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Approaches to Teaching for Inclusion in Physical Education

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Teaching
Wordcount: 5428 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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A practitioner led enquiry investigating the approaches to teaching for inclusion in Physical Education

The study will focus on the different ways that PE teachers plan and include children with SEND into PE lessons




Inclusion is about creating a classroom in which all children feel welcomed, valued and respected. Morley, et al (2005) believes that as a teacher it is vital to managing an inclusive educational environment. Government policy states that “mainstream schools have a duty to endure all students with special educational needs and disability (SEND) take part in activities alongside those without SEND”(Department for Education, 2015). Despite this many teachers have concerns adopting inclusion with primary concerns over professional development, planning time and meeting needs of all students (Horne and Timmons, 2009 & Crawford, 2011). The number of SEND pupils in schools has risen to 14.8% in 2018, (Department for Education, 2018). Due to this high number it is important that schools are inclusive in their practice as pupils with SEND might face significantly greater challenges in learning than the majority of their peers, or have a disability which hinders their access to the teaching and facilities typically found in mainstream educational settings. There is also a very large attainment gap between pupils with SEND and their peers (Education Endowment Foundation, 2018).

Practitioner enquiry


In my placement school, I investigated the ways in which SEND pupils needs are met in daily school life and during Physical Education (PE) lessons (see appendix 1). During my enquiry, I observed a pupil in Year 8 (Pupil 1) with a rare neuromuscular condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a genetic condition which causes children to have multiple curved joints. My research started by looking at relevant literature and government policy that looked at general school inclusion for SEND pupils and then I narrowed this down to research on provisions for inclusion in PE. The next part of the research involved looking at the effectiveness of different provisions at the school for Pupil 1. In particular, I looked at ways PE staff planned and included Pupil 1 into lessons.


Literature Review

Neuromuscular conditions


There are approximately 2,500 children with a neuromuscular condition attending schools in the UK. Unlike many other children with physical disabilities, the needs of most children with a neuromuscular condition will change during their time at school, as their muscle strength deteriorates (Musculardystrophyuk.org, 2007). Mobility issues are the main issues that pupils who have neuromuscular conditions suffer with, hence some pupils have access to a wheelchair. In addition, muscle weakness and fatigue can make it difficult for students to keep up with the physical demands of handwriting, moving between classrooms and organising materials (Mda.org, 2017). These primary factors are likely to have an impact on students mental health. According to Musculardystrophyuk.org, (2007) a neuromuscular condition is likely to impact a child’s self-image and emotional well-being, this may lead to conditions such as depression and anxiety. However, it has been proven that exercise may help a person to maintain their ability to perform daily living tasks and release the ‘feel-good’ hormones and help with sleep (Muscular Dystrophy, 2016). Furthermore, pupils are likely to have social benefits, such as the possibility for increased social interaction with other pupils (McAllister and Hadjri, 2013 & Andre et al, 2013). Therefore it is important that pupils with neuromuscular conditions are included in PE lessons.

Secondary schools

In terms of providing inclusion for a pupil with a neuromuscular condition, a strong family-student-teacher team is the best approach (Mda.org, 2017). This is further supported by

Department for Education (2015) who specifies that as a collaborative group, parents, the SENCO, specialists and the class teacher should all devise effective teaching approaches, suitable interventions, and strategies to allow the child to progress as much as possible at school and as an individual. However, it has been suggested that if pupils have a voice in there provision/care they can feel more valued and more confident (Beaver, 2017). Therefore it is vital that school’s adopt a graduated approach mentioned in the SEND Code of Practice (Department for Education, 2015), see appendix 2. In order to evaluate the pupil’s needs and effectiveness of different provisions, it is vital for the pupils to support network and pupil to continually assess, plan and review.

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Another suggested provision for inclusion is the use of teaching assistants (TAs), although research tends to be quite mixed. According to the Department For Education, (2015) teaching assistants should be considered to be part of the care package for SEND pupils. However, a key issue that arises for SEND pupils when working with TAs is that they are often separated from the main class teacher, resulting in their absence for parts of the curriculum as well as disruption to their routine (Blatchford et al, 2009). Furthermore, Sharples et al, (2015) found that teaching assistants tended to be more concerned with task completion, and less concerned with developing pupil’s understanding. This has also been supported by Maher (2016) who has suggested that although TAs understand the concept of inclusion, they may not have the subject knowledge in PE to fully meet the needs of the students and the subject. It has suggested that teachers share their own higher order skills and knowledge in order to help questioning technique in order to support TAs (Radford et al, 2015). Still, if TA’s are to support teachers it is clear that they should be supported by better training and monitoring (Webster et al, 2010).

