Written evidence from Vision 2020 UK (OLL 02)

 

Integration of children with disabilities into mainstream education has failed to meet their physical education and sporting needs

Poor or no provision after school for sport and recreation for children and young people with a disability is further eroding basic opportunities for young people with a disability to participate in a sport of their choice

Poor inclusion in mainstream sports clubs and limited or no coaching provision of a specialist nature means that opportunities for sport are decreasing rather than increasing as a result of the Games coming to London

Poor or non-existent sporting events coaching or development structures for people with a disability to participate in sport

Limited involvement by governing bodies (either disability specific or main integrated sport body) in grass roots development and involvement as main focus is on producing medallists

Limited or reduced funding to those providing grass roots opportunities or infra-structure to disabled people endeavouring to do sports at all levels

Lack of leadership and co-ordination between major governmental departments re the issues above

Solutions to the above are not one size fits all and therefore, treating the Paralympic legacy issues and processes the same as those for the Olympics will not work!

1. I make this submission as an individual with over 30 years experience as a Paralympic athlete, coach, administrator, Chef de Mission and Head of Delegation at numerous Paralympic Games and as the immediate Past Chairman of Paralympics GB, a post I held from 2001 to 2008. I became blind as a child following a firework accident near my home in Hackney just a few hundred yards from the site of the London 2012 games. My love of, and participation in, sport over the past 50 years has provided me with the most relevant and appropriate means of adjustment and inclusion into society. I was also part of the bid team that won the Games for London and was a full Board Member of LOCOG until February 2009.

 

2. Physical Education and Sporting Opportunities for Children - Whilst there have been many positive aspects of integrating children with disabilities into mainstream education, the major casualty has been the almost total lack of PE and sporting provision for these children and young people. It is estimated that 80% of children with disabilities do not achieve the 2 hours core curriculum provision of PE in schools, let alone the proposed increase to 5 hours. An urgent study is needed to quantify this "officially" and perhaps one quick win for the legacy programme could be achieving the 2 hour curriculum target for all children with disabilities by 2013? Many reasons are offered as to why PE and sporting opportunities are so poor for children and young people with a disability; health and safety concerns by the school, lack of competent and confident staff to take PE or undertake sport for this group, parental opposition, poor access or no adaptation of facilities and inflexible transport arrangements thus prohibiting these children staying on for after school activities.

 

3. After school activities often exclude this group of children i.e. no possibility of inclusion in team sports such as football, cricket, rugby, basket ball etc., limited access to swimming baths, athletic fields etc. All of these sports are undertaken by people with a disability, but not now normally at school. Specialist schools did provide a massive range of sporting opportunities and sport played a major part of my own adjustment to disability. I learned about teamwork, was able to set individual goals, have competition to extend my abilities, occasionally experienced "being a winner" and had that thrill of competition. One example of efforts to redress this issue within a school setting is in Leeds, which has a programme of monthly sporting and physical activities arranged in school time for vision impaired children within the schools. One solution easily achieved would be for groups of schools to come together monthly to provide sporting and recreational activities for disabled children and young people within their schools.

4. Most clubs seem ill-prepared for enquiries from, and inclusion of, people with disabilities who wish to participate in the sport offered by the club. There is little or no support for specialist clubs who provide opportunities for sport that cannot be integrated i.e. wheelchair basketball or blind cricket! There is often nothing locally to support the child or their parent in accessing the specialist provision and this often involves their having to undertake extensive travel to specialist facilities or organisations catering for this group. There is poor information regarding availability etc. and http://www.parasport.org.uk was established as a portal to provide pathway and provision information. The then Mayor of London published a strategy in 2007, which highlighted all these issues and to date there has been little, if any, action to redress these anomalies in London or in the rest of the country. DCSF have, in my view, shown no leadership regarding the legacy of 2012 and its impact on PE in schools and the inclusion of those with disabilities in core curriculum activities or sporting opportunities within or after school. DCMS held a legacy event in 2008 and again in April 2009 focussing on the legacy of the Games for those with disabilities. One outcome was to seek greater links between DWP, DCSF and themselves to ensure that joint strategies were developed and pathways established that enabled children to enjoy and participate in PE and sport within schools/after school clubs/integrated and specialist provision in the community, with good national talent forums and pathways established for those who wish to participate in sport at a higher level and finally, with governing bodies having clear inclusive programmes for sports men and women with disabilities active at a national and international level.

 

5. Integration of disabled people into mainstream sporting provision is a concept rather than a reality. Grants to organisations has largely been based on physical access, rather than actual provision of activities, coaching etc. For some it has been a tick box action, rather than an attempt to include and integrate their provision. In order to create a lasting legacy from 2012, this offer of inclusion has to be both genuine and meaningful, i.e. accessible facilities with no manmade barriers re attitudes, lack of coaching or energy to find solutions regarding sporting opportunities. These are all major threats to establishing a broad base of participation pyramid with hundreds of disabled people participating in sport at the base level, filtering through at representative level for club and nationally, leading on to the tip of the pyramid - international competition at Paralympic level. This pathway does not currently exist for those with a disability and therefore, a different solution needs to be found that provides a separate provision (where appropriate) and uses the mainstream provision (where appropriate).

