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The Speaker of the House of Commons hosted a seminar in Parliament on Tuesday to highlight an outstanding community Down’s syndrome tennis project. Alongside Parliamentarians, leaders in sport and disability heard about the project’s success in promoting inclusion through sport, which was achieved by a unique partnership between three leading charities.
The Down’s Syndrome Association, Fulham Football Club Foundation and the Tennis Foundation have created a tailored tennis programme for young people with Down’s syndrome. The Community Down’s Syndrome Tennis project, the first of its kind nationally, began in January 2010 following the success of the Fulham FC Foundation’s DSActive Down’s syndrome football team and has been run from the LTA’s National Tennis Centre and Tiffin School in South West London.
A panel discussion hosted by BBC Broadcaster John Inverdale, was held on how the partnership was formed, the experiences and lessons learned, and how the model could be replicated elsewhere. The panel included representatives from each of the partnering organisations, a parent whose child has been playing tennis, a world expert on the Down’s syndrome, and one of the coaches who has led the sessions.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, said: “I was delighted to be able to welcome to the House of Commons three charities that are doing such excellent work through a coaching project involving a sport very dear to my own heart. The Community Down’s Syndrome Tennis Project shows what can be achieved by the sharing of resources and expertise, in terms of helping the young people taking part grow in confidence and ability.”
John Whittingdale, Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, who also spoke at the event said: “I was delighted to be involved in the Speaker’s Seminar Celebrating Inclusion through Sport. As Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, I am keenly aware of the huge contribution that people with disabilities make to sport in this country, and the benefits that they obtain from participation as highlighted through this excellent programme.”
Claire Lavers, Director of Disability Tennis, Tennis Foundation added: “We were very grateful Mr Speaker for creating an opportunity to illustrate to those influential in the sporting and disability arena how a small initiative can benefit not just the participants, but also create a support network for parents and form the foundation for wider strategic development.”
The primary focus of the event was on the benefits this partnership has had on the players with Down’s syndrome. Parent Sue Prisk, who sat on the panel explained, “My son Thomas has benefited on so many levels. Having a weekly activity to look forward to, packed with fun and friendships, has grown Thomas’s self confidence immensely.”
The seminar was brought to conclusion by Professor Tony Holland, Foundation Chair in learning Disabilities and Developmental Psychiatry at Cambridge University who said “Sports programmes that bring together both physical and social development are an essential component in creating a skill set that will enrich the lives of people with Down’s syndrome and their families.”
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All images courtesy of James Jordan Photography