Physical Education

Fully inclusive PE encompasses four areas: knowledge and curricula related to a disability, teacher attitudes, pre-service teacher education and reframing understandings of multiple perspectives on physical literacy (Barber, 2016). In particular, in PE it is important for teachers to know the student through observation of their motor skills during practice in order to identify the principles of the functional motion capabilities (Dugas and Point, 2014). Due to the physical nature of PE, teachers need essential knowledge that goes beyond the student’s medical report in order to create an inclusive atmosphere as best as possible. Once this initial knowledge has been learned it has been suggested that teachers focus on presence, participation, and performance when thinking about planning (Mda.org, 2017). This is where the teacher focuses on focus on how to ensure the pupils accesses PE, what areas of differentiation can be made and what the pupil wants to achieve.

It is helpful to break down all aspects of the PE lesson so that planning goes into all stages (Muscular Dystrophy, 2016). Planning needs to include extra changing time, devising adapted resources, the grouping of the students, equipment and the assessment process (Rouse, 2009). The use of the Inclusion Spectrum (Stephenson and Black, 1999) is helpful when looking at modifying lessons for inclusion (see appendix 3). ‘Open activities’ are the most inclusive where any child participate, followed by ‘modified activities’ where subtle changes are made to include pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN). ‘Parallel activities’ are open activities which are organised into groups according to ability, ‘separate’ or ‘alternative’ activities can provide individualised PE and finally ‘disability sport’ is the opposite to integration, where the whole class participates in disability sports (Black and Stephenson, 2011). Within each stage, on the inclusion spectrum, the STEPS framework can aid in decision making to ensure inclusion is appropriately executed (Haskins, 2005). The STEPS framework is a mnemonic created in order to adapt the space, task, equipment and people and speed of a task, to increase the level of inclusive practice (Haskins, 2005). Another method that links to the Inclusion Spectrum (Black and Stephenson, 2011) is the use of teaching styles. According to Rich (2000) ‘direct’ teaching approaches are useful in teaching students with SEN who benefit from structure. ‘Indirect’ teaching behaviours are  said to be useful for “high functioning” students with SEN or students with SEN “learning basic motor skills, or learning skills. In terms of assessing which style is effective for pupils with neuromuscular condition it is important to assess their needs.


Evaluation, Interpretation, and Findings

Whole School Provision

From comparing evidence and government data to practice it appears that there a number of issues that arise in my investigation. Relevant conversations with school staff confirmed that the school was successful with school inclusion for Pupil 1. In line with the SEND Code of Practice (Department for Education, 2015) the school adopted a graduated approach where they assessed, planned and reviewed the effectiveness of different provisions. This approach involved relevant teachers, the SENCO and pupil’s parents in order to evaluate different decisions. The use of pupil voice has many positives as pupils feel more valued and more confident. Similarly, teachers and the school can benefit by being able to identify areas of good practice and areas which require improvement, from a pupil perspective (Beaver, 2017). Pupil voice was a main theme of the school and this was mirrored in the school’s policies and subject curriculum. From my observations, the school was very good at making different decisions which were in line with Pupil 1’s opinion. One example of this was extra-curricular clubs, where despite Pupils 1’s disability had the choice of all the clubs on offer and the school had no problems with which clubs Pupil 1 wanted to attend.

Physical Education Provision


In terms of a PE perspective provisions for inclusion was mixed. The main negative was the general knowledge base PE teachers and TAs had over AMC and neuromuscular conditions. This is very much in line with Crawford (2011) who state that PE teachers feel they have not had suitable training in preparation for integrating SEN pupils into their classes. During my placement, there was no relevant CPD or training for staff to meet the needs of Pupil 1 due to the progressive nature of the condition. According to Armour et al, (2015) it is widely argued that continuing CPD for physical education PE teachers is important. It was also noted that the PE teachers didn’t have any contact with Pupil’s 1 therapist in order to work with in order to analyse activities in PE.

