YOUNG VOICES

Tanni Grey-Thompson: Disabled Schoolchildren Are Sent To Library During PE

23/05/2013 13:38 BST | Updated 24/05/2013 12:11 BST

Disabled schoolchildren are being sent to the library during PE lessons because teachers are not able to integrate them, a Paralympic gold medallist has warned.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a former wheelchair racer who has 11 gold Paralympic medals to her name, accused the criticised schools for not teaching sports to disabled children.

"Certainly towards the end of my career and even now what we're seeing is in some sports less disabled children competing now than when I was 12, before the world Paralympic was invented," she told a House of Commons education committee on Wednesday.

tanni greythompson

Tanni Grey-Thompson showing off a medal she won at the Paralympics in Manchester

"My sport, wheelchair racing - there's very few girls competing.

"Still an awful lot of disabled children are sent to the library because teachers don't feel equipped or able, in many cases, to integrate them properly into lessons."

Baroness Grey-Thompson added she thought it would be unlikely she would be able to get the Department of Health and Department for Education ministers in a room together to discuss sport, saying: "We're trying to save money because of tough economic times, the obesity bill is just going to keep rising, welfare benefits will just keep rising and actually sport, physical activity can do an awful lot to challenge and help those things."

Ruth Owen OBE, Chief Executive of the charity Whizz-Kidz and a wheelchair user herself told HuffPost UK: "It was certainly no shock to hear Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s remarks. Whizz-Kidz conducted its own survey following last year’s Paralympics, and we were very concerned to hear that disabled children are still being left on the sidelines, missing out on vital childhood play and exercise, and the chance to join in with their friends.

"Whizz-Kidz tries to bridge the gap in provision, by hosting clubs for young disabled people (48 around the UK currently) where we promote accessible sport such as Boccia, and use games to equip them with essential teamwork and leadership skills - setting them up for a brighter future. Parents can find a local club at kidz-unlimited.org.uk."

One wheelchair racer, Mel Nicholls, told local Gloucestershire paper The Citizen: ""Many of the young members of that group don't get to do PE at school. It's a lot to do with time constraints on schools," she said.

"My friends that are in wheelchairs aren't able to join in events that are on grass tracks for instance, so they travel to our training group because they are not getting the exercise elsewhere."

Grey-Thompson, a vocal critic of the government's disability benefits policy, was offered the chairmanship of the Sport England board but Number 10 blocked her appointment, reportedly because Tory peers thought she would be too political.