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The Government’s SEN policy, Removing Barriers to Achievements 2004, along with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 form the cornerstones of SEND pupil rights – extending into every classroom and beyond – for PE lessons that are inclusive for all.

However, legalities aside, ensuring that SEND pupils are involved in PE is good for their health, great for boosting confidence and can be exceptional for developing social skills. Yet SEND-friendly sport can prove a challenge and almost always demands plenty of careful planning.

Here we tackle the topic of sporting activities and the ways in which they can be quickly and easily adapted to include every pupil, no matter of ability or capability level.

Picking sides: The team selection process

Many teachers have long since done away with allowing pupils to choose their own teams, however when including SEND pupils this becomes all the more important. Some alternative ideas for team-picking include:

  • Using a deck of playing cards and asking each student to choose one – then splitting the teams by card colour or number.
  • Grouping students as according to how many siblings they have – with those who have one in team 1, those who have two in team 2 and so on.
  • Ask your students to line up as according to their birthday then split your pupils into equal groups accordingly.

For some more ideas check out this team picking PDF from BJC School Outreach.

Carefully consider how you’ll create competition

Introducing competition, goals and objectives is important for motivating students and keeping their focus.

You can adapt this for SEND pupils by including points for good sportsmanship, effective communication and most improved performance – which are all factors that are more than worthy of reward in any event, whether we’re speaking in the context of a SEND class or otherwise.

Adapt equipment for SEND pupils

Be inspired, not restricted – there are more sports and group exercise forms that are as suitable for able-bodied students as they are for SEND pupils, some ideas from Bright Hub Education (and the equipment you’ll need) include:

  • Bowling (special ramps and other adaptive devices)
  • Golf (specially designed clubs, gripping devices and many other assistive devices)
  • Yoga (tremendous fitness techniques with very little adjustment needed for the disabled)
  • Fishing (one of the easiest activities to adapt to anyone’s special needs…accessibility ramps primary)
  • Swimming (provides great recreational, competitive and therapeutic opportunities)
  • Soccer (with modifications in team size and playing field dimensions, this one has all kinds of potential)
  • Tennis (ambulatory and wheelchair sport with rule modifications and assistive devices)
  • Basketball (growing in popularity/ambulatory and wheelchair possibilities)
  • Hockey (wheelchair sport with rule and some equipment modification)
  • Baseball (various ways to play softball/baseball depending on the ability level…includes beep ball for the blind)
  • Horseback Riding (excellent for improving posture, self-confidence and independence)

Whilst some of these may be more along the lines of a one-off or an excursion day-out, they do provide full scope as to how versatile your PE schedule could be with every student fully included.

Creating facilities that are user friendly

As a vital foundation to productive sports lessons for SEND pupils, it’s critical that your sports facilities are accessible and welcoming for all. This checklist covers the basics to ensure that they are:

  • Installing pegs of different heights and including an area where a teaching assistant could discreetly assist changing if needed
  • Suitable and clear signage to guide children from the changing rooms to the gym/sports field
  • Accessible toilet facilities that have handrails as well as other suitable adaptations
  • Sufficient lighting in the gym/hall/studio, as well as the facility to block out bright sunshine which could otherwise create blind spots for pupils
  • Provide wheelchair access to playing fields, and prepare for wet weather (as well as the mud it brings!) by using mats at the doorways
  • Ensure any netball/basketball boards feature and are set to adjustable heights/widths
  • Reduce the potential for confusion with simpler floor markings that consider colour blindness
  • Ensure that the PE department stocks a suitable range of equipment, including different types of balls