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Schools Case Studies

Calthorpe School and Sports College

Date Added: Mon, 09 Feb 2009

Related tags: Competition, Key Stage 4, Key Stage 3, Extra-curricular, Cross-curricular, Funding Ideas, SEN, Community

This is a Special School in central Birmingham. Indoor Rowing is well established in their curriculum, is a popular lunchtime club and the Model D's are also available for community use. Some of the wheelchair pupils use the Concept2 Adaptive seat and interest in is high for racing at the BIRC and Birmingham Schools Indoor Rowing Competition.

Calthorpe caters for pupils with educational difficulties ranging from moderate and severe to complex. Some have specific physical sensory, behavioural or autistic conditions that require extra adult support, wheelchair access or other specialised facilities. 270 boys and girls aged 2 to 19 attend and travel daily from all areas within Birmingham. Over half of pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds (mainly Pakistani) and have extra support for English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is very high. Away from their main site there are two outreach units where pupils are integrated into mainstream secondary education. They provide full inclusion opportunities at the larger St. Alban's C of E unit and nine children included in a smaller unit at Golden Hillock School. In their October 2005 Ofsted report, Calthorpe was rated as: "....a highly effective and exceptional school with many excellent features".

Sport College Specialism

Calthorpe was re-designated as a Sports College in September 2004. Facilities include a hydrotherapy swimming pool, a state-of-the-art fitness suite, dance studio, spinning room and sports hall. As a result of QCA's work with the Birmingham LEA, Calthorpe joined the Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) initiative. In the last few years, Denise Fountain who is Director of Sport, Head of PE and Partnership Development Manager, has grown her team.

Through an in-house system of support and training she has redefined the provision of PE and sport and developed new programmes for all pupils. These changes have motivated the staff which in turn inspires the pupils to take a greater responsibility for themselves. A revised scheme of observing, assessing and rewarding pupils was introduced. This in turn, with guidance from staff relates to pupils commitment to activity, lifestyle choices and sensible eating. In the fitness suite are weighing scales, height levels, ratio charts and BMI body fat analyser equipment. Older pupils are trained how to test themselves and encouraged to take an interest in recording their fitness profiles.

Indoor Rowing - The Steve Redgrave Trust

Coinciding with Calthorpe becoming a Sports College in autumn 2004, they were also one of the first twenty Schools in Birmingham to receive Indoor Rowers and training support from Steve Redgrave's Indoor Rowing Programme for City Schools. Five new Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowers were added to their fitness suite equipment and together with the recent PE Department changes the Indoor Rowers enabled staff to expand the health and fitness activity available for the pupils. There has been a steady improvement in the pupils' awareness and importance in their physical condition and this has led to an increased and growing interest in rowing.

The introduction of the Indoor Rowers and the accurate data from the PM3 Monitor, including the rower's heart rate, gives staff the opportunity for accurate testing of the pupils and assessing step improvements to their fitness. This feedback to pupils after their training gives them a clearer understanding about the effects of exercise has on the body. The Indoor Rowers are used by pupils from all backgrounds who attend Calthorpe with an equal male and female split. The numbers participating are regularly into double figures.


The popular ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) Course gives pupils the opportunity to gain formal recognition for their achievements. Working for their Sport and Fitness Award attracts over twenty 14 - 19 year olds with two sessions each week. Younger teenagers work towards cross-curricular links in science, where they investigate how the body works and responds to different levels of exercise intensity. It's useful to involve staff from other departments. There's a smaller group of 11 -16 year olds who have a weight loss programme once a week with Indoor Rowing as the main CV activity.

Out of School Hours Use

There are four lunchtime Indoor Rowing Club sessions each week and it's growing steadily in popularity as part of the structured activity programme with participants aged 11 - 19.


The Indoor Rowers are used mainly by Asian women aged 20 - 60. As a result of their interest in rowing the length of the sessions has increased to one hour and there are six each week.


For the past two years pupils have a competed at the British Indoor Rowing Championships at the National Indoor Arena. Then, in October 2005 they entered the first Birmingham Schools Indoor rowing Championships at the Nechells Community Centre. One team was planned but the interest was so high they had to enter a second team.

Denise takes up the story:

"The race was adapted for our children by Concept 2 so that they were included and could compete on an equal footing. They worked exceptionally hard and finished in similar times to the top teams - maybe they could go further next year. We now have a number of children who weren't able to compete at the Schools Championships so they make the team for this year's race."


The Indoor Rower has supported change in behaviour towards PE at Calthope through integrating additional activity into the school curriculum, OSHL and use by the wider community. Rowing has encouraged greater participation in physical activity, inclusion and competition. The pupils are hooked on rowing and above all other equipment, its great fun for them to use to use.

Overall, the pupils have increased their knowledge and understanding about physical exercise which is a powerful motivator for them to take charge of their health. Each pupil has their own IEP with targets and are grouped in their PE lessons according to ability. One indicator of their commitment to PE and Sport is gauged by bringing their PE kit to school. Before the changes the pupils lacked focus and anticipation with few wanting to engage with the lesson and regularly left their kit at home. Now over 90% regularly turn up prepared for the lesson and any absences are genuine.

Future Plans

In the summer an Indoor Rowing Event is planned as part of the Midlands Special School Festival and wheel chair bound FES (functional electrical stimulation rowers have been invited to attend. Robin Gibbons, team captain of the GB FES team, has been invited to attend and present the prizes.

PE staff are evaluating Rowpro software and working with the company to devise a simplified screen display. Denise is keen that the information from the PM3 can be more meaningful for the all the pupils.

Here is an example of how Indoor Rowing is enabling pupils in a Special School to make step changes to become healthier and confident individuals. This is model that works and this success can be shared with others whatever the school. Denise can be contacted at:

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