Physical education to receive a jump start

Children will be shown how to balance and move properly before focusing on sports-specific skills, as Roddy Mackenzie discovers

Students returning to school after the summer holidays can expect to find their physical education classes radically revamped.

As part of the Scottish government's health and well-being initiative through Education Scotland - and in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year - children will be taught how to develop rhythm, balance and movement before focusing on sports-specific skills such as those needed in football, tennis or volleyball.

Alongside the usual running, skipping, hopping and jumping, they will learn to make connections between physical activity and other subjects on the curriculum in a bid to link physical education with learning in the classroom.

Piloted in North Lanarkshire, the scheme is based on the Better Movers and Thinkers (BMT) model, set up by former teachers Thomas Dowens and John French, together with Andy Dalziell, a PhD research student at the University of Edinburgh.

It will be rolled out in schools across Scotland for children aged 3-18 until February 2015 as part of the Commonwealth Games Legacy to give children two hours of core PE time per week.

Dowens, who is on a 23-month secondment from his role as director of coaching at the Scottish Volleyball Association, believes that some children have been put off taking up sport because the skills needed are too demanding for their age and stage.

But he prefers "evolutionary" to "revolutionary" when he talks about how it will change the way PE is taught.

"For years, PE has sat at the side of learning," he said. "We want to demonstrate that this does not have to be the case. The government programme will look at the pedagogy of how physical education should be taught - it's a form of physical literacy programme. which can link to recognition and problem-solving skills.

"While the content of the programme is new and different, the key element to its success will be the pedagogy."

The project has already been relayed to physical education lead officers, who have been funded through sportscotland, and will feed down to the 32 local authorities through secondary schools, PE teachers and on to their cluster primaries.

"Children don't learn how to kick a football or hit a volleyball until they've learned how to move and how to control that movement," Dowens said.

"You start with this programme and you keep reinforcing it. So by the time a pupil gets to P6-P7 and S1, he or she is working within discipline-specific activities.

"But you are working within football or volleyball, gymnastics or swimming - not concentrating solely on the technique of that particular activity. Instead, you are concentrating on how to move properly, how to solve problems and take in information.

"Most people agree that children should not be specialising in a particular sport until Primary 6-7."

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