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Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft: disabled children “missing out on sport”

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Hannah Cockroft, double Paralympic gold medalist at London 2012, has called for more emphasis to be placed on providing disabled children with equal sporting opportunities at school.

Responding to the findings of a new survey from the Youth Sport Trust (YST), Cockroft said that ensuring better quality physical education (PE) for young disabled students in mainstream schools is “desperately needed”.

The YST report showed that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of leaders working in school disability sport said disabled students in special schools experience higher quality PE and school sport opportunities compared to those attending mainstream schools.

“While some teachers are making sports activities accessible for all young people, there is still a significant proportion that are not equipped with the skills and knowledge of how to include disabled students in PE lessons,” she said.

Lack of experience, confidence and training amongst teachers and inadequate equipment in schools were highlighted by the report, which surveyed 52 leaders in disability sport from schools across the country.

Only 29 per cent of those questioned thought teachers in mainstream schools could signpost disabled students in their schools to the most appropriate sports clubs, compared to 70 per cent who thought special schools were more than capable.

81 per cent of teachers also thought that Paralympic talent is being missed due to lack of knowledge around disability sport in mainstream schools.

“These figures don't come as a huge shock,” Cockroft added. I went to a mainstream nursery, primary and secondary school and was the only disabled child there so had some real challenges when it came to PE lessons.

“I dreaded them, as I knew I would get completely side lined and told to get in the library or do something completely different that wasn't part of the PE lesson. I wasn’t going to break in half just because I have a disability; all I wanted to do was get involved in the sports activities with my friends and not having these opportunities was a huge thing for me.

"It wasn't the teachers fault though; there weren’t the support resources such as the Sainsbury’s Active Kids for All Inclusive PE Training back then, so they didn't know what to do to include me in activities.”

To see an infographic of the survey’s findings, click here.

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Hannah Cockroft, double Paralympic gold medalist at London 2012, has called on for more emphasis to be put on providing disabled children with equal sporting opportunities at school.
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