Physical exercise is a key part of children’s physical, social and emotional development. However for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN), access to, and ability to participate in, physical activities can be very different from their peers. Lack of access to, and participation in sport can contribute to real issues for young people as they grow up.
We recently came across an article by the Youth Sports Trust about the importance of making sport inclusive for all, which discussed a survey conducted by Variety, a children’s charity . Variety found that ’72% of schools and children’s groups stated that a lack of participation in sport contributed to social isolation, lack of confidence and reduced life experiences among children with disabilities’. Lack of access to suitable equipment is a significant barrier that prevents children living with disability from engaging in sport; Variety's survey also found that ‘fewer than one in 10 parents say their child has access to a specialist sports club (9%)’, with ‘4 out of 5 schools reported inadequate facilities or equipment as a barrier’.
These issues really resonated with us at Rugged Interactive, where our products are designed to widen access to exercise for all. Our CardioWalls are a great example of this, and have been installed in both mainstream and specialist SEN schools with hugely positive results.
We recently installed two CardioWalls at Arbour Vale School in Slough, a special educational needs and disability school which has specialist sports college status. The CardioWalls are used by young people with a range of different abilities, ranging from ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) to different physical abilities. Director of Specialism, Karen Eriksen, said that ’We find the CardioWalls to be highly accessible as both a learning and an exercise/fitness tool. The majority of our diverse ability groups can enjoy and benefit from using them, and the score capture facility enables us to measure their progress easily’. The combination of mental and physical activity was seen to be of benefit to the students, promoting coordination, motivation and problem-solving skills. Read more about how CardioWall at Arbour Vale here.
However, CardioWalls can be also played in an interactive, sociable - and competitive - way. At Roche Community Primary School, children aged from reception to Year 6 quickly warmed to the CardioWall Compact Duo, both in PE lessons and as a rewardfor achievements or good behaviour. Headteacher Jeremy Walden told us that ’everyone is keen to have a go, especially once an element of competition is involved, either with peers or for personal best. The probable attraction here is that the CardioWalls don’t immediately make you think of exercise; they look like fun so appeal to everyone’. Mr Walden’s testimonial, and further information about CardioWall at Roche can be found here.
Importantly though, CardioWalls also enable individuals to exercise on their own, and at their own speed, so that they can decide their own level of comfort and ability and set personal targets.
For example, after installing two CardioWall Compacts, teachers at Fowey Primary school noted that “Those children who were not so confident during PE lessons felt they could confidently complete the challenges without fear of failure. No-one was left out or felt pressured by their peers as the whole team completed the same task. This is particularly important when classes have a wide range of abilities”. The increase we observed in average scores over four weeks showed that the students’ individual motivation to play and beat previous scores remained high. The full case study at Fowey can be found here.
With Variety's survey recording anecdotal instances of schools and local councils increasingly having to stretch their budgets for inclusive sport, it’s now more important than ever to develop and invest in versatile equipment that’s accessible to young people living with disability. With this in mind, we work with distributors that offer payment plans which can spread the cost over a set time period, rather present than one high upfront cost to the organisation.
We’re really excited that our products have improved schools’ sporting provision for young people with SEN, offering young people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to not only build physical skills, but also access emotional and social benefits in an inclusive and inspiring way. The positive feedback from our own school-based research and case studies are reflecting the survey’s findings; that accessible, inclusive sport is important and beneficial for individuals with disabilities, and also the communities they’re part of as well.