The children’s charity Youth Sport Trust has started a new initiative to ensure that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have improved access to school sports and PE.

The Inclusion 2024 initiative began in September last year and is set to receive up to £900,000 in funding from the Department of Education. It aims to work with 5,000 schools and 150,000 pupils to provide greater opportunities for young people with SEND to get involved in sports through improved teaching, inclusion training and guidance. This will mean that PE lessons in schools will become more accessible, and more students are engaged in exercise and sport.

A report carried out by the Youth Sport Trust in 2021 highlighted that 56% of young people want to do more exercise than they are currently doing and 46% of children with SEND would prefer to be taught sport by somebody their own age. Inclusion 2024 set out to make this possible, with Chief Executive Ali Oliver MBE saying “we’re looking forward to supporting schools to reimagine the role of PE and school sport, ensuring that every young person with a special educational need or disability has a positive experience.”

How One Charity is Making Sports and PE More Accessible to Young People
Young people involved in Youth Sport Trust activities. Photo: Youth Sport Trust

The positive influence of the initiative has already begun to be seen. Billy, a 16-year old student from St Martins School and Horizons in Derbyshire, told the trust that its programme helped him rediscover his love for sport. As a student with Tourette’s and ADHD, he had previously had negative experiences within sport and was discouraged from participating in activities like running and football due to getting into trouble. He says that the Youth Sport Trust, by working with his school and offering valuable training, provided him with the opportunity to enjoy sport again and he has since been very successful, winning gold in the national athletics championships. Billy now aspires to represent his country in the 800m.

Inclusion 2024 also aims to empower young people to lead their peers in sports activities. This has already started to be successful, as Billy told the trust that “one of my friends at Horizons is now doing sports and fitness coaching and I would love to follow in his footsteps”. With a large number of young people with disabilities wanting to be taught by people their age, the initiative is contributing to making sports lessons a more inclusive and comfortable environment, and inspiring more students with SEND to go on to become successful sports leaders. The St Martins teaching school strategic lead, Alistair Crawford, added that “Empowering young people to support their peers leads to positive, sustainable outcomes that impact into adulthood and way beyond the school gates”. The work carried out through this programme will ensure that more students like Billy are able to participate in sports activities and pursue careers within sport even after leaving school.

With the programme continuing for 3 more years, Billy’s story is likely to be one of many as the Youth Sport Trust continues to support and inspire the next generation of athletes and sports leaders.

You can read more about the Inclusion 2024 initiative here.

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