No exceptions, no problem!

Issue: Volume 93, Number 15

Posted: 25 August 2014
Reference #: 1H9csk

Making a small change to a game can mean a big difference to ensuring all students can participate. Halberg Disability Sport Foundation No Exceptions Training programme has made a difference at Papatoetoe South Primary School by fostering the confidence to include all students in physical education.

The No Exceptions Training (NET) programme is provided by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation in the form of workshops and is a great tool for the development of more inclusivity in physical education. The programme is aimed at teachers, coaches, and community leaders and seeks to remove the anxiety some may experience when trying to include those young people who live with impairments – both physical and intellectual – that make joining in regular sporting and physical activities difficult, if not impossible.

One school that’s recently benefitted from the programme is Papatoetoe South Primary School in Auckland. Principal Mark Barratt says that the initiative has been especially helpful to his learning community, owing to its special character; but then, every classroom has its very own special character, says Mark.

“What I’ve realised is that every classroom has a huge range of ability within them. The research that I’ve been reading recently talks about a five to six year variance [in academic ability], regardless of the subject area. In our school, we have a high proportion of students with special needs. We’re a specialist education school provider. That means that we’re in a special relationship with the Ministry, and we take a number of students with physical or intellectual needs. When we talk about the NET programme, it’s not theoretical for us; my teachers work with a very wide range of students every single day.”

Being the leader of a learning community with such a unique combination of students, Mark has been all too aware of what he calls a lack of available training in the field of teaching students with special education needs. He says this lack is at both pre-service and in-service level.

“We employ a lot of teachers from university postgraduate programmes, and they may only have, say, eight hours dedicated PE training before graduation. Suddenly, we are asking them to include, for example, a child in a walking frame or a child who has no femurs. How do you include them in your aquatics programme? So there’s both pedagogical and content knowledge needed.
“We went to the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, who we’ve worked with in the past, and we asked them to come in and do some training. They ran a number of sessions, and it was fabulous. There was high participation, and there was opportunity for teachers to talk about real world problems that they face every day. There were opportunities for teachers to trial something and come back and discuss. It was productive.”

One of the key understandings that Mark and his team took with them from the NET programme was the need to focus on skills. This was something the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation practitioners acknowledged the school had already gone a long way toward. What this means in essence is adapting games to children, not the other way round. Mark gives an example.

“I’m thinking about a child we have here with a severe physical impairment. We were talking about large ball skills, for example. How do you include this child in a game involving ball activities?

“Firstly, we’re not talking about recognised sports; and that’s one of the great things about the programme. It’s about teaching skills and then moving those skills into a modified game situation.

“It might be that we change the ball; it might be that we change the rules, so that everyone can be included. It might be that we change the area we play in. Say you’ve got a game where one team has to put five passes together, and the other team has to try to intercept the ball. A simple little game, but we might change the rules so that everyone in the team has the opportunity to pass the ball. It is little variations like this that make all the difference.”

Cooperative pedagogy

The goal is better outcomes for physically and intellectually disabled students, but half the battle, says Mark, is to overcome the barriers that teachers experience. This includes their sub-conscious anxiety – and therefore reluctance – around inclusive physical education.

Mark reports an increase in physical activity education across the board at Papatoetoe following the NET sessions. This, he says, is concrete proof that teachers now have the confidence and will to make physical education fun and instructive for everyone.

“We involved a number of children with intellectual and physical disabilities in our inter-school sports programme this year. You could argue that this is not all due to the NET programme, but that was a big part of it.

“I have also seen students showing increased enjoyment. There is a huge amount of anxiety around participating in physical education on the part of those students who live with impairments as well. They don’t want to look silly and they don’t want to feel isolated.

“The culture of the school, which has always been inclusive, has deepened in that sense.”

Mark’s school is committed to promoting positive attitudes toward people who live with impairments, both on the part of the student peer group and among adults. What does come across when talking to him is the very real pride he takes in his school, in his dedicated teachers, and in the character of Papatoetoe South. NET training has gone some way toward reinforcing that self-belief.

“I see our students being included on a real level, in the life of the school, and within the classroom.

“It is really way more than physical education, isn’t it? It’s about including every student in the normal day-to-day practice of the school as a whole.”

SPACE Change the area available to make the game more or less difficult. Have two or three different areas with different space options to cater for differing skill development levels.
TASK Change the demands of the task in response to skill development levels. Modify the rules – be flexible; different children can have different tasks within a game. Change direction, pathways, time length, and other task components.
EQUIPMENT Modify the size, shape, weight, colour, or arrangement of equipment to alter skill level required or inclusion level of the game.
PEOPLE Change the number of players involved. Utilise different groupings based on skills development level – not all the class needs to have the same grouping arrangement.

The Halberg NET STEP model

STEP is a best practice model to ensure all students participate in sport and physical education. It applies to all students, not just disabled students. During a Halberg NET course, teachers learn how to use the STEP model for adapting sport and recreation to include all students.

STEP is about ensuring students are Present, Participating, and Learning (PPL). PPL is a Ministry of Education tool to check whether teaching is universally designed for all students.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:32 pm, 25 August 2014

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts