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Will Carpenter


Posted Monday, March 12th 2018

Community Foundation launches groundbreaking Sensory Sport programme

Bristol Rugby Community Foundation has combined sound, sight, touch and action to create immersive sensory sporting experiences for young people with severe sensory impairments and profound and multiple learning difficulties.

The charity’s ‘Sensory Sport Sensations’ programme, currently being piloted at a handful of special schools in Bristol, aims to proactively engage a wider range of participants across the city in meaningful rugby participation, development and competition.

Through its delivery of the Project Rugby - in partnership with Premier Rugby Limited and England Rugby - the programme has pushed the expertise of the specialist staff within the Spectrum Project to the full - but programme manager, Kris Tavender has hailed its impact.

“Working with close to 200 new disabled rugby players across the city has been such a blessed and fun-filled experience for us all,” he said.

“But even more than that, it has challenged us to really explore new levels of rugby engagement, as well as points of access and formats of play for the game we all love so much.

“Tapping into over 15 years of special school experience of one of our specialist support workers, Claire Tavender-King had developed, through her own professional development, the concept of the Sensory Sensation - an immersive sensory experience that adds context and meaning to often abstract concepts for these learners.

“Here at the Foundation, we were able to shape Claire’s ideas into our Sport Sensations, which recreate the experience of an actual rugby match through a sensory medium - incorporating tactile materials, touch, audio and visual stimulus.”

Developed into fully-equipped programmes for rugby, football and basketball and delivered over 5-6 carefully structured sessions, the Sensory Sport Sensations have already worked with 25 of the most complex and sensory impaired young people in the city, at New Fosseway School in Hartcliffe, with Henleaze-based, Claremont School also waiting in the wings.

“It has been such a positive experience for all involved,” Tavender added.

“We get to watch support staff and participants alike enjoy the sounds, objects and actions with such a unique level of access, and genuinely experience team games in a relevant and meaningful way.”

 With the trio of sports pack costing close to £500 each, the end-goal for Spectrum is to see every special needs and disability school in Bristol with a set of their own, rolling out these programmes internally on an ongoing basis and complimented by the specialist support of the Foundation’s inclusive team.

For further information on sponsoring a trio of kit bags for one school, a whole sport set or the programme itself, please contact