An Interesting Light on Inclusion in Extra-Curricular PE
Published: July 2011
Updated: August 2013; July 2015; September 2017
Partners: David Haycock and Andy Smith
In this episode we bridge the gap between research and practice by looking closely at the implications for practitioners of a research study into the extent that teachers have tried to include young people with disability in extra-curricula physical education programs in regular schools.
Now, we know the purpose of The Inclusion Club is all about providing support for practitioners in the field. We do not intend to get into too much research here.
But, we do come across interesting research that has significant implications for practitioners—so we will try to bridge the gap a bit here between research and practice!
Interestingly too, a common ‘request’ from Inclusion Club members is for information around inclusion into physical education.
So today we are going to take a look at a very interesting study by David Haycock and Andy Smith from Chester Centre for Research into Sport and Society at the University of Chester in the UK.
We will try to give a summary of this study here.
The correct citation for the article on this study is:
David Haycock & Andy Smith (2011):
Still ‘more of the same for the more able?’ Including young disabled people and pupils with special educational needs in extra-curricular physical education…
Sport, Education and Society, 16:4, 507-526
This study looks at the extent that teachers have tried to include young people with disability in extra-curricular physical education programs in mainstream schools. According to the authors there has been relatively few studies that look at this.
The reason I particularly like this study is because it uses focus groups. Basically, getting the in-depth views of 12 teachers (5 males and 7 females) from five schools in north-west England.
Notwithstanding the different circumstances and experiences of this group of teachers, their views offer some rich insights into actual practice. It’s worth knowing too that these teachers are all practicing physical education teachers in mainstream schools.
We’re not going to focus here on the methodologies of research, the procedures of the focus groups or the way the data was analysed.
Instead we’ll simply look at some of the quotes from the teachers directly. I think they speak for themselves and offer some real insights into why students with disabilities are not getting opportunities in extra-curricular physical education.
Just for for a bit of background, though.
It will be no surprise to you that students with disabilities participate far less than other students in these type of activities.
The study does quote a number of data sources as evidence of this, in particular Sport England’s (2001) national study of participation among 6 to16-year-olds in England, for example, indicated that during 2000 14% of young disabled people (males and females), compared to 45% of the general school population (49% males; 41% females) in 1999, reported participating in extra-curricular physical education.
What is interesting in all of this is that, despite political and policy emphasis in recent years on the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular schools, little appears to have changed in the way that extra-curricular activities are delivered.
There is still a heavy emphasis on multi-activity, sport based and sports performance orientated programs.
In other words, after school hour activities are still very much competitive sport based and little seems to have been done to adapt and modify programs so that students with disabilities can take part.
What is interesting is that the existence, or otherwise, of policy didn’t seem to make much difference to actual practice. One teacher commented:
There is no policy for any of our clubs, so any student can attend . . .if a student wants to come to a club they are welcome and it is offered to everybody. Now, since I have worked here, I have never found any disabled students or SEN (Special Educational Needs) students actually come to attend a club . . . I have not had any experience of any of those types of students coming to any of the clubs.
And another teacher added –
They have not really been involved and I think some of that could be that they are worried that they are not up to scratch or something.
Now, I’ll make some assumptions and bold statements here just to help you get thinking about this. It’s simply to stimulate an alternative view.
Could it be that because there is no policy that students with disabilities are not going to the clubs?
Why is it that the second teacher here thinks that students with disabilities would be worried about not being up to scratch? Where is the responsibility for inclusion here? Classic medical model perspective.
Some of the teachers recognised that only certain students with disabilities were attending extra-curricular sports:
The ones with . . . learning difficulties, for example, if you get them in a team game scenario . . . (and) they have got mobility skills then they will come to the clubs. It’s only sort of the physically impaired that won’t come to the extracurricular clubs like . . . football, the team sports . . . (such as) cricket basketball, rugby. But certainly . . . (those with) behavioural and learning difficulties . . . will come to the clubs.
