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2 min read

How to make your school sports day inclusive.

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Inclusive SEND sports day ideas.

Think about your SEND pupils when planning your school sports day activities. You know your children best and how to adapt the activities to ensure maximum participation and enjoyment. We share how to make your sports day activities inclusive this summer.


What are the challenges with sports day? 

Sports day can be some children’s ideal afternoon, whilst it creates panic and dread for others. It’s the taking part that counts, right? So, how do you plan and create a great sports day that has a little something for everyone? First, you need to consider the challenges some children may face with sports day.


Physical demand.

Physical exercise and strenuous activity are not for everyone; some children may prefer to join in with skill-based events rather than races that rely on speed and stamina. When planning your sports day activities, ensure you have a good balance of speed, strength, stamina and skill-based events.


Sensory overload in schools.

Sports day activities are often different from normal school routines. The excitement, noise and general busyness of the day can be overwhelming for children with sensory sensitivities. Using ear defenders and providing additional explanations for the running order of the day can help to reduce the sensory demand throughout the afternoon. 


Communication barriers.

Often during primary school sports days, the children may interact with different teaching staff, creating communication barriers due to the teacher being unaware of the child’s needs and how best to support them. It is important to share vital medical and SEND information with staff via a child’s one-page profile before the event.


Teamwork and group activities.

The concept of winning and losing can be a tough lesson to learn, for children who find social interactions challenging and struggle with frustration tolerance. Team games and competitive races can be a trigger for feeling inadequate. Be mindful to encourage teachers to practice emotional regulation strategies ahead of the event as a whole-class.


Inclusive sports day ideas for SEND children.

We have used the 4 main areas of SEND need to share some inclusive sports day activity ideas to try.


Cognition and Learning needs.

It is important to recognise the challenges some children may face when working memory is required. Remind all staff to keep instructions for the events and races they man to a minimum. If possible, using visual images and prompts for how to complete the activity can help a child to understand the expectation of the event.

visual prompts to support SEND children with sports day instructions


Communication and Interaction needs.

Children who find communication and interaction with others challenging can sometimes struggle during changes to their usual routine. Introducing a Now and Next board can alleviate some anxiety about the change of routine. Assign a child a key person for the day (an adult or older pupil who will be in close proximity for the event). To ask any questions or support throughout the afternoon.

Try using a now and next board for events like sports day for SEND children

Social Emotional Mental Health needs. 

Recognising the events and concepts of the day in advance can help pupils to prepare strategies to manage intense feelings during sports day. The use of time-out cards can be beneficial to encourage a child to identify when they require some time to reflect and regulate.


Sensory and Physical Disabilities.

Sports day has a lot of usual smells, sounds, textures and feelings. Encourage your staff to identify the potential barriers for children with sensory processing needs, including changing the usual uniform or clothing for PE kit. Children who are wheelchair users or have physical disabilities can be encouraged to join in with adapted activities. Or, why not contact your local wheelchair sports team to rent or borrow some wheelchairs and create an obstacle course for all children to enjoy?


Paralympic activities to try in your school sports day.

Organising your school’s sports day? Don’t miss our 12 easy steps to planning a fun sports day for your pupils.

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