Valence School in Sevenoaks Kent has 80 children with physical disabilities and complex medical needs which range from muscular dystrophy to cystic fibrosis and spina bifida with hydrocephalus.

In September 2008, Valence School became a Specialist Sports College and wanted to develop keep fit regimes which could be totally personalised.

Planning for fitness
The school used to have an exercise bike and treadmill of the very functional kind which did not inspire students to go to the gym or fitness room. Many of the children spend much of their daytime in their wheelchair and as a result are not very fit. Jo Eames, Director of Sport at the school, said, "We want our students to get out of breath! Sometimes, because of surgery or illness, they cannot use the pool, but they could use a fitness room. This is an ideal way to raise their heart rate and improve cardio-vascular fitness. We had to find something which would engage them and make them want to make an effort."

Technogym provides the answer
The school set about looking at equipment. This proved difficult, as many pupils are not be able to access equipment in the usual way. For example if a child can only use one hand, can the equipment be adapted so they can use it safely? Can it be used by children in a wheelchair?

Valence bought several pieces of equipment including a replacement exercise bike and a treadmill. They have been especially pleased with Kinesis One which features different pulleys that work in three different directions which enables students to push their bodies to the limit. It also has hand, ankle and waist straps which let students who cannot grip cables make full use of the equipment.


Tips for developing a programme

• Right from the start make it a general activity for all children, not just a special treat
• Develop a personalised programme for each child and make them take responsibility for following it
• Give each child an assessment and induction to begin with
• Issue them with a pass, the same as they would have at any gym
• Link results and activities back to classroom activities
• Make sure staff use it as well so it is seen as a ‘Fitness Centre’ and not just as ‘therapy’ for the pupils

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