TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 19: Baroness Sue Campbell

A podcast with Baroness Sue Campbell
January 2015
Baroness Sue Campbell

Baroness Sue Campbell

International Youth Sport Trust

Sue Campbell is one of the UK’s most influential sports administrators. She is currently Chair of the Youth Sport Trust and has led the charity since its inception in 1994. In a relaxed chat, Ken asked Sue about her support of, and continuing interest in, inclusive sport.

Transcript TIC TALK with Baroness Sue Campbell

Ken

Okay so we’re here with Sue Campbell who is the chair of UK Sport and current chair of the Youth Sport Trust and one of the most influential people of British sport for many years. Sue, I wondered if we could have a short discussion today about your experience of inclusive physical activity and sport because obviously you’ve had a lot of involvement at the top end with events like the hugely successful London Paralympics. I just wondered also whether you had experiences earlier in your career around inclusive physical activity with the young people you may have encountered over the years.

Sue

My first experience of working with people with disabilities was when I worked in the sports council in the East Midlands region and I was responsible there for the provision during what I think was called the year of disability sport. I’d never worked around inclusive physical activity before, I learnt an enormous amount both in terms of understanding that the real trick was not asking people who were disabled to change but rather making sure the inclusive practice was something that coaches and leaders were capable of doing on a continuum.

So the model that later you educated me about which was that it was not a medical model but rather an inclusive physical activity model. I guess I experienced that for the first time there. And then when I started at the Sport Youth Trust, because of that experience, I was determined that from the outset, all our programs would be inclusive. We were fortunate enough to get you to come work with us at the time and I think thanks to you, that determination I had plus your extraordinary expertise meant that our early work around what we called the top programs which were aimed at young people of primary school age, 5 to 11, and secondary school age, 11 through to 18 were all very inclusive in their style, not only in their resources but in the training and delivery of those programs.

And I think for me, I can think of many wonderful extraordinary experiences working alongside you in a school for young people with multiple learning difficulties in a program called Elements that you devised, watching young people supported to move and the joy of just being able to move was just fantastic for me to see. Right through to watching and being part of the London Paralympics where you’ve seen people perhaps who were born with disabilities or have, through some accident, fate, find themselves with a disability, pursuing excellence in the London games. So I feel like I’ve seen the whole gamut and I remain absolutely committed to the fact that this is about coaches, teachers and officials adapting their practice about not just viewing people with disabilities as something separate.
Ken

That’s great. I wondered, you mentioned the school program, the top programs that Youth Sport Trust started a way back in the mid-90s. But I just wondered if you had noticed what changes, if you like, you have perceived in terms of the attitude of the teaching staff and those that support them, the attitudes of national governing bodies of sport towards the whole issue of inclusive physical activity and disability sport.

Sue

I think those are big changes and they happen very slowly, it’s an evolution instead of a revolution. I certainly think the work we started in the mid-90s and have persisted with have had some impact and I definitely think the London 2012 Paralympics challenged a lot of people’s perceptions about disability because they—it just wasn’t the issue, watching performance athletes that had a disability rather than disabled people doing sport which was a kind of different concept.

So I think attitudes definitely have changed, I think participation is improving, I think we still have a massive job to do to provide the talent pathways and support once someone starts participating. So I think we’re increasing participation, I still don’t think that’s perfect, I still think there’s a long way to go but we’re constantly providing teacher support programs, providing teacher education programs. I think the challenge now is how you know and identify people who have a disability who have talent and how you help nurture and progress them through to be the very best they want to be and as far as they want to go. I think that’s still an issue.
Ken

You also mentioned the Elements Program which was really going into the scale and I was quite glad you mentioned that in the sense that the importance that I think we both place on providing those early opportunities for people who are not going to end up on the Paralympics pathway but can become physically active. And I just wondered a lot of the early top programs were aimed very much at that grassroots development and providing better quality at the lower levels, I just wondered if you had any thoughts about that.
Sue

Well I actually think that’s an issue for all young people. I think the challenge is that those who were sporty in able-bodied sport, they get onto the sport pathways, the sport pathway is more developed in people with disabilities. But all our stats show that’s only 20, 25% of people so the question is where are the other 75% and are we doing enough to get them physically active, healthy and just engaged in a healthy lifestyle? So I think that is more extremely difficult for young people with disabilities for all sorts of reasons but I think it’s an issue that goes right across and I agree with you that the earlier that we start, in the early years and in primary schools, the better. Because I believe that physical literacy, that competence to move gives confidence, self esteem, helps with learning, helps with confidence in the world.

And the Elements Program which was targeted very much at young people with absolutely no sporting future as such but very much helping them with the physical activity and enjoyment I think was fantastic. And actually in many ways, it was way ahead of its time when you did it. And I remember coming alongside and watching you do it and seeing young people with their individual carers experiencing water, wind, earth and fire, wasn’t it, I think if I remember. There you go, that’s not a bad memory, is it? And so those experiences you could actually see just the joy of physically moving
So I absolutely believe we need to make sure every child regardless of ability or disability is developing a healthy, active lifestyle and that’s about a provision of a much wider range of activities than probably we’ve provided in the past.

Ken

Thanks, Sue. And my final question is really around something that was—a thread, I’ve just gone through everything you’ve said but the possibility of sport and physical activity being a platform for and a vehicle for integration of disabled and non-disabled children.

Sue

Yeah well I mean, again, I’m very committed to that and I think one of the things we’ve done with the new school games which is at four levels here in the UK. So the first level is intra-our school, things happening inside school and inter-school and county and then national. We’ve had a real commitment to integration. Last year at the national finals, we had sports of which seven had fully integrated programs and we’ve really emphasized in the school games right from the beginning that inclusion is the key to the success of this.

So again, that is for those who want to stay part of competitive sports, again, the caveat we just talked about is not for everybody but nevertheless, I think it’s vitally important that that integration is both there but is also very visible. And that’s what’s great about the school games, it raises it to a different level where people can see integrated excellence or integrated sport or integrated activities so we remain very committed to that. I still think it has its challenges but I think that’s something that we’ll continue to work at.

Ken

So Sue Campbell, thank you very much on behalf of the Inclusion Club, especially for giving us your precious time and sharing your thoughts on inclusion and I hope we can talk to you again sometime soon.

Sue

I look forward to it.