I have got a girl . . . (with) learning difficulties. She is in bottom set for everything here and she is in my rounders team. Fantastic, absolutely loves sport . . .(it) took me a bit longer to teach her more of the rules than the others . . . (she’s) so physically able but just has learning difficulties in a classroom.
Did it occur to teacher A that the type of activities being run were totally unsuitable and exclusionary for students with physical impairments?
Teacher B seems to think that it is ‘fantastic’ that she has one student! It’s a shame that it took a ‘bit longer to teach her’ but at least she has one!!
There appears to have been a common acceptance that students with disabilities seemed to be more suitable or ‘liked’ more individualised and recreational activities.
Trampolining they (pupils) love.
They adore trampolining don’t they? . . . Volleyball they like. They like . . . things that are indoors and warm . . . But trampolining is just recreational. Just come and have a go . . . with the netball I sort of say . . . ‘Just come and play,’ but some of them won’t because they think, ‘Oh, she’s in the team. Oh, I’m not going to be in the team’
They still think ‘Oh, it’s only a team thing’ . . . with trampolining . . . there are a lot more that come to that because it is ‘just come and have a go’ and there is kind of no pressure really and I think they like that don’t they
Could students with disabilities like more than trampolining and volleyball?
Is getting in the team really that difficult? Is it the world cup they are playing for or maybe human rights are not that important anyway?
And yes, there must be medical studies that show the correlation between impairment and lack of competitive sporting instincts. I’ve just missed that one!
Many of the teachers also recognised that the traditional sporting backgrounds of the schools and the emphasis on winning was not conducive to inclusion.
You know what our basketball’s like here, winning national titles and things like that. It’s all geared towards that and I suppose if I was a disabled student I probably would look at that and not think I should be a part of it
There is a bit (of emphasis) at the minute to try and keep the reputation that obviously went before us . . . it’s just, well, you know, ‘Let’s keep winning these tournaments’
I think we all decided in our department and with the headmaster that it was important to try and keep that going because it’s a traditional thing about this school. But we are actually in the process of trying to get more things on . . . we have got this adaptive sports programme coming on board next year to try and help improve the extra-curricular for disabled students.
Then having an impairment excludes you from winning national titles does it?
And inclusion is all very well but we must retain our reputation? Reputation for what?
At least one of the teachers recognised that the focus on elite sports competition had a negative effect on inclusion.
If we’re doing basketball it’s not sort of just (for) anyone come along because, you know, we’re playing like national level . . . There are certain activities we open up like the athletics . . . but the main focus is on the elite kids. That’s what’s seen as more important here so we focus on that really . . . especially with the basketball, rather than focus on everyone.
I think what you have got to consider is that we are in an area of four secondary schools and the most important part of what sells a school is successful school shows, successful school teams and successful examination results . . . But another part of it is being part of the community and including as many as possible and if parents with kids with disabilities are going out and telling good news stories to others parents then that obviously helps to sell the school as well.
So students with disabilities cannot be elite kids also?
Now we’re getting somewhere—perhaps the community might see inclusion as being something that can sell a school too. Just maybe!
To conclude, perhaps the quotes that illustrate the extraordinary world we live in and how our cultures are so entwined with notions of inclusion, try these two:
I think that is why the dance clubs did so well because you didn’t need to be particularly good at it. There was no pressure of teams, or doing a show. You could go and just enjoy it.
A lot of pupils with disabilities tend to go to the all ability club on a Wednesday . . . because it is kind of a safe environment.
Yeah, it is a non-threatening environment. They have various people there that they know and trust.
I hope this got you thinking. The story behind this study is interesting. The stories of teachers here say a great deal about inclusion generally, not just about school environments and extra-curricular sport.
You can give your brain a rest now! But if you are stimulated by this discussion please leave a comment below. Thanks.
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About the author: Peter Downs
Founding Director - The Inclusion Club
Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit. In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.