Our pupils love the trampoline

5th May 2006 at 01:00
Brian Thomas is head of PE at Calthorpe and lead practitioner for PE with the Specialist Schools Trust. His day begins well before the children arrive at 9am and continues well after they leave at 3.20. It's a round of teaching, support for teachers and coaches, plus outreach work with other schools.

I remember coming around Calthorpe on interview. I walked down a corridor and saw a pupil in a walking frame who fell over. Somebody picked him up and I thought: "What am I doing here; is this the right thing for me?" But there was an atmosphere in the school; it was welcoming, it was warm, it felt right.

There's no such thing as a typical day. Our main focus is physical education, but that encompasses PE, sport and physical therapy. We have a hydrotherapy pool and we do some physiotherapy, but in addition the children gain an understanding of how their body works in water - what some people see as therapy, we also see as physical education.

In the men's fitness room you have autistic children, children with significant disabilities, thrashing away on a running machine, on the rowing machines, doing the weights. They love being in there, they love competing against each other.

I enjoy rebound therapy - that's a way of using a harness and a trampoline to communicate with a pupil; to develop motor skills, core stability, to develop communication skills, be it eye contact through them signalling that they want more, and to develop independent movement.

We have some profoundly disabled students who have very little movement, students who it is difficult to get a reaction from. You put them in rebound therapy and their eyes light up. One pupil comes out of his wheelchair onto the trampoline and his face changes - it's worth it just for that reaction.

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