Students with diverse learning needs have grown in confidence and eclipsed their sporting competitors in the wake of an effort to boost their participation in representative sport.
More than 70 students with disability have represented their schools at the NSW Catholic Primary Schools Championships over the past three years. In 2018, many broke national records in their classification at athletics and swimming events.
It is a trend that Sydney Catholic Schools’ Diverse Learning Team hopes to continue through a new role held by former Archdiocesan Primary Sports Co-ordinator Anna Turnbull.
As Primary Sport Coordinator – Students with Disability, she will expand opportunities for students with disability to engage in representative sport, and support schools to make adjustments for students to fully access and participate in different dimensions of the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) curriculum.
They feel a sense of connectedness as they socialise and participate with others who are of a similar ability, a connection that may not be apparent in their school environment
Classification groups athletes into classes according to how their disability impacts on their sport to ensure fair and equal competition. Swimming, Athletics and Cross Country each have a unique classification system. Eligibility is based on specific criteria for athletes with physical, intellectual, hearing or vision impairment. Athletes who have received a transplant also meet classification.
Ms Turnbull said students within the classifications often gravitated to athletics, because of the range of running, jumping and throwing events to choose from.
“Student and parent feedback has outlined that students’ confidence levels and sense of achievement are raised by participating in representative pathways,” she said.
“They feel a sense of connectedness as they socialise and participate with others who are of a similar ability, a connection that may not be apparent in their school environment.”
The young athletes acknowledged at the Sydney Archdiocesan Primary School Sports Awards late in 2018 included familiar faces.
Rhiannon Bellette, in Year 6 at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School Panania was awarded a Silver medal in the Jnr Girls MC 800m and a Bronze medal in the Jnr Girls MC Shot Put at the School Sports Australia Track & Field Championships.
Nathan Barbara, in Year 6 at St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Marsfield, achieved a new record of 23.02 seconds for his classification in the 100m sprint at the School Sports Australia Track & Field Championships.
Margaret Seufale, in Year 6 at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Villawood, won gold in the 12 & under shotput at the School Sports Australia Track & Field Championships.
Her throw of 6.06 metres was more than a metre further than her competitors’ best.
Stephanie Bruzzese, in Year 6 at St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School Ashfield, placed second in the 800m sprint medley at the School Sports Australia Track & Field Championships.
John Darley, in Year 6 at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School Sutherland, placed second in the Boys 8 -10 discus event at the NSWPSSA Athletics Championships with a throw of 15.93 metres.