Tim Henman Foundation

Inclusive Activity Programme at Merstham Park School with Dana Hurkova

There are multiple barriers faced by those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in taking up sport and staying active.

What are the issues?

There are 1,129,843 pupils with SEND in England, which is an increase of 4.3% since 2021 and 14% since 2016. The most common types of difficulties faced are speech, language and communication problems, followed by social, emotional and mental health issues, moderate and specific learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder.

For the majority of these students and their families, life can be hard. Disabled households face on average £975 a month in extra costs and the link between disability and poverty is clear; 27% of working age disabled people live in poverty, compared to 19% of non-disabled people.

There is also an activity gap. Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be physically inactive compared to non-disabled people (42.4% vs 22.6%) and 77% of disabled people would like to be more active but only 42% feel they have the opportunity to do so. At school, only a quarter of disabled children say they take part in sport and activity frequently, compared to 41% of non-disabled people. 

What are the issues?

There are 1,129,843 pupils with SEND in England, which is an increase of 4.3% since 2021 and 14% since 2016. The most common types of difficulties faced are speech, language and communication problems, followed by social, emotional and mental health issues, moderate and specific learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder.

For the majority of these students and their families, life can be hard. Disabled households face on average £975 a month in extra costs and the link between disability and poverty is clear; 27% of working age disabled people live in poverty, compared to 19% of non-disabled people.

There is also an activity gap. Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be physically inactive compared to non-disabled people (42.4% vs 22.6%) and 77% of disabled people would like to be more active but only 42% feel they have the opportunity to do so. At school, only a quarter of disabled children say they take part in sport and activity frequently, compared to 41% of non-disabled people. 

The Inclusive Activity Programme

The IAP is designed to create free, accessible and inclusive activity for students with SEND so they can experience sport in a way that is relevant to them.

For this pilot programme we worked with Merstham Park School because of their willingness to provide these essential opportunities and because of their high rates of free school meals. The delivery coach Dana was from a local tennis club and was keen to get involved in the programme and inspire youngsters to get active. Prior to beginning the programme, Dana took part in some inclusive days and received training from Mark Bullock at Panathlon Challenge (an inclusive provider).

The programme itself consists of lunch-time, specific curriculum and after-school coaching sessions on a weekly basis delivering a mix of tennis and other adapted sports.

After 6 months of delivery the students were ready for their first inclusive sports day, delivered by Panathlon Challenge and they loved it. When asked ‘how confident they feel being competitive’, the students scored nearly 4 out of 5.

On the same day, and to inspire them further, they received a mentorship workshop from Louise Hunt who is a Paralympian tennis player and was able to talk about her story and how she overcame barriers to achieve great success. When asked ‘how inspired they felt after the workshop’, the students scored 4.33 out of 5. In fact, one child told Louise she “should start a podcast so you can tell everybody your story, not just us”!

“The students have flourished through the programme. They lacked engagement in physical activity before but have been inspired to increase this due to the enthusiasm of leaders and the quality of sessions” - Ben Geraghty, Head of PE

Impact

The programme reached 36 students in sessions that are designed for small groups to ensure the pupils get the attention they need.

  • 92% of students said they are ‘loving the sports sessions’.
  • 82% of students said they ‘really feel happy when taking part’ in the activities.
  • 70% said they ‘feel much fitter’.
  • And 60% are now ‘exercising regularly’, only 20% ‘don’t exercise much’.
  • 80% say they ‘learn something new each week’.

* Facts and figures were sourced from Gov.uk, scope.org.uk, activityalliance.org.uk and from our own feedback forms.