Sleaford pupils channel sport to tackle intolerance

A Sleaford school is using sport to tackle intolerance as part of a worldwide Special Olympics campaign aimed at changing perceptions of youngsters with learning disabilities.

From left, Sarah Williams with Mackenzie Williams, Lee Croker, Brandon Insull, Milly Evans and John Walsh-Horne. EMN-170313-171032002
From left, Sarah Williams with Mackenzie Williams, Lee Croker, Brandon Insull, Milly Evans and John Walsh-Horne. EMN-170313-171032002

St George’s Academy joined the Play Unified campaign to bring together young people with and without intellectual disabilities through sport to promote understanding and mutual respect.

The school has run a number of inclusive sports events, including a recent multi-sport Special Olympics featuring boccia, football, netball and new age kurling.

Each sport was organised by a designated Young Ambassador with Mackenzie Williams (16), Lee Croker (18), Milly Evans (15), and Brandon Insull (15) filling the roles.

Lee and Milly play boccia with Sheffield Knights as part of Boccia England’s regional talent pathway and attended talent camps last summer.

Mackenzie, meanwhile, attended the Youth Sport Trust Talent camp for officiating in boccia and has achieved a gold level award as both a Young Leader and Young Official for her work with the school’s boccia team.

The Academy’s Ruskington and Sleaford campuses combined for the event with a total of 80 pupils either playing sport or officiating.

Special Olympics gold medal-winning gymnast Holly Riseborough joined students, and spent the morning playing netball as well as telling them about her own extraordinary journey.

The Young Ambassadors created their own spirit of the games award for the event, for pupils who showed the best sportsmanship throughout the day.

Every participant received a medal, while all winning teams were rewarded with trophies for each sport as well as an overall winning campus trophy.

Sarah Williams, the Youth Sport Trust lead inclusion specialist for Lincolnshire, said: “We were delighted at the reception the games received. Pupils learnt a lot about how to be more inclusive while having plenty of fun together.

“Students also put together a video, alongside staff who wanted to show what Play Unified means to St George’s – it even includes messages in different languages including sign to make the video as inclusive as possible.”

The Special Olympics event is set to take place annually and the pupils would eventually like to extend it to a whole-day event and add goalball and sitting volleyball to the itinerary.

The search has begun for the next Young Ambassadors to lead the next Special Olympics events, while two of the current ambassadors will become mentors. Sarah is also helping lead a project with the school to helping them take boccia to surrounding local primary schools, ending with a county final later this year.

They will also be attempting a boccia world record in May in collaboration with local clubs when they will aim to play boccia for a record 30 hours.