 

6. The above leads me to ask the following questions and offer some possible solutions/actions:

 

Why is the information/evidence re participation of children and young people with a disability in sport and physical recreation so poor? Action the commissioning of a major study into physical activity undertaken by children and young people with a disability (to include those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities). I would expect that, of the 20% of the school population not achieving 2 hours core curriculum PE, 80% of these are those with disabilities? DCSF to engage and publish their plan for active PE in schools for this group?

 

Greater inclusion (where this is possible) in mainstream club provision and greater information available, and support, for specialist sports groups providing knowledgeable coaching and events. Properly monitored and realistic funding streams for those providing integration and for those providing specialist input and provision.

 

7. The production of a joint strategy between DCMS, DWP and most importantly DCSF regarding various responsibilities re sporting and recreational provision, inclusion and integration in society and full educational opportunities for those with disabilities including active PE and sport.

8. Empower the disability sports bodies and those sporting bodies with grass roots and participation programmes to a) offer the widest range of activities to people with disabilities b) offer their expertise to schools and other sporting bodies and c) make a reality the opportunity for people with disabilities to undertake a sport of their choice within 10 miles of where they live or go to school! As a result of the lack of provision, coaching, infrastructure and sheer lack of imagination, children and young people with disabilities will increasingly fail to develop the levels of special awareness, physical strength, sporting skill and ability, determination and mentoring, which are needed to become top athletes at Paralympic and other levels. For example, we have already seen the reduction of vision impaired athletes competing at the top level from 25% of participants in Barcelona, to 10% in China. In Beijing, we had 1 VI athlete, 2 VI swimmers, 2 VI cyclists, 1 VI rower, 4 VI judo players and the rest were our blind football team. In Sydney we had 10 VI athletes, 10 VI swimmers and 5 VI judo players.

 

9. All the healthy living targets apply to disabled people as much, if not more, than to the general population. Many disabled people are over weight, have poor diets and do no, or limited, physical activity. They are more likely to be isolated or have mental health needs and are amongst the poorest in society. 15 years ago, 95% of disabled children would have been educated in special schools with only 5% in mainstream schools, and many of these would have been the least disabled. Now it is estimated that 95% are educated in mainstream schools (including quite high levels of disability), with only 5% in special schools and these are usually the most severely disabled for whom integrated provision has been thought too difficult to provide. The likelihood now is that there are 2/3 disabled children in every school and sport is way down the agenda with regard to provision and inclusion.

10. The London 2012 Games is intended to provide a lasting legacy for sport, health and regeneration. It is the catalyst, not the main provider or driver, this has to be undertaken by others. There needs to be a structured, thought through, co-ordinated, easily understood strategy and pathway to deliver the same sporting and recreational activities for people with a disability as for those who are not disabled.

We should be aspiring to:

 

Deliver full curriculum PE and sporting activities to all disabled children and young people in schools

Ensure inclusion in after school and external sports clubs and bodies for people with a disability

Develop more onus on sports clubs and other bodies receiving grants and financial support to establish clear and transparent programmes/opportunities for people with disabilities

Increase support for extending the number of events/sporting competitions for disabled people

Enhance the development of both integrated and specialist coaches for athletes with a disability

Undertake a proper analysis of the pathways that work for people with a disability re sport and recreation and then adopt a structure which leads to the provision of these best practice models.

 

Questions:

1. What is DCSF's responsibility for knowing what level of PE and sporting provision occurs in school and is it leading on achieving at least 2 hours curriculum PE for those with disabilities?

2. Is there sufficient flexibility with support transport for children and young people to enable them to participate in after school activities?

3. Who monitors grants to, and the activities of, sports clubs with regard to their inclusion of people with disabilities?

4. How do specialist providers of either coaching or activities to people with a disability ensure adequate funding to keep their provision going?

5. How do families and individuals get to know of sporting opportunities and facilities and could there be better grouping/collaboration between schools and clubs to widen the provision and the expertise available?

6. Is anyone looking at the development of specialist coaches for sports undertaken by those with disabilities either within existing coaching awards for particular sports or as separate specialist models?

7. Much has been done to include disabled people as spectators of sport, re wheelchair access, audio commentary, sign interpretation etc. Could 2012 herald new benchmarks in inclusive spectator facilities, provision and availability?

Conclusion:

With probably the best broadcasting partner (if the BBC gets the 2012 Paralympic contract), the images of amazing people doing amazing things being shown all over the world will inspire many people with a disability to think about and try sport. The stunning images will challenge concepts of disability and force people to see ability in action. For many of the disabled young people in Britain, the Games will also be the inspirational moment when they will want to emulate their sporting Paralympic heroes.

 

The question now is, will they get the encouragement and competent tuition in a range of sports by 2012? The answer now has to be Doubtful!

If we also asked the question, would someone with a disability, who wishes to take up a sport at whatever level and whenever in their life, at a place within ten miles of their home or school have a realistic chance of doing so by 2012, the answer would be a definite "NO!".

 

January 2010