Sports giant for all disabled pupils

Nicola Porter

Lined up against the mighty Mike Ruddock, Wales's blue-eyed rugby coach credited with Grand Slam glory, Bev Hopkin seems of small stature. But the primary school teacher is a giant in her field and is finding fame for inspiring children of all abilities - and disabilities - to take up sport.

Her dedication to making hockey, lacrosse and even table-top football accessible to all led a panel of judges to name her as teacher coach of the year 2005. She lifted her well-deserved trophy alongside Ruddock, who was crowned coach of the year at the ceremony in Cardiff last week.

But while the big man of rugby went away to worry about his side's performance against South Africa, Mrs Hopkin was back at Palmerston primary school in Barry, wondering where her next new hockey stick was going to come from.

She said: "Conventional hockey sticks are too heavy for the children in wheelchairs, they need lighter ones and we are always in need of equipment.

For our athletics training we also need more soft foam, and lacrosse sticks are always hard to come by."

Mrs Hopkin works as a teacher for children with disabilities. Palmerston primary has 10 children in wheelchairs but her sports class is open to all.

She has 42 pupils in her after-school rugby class and hockey is also popular.

Among her achievements are setting up a "sportsability club" for pupils with higher support needs, as well as being the driving force behind a community sports club for children with disabilities.

The sports-mad teacher has also found time to unlock funding for her ventures, as well as whipping up support and help from fellow staff.

Recently she was awarded the Dragon Sports' volunteer of the year trophy by the Vale of Glamorgan's district sports council.

Mrs Hopkin said: "Sport is for all and it's important for everybody to be included. I make sure all the pupils feel they can take part - that way everyone benefits."

The Coach of the Year awards were set up by the Sports Council for Wales, with four winning categories.

Another teacher, Kathryn Morgan, won the volunteer coach of the year category. The Merthyr Tydfil under-15 girls' football coach calls the shots from the sidelines, but is also a professional player for Bristol Rovers.

Ms Morgan is a PE teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelin in Pontypridd. She took up football to beat the boys at their own game.

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Nicola Porter

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