. Another option could be to plan for the use of a pool, as water can offer greater freedom of movement. If you don’t have a pool, try contacting a local school or community centre with a pool and ask about loaning their facilities.
6. Accessibility and environment
Use your knowledge of the children in your class to consider the sound, lighting, seating, health and safety, sensory environment and whether any additional adult support will be needed. It can be difficult to change all of these, but if for example, you know a child is sensitive to loud sounds, ensure this is planned for so that the young person can access PE successfully. This could involve smaller groups, ear defenders or opportunities for sensory breaks.
7. Equal opportunities
Although some children with SEND will require specific intervention programmes, possibly devised by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist, this should not replace their access to the whole class PE session. They should be given the same opportunity to contribute by working on similar skills at their own level, or by playing suitable team games such as Boccia, table cricket, goalball or sitting volleyball.
8. Involve parents
Parents know what their children are able to do on a regular basis and the skills that they are developing. They know best! So take time to discuss with parents their thoughts and plan to incorporate these. This will also support parents to practice these skills at home. And as we said previously, practice makes perfect!
Young people believing in their own ability and having a positive view of PE is essential to a successful lesson and helps with their progression. It can be very easy for children who find physical movement difficult to become disengaged and reluctant to be part of the activity. Spend time focussing on positive reinforcement and praising children for what they can do.
10. Don’t forget ‘good practice’
There are many strategies that are regularly used in the classroom to support young people with SEND, such as visual timetables, now and next cards and behaviour charts. If children need these in the classroom, then it is likely that they will also need these in PE. Consider all of these strategies that you know are important for your class and identify ways to make this possible within the PE environment.
See tts-group.co.uk for more ideas on inclusive PE.