Case Study: Inclusive Teams & Creating A Feeling Of Belonging
Updated: May 6
This week’s blog focuses on how the brilliant PE team at Belvedere Academy has used Physical Activity to create a sense of belonging through our concept of Inclusive Teams.
Creating a sense of belonging is essential for children's mental wellbeing because it helps them feel accepted, supported, and valued by the people around them. When children feel they belong, they are more likely to have positive self-esteem, feel safe and secure, and develop healthy relationships with others. Oxytocin is released and children feel loved.
Children who lack a sense of belonging may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and rejection, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. They may also struggle with social skills and have difficulty forming meaningful connections with others.
On the other hand, when children feel a sense of belonging, they are more likely to participate in social activities, engage in positive behaviors, and feel motivated to learn and grow. They are also more likely to seek out help and support when they need it, which can be crucial for their mental health.
The Belvedere Academy is an all-ability state funded girls’ Academy secondary school in Liverpool and is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust. We are delighted to work in partnership with their team as part of our Liverpool Trauma Informed PE programme. Their brilliant Head of Physical Education, Kate Reynolds, talks us through their approach to inclusive teams:
‘Like many schools, we run interform competitions for various different sports throughout the academic year. In the winter term this is usually netball and in the summer we do rounders. Historically, for netball, forms have selected the best 7 players to represent them and competed in a round robin. Forms are all mixed ability based on academic results, but naturally some forms have a larger number of students who have a greater sporting ability.
This year, after adopting the RISE Up principles within our lessons, we made some small tweaks which saw engagement rocket! Instead of the usual 7 students per form, we saw over 550 students from across years 7-11 take part. It was a fantastic week enjoyed by both staff and students.
Our intent was to promote our Interform netball competition as an Inclusive Team activity to try and increase our student engagement. We really wanted to make sure that the message of “it's the taking part that counts” really rang true with all pupils so that they felt that they belonged within our PE department and within our school.
Intended Learning Outcomes:
Head - To understand how to work together as a form to get the best out of each other’s skills set, understanding how sport can be used as a social tool to increase mental wellbeing.
Heart - To contribute to an enjoyable competition where everyone was included and no-one felt left behind.
Hands - To take part in the interform competition to the best of your ability.
In order to engage more students we dropped the idea of selecting the best 7 and told forms they could select as many students from their form as they liked, but everyone selected must play in at least two of the five fixtures they would play.
The emphasis was put onto the team captains (elected by the form) to decide who was playing in each fixture allowing a number of leaders to emerge. Forms were given time during PE lessons as well as the opportunity to come and practise their skills during our lunch time enrichment slots.
This meant that engagement in the netball enrichment increased too as forms took it upon themselves to try people in different positions to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and make informed decisions as to where each player would play, as they tried to predict who they would be marking in each fixture. Playing a round robin meant that each form would play against each other in a fair contest.
PE staff umpired and collected the scores but the organisation of the teams was completely down to the students. This gave them a sense of ownership over their team and their competition.
There was a friendly competitive buzz throughout school on the days running up to the event and the atmosphere on the week of the competitions was fantastic. Students created banners to show their form identity, created posters and wrote poems about the competition.
As this was an inclusive competition it captured students from across the whole school demographic; school team players, SEND students, EAL students, PP students, students whose attendance has been poor but who wanted to come to school to join in; everyone playing happily alongside each other, bonding over that sense of belonging to their form identity.
The competition also fell at the start of Ramadan and many of our Muslim students joined in too, some choosing to break their fast in order to compete effectively which is a very personal thing to do!
Giving pupils the option to take part or not, and putting the emphasis on the development of life skills instead of simply playing to win meant that pupils felt psychologically safe when stepping up to play, knowing that they were in a fully supportive and inclusive environment. The team work, empathy, perseverance and resilience on show was amazing to see.
We will be replicating the same set up again in the future when our rounders interform takes place in the summer. Already, students have asked if we can do more competitions of the same kind in dodgeball, football, benchball and badminton; we will try and find time to do these too as we continue to use Inclusive teams and physical activity as a tool to drive up mental wellbeing within our school.’
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