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Big SMILEs for sports event


More than 250 school pupils with special educational needs took part in a range of fun sports activities at the University of Wolverhampton.

Football, gymnastics, athletics and cheerleading formed part of the SMILE event at the University’s Walsall Campus.

Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) from mainstream and special schools across the Black Country attended the event, which also included tag rugby, wheelchair basketball and handball.

The events were organised in partnership with Dot Heslop, University of Wolverhampton Secondary PE Initial Teacher Training (ITT), Helen Bourton, the founder of SMILE from Wolverhampton PASS (Partnership and School Sport) and Black Country Schools Sports Partnerships.

Originally just one annual event, SMILE now consists of ten large events throughout the year, engaging nearly 1000 young people identified with SEND, culminating in the secondary version, Big SMILE.

Trainee teachers from the Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing help train the 40 Inclusive Sports Leaders from alliance schools and then supported them to lead all of the activities, gaining valuable work experience for all.

Dot Heslop, Senior Lecturer Secondary PE ITT and Lead for SEND Inclusive ITT at the University, said: “This is one of the most fun events that happen on the University of Wolverhampton campus. It always creates a buzz and is exciting for everyone that takes part. Our trainee teachers are put into an environment working with young people who have a diversity of needs. The main focus is about putting special educational needs central to their knowledge and understanding as teachers.”

Tarandeep Mahli, PGCE PE student, said: “As a trainee teacher, a day like SMILE enables us to enhance our employability because we are getting a different range of students at different age ranges and capabilities. It also allows us to try difference approaches with different students.”

Pupils who attended the event in June said that the day enabled them to feel “awesome” about themselves and they had had a lot of fun, as well as gaining skills such as communication.

A video about the SMILE event is available:

Further information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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