How Match of the Day makes a difference for SEN pupils

By Kevin KilbaneMatch of the Day pundit
'Don't you know your left from your right?!'

Working with Sam and Ben for BBC News School Report was a brilliant experience for me - one of the best days of filming I've ever done.

Ben and Sam, who have cerebral palsy, are students at The Lancasterian School in Manchester and they are using Match of the Day and football commentary to help develop their communication skills.

Sam uses a communication aid, but he'd started to dislike using it at school - but he loves talking about football!

The first thing that struck me was that they knew so much about football - more than me, probably, which was making me laugh. They really had amazing knowledge and passion for the sport from this season and days gone by.

Sam's a Man Utd fan and Ben supports Man City but they reeled off virtually the whole West Ham squad! The fact they could use their passion for football to help improve other parts of their education and development was just so great to see and to play a small part in.

They were quite cheeky and ribbed me about not knowing my left from my right when I made a mistake during the filming! The experience really allowed for their character to come out as individuals. They were so keen to learn and put so much into the day.

For me, as a parent of a daughter with special needs, it was fantastic to go into their school environment and see how they're using the equipment to learn and improve their communication skills. It's not every day you get to go into a school where they are using the programme you work on to help students learn and develop.

My daughter Elsie, who goes to a mainstream school, has Down's syndrome and as a parent I feel very strongly that inclusion is really important for children with special educational needs.

I'm fully aware of the challenges that parents and the children themselves face, so School Report is excellent from an inclusion point of view. It's giving kids confidence in their own environment and helping them gain experience - you could see from how Sam and Ben gained confidence over a few hours what it offers students.

Whatever needs students have, if you can treat them as an individual - and this is what SEN teachers and co-ordinators are so good at doing - then they can thrive and that is what I saw with Ben and Sam.

I didn't know a huge amount about School Report before the filming but it was a brilliant way to work with young people, help them learn and improve their skills and make them part of something which kids all over the UK are taking part in.

MOTD's Kevin Kilbane meets Sam and Ben

Kevin Kilbane was talking to BBC News School Report's Phil Harlow

This report was written for BBC News School Report.