Mr Higgins – the disability inclusive body coach
Simon Higgins, Head of Physical Education at Livability Victoria School, is combatting a lack of at-home sports activities for disabled people with online ‘Mr Higgins’ videos. From a small start in his garden, Mr Higgins’ accessible PE videos are now reaching other schools – and have been picked up by Activity Alliance.
Since coronavirus lockdown began and schools closed, teachers across the country have been trying to engage students in education from home. Simon has adapted during this time, he tells us: ‘I have been working from home in Poole, which is a bit strange as a teacher, and I have been continuing to make sure that the parents and children are all okay. In the context of physical education, I have been thinking about the children’s specific needs and ways to engage them at home. I’ve really had to think out of the box.’
Simon is making videos packed with inclusive sports activity ideas for students and parents at home, using everyday household objects – including socks and chopping boards! ‘You can’t really send out worksheets for PE, as it’s a practical subject,’ Simon explains. ‘The reason I decided videos would be the best idea was not only to demonstrate activities in a practical and engaging way, but so that my students can see my face and be reminded that I’m still around and still thinking of them.’
Simon continues: ‘I started making the videos for our students because there didn’t seem to be any existing PE resources online that would be accessible for all of the mobility needs of our students at Livability Victoria School. I wanted to fill that gap and felt it important to give people realistic ideas for inclusive games that are both parent- and student-friendly.’
Livability Victoria students have been taking on Simon’s challenges and activities at home, with very positive feedback from the children and parents. Some children have even been filming their own videos to show their efforts, whether that’s playing boccia or challenging Mr Higgins at a new game. ‘I’ve been delighted to see students getting involved with my ideas, staying active and challenging me too,’ Simon says.
Simon shares his videos on Twitter and Livability social media accounts have been sharing his great ideas with friends, staff and supporters. Simon’s videos have been promoted by the Activity Alliance, shared on many disability forums and have even been set as homework by other schools. ‘I have really enjoyed making the videos and it feels great to be recognised for my efforts, it’s very humbling’ says Simon. ‘The intention is to keep our students engaged, and the fact that these ideas have been taken on in a wider setting is just a bonus’.
Simon joined Livability Victoria School in January 2018, having worked most of his teaching career in mainstream schools. He loves running PE sessions with Victoria students, developing and progressing together with time, patience and specialist equipment. Simon says: ‘My philosophy of PE is to get people moving as best as they can. We have a mixture of abilities at Victoria School – from those able to walk to those in wheelchairs, and some with more profound and complex disabilities. PE for me is about keeping both the body and mind active’.
Simon assures us that he still has a ‘few ideas up my sleeve’ and we can expect to see a new Mr Higgins video each week, with variations and progressions. Simon hopes to keep creating these videos even when students return to school, sharing helpful ideas for people with disabilities to develop and improve their confidence though sport.