Goalball UK, the NGB for the only sport specifically designed for the blind and visually impaired (VI), has appointed their first National Schools Officer thanks to a grant from BBC Children in Need.

Stephen Newey will be responsible for delivering a program of afterschool goalball activities and competitive opportunities to blind, partially sighted and disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.

Stephen said “My background is in school coaching and sports partnerships, so I hope to bring this expertise to my new role. I’m really excited to be spreading Goalball across the country, especially to this young people that have never experienced the game.”

This project comes courtesy of a grant of nearly £100,000 from BBC Children in Need, and will work with U11 all the way up to U18. There will be coaching for VI youth alongside their sighted peers and there will be opportunities to compete with other teams in the Goalball National Schools Competition Programme.

Mark Winder, CEO of Goalball UK said:  “All too often visually impaired children and young people struggle to find challenging and enjoyable activities.

“70% of the estimated 25,000 blind and VI children in the UK are in mainstream school. But it is a sad reality that many do not have equal access to sport in school due to their additional needs – isolating them from their peers and denying them the skills, exercise and psychological benefits of team sport.

“We hope this new initiative will go some way to addressing this issue by making goalball accessible to both sighted and VI children in a school setting. As the sport is played with blackout goggles, anyone can participate, allowing VI and non-VI people to compete on an even playing field.

“At a club level, we often see players bring their sighted friends and siblings to training as it is something they can enjoy together. Goalball smashes perceptions of visual impairment and helps break down the barriers that hold VI children back.

“The ambition is to build on after-school engagement to create regional and, eventually, national tournaments so we can give disadvantaged children the chance to compete in world class venues.

“I’m very excited to have Stephen on board. I look forward to working with them to transform even more lives.”

Isabel Farnell, Regional Head of the North at BBC Children in Need said: “It’s fantastic news that we have awarded new funding to projects like Goalball UK. Over the coming months, this project will work with disadvantaged children and young people in the local community to make a tangible and lasting difference to their lives.”