The 'Can Do' Festival is run in partnership with Active Dorset and is an initiative designed to motivate and inspire thousands of young people across the country to take part in competitive sport. This FREE event is exclusively for youngsters who are on the SEN register and gives pupils with a range of physical, emotional and behavioural needs the opportunity to take part and compete in a range of fun events including sailing and kayaking.

Today, as Marketing Manager I had the opportunity to go out on the water and take photos as well as speak to the teachers and students about their experience. Now in its fourth year the event was bigger than ever with more schools and pupils taking part. It seems the word is out! Fortunately we were blessed with glorious weather - a little bit of wind, alot of sun and a bucketful of enthusiasm and excitement courtesy of the children and teachers.

This year saw schools that have attended each year to brand new schools including our first special needs school - Winchelsea. Mary from Lytchett Matravers was first here and is a regular of the games. She said that the 'excitement amongst the group was palpable' As with many of the teachers at the festival, she is a firm believer of the benefits to young children who take part in activities outside the classroom, and the resounding thoughts of all the children I spoke to was that it was 'better than school!' For many of the youngsters, they haven't had the opportunity to get out on the water - one of her pupils said that it was her 'dream to go kayaking'

Speaking to the pupils from Winchelsea, Longfleet Primary and Corpes Christie, the overwhelming feeling before trying the activities was 'excited', 'nervous' and 'scared' however the reaction when they were taking part in the activities and afterwards was simply heart-warming or in the words of PE teacher Tom Deakin from Corpes Christie School, everyone was 'buzzing!' Nerves turned to 'brilliant', 'amazing', 'thrilled' and 'I want to do it again'. Many said that they felt 'proud' of what they had achieved and had grown in 'confidence'.

Alex from Winchelsea school explained that for him, it is so important that his pupils have the opportunity to try these new experiences and that he is lucky that he has the support of the school which actively encourages it. As our first special needs school the students fully embraced the kayaking but were unable to pair up in pico's due to their needs. The youngsters however were taken out as a four in a dinghy with an Instructor which gave them a great sailing experience - Alex said that 'Rockley were brilliant at enabling students to access all the events. I knew they would be in good hands!'

The day culminated in a series of very exciting kayak races. It was amazing to see pupils supporting each other, coming together as a team and really embracing the competitive spirit of the event.

All the pupils received a certificate for attending and a series of medals were awarded to pupils for their achievements throughout the day. Medals were presented by 5x World Champion and Double Paralympic bronze medallist, Niki Birrell. Accompanied by his two bronze Olympic medals he was more than happy for the children to try them on - a fitting end to a fantastic day! Congratulations to all the medalists and overall school winner - St Joseph's School.

In my mind, everyone was a winner! Every teacher and pupil left the event with massive smiles on their faces, talking excitedly about the days events. There was a real buzz in the air, a real sense of pride from teachers and a real sense of achievement from the children. It proves that given the opportunity, children can succeed in so many aspects of their lives as long as they are actively encouraged and supported. All in all, I would say it was a good day in the classroom!

Well done to Poole Park Manager AJ and her Team, including our BTEC Level 3 Sport (Outdoor Adventure) students for all their hard work and efforts on the day.

The Can Do Festival kicks off a series of week-long FREE events with the secondary Can Do Festival on Tuesday and the Dorset School Games for primary and secondary schools on Thursday and Friday. For further information or details on how to enter your school in 2019, contact AJ Windsor - [email protected]


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