A survey conducted for Sport England - the quango that distributes government funds to sport - found that, although disabled children were keen to take part in sport, both in and out of school, they were less likely than their able-bodied peers to do so. Fifty-three per cent of disabled pupils in primary schools and 41 per cent of secondary pupils spent less than one hour a week on physical education. Pupils at special schools were more likely to participate than those educated in the mainstream. Just 10 per cent of young disabled people cited lack of motivation as one of the reasons that prevented them from taking part in sport. Lack of money, health issues and unsuitable facilities were each reasons given by more than a third of those surveyed. Swimming and horse-riding are the only two sports where participation is greater among disabled children.
Pat Smith, of the National Council for School Sport, said: "The major reason for lack of participation is that these pupils are in mainstream schools where there may be only one or two people in a class with disabilities. Facilities, organisational issues and staff training all need to be addressed. But there is a willingness to integrate and things are improving."
Tanni-Grey Thompson OBE, paralympic gold medallist, said that she was pleased the problem had been acknowledged. "We need to tackle the situation now to allow opportunities to be improved at all levels and to provide a range of sporting chances to be given to all youngsters both within and beyond the education system."