In recent years the government has funded schools with over 1billion pounds a year to help improve physical education in primary schools. This funding has led to an increase of external sports coaches being brought in to deliver both curricular and extra-curricular as well as training teachers to improve their delivery of physical education. These external coaches and companies then to offer a multi sports approach delivery sessions of common sports such as football, cricket and rounders often in their competitive form as this is deemed exciting for pupils. However, after years of this approach ¼ girl and 1/5 boys still remain physically inactive outside of school and 1/3 children leave primary school obese. In addition to this, many teachers still feel children do not enjoy their classes and feel unprepared in delivery of physical education. Is there a solution to this ever-growing problem?
I believe the answer could lie in the introduction of coaches with a background in strength and conditioning and long-term physical(athlete) development. Let’s take a look at the way schools teach key subjects such as Maths and English. Do these subjects develop children by getting them to solve algebraic equation or reading Shakespeare or Novels from the Bronte sisters? The obvious answer is no. But is this the equivalent of key stage one and two students participating in large competitive football matches or games of rounders?
So how do other core subjects get broken down and taught in the national curriculum. In English we learn phonically before we learn to read or write breaking the skills down into their most basic forms. This process is seen again in maths learning to add and subtract before learning to multiply and divide and then combining processes together and practicing them processes until they are fully competent. Can this process be modelled in physical education?
Physical literacy is the underlying skills of body control and locomotion that a person possesses. These are skills such as running jumping kicking and throwing. The have been categorised into body control, fundamental movements, locomotion and coordination. These skills and pillars come together to form the foundation for sports such netball, tennis and rugby. So why not develop these skills prior to children learning to play these sports. Strength and Conditioning coaches are regularly employed with in sporting teams and academy to develop these skills and capacities alongside the technical development of the sport itself. This clearly suggest that physical development differs from learning the play a sport. It has often been coined getting fit to play sport rather than getting fit to play sport. As a coach once said to me” just as you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe, you can play sport with no physical literacy”. In addition to developing physical literacy prior to playing “competitive sports” being a logical learning progression it also has the potential to engage and retain for more individuals who might otherwise be disinterested in physical education. Strength and conditioning coaches regularly use creative and fun games to elicited certain stimuli to develop a specific skill. This game may involve for example hopping races or obstacles course require a range of physical skills to complete. While the competitive element may still be present and its role in engaging children needed the introduction of games all children can play and no clear preference to certain individuals levels the playing field and increases engagement, fun and retention for all children.