Leigh Cooper from Oakwood Academy discusses the impact of goalball at the school.
In May 2016 we were invited to an intra-school inclusive goalball competition at Pemberton Centre in Rushden. On receiving the invitation we had no idea what goalball was so we carried out some research and we quickly realised that it was a brilliant opportunity to promote a brand new sport to our children. The tournament was inclusive so we gathered all the necessary information for our SEND children and invited them all to come and play at lunchtimes with the PE team. We also invited children who we thought would benefit from the experience, for example, children who needed help with their confidence levels or those who had not been to a competition before. The response by the children was fantastic and the numbers wanting to attend were high. There soon became a goalball ‘craze’ around the school with many children rapidly learning what the sport was and how to play it.
Through raising awareness of the sport around the school and through practice we began to have an idea of a group of children we wanted to take to the competition. We were able to enter two teams which we filled comfortably due to the enthusiasm of the children and their commitment to learning the game, especially in their own time. The final teams ended up consisting mainly of SEND children and for many of them it was their first competition. Whatever the outcome the children had been given a chance to experience something new, which we hoped would develop a new found confidence that they could then take back into their core learning.
When we had finalised our team we began to work on the finer details of the game and exposed the children to all of the rules and techniques that they could use. Throughout this time the children’s passion to learn and develop was awe-inspiring, so we knew we were taking a great group of children to participate in something exciting.
When the day came for the competition, the children were extremely enthusiastic and they all looked smart, knew the game ‘inside out’ and behaved impeccably. Both teams performed consistently well, both winning their groups, and making it an all Oakway final! The final was a close game with the A team edging victory. The children had given it their all during the competition and their hard work paid off. It was a fantastic occasion with both teams getting through to the Summer Games Finals – a proud moment for all of our school community.
Goalball has had a positive impact, giving the children pride and belief, raising standards of sport and physical education for all children within our school and our community. To continue the momentum we continue to run the goalball club every lunchtime which is organised by our young leaders. Our young leader’s worked alongside us during the process of developing goalball at our academy so they were confident in running the club.
With the foundations laid we are now supporting other schools in their development of goalball. We recently held a training session with another school that was run by our young leaders. It was an opportunity to further our understanding of the game and to promote and encourage the sport with another school. The session inspired the school to go back and create their own club. This builds important partnerships and we hope to work with other schools in the near future.