20th October 2023
School Games event
Sussex School Games underway as the Big SEND festival takes place
The county Sussex School Games calendar is underway, with the first major event of the academic year taking place on Wednesday, October 4.
The Big SEND Festival was hosted at The Littlehampton Academy, and attended by 171 children with special educational needs.
The children came from 17 mainstream from across the south-west of the county, from Shoreham to Bognor Regis, and gave them a chance to try ten different sports and activities outside of their school environment.
This is one of 16 Sussex School Games Festival and Roadshow events scheduled for 2023/24, with the aim to target children who often have barriers when accessing sporting competition.
Schools were invited to bring small groups who could partake in a very informal and non-competitive environment.
Sporting success wasn’t being measured by goals and points, and rather children were simply challenged to enjoy themselves, and to give everything a go with an open mind.
The ten stations ranged from team sports, such as football and cricket, to activities such as dance and target throwing.
An athletics-themed assault course proved very popular, with Paralympian James Arnott assisting the young leaders to run this.
James, who holds a Commonwealth Games silver medal, reflected on similar events he’d attended as a child.
“I knew I was quite good at running and generally quick, but it was not until a Playground to Podium event when I was in Year 9, where I did a selection of different sports similar to this event now, that I found that I loved athletics.
“After that they took me to a local track, and things grew and grew until it got me to where I am now.”
Despite growing up many miles away in Plymouth, the School Games also played a part in James’ story, as he took part in inspiring event days run locally as part of the national programme.
He added how pleased he was to see the School Games still thriving in other areas of the country.
“The day’s been awesome, seeing all the kids have fun and engaged in all the different sports,” he said.
“They really get to discover what they love the most, so hopefully it inspires them to keep it up.”
Of course, it is only a fractional percentage for whom these events are a springboard to elite sporting stardom.
For most, the experiences at a young age shapes attitudes towards physical activity and a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.
Unfortunately, inactivity levels amongst children with special educational needs have crept above those without.
Jan Machica, PE Coordinator at Summerlea Community Primary School in Littlehampton, saw the importance of targeted events to give a positive early experience of physical activity.
She said: “Today gives them an opportunity to shine, when they may not usually have that opportunity.
“PE is a very active lesson, and these children can sometimes shy away and don’t like getting involved.
“This environment gives them a suitable place to be active at their own pace.”
A large and complex event takes a lot of collaboration, with three School Games areas combining in West Sussex to pull the day together.
The Littlehampton Academy was instrumental in providing fantastic facilities, and its young leaders joined forces with peers from The Angmering School to deliver each of the stations.
Ali Groves, from Worthing School PE Association, and Sandy Fell, from Sport Without Boundaries, were on hand to offer their expertise, as were Sussex County Cricket Club, who continue to do some outstanding work in the inclusion space.
The spearhead though was Daniel Jenner, Southern Area School Games Organiser, who thanked all of those for their support and gave some insight into the impact he hoped the day would have.
“Everyone has come together, and we’ve been able to target a huge number of children,” he said.
“They’ve been able to develop their personal skills, grow in confidence and motivation, and gain transferable skills which they can take into different sports and activities.
“It’s important that this is done within these children’s comfort zone.”
Ed Bartram, Regional Project and Events Officer at Active Sussex, heaped praise on the Sussex School Games Organisers for this approach, and their efforts to tackle inequalities through the School Games programme.
He said: “Credit to the whole SGO team, who have embraced a new approach and continue to add exciting new events into busy calendars.
“They have had to take on lots of new ideas, ways of working, and manage change locally- which isn’t always easy. But then you see events like this, and you know that today is going to make a big difference.”
To find out more about the School Games, visit our dedicated Sussex School Games page.