The use of TAs in PE was ineffective. If TA’s are to support teachers it is clear that they should be supported by better training and monitoring (Webster et al, 2010). Pupil 1s TA was helpful during a whole group lesson as they could help with inclusion for Pupil 1 under the instruction of the class teacher to support certain skills. However, when Pupil 1 became isolated and was forced to do a rugby lesson on their own, due to the TAs lack of experience in a sporting setting this affected the way that certain skills were taught and Pupil 1 didn’t get the most out of the session. If the TA had relevant instructions and coaching in order to be able to teach certain skills such as throwing and catching then Pupil 1 would have got more out of the lesson.

Planning was also mixed, during most lessons teachers would plan on the spot and while sometimes this did work, generally it wasn’t as effective then if teachers planned ahead. An example of this is in appendix 4, where the teachers didn’t plan for differentiated activities to include Pupil 1 into the lesson. This lesson was, in fact, the same rugby session as mentioned above and the teacher assumed that Pupil 1 was able to join in the session, however, due to the weather the pupil was unable to take part and went inside to do a one-on-one session with the TA. From observing Pupil 1 they didn’t look as happy and didn’t make as much progress than in a whole group environment.

On a positive note there were some good examples of inclusion during some lessons. For example in a gymnastics lesson on group floor routines Pupil 1 was included in one of the groups and pupils planned and included Pupil 1 into a group routine. In line with the Inclusion Spectrum (see appendix 3) this was an ‘open activity’. Swimming and gymnastics were generally the most inclusive lessons and in these lessons Pupil 1 looked most happy and made more progress than in separated activities such as rugby and football. The PE teachers were also good at using the STEP framework for general inclusion. During most lessons activities were differentiated for all abilities not just Pupil 1. However, Evans (2014) states that the primary mindset of some PE teachers, to indulge in talent identification and development, rather than the inclusion of all students. Due to the selective nature and sporting reputation of the school I believe inclusion came second to developing highly skilled pupils.


The main limitation of this practitioner enquiry is that research only took place in a singular school for a limited period of time. However, in conclusion, I have learned that the best way to include a child with a neuromuscular condition into a PE lesson is to have effective provisions where staff have the expert knowledge of the specific condition in order to then add this to current teaching pedagogy which uses differentiation in order to create multi-facet approach. I would also like to add that this enquiry has broadened my knowledge on pupils with neuromuscular conditions in particular arthrogryposis multiplex congenita.

Action plan

At the beginning of the practitioner enquiry I had very limited knowledge on SEND pupils and the impact this had on learning. Early areas for development included specific reading on SEND pupils in school, in particular pupil 1s condition Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC). After learning about specific SEND conditions I decided to understand different barriers that SEND pupils have in schools and Physical Education lessons through relevant reading and observations. Further research will involve improving teaching experience and pedagogy through teaching in phase 2 and phase 3 with a mixture of abilities and pupils with different needs from different backgrounds.

Areas for further development

Action (can include observation of good practice, experience, reading and research, strategies etc.)

Time scale

Understanding SEND pupils in schools

-Reading relevant research on what classifies pupils with SEND.

-Research into facts and figures about % of pupils with SEND.

November 2018

Improve specific knowledge of Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC)

-Further research into the symptoms of the condition.

-How do symptoms affect pupil 1 in daily school life.

-What current support/ provision does the pupil already receive.

December 2018

Understanding barriers do SEND pupils/ pupil 1 have in PE lessons

-Reading relevant reports into different barriers.

-Observation of a number of PE lessons.

December 2018

Inclusion during PE lessons

-What provisions do teachers use to include SEND and non-SEND pupils in a lesson.

-Observing methods of differentiation during PE lessons.

November 2019

Improve confidence in teaching lessons for pupils with SEND pupils.

-Observation of good practice.

-Written reflections on areas to improve.

– Feedback on my own practice from mentor/host teacher.

