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Tymberwood Academy in Gravesend hosts Paralympics event for pupils and other schools around the borough

A primary school hosted its first-of-a-kind Paralympics day for pupils with a range of additional needs.

Tymberwood Academy, in Cerne Road, Gravesend, held the activities for its own pupils and other schools in the borough.

Pupils playing sit-down volleyball
Pupils playing sit-down volleyball

All the children involved had special educational needs and a variety of disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD and autism.

Sports included wheelchair basketball, boccia – a precision ball sport similar to bowls and pétanque – sit-down volleyball, and goalball, a team sport designed specifically for athletes with a vision impairment.

The games were adapted to make it suitable for every child to play.

Sit-down volleyball used a yellow ball with a bell so those with visual impairment were still able to join in. Some pupils were taken aback by the size of the ball which proved quite hard to catch in the beginning.

The activity aimed to give children the opportunity to step into the shoes of someone with sight difficulties and appreciate one another.

Other sports like goalball had several pupils put on blindfolds. The aim of the game was to roll a ball with a bell in it over the opponent's goal line. The opponent then attempted to block the ball.

Not being able to see was a challenge all those involved had to overcome, and make use of and enhance other senses.

Youngsters playing goalball with blindfolds
Youngsters playing goalball with blindfolds

The most popular activity of the day was wheelchair basketball with pupils keen to try out their new wheels.

Equipment was provided by Gravesend Dynamite Wheelchair Rugby League at Northfleet Youth Centre in Gravesend.

Those who had never used a wheelchair before were taught how to steer and brake.

Their skills were soon put to the test when it was time to play games like passing the ball to one another and playing a version of the playground game Piggy in the Middle.

Pupils had a chance to try out some of the wheelchairs
Pupils had a chance to try out some of the wheelchairs

Year 3 pupil at Tymberwood Academy Jewels said: "I loved using the wheelchairs.

"My friend Ruby has a wheelchair and she shows me what to do."

Year 5 pupil Zara said: "Paralympics day was so fun and it showed me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to."

Other schools involved were Copperfield Academy in Dover Road and Chantry Community Academy in Ordnance Road in Gravesend, Shears Green Junior in Northfleet and Bean primary in Dartford.

"Paralympics day was so fun and it showed me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to"

Mrs Sabharwal has been SEND co-leader at Tymberwood Academy for three years and had originally organised the event for 2020, but due to the pandemic that was not possible.

She said: "We wanted to do an inclusive event and I think in sports tournaments in general that is still missing.

"I think it really does help those children to then develop that empathy towards others with disabilities."

One of the many aims was to eliminate stereotypes and get children to think differently when they see a disabled person.

Chairman of governors Brendan Hollyer said: "It demonstrates that sport is for everyone.

"What we saw at the beginning is that children that do have disabilities were actually being the leaders in this case, and explaining how to use the wheelchairs."

The sports were chosen to highlight children's abilities rather than what they could not do.

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