CHILDREN with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are enjoying a full physical education programme in Harlow.
Pupils from the town’s BMAT primary schools – Cooks Spinney, Freshwaters and Little Parndon – who historically may have sat out of PE lessons are now thriving in their own tailored sessions.
Those with physical disabilities as well as pupils with developmental delays and conditions such as autism and ADHD take part in weekly classes with specialist sport teachers at partner school, Burnt Mill Academy.
Phil Dawes, BMAT director of PE and sport, has a team of PE apprentices working within the primaries, as well as students from Burnt Mill who are trained as Sport Leaders to assist with the sessions.
He said: “All pupils with special educational needs and disabilities from our primaries are invited to come and take part in PE lessons at Burnt Mill. While some take part in PE in their own schools, this gives them access to more facilities at the secondary school.
“Some of the pupils who take part have physical difficulties, while others have emotional or behavioural problems. We have pupils who are wheelchair users and others with dwarfism; so the class is full of a wide range of children with varying needs.”
A carousel of activities is set out and the sessions are, to a degree, led by the pupils and what they want to tackle.
Over time, changes are being noticed in attitude, confidence, behaviour and ability, which is having a positive knock-on effect in other areas of the pupils’ lives.
The sessions are equipping young SEND learners with the skills to take part inclusively in school once their confidence has been built through sport.
Mr Dawes, who has had training with his team on teaching children with SEND, said: “One pupil with autism took three weeks to step inside the sports hall; he waited outside with his teaching assistant until he became more comfortable with the environment. On the third week, he came in for 15 minutes and now he is starting to take part in the activities.
“We have to go with the pupils a little bit. It can’t be three minutes on one activity and then move on. We have visual aids on the wall, so children do know what we are doing when, such as snack time or packing up. It’s about inclusion and this way they have access to the facilities and help they need.”
As a result of this work, Burnt Mill Sports Leaders have been called upon to supervise at county events, such as boccia and swimming events for students with SEND.
Mr Dawes said: “We are picking up a reputation for working with students with SEND and so these opportunities are starting to come our way.
“It is giving our Sports Leaders a career pathway. One of our PE apprentices was a Sports Leader at Burnt Mill and is now working towards a degree and teacher training. We are showing students there is a pathway into careers in PE and sport that our leaders can move into.
“It is also breaking down barriers. When I was younger, schools were not so inclusive, but our students know how to work together; it’s lovely to see them support each other.”
Year 11 Sports Leader Kieran Biles has a new ambition since taking on his role: “I’ve wanted to be a PE teacher ever since these sessions. I am learning how to help people and teaching them new skills.”
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