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UK Coaching Team
Safety and Welfare Supporting Specific Needs

New Deaf and Disabled Safeguarding Course Provides an Extension of Choice for Coaches

Learners who enrol on the Safeguarding Deaf and Disabled Children renewal course can be confident they have entrusted their ongoing development to a safe pair of hands, writes Blake Richardson. Or rather, safe pairs of hands, for the new learning module continues a long-standing partnership between UK Coaching and the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU)

UK Coaching and the CPSU are cut from the same cloth.

Our close working relationship is founded upon a shared vision and set of values concerning the prevention of abuse in children and a steadfast commitment to protecting those at risk, so every child can flourish in a safe sporting environment.

Nearly half a million people have been through UK Coaching’s flagship face-to-face safeguarding workshop in the last two decades.

The more recent online renewal courses – tailored to suit coaches who work in particular settings – have proved an equally indispensable accompaniment to UK Coaching and the CPSU’s Safeguarding and Protecting Children portfolio. 

They consist of the same core refresher content but with the addition of ‘bolt-on’ modules for Positive Parents and Digital Kids.

The latest iteration in the series gives coaches the chance to acquire even more specialist safeguarding knowledge, with a particular focus on deaf and disabled children.

Coaches in control of their learning journey

The safety and well-being of children who engage in sport and physical activity should be every coach’s number one priority.

But there is more to good coach education than ensuring course content is regularly refreshed so that coaches’ knowledge and understanding of legislation and good practice is updated and consolidated. Innovation and choice have crucial parts to play in the learning process too.

And so not only does the Safeguarding Deaf and Disabled Children module improve coaches’ understanding of safeguarding issues that are particularly relevant to those working with deaf and disabled participants, it also gives them greater confidence coaching people with impairments while allowing them to take control of their own learning by sitting down at a time and a place that suits them.

Coaches can dip in and out of the module to suit their lifestyle, while keeping a handy track of their progress. And because learners are positioned at the heart of the action in a virtual environment – being presented with real-life stories and scenarios of deaf and disabled children in sport – the consequences of their decisions are laid bare. The beauty is, because it is undertaken in a safe environment, learners have the space to try again and again without fear of being judged by someone looking over their shoulder.

Below, in a question and answer session with then CPSU Director Anne Tiivas and UK Coaching Children Lead Dave Turner shortly after the launch of the course, we find out more about it and the reasons for its conception.

Can you give a brief description of how the collaboration with UK Coaching over the new Deaf and Disabled module came about?

Anne: “The CPSU is committed to promoting the welfare of all children taking part in sport. As the leading sports training agency, UK Coaching were the obvious partners to work with to produce, promote and provide access to an online learning resource to promote the inclusion and safeguarding of deaf and disabled children in sport.”

There have been two additional versions produced since the original Safeguarding and Protecting Children renewal course: Positive Parents and Digital Kids. Why is it important to also have a dedicated module for deaf and disabled children in sport?

Anne: “Research shows us that deaf and disabled children are particularly vulnerable to harm and abuse – even in a sports context. In order to support sports organisations and coaches in recognising and addressing this the CPSU developed a learning resource for the sector. It is very important to ensure that coaches and others working with disabled children are able to access training that identifies these issues and provides advice and guidance on how to address them.”

How can assumptions that coaches and club staff make impact on a deaf or disabled child’s experience?

Anne: “It’s really important for coaches to take a positive, person-centred approach to their work with deaf and disabled children. This means taking time to get to know the individual – their aspirations, their (sports) experiences and abilities, preferred means of communication, and whether or how there are any implications related to their particular condition or impairment which need to be considered. Too often it’s easier to make (mistaken) assumptions about a young person based on a label or preconception about their condition or disability. For example, assumptions can mean that disabled children are sometimes not even offered opportunities to take part in sport.”


How do safeguarding issues and practices vary from those relating to non-disabled children?

Anne: “Any potential implications of a young person’s condition or impairment need to be considered and addressed for safeguarding purposes, as they should be for their participation in the activity (eg in terms of adapted equipment or practices). For example this could include seeking clarity on the best way to communicate with the child (how best can we ensure that they understand the coach’s commitment to keeping them safe from harm; what would the coach need to know to feel confident that they could recognise indications that the child was unhappy or distressed about something?). It may be about ensuring that safe arrangements for any personal care needs (eg changing or switching wheelchairs) have been discussed and agreed with the child and parents/carers ahead of the activity starting.”

Why use the term deaf and disabled, not just disabled?

Anne: “The term “deaf and disabled” is used because many deaf young people (particularly those who have never experienced “hearing”) identify themselves as belonging to a particular cultural group (the deaf community) with its own language (British Sign Language) – and not as disabled.”

As one deaf young person explained: “How disabled I am depends on where I am and who I’m with. When I’m with my deaf friends I’m not disabled because we all sign. But when I’m in the outside world I’m disabled.”

The intention is not for learn at home courses to replace the mandatory face-to-face courses. But what makes online CPD such a convenient progression following initial core face-to-face learning?

Dave: “The SPC online renewal offer allows coaches the opportunity to not only broaden and deepen their safeguarding knowledge but to choose topics that will be most appropriate and informative to their coaching needs. At UK Coaching we know the one thing coaches really don’t want to do is miss their coaching sessions to attend training. What is so great about the online renewal offer is the opportunity to complete training in their own time at a time most convenient to them.”

People will be familiar with the STEP model and differentiating / extending tasks and making them ‘more’ or ‘less’ achievable, but is adjusting communication styles for individuals something that is often overlooked?

Dave: “This module allows you the opportunity to think about not only communication style, but also who to communicate with and when. For example, for a coach to be able to address a deaf or disabled child’s needs, they need to be able to identify what those needs are first of all.”

Research shows us that deaf and disabled children are particularly vulnerable to harm and abuse – even in a sports context. Does this overshadow the positivity that sport and physical activity can offer individuals?

Anne: “Sadly bullying and sometimes abuse is a fact of life for many children – and particularly for many deaf and disabled children. However it is important that coaches and others are aware of these potential risks and work proactively to put in place arrangements to clarify expectations of how everybody is expected to behave (e.g. codes of conduct); policies and procedures to prevent bullying; poor practice or abuse arising; and to address incidents should they arise (e.g. anti-bullying policies and systems to report and act on safeguarding concerns). These arrangements should help ensure that all participants (including deaf and disabled young people) are able to take part in and benefit from their sport.”


Can you expand on why a person-centred approach is so vital when it comes to making deaf and disabled children feel included?

Anne: “A person-centred approach for any young athlete is one of the core elements of positive coaching. Every child should feel included, and this is even more important for many deaf and disabled children whose wider experiences may have included being ignored or excluded from a range of social opportunities. A person-centred approach puts the individual child at the centre of decisions about how the activity is set up and delivered.”

With regards to deaf and disabled children, are coaches and clubs prepared enough in terms of policies, training, and approaches? Do coaches know where their role ends and how and who to involve?

Anne: “Many clubs and coaches have already taken positive steps to encourage the involvement of disabled children in activities, but there is still much to do to provide genuinely equal opportunities for them across sport, and to ensure that their safety and well-being are prioritised and addressed.”

Related Learning

  • Renewal: Safeguarding and Protecting Children

  • Inclusive Activity Programme eLearning module

  • Duty to Care


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