Disabled sports rolled out to everyone

11th September 2009 at 01:00
Six weeks' tuition in new sports will create buzz about 2012 Games and prevent feeling of exclusion

Traditional pe lessons are set to be scrapped in favour of disabled sports for thousands of able-bodied children in an attempt to find the Paralympic stars of London 2012.

Education officials hope the replacement of football and hockey with wheelchair basketball and archery will also stop pupils with disabilities feeling excluded.

The scheme will run in all schools - mainstream and special - in Hackney, an Olympic borough, and it is thought to be the first project of its size in the country.

Over the next three years all pupils aged eight to 19 will get six weeks' tuition in the sports, which also include goalball, a game devised for the blind, from local athletes. It is hoped they will then be incorporated into the PE curriculum permanently.

As well as creating excitement about the Olympics, those running the project hope it will cut down on obesity levels and the social exclusion of the disabled.

It is estimated that about 10,000 UK schools have taught pupils about the Paralympics, but not at the same scale as Hackney.

Most use it as a cross-curricular tool, for example in Essex for PSHE, PE and geography and even in maths and economics for schools in Kings Lynn. Until now it's just been individual schools who have chosen to take part rather than a whole local authority.

Hackney's scheme is being run by the Learning Trust, which acts as the council's LEA and is co-ordinated by disability inclusion officer Aneurin Wood, a former captain of Chelsea Disabled Football Club.

"The Paralympic handover last year and a local disability sports championship really inspired this. We are keen to make sure all children are included in PE lessons," said Mr Wood, who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

"This way those who are disabled won't have to stay on the sidelines, and we can also tackle obesity rates.

"The Beijing Paralympics showed everyone how inspiring the sports are, and how fun they are for all people and not just the disabled."

The three sports will replace normal lessons for six weeks each year. Basketball will be taught by the Hackney Sparrows, who will also provide wheelchairs for pupils to use.

Archery, in which children will participate sitting down, will also be taught by a local club.

Martin Mansell, education officer for the Paralympic 2012 education programme, said the Hackney project was "admirable".

"There's no reason why all pupils can't enjoy these sports and awareness of them is increasing."

Visit www.abilityvsability.co.uk.

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