January 2019


  • Andre, A., Louvet, B. and Deneuve, P. (2013). Cooperative group, risk-taking and inclusion of pupils with learning disabilities in physical education. British Educational Research Journal. 39 (4), p677-693.
  • Armour, K., Quennerstedt, M., Chambers, F. and Makopoulou, K. (2015). What is ‘effective’ CPD for contemporary physical education teachers? A Deweyan framework. Sport, Education and Society, 22(7), pp.799-811.
  • Barber, W. (2016). Inclusive and accessible physical education: rethinking ability and disability in pre-service teacher education. Sport, Education and Society, 23(6), pp.520-532.
  • Beaver, L. (2017) Inclusion: using pupil voice to explore and improve the experience of pupils with special educational needs in a mainstream secondary school. EdD thesis, University of Reading
  • Black, K. and Stevenson, P. (2011). The inclusion spectrum. Australia: theinclusionclub.com.​
  • Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., Brown, P., Koutsoubou, M., Martin, P., Russell, A. and Webster, R. with Rubie-Davies, C. (2009) Deployment and impact of support staff in schools: the impact of support staff in schools. Institute of Education, University of London. [Online]. Available from: http://education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DCSF-RR148.pdf
  • Crawford, S. (2011). An examination of current adapted physical activity provision in primary and special schools in Ireland. European Physical Education Review, 17 (1), 91-109.
  • Department for Education (2015). Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/39881 5/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf.
  • Department for Education (2018). Special educational needs in England: January 2018. [online] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/729208/SEN_2018_Text.pdf [Accessed 13 Feb. 2019].
  • Dugas, C., & Point, M. (2014). Inclusion in physical education. Theoretical notions and pedagogical applications [Inclusion in physical education. Theories and teaching applications]. Sainte-Foy, Canada: University of Quebec Press
  • Education Endowment Foundation (2018). Improving outcomes for pupils with SEND (closed). [online] Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/how-to-apply/themed-rounds/improving-outcomes-for-pupils-with-send/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2019].
  • Evans, J. (2014). Equity and inclusion in Physical Education PLC. European Physical Education Review. 20(3), p319-334.
  • Haskins, D. (2005). TOP Play and TOP Sport Handbook. Loughborough: YST.
  • Horne., P and Timmons.,V (2009) Making it work: teachers’ perspectives on inclusion,International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13:3, 273-286, DOI: 10.1080/13603110701433964
  • Maher, A. (2016). ‘We’ve got a few who don’t go to PE’. European Physical Education Review, 23(2), pp.257-270.
  • McAllister, K. and Hadjri, K. (2013). Inclusion and the special educational needs (SEN) resource base in mainstream schools: physical factors to maximise effectiveness. Support for Learning, 28(2), pp.57-65.
  • Mda.org. (2017). [online] Available at: https://www.mda.org/sites/default/files/Teachers_Guide_booklet.pdf [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].
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  • Radford, J., Bosanquet, P., Webster, R. and Blatchford, P. (2015). Scaffolding learning for independence: Clarifying teacher and teaching assistant roles for children with special educational needs. Learning and Instruction, 36, pp.1-10.
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  • Rouse, P. (2009). Inclusion in Physical Education. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics
  • Sharples, J., Webster, R. & Blatchford, P. (2015) Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants. Available at:http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/T A_Guidance_Report_Inter active.pdf (Accessed:  1st February 2019).
  • Stevenson, P. and Black, K. (1999). Including Disabled Pupils in Physical Education: Secondary Module. Manchester Metropolitan University: English Federation of Disability Sport.
  • Webster, R., P. Blatchford, P. Bassett, P. Brown, C. Martin, and A. Russell. 2010. “Double Standards and First Principles: Framing Teaching Assistant Support for Pupils with Special Educational Needs.” European Journal of Special Needs Education 25 (4): 319–336.


Appendix 1- Practioner Enquiry Plan

Student Name

Mark Dixon

Student ID



Carl Wilkinson

Start date of practitioner enquiry

October 2018

Expected completion date

February 2019

Summary of the enquiry (maximum 100 words)

A practitioner led enquiry investigating the approaches to teaching for inclusion in subject specialism. The study will focus on the different ways that schools, PE and PE teachers plan for and include children with SEND/EBD into school life and PE lessons.

The main pupil involved in the study has a neuromuscular condition arthrogryposis multiplex congenita.

Overview. Here you will provide a brief overview of your enquiry, including a summary of your aims and objectives.

