The University of Bedfordshire has teamed up with Virgin Active to create a new way to approach physical education in a bid to get children embracing physical activity.
The new initiative named Playmakers has been created after the two worked with 30 primary schools and 7,500 students in the UK over the course of a year.
The new programme showed how an approach based on physical literacy, rather than traditional PE can be more effective in getting children active.
Rather than delivering traditional PE lessons that focused on winning, losing and sporting prowess, the pilot programme used teaching methods that encouraged children to harness their imaginations, learning fundamental movement skills and co-creating their own PE games.
The lesson plans were tested in schools over the past year. They included getting children to design dances based on animal movements and adventure circuits where they agree how to tackle obstacles whilst in character. The free lesson plans are publicly available for all teachers to use online.
Dr Helen Ives, Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator for Sport and Physical Education at the University of Bedfordshire said, “This has been a great initiative to be involved in with Virgin Active. The University is a leading trainer of physical education teachers in the country and it has been a privilege to put our academic expertise into practice.”
“We have been able to put together a programme that not only ensures teachers will have the tools necessary to teach PE but hopefully will also help primary age students develop a love of physical activity which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.” She added.
These findings have come at a time when more than a third (39%) of children were found to dislike being physically active when they left primary school.
The government has since called for schools to devote more time than ever to physical activity, as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan. Starting next year, primary schools will be required to deliver at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Many primary teachers have only been equipped with as little as six hours of physical education training in their entire teacher-training programme. However, the influence of teachers should not be underestimated. New data has revealed that 38% of children aged 8 to 15 believe that their PE teachers inspire them to do more physical activity, above athletes and celebrities.
Robert Cook, UK Managing Director at Virgin Active said, “The results of our programme show what is possible when teachers are given the tools to facilitate new ways of teaching PE. The Government has set the 30 minute challenge, but this can only be realised if we work together.”
He concluded, “Harnessing the imagination of kids and getting them moving is something we do in our clubs every day. By applying this in the school environment and transforming PE lessons into fun and entertaining games, we can ensure future generations love being active and help turn the tide against rising levels of obesity.”
The Active Inspiration Playmakers programme showed:
- PE sessions became more inclusive and enjoyable, particularly among unmotivated children who were least engaged with physical activity. The interactivity of the groups also helped overcome previous divisions based on ability.
- Giving children the opportunity to collaborate and create their own games led to improvements in other skills, such as leadership, self-sufficiency and creativity. This had a positive knock-on impact on how the pupils were interacting with each other and their ability to easily resolve disputes.
- Teachers could step into more of a facilitating role rather than a leading role in these kinds of PE sessions, with children taking ownership of their physical activity and individual accountability.
- There was a significant boost in teacher confidence and their ability to motivate children to engage in PE: particularly crucial as schools look to incorporate the Childhood Obesity Plan’s recommendation for more activity into the new academic year. Virgin Active and the University of Bedfordshire are now calling for these techniques to be applied to PE lessons across the UK, to ensure that physical literacy is at the heart of the Government’s 30 minute a day policy.
Dr Ives continued, “The collaboration has been a successful one, more so for the pupils who are now enjoying being active. It was especially pleasing to see that teacher motivation and confidence improved and they now view themselves as facilitating learning within the subject.”
Source: The University of Bedfordshire
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