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secondary school pupils using fresh air fitness outdoor gym at school

How our equipment suits all secondary pupils – including those with special educational needs

A child is defined as having special education needs (SEN) if they ‘have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision’. A learning difficulty could include having significantly greater difficulty in learning than most of their peers, or a disability ‘preventing or hindering them from using facilities provided for others of the same age’. 

boy in wheelchair using outdoor gym

2nd November 2023

In England, last year just under 1.5m pupils were identified as having special educational needs, and that figure has been growing since 2016. In January 2020, for example, numbers rose to 1.37m for a third consecutive year. And the percentage of pupils with an education, health and care (EHC) plan had risen to 3.3% of the pupil population as of spring 2022. At the same time, numbers of those with SEN support has also increased. 

In March this year, the government announced that thousands more specialist places would be created for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, to help end what some described as a ‘postcode lottery’ for this issue across England. 

SEN and exercise

There are huge benefits for all children engaging in regular physical activity, but SEN pupils typically experience poorer physical health outcomes than their peers. So, they disproportionately benefit from the improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced risk of obesity or being overweight and having stronger muscles and bones that exercise provides.

But there is also an increasing focus on the mental-health benefits of exercise. These include improved concentration and heightened academic achievement among SEN students, plus reduced stress.

There are significant advantages to group exercise, especially when they join peers who don’t have SEN. The life skills they develop include verbal and non-verbal communication, plus they can develop better understanding of the benefits of sharing, and at learning how to make and keep friends. What’s more, when pupils with and without SEN participate together, all children benefit. For example, tolerance, awareness of difference and sensitivity to others all increase. 

How an outdoor gym can help

Outdoor gyms boost energy levels, enhance learning and concentration and sleep, top up Vitamin D levels and generally improve mental health and relaxation. Balance and coordination also get better.

These positives apply just as much to youngsters with SEN as it does to those without, and indeed can even be magnified in their case. 

At Fresh Air Fitness, we supply equipment for open-gyms for a wide range of clients UK-wide, and our equipment is consistently designed to be as inclusive as possible. 

Our client the Bourne Education Trust runs 25 schools, including a secondary institution with SEN provision and a specialist SEN provider. It was our task to design and fit a range of outdoor gym equipment to create new, multi-use exercise zones for use at various points during the school day. 

Each solution was designed to support children’s physical and emotional wellbeing plus a broader range of school activities. Some schools installed one of our ready-made package offers, others handpicked individual items. 

Remember, everything we supply is robust, low-maintenance and sustainable and comes with a 25-year warranty. Talk to us about how we could improve outcomes for SEN pupils at your school, with our line-up of user-friendly, inclusive equipment offering them a myriad of physical and mental-health benefits. 

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