Disabled children are set to take part in a new school sports competition that will be trialled across England from early next year.
The “Olympic and Paralympic-style” competition will be piloted in nine areas, involving schools from the Black Country, London, Cornwall, Greater Manchester, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear.
Schools will compete against each other in local leagues, with winning athletes and teams qualifying for area finals next summer.
The pilots will be used to finalise plans for the first nationwide competition in 2012, which will end with national finals in London’s Olympic Park.
Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, said the competition would “spark a revolution in school sport, and leave a lasting legacy” from London 2012.
But it is still unclear how disabled children will be involved.
When the government first announced the idea in June, disability sports organisations welcomed the plans but said they wanted to hear more detail about how the competition would work for disabled children.
Because many disabled children attend mainstream schools, they said it would be more difficult to set up a meaningful inter-school, Paralympic-style competition.
The government has promised a “Paralympic element at every level of the competition” for young disabled people.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said this week: “We are determined to offer young disabled people the opportunity to take part in meaningful and regular competitive sport through the ‘School Olympics and Paralympics’.
“We are currently in discussions with a wide range of disability partners as we develop the School Olympics and Paralympics to ensure that there is a genuine competitive pathway for young disabled people.”
She said that, although there were no further details yet, disabled children would take part in the pilot scheme “in all nine areas”.
Martin McElhatton, chief executive of WheelPower, the national wheelchair sports charity, said he had yet to hear much detail on how the competition would work for disabled children.
But he said he was “hoping that whatever they do will have a positive impact” and that it “delivers something really meaningful for young disabled people”.
A ParalympicsGB spokeswoman said they were still involved in discussions with the government, and added: “We are quite confident that a good solution will be found.
“Anything that brings more good quality disability sport to anyone with a disability is a good thing. That is what they are saying this would do and obviously we would support that.”
7 October 2010