Making sport inclusive for youth in colleges
Making sport inclusive for youth in colleges
AoC Sport has worked hard to improve opportunities for disabled students in further education to be physically active and recognises the positive impact it has on disabled students’ lives.
AoC Sport is the membership organisation for colleges, leading the development of sport and physical activity in 16+ education. We believe that sport and physical activity are essential components of college life, giving students significant advantages in education, employment and health. Our vision is for every college student to participate regularly in sport or physical activity. Our purpose is to promote, support and deliver college sport and physical activity.
Two years ago, AoC Sport published a ground-breaking disability sport strategy highlighting how to develop this area of work over the next few years, to ensure every disabled college student is active for college, work and life.
During the first UK lockdown, AoC Sport created an Inclusive Activity Resource Pack to help disabled students stay active whilst at home. To create the resource, we worked with a range of impairment specific partners, including Special Olympics Great Britain and British Blind Sport, to ensure the resource was accessible to all.
We ensured the activities used minimal equipment and things that could be found around the home, so that a lack of equipment would not be a barrier to participation.
Inclusive Ambassadors, Inclusive Hubs
Activity Alliance research found that two thirds of disabled people prefer to take part in sport with both disabled and non-disabled people. Using this research, AoC Sport introduced Inclusive Ambassadors who are the voice of young people to champion not only disability specific activity, but also inclusive activity. The ambassadors are a sounding board within their colleges to check and challenge ideas to ensure disabled students are included in all activity.
Although the Inclusive Ambassador programme is not solely for disabled students, it is important we have disabled students in these positions to act as role models for other disabled students. At AoC Sport we believe visibility is key to ensuring disabled students can be active.
In 2020, AoC Sport launched a new Inclusion Hubs programme, where colleges were chosen to commit to making sport and physical activity inclusive for all disabled students.
These Inclusion Hubs are also a great way to be able to share learnings of engaging disabled students in activity. Of the 12 Inclusion Hubs, we have nine general further education colleges spread across England and three specialist further education colleges.
This will allow us to pilot new ideas to engage disabled students and to see whether we see the same successes and challenges in all colleges or whether they differ geographically or by type of college. This is also our opportunity to consult with disabled students to find out what motivates them to be active and what their barriers are rather than assuming we know.
In our review of the current landscape we identified barriers to physical activity and sport for disabled students, which included lack of equipment and staff not qualified to deliver disability sport.
As an organisation, we seek to work with other organisations and national governing bodies to tackle the challenges colleges face. We have worked with both Boccia England and the Lawn Tennis Association to offer free equipment grants to colleges so that disabled students can access new sporting opportunities.
AoC Sport is also a licensed partner of the UK Coaching, Inclusive Activity Programme. We use this course to upskill education staff and students to be able to deliver inclusive and modified sessions, so that all students can participate in sport and physical activity together. This is part of our commitment to ensure the future workforce have inclusion at the forefront.
At AoC Sport we are looking to increase participation opportunities, especially in inclusive activity so that disabled students have opportunities to participate with non-disabled students.
We will continue to upskill the future workforce so that inclusive activity is the norm, changing perceptions that disabled students must take part in disability specific activity.
Shannon Howarth is the Disability Development Officer at AoC Sport. She studied Sport Development with the Business of Sport at Liverpool John Moores University. Since graduating in 2016, Shannon has worked in the disability sport sector and has a real passion for ensuring all disabled people have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers to be physically active.