Inclusive sport is the aim of the game in Derbyshire Dales and High Peak

Students across the Derbyshire Dales and High Peak have come together to enjoy two Boccia-focused tournaments aimed at bridging the gap for inclusive sport across the county.

The RDSSP held its annual open Boccia competition for students in Key Stages Three and Four at Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth on Friday 15th May. Boccia is a skillful and tactical game similar to bowling which can be played whilst seated.

Eight teams including from the host school, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne, Matlock’s Highfields School, Lady Manners School in Bakewell and Belper’s Alderwasley Hall School came together for the contest.

The competition also saw a school team from Hartington C of E Primary School take part; the first time ever a primary school has fielded a team in the long standing event.

Teams played three pool matches followed by semi-final play offs between the top two teams in each pool. This resulted in an exciting final between Anthony Gell Blue team and Alderwasley’s team, with Gell taking the gold medal by seven points to three. Highfields A team came in third place.

The event was supported by Young Sports Leaders from Anthony Gell who officiated the competitions and nominated several students for ‘Spirit of the Games’ awards. These are given to students who demonstrate the School Games values of honesty, passion, determination, teamwork, self belief and respect.

One of the award recipients was year 8 Lady Manners School student, Fran, who was nominated for her passion for the game and the help that she gave to her team mates. She said: “I played this sport when I was in year 7 and as a team we support each other so much and cheer each other on.”

Highfields PE teacher and RDSSP School Sport Coordinator, Jayne Allen said: “The students certainly enjoyed their practice before they got here, and it is such a great opportunity for them to see opposition and play against other school teams instead of just playing games in their own school. For some of our students, they know other pupils from other schools so they’ll say ‘oh look there’s my friend from Anthony Gell,’ so it’s great for them to be able to catch up with other people and to socalisie as well as enjoy the competition.”

Year 9 Young Sports Leader from Anthony Gell School, Richard Tunnicliff volunteered at the event. He said: “I really like the idea of helping kids and this sport really intrigued me because I have never done it before so I really wanted to help out. I think the youngsters have learnt teamwork and determination; all those skills that help you, not just in sport, but in life too. Volunteering is a really good opportunity to gain vital skills that will help you later in life.”

Teaching assistant at Anthony Gell, Ben Gaskin said: “The competition has been absolutely fantastic; it has been so friendly, the children are all smiling and having a great time. The Young Sports Leaders are fantastic, really good with the children and so encouraging.”

Teacher at Alderwasley Hall School, Jade McGee said: “Students are able to engage with pupils from other schools and it is building their confidence and teaching them how to be competitive and how to lose gracefully.”

A second Boccia inspired event took place at the Devonshire Dome in Buxton on Wednesday 20th May aimed at Key Stage One to Five students from across Derbyshire.

The event was a joint festival between the RDSSP and the High Peak School and Sport Partnership, based around a Boccia tournament with other activities youngsters could try their hand at too including mini golf, Taekwondo, athletics and information on scuba diving.

RDSSP member schools attended including from Wirksworth, Grindleford, Matlock, Longstone, Hartington and Rowsley.

Teaching assistant at Longstone C of E School, Judy Dilks said: “I think events like this are great for students to improve their own personal targets, work as a team and improve fitness. We’ve made a banner with our school logo and incorporated all the things we think sporting events help to improve for example team work, confidence and making friends, being proud of achievements, leadership and inclusive activities.”

Toby, 8, from Longstone C of E School: “I have played similar games like bowls but never Boccia before. I have really enjoyed the day.”

Sadie, 10, goes to Rowlsey C of E Primary School, she said: “I have really enjoyed the day and I also like swimming and running.”

Kieran, 8, from All Saints Junior School in Matlock: “I have played Boccia before with my granddad and I really like playing it. I would like to have a go at all of the other sports here as well including golf, scuba diving and athletics.”

Fellow Matlock pupil, Ewan, 9, said: “If you throw the ball too far it will go passed the white jack so you have to be quite tactical when you throw it.”

RDSSP Manager, Janice Price concluded: “Events like these allow students from across the county to come together, socialise and enjoy each other’s company whilst taking part in inclusive-focused sports and games. The activities on offer showcase the range of sports available to people with disabilities who may have thought they weren’t able to take part or didn’t know the opportunities were open to them. It is great to see so many smiling faces and youngsters enjoying the events when they realise their potential and they’re having such good fun with friends old and new.”