Hartpury delivers empowering SEN PE lessons in partnership with local school


More than 100 primary school pupils with special educational needs (SENs) have already benefited from an empowering initiative between Gloucester and Forest Alternative Provision School and Hartpury University’s BSc (Hons) Physical Education and School Sport degree programme.

The transformational programme managed via the Hartpury Sports Business Hub sees university students deliver engaging and empowering PE lessons, making a difference to the lives of young learners and creating significant positive change within the local community.

This not only helps the young learners, but also provides valuable experience for Hartpury University students planning to become PE teachers and coaches upon graduating.

Gemma Sharples, Programme Manager, BSc (Hons) Physical Education and School Sport, said: “I’m so proud to be part of this initiative that showcases the power of inclusive education and demonstrates the potential for our aspiring coaches and teachers of the future to make a lasting impact on the lives of young learners.

“Initially, the students find it challenging to work with pupils who have learning differences and behavioural issues. However, as the pupil-teacher relationship develops, and understanding deepens, our students flourish in this environment. They begin to appreciate the wider experiences of the learners and recognise the profound impact they can have beyond physical activity and onto areas such as self-esteem and confidence. Many students express their enjoyment and fulfilment in working with SEN learners, and it becomes an aspiration to pursue careers in special education. Some students have even secured placements within Gloucester and Forest Alternative Provision School – further solidifying their commitment to making a difference.”

Gemma continues: “Building confidence, noticing the needs of others, and effective planning are essential skills students develop through this initiative. The constantly changing group dynamics highlight the importance of planning and adaptability. By understanding the young learners and creating well-structured lesson plans, our students ensure successful and meaningful learning experiences for all. All the activities and sports are carefully chosen, taking into consideration the pupils’ abilities, interests, and challenges. Beyond physical activity, the programme focuses on fostering social and emotional development, effective communication, and cognitive understanding of the skills applied during the sessions.”

The sporting partnership offers a multitude of benefits for both parties with children from Gloucester and Forest Alternative Provision School enjoying PE lessons in the large open green spaces, pitches, and sports halls at Hartpury’s 360-hectare campus - inspiring new possibilities for their own futures.

The Hartpury Sports Business Hub provides students and staff the opportunity to engage with key local and regional sports organisations to complete live briefs and real-world research consultancy. It currently provides access to a range of organisations including Active Gloucester, Sport Wales, Bream RFC and Gloucestershire County Cricket Club as well as multinational corporations and independent businesses.

Projects like these have helped to contribute to Hartpury’s high graduate employability rates with 97% of sports graduates in employment, further study or other purposeful activity (Graduate Outcomes 2023), putting Hartpury 1st in the South West and in the top 10% in the UK for graduate employability. Students also have access to over 3,000 employers via Hartpury’s Innovation, Careers and Enterprise Centre to gain real industry experience for their future career. Hartpury University ranks 1st in the South West and 6th in the UK for Teaching Quality, according to The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide for 2023.

Picture: Hartpury University BSc (Hons) Physical Education and School Sport students with pupils from Gloucester & Forest Alternative Provision School