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Give them the power...

Extra curricular clubs can boost children's PE and sports skills, increase their self-esteem and give them a sense of achievement, says Sarah French

Like most boys his age, Danyal Amin likes playing football, but six weeks ago the task of controlling a ball was a struggle for the eight-year-old. Then he was chosen, along with five other pupils from Holycroft Primary School in Keighley, to join the area's first Multi-skill Club. After a few sessions he's proud to show off his new-found skills.

"The ball used to keep rolling away from me. Now I've learned to control it and I can play better," he says.

Funded by the Youth Sport Trust, the club meets for an hour after school each Tuesday at Keighley leisure centre. In the first session, the youngsters took part in simple tests to benchmark their ability, an exercise that will be repeated at the end of the 10-week club to reveal any improvement. Each week they are coached in basic PE skills, covering speed and agility, hand-eye co-ordination, balance, flexibility, strength and movement, as well as teamwork, decision making, problem solving and communication.

It is proving to be an enormous success with children such as Danyal, who usually don't join in extracurricular sport now getting the chance to improve a range of skills. Luke Maumsell, aged nine, says: "Before, I'd played a couple of football games but not after school and not against other teams. I wanted to play more and now I can."

Parents, too, are delighted with the club, reporting that their children are happier and more motivated. Shohaib Ali, eight, says: "My parents are excited about it because I'm learning more sports skills."

When the idea of establishing a Multi-skill Club came up, Steve Bell, development manager of the Keighley area's schools sport partnership (SSP), and Richard Taylor, community sports coach for this part of West Yorkshire, saw the scheme as an opportunity to address the needs of children who were missing out.

Steve explains: "A lot was already going on for students who are capable of being in the school team and taking part in the many competitions, festivals, leagues and tournaments. We hope that being involved in the club will enthuse those children who haven't necessarily been in the school team but are keen on PE, to play a greater part in sport in school and maybe to join clubs outside school."

Holycroft is one of three primary schools selected to launch the club.

Seventy per cent of its pupils are from Pakistani or Bangladeshi families and 30 per cent are white. Eastwood Primary School is 90 per cent ethnic minorities while St Anne's is an almost exclusively white Catholic school.

All three schools are members of the SSP, one of the longest established partnerships in the country. Led by the local sports college, Oakbank, the four-year-old partnership covers six secondary schools, each of which works with a family of primary schools.

Even in schools where sport is high on the agenda, Danyal and his friends have shown real improvement since joining the club, and not just in their performance in PE. Teacher Laura Fletcher says: "I can't believe the difference," she says. "There's been a dramatic transformation in these children's willingness, self-confidence and self-esteem to the point where it's increased their literacy and communication skills too. It's given them a real sense of pride."

"That's the power of PE," adds Steve. "We are a phase three partnership and in the early days it was all about sporting competitions. That's changed since we've seen the whole school benefits it's brought in terms of attendance, motivation, improvements in behaviour and exam results."

The success of the Multi-skill Club will be measured by researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University. Meanwhile, co-ordinators from the lead secondary schools have had an in-service session with Richard Taylor to learn how to develop at least one club in their cluster.

In widening the scheme still further, there are plans to develop a club for young people who are already members of community sports teams but would benefit from extra coaching, and a Multi-skill Academy is set to take place in the summer holidays. Steve says: "The whole ethos of our partnership is to share, whether that's facilities, equipment, people or experience."

Laura adds: "The thought of moving away to somewhere that might not have this level of support and partnership approach is horrifying. It's amazing what it can bring to your school."

Extra curricular: Keighley pupils give it a go

* Multi-skill Clubs are an initiative from Physical Education, School Sport and Club Links (PESSCL). The scheme is open to schools that have formed a sporting partnership. Contact the Youth Sport Trust Tel: 01509 226 600

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