Inclusive Practice in PE
I want to start this blog by saying that there are many outstanding PE practitioners out there in the world, many of whom are inclusive of the needs of their students. To be fully inclusive we must understand what inclusion really is. In the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of inclusion is “the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised”, which tells us that what we offer in school should be providing this for ALL of our students. With this in mind, we should all regularly ask ourselves: Am I meeting the needs of ALL of my students within PE, so that they can fully engage in what we offer?
Although I am going to focus on inclusive practices for SEND students, as this is my background and specialism, there are a whole range of different considerations that we should be making in our offer, including race, gender and cultural differences that can all affect a student’s ability to engage within PE and School Sport. A recent twitter poll found that 49% of the schools involved felt that their PESSPA offer was not fully inclusive and this just cannot be acceptable in modern education.
What should inclusion look like?
Before we can be truly inclusive, we need to be aware of what inclusion can look like and how it can be very different, depending on your settings, context and participants involved. The ‘Activity Inclusion Model’ (fourth generation, 2017) is an excellent visual representation of the different ways that we can be inclusive to everyone involved. Participants can be taking part in modified activities, alongside their peers in the same activities or in separate activities. This is shared regularly by organisations like YST or UK Coaching aspart of their ongoing CPD and is often used as a model for inclusive competitions but isn’t always used enough as part of curriculum lessons in PE. This might mean that our young people have an appropriate opportunity to be competitive with peers, develop skills or enjoy being active but the most important element is that the experience must be relevant and engaging to everyone involved.
When attempting to be inclusive, another key element must be that they are engaged in meaningful experiences as part of activities. A good way of measuring this is to check EHCP Outcomes to see if you are supporting the young person to reach these or even better, to develop their own involvement in not only PE but the rest of their school experience. Another influential tool to achieve this is to listen to the student’s voice, opinions and aspirations that PE can be such a valuable tool in developing achievements in for our SEND students. Often skills that can otherwise be neglected throughout education but can mean a lot to a young person’s future can be developed through PE, whether that be important social skills, skills linked to mobility or practical skills such as dressing or even coordination that can be linked to eating and drinking.
Adapting PE to be inclusive:
An extremely common model used to adapt activities is the STEP Principle, which focuses on changes that we can make to the Space, Task, Equipment and People within an activity to make it more accessible or challenging for everyone involved. To be able to apply this appropriately though we need to be aware of and consider the various areas of need that our students might have. Some of these are:
· Mobility – is the young person able to move freely and independently? Is this affected by the environment, such as the playing surface or movement of peers around them? Do their mobility issues affect their stamina within the activity i.e. can the activity be played in a smaller area to reduce the physical advantages of peers?
· Sensory Processing – is the young person able to focus, engage and be happy within the environment? Are there unwanted sound, light or other inputs that make the young person feel uncomfortable? Is the PE kit providing unwanted sensory input from the material or labels? Remember that if they are hypersensitive, this may well be something that you ordinarily don’t even notice yourself.
· Sensory Impairments – is the equipment and activity appropriate for those with visual or hearing impairments? For those lacking a particular input, make sure that there is an alternative e.g. bell ball or lights up equipment.
· Anxiety or SEMH needs – what can you do to make the lesson more familiar/predictable and establish familiar routines within lessons. Familiar warm-up activities? Visual cues? How do students communicate that they find something difficult? How well is wellbeing and emotional literacy embedded within the learning? Look for opportunities to link wellbeing to physical feelings through methods such as interception.
To enable us all to be better practitioners and allow all SEND students to be included within our PE sessions there are a number of different tools that we are able to us. Inclusion, in the same way as the needs of the students, is a spectrum, however when we are planning inclusive sessions there are several key factors to consider:
1. Check the student’s EHCP, physio plan, OT reports to build a picture but listen to the student about their need and aspirations.
2. Remember that the student is not a diagnosis. For example, the PE experience for one student with an ASD diagnosis will look very different to many others.
3. Establish the expectations that you have of your students and the scaffolds that are required to be able to meet these.
4. Consider how to make the experience you are offering meaningful to the young person and what are they getting from it. Working on fine motor skills for example, could unlock life skills such as personal care or independent living.