This enquiry aims to enable me to learn more about the strategies and approaches that experienced PE practitioners take to address pupils with different SEND. This enquiry will take place in a selective state secondary school in North Yorkshire.

To overcome potential barriers to learning in physical education, some students may require:

  • Adapted, modified or alternative activities that offer an equivalent degree of challenge to the activities in the programmes of study and that enable the students to make progress
  • Specific support they need to take part in certain activities or types of movement.
  • Careful management of their physical regime to allow for their specific medical conditions.

Part of my research will involve looking at the ways SEND pupils are included in the lesson and the effect this has on SEND pupils as well as other pupils in the lesson.

Research suggests that removing children from class for intervention programmes can be damaging to their learning and that a better approach is to engage with their learning in the classroom setting.

Therefore, the other part of my research will look at the intervention programmes in use and how these impact upon learning and teaching in mainstream classrooms.

List three readings that you have already engaged in. These must be from different sources

Musculardystrophyuk.org. (2016). [online] Available at: http://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Chpt11-Physical-Education.pdf

Methodology. Here you will provide details about how you will collect your information. E.g.
-Key questions 
-Key personnel identified for conversations;
-Issues arising regarding teaching and learning

Information will be gathered through and number of different ways including; observations in a number of different PE lessons which look at how the school caters for the needs of pupils with SEND. I will also children generate conversations with the identified staff in school in order to see how these pupils are included, as well as how the lesson has been planned to cater for individuals.

This approach will inform future planning and form a basis for further reading around SEND in PE. It will also help with highlighting my own developmental needs in this area, which I will include in my action plan.

Ethical Considerations. here you will give a description of the main ethical considerations involved in the enquiry.

No special ethical considerations will apply as the normal ethical considerations of the setting are sufficient and will be observed. The head teacher – will be able to act in ‘loco parentis’.

Human Participants. Give a description of who will be included if appropriate.

The practitioner researcher, class teacher, teaching assistant and other practitioners as appropriate.

Risks and Benefits. Here you will give a brief description of how, when and where the research will take place and whether there are any risks and/or benefits involved.

There are no perceived risks of harm to researchers or participants involved in this study. Potential benefits will be an increased understanding about the use of intervention programmes for autistic children to promote motivation and engagement with learning in mainstream classrooms.

Personal Data, Anonymity and Confidentiality.

Any notes obtained will be kept confidential.

No names or other identifying information will be used in the write up of the enquiry.

Reporting and Dissemination

The final report will consist of a portfolio submitted electronically to Leeds Beckett PGCE containing:

  1. Completed and signed proposal form
  2. Participation in online discussions in My Beckett
  3. Presentation feedback from peers 
  4. Reflective conclusion (2000 words)

how the enquiry study has evolved in the light of feedback

  • Reflect on what has been learnt from the process and ways forward – this could include points below:
  • Key findings (in relation to enquiry questions)
  • How did feedback from the presentation inform the development of the case study?
  • What has been learnt from the process of doing the enquiry?
  • Implications for future practice in terms of teaching pupils with autism
  1. References and appendices

No actual data will be included in this portfolio.

Please give details of the planned dissemination and specify if the findings from the enquiry will be published and whether any permission is required for this:

The findings of this enquiry will be limited to tutors from Leeds Beckett PGCE.  It is not intended that the findings be put in the public domain so permission will not be required or sought.

Location of research

Ripon Grammar School

Date for completed interim review to be sent to tutor

Wednesday 12th December, 2018

Appendix 2- DFE (2014) Graduated approach

Appendix 3- Inclusion Spectrum (Stephenson and Black, 1999)

Appendix 4 – Professional Conversation with the PE Teacher before gymnastics lesson

Myself: How do you include pupil 1 into the lesson.

Teacher: It’s quite hard, most of the time we just consult with the pupil to ask if he is able to do certain tasks.

Myself: So you don’t plan anything in terms of differentiated tasks.

Teacher: No not really

Myself: What about support from the pupil’s TA?

Teacher: The TA comes in with the pupil and works with the pupil if he can’t do any of the tasks.

Myself: Do you consult with the pupils parents and therapist.

Teacher: Not with the therapist, pupil 1s Mother sometimes comes in to help with swimming. We have also tried consulting with the LEA about receiving support with equipment etc.


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