CHILDREN NEED to move more in order to improve both their health and learning according to Dr Nalda Wainwright, Director of the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
“Children are spending more and more time sitting still watching TV, playing on i-pads, computers and phones,” says Dr Wainwright. “This is worrying because we know from research that if children don’t learn to move well at an early age, they aren’t likely to become active as they grow up. This means they have a greater risk of being overweight or obese, developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and many other health conditions that are linked to lack of physical activity.”
“The lack of physical activity in young children is particularly worrying as we know that for very young children this activity helps develop physical skills. Since the 1980s research has told us that if young children don’t develop these physical skills this is a barrier that prevents them being able to take part in sport as they grow older.
“It is really important that young children have a foundation of good movement – and this comes through a lot of physical play with the help of teachers and parents. The good news is that by developing their physical skills, children are also developing their brain and improving their learning.”
At UWTSD, there is a strong focus on physical activity and health where Dr Wainwright and a team of staff are supporting the development of Physical Literacy. This is a concept that is growing in recognition throughout the world and is about ensuring that people are able to choose physical activity throughout life.
It is much more than learning skills and playing sport. It’s about being confident; motivated; and about understanding why activity is important and how to be active – whether that’s playing sport in a club, walking in the hills, doing yoga, cycling, swimming or taking a dance class.
Education and high quality physical education in particular has an important role to play in fostering physical literacy so that young people are motivated and able to access a range of activities. Physical literacy is also supported by coaches, instructors, volunteers and parents – in fact anyone that encourages and helps people to be active.
So what can you do to help your children get this foundation of movement?
“You could encourage them to play outside – go out with them to play catching and throwing games,” says Nalda Wainwright. “Make some simple target games with chalk on the ground, or a hoop and bean bags. Help them to balance and move in different ways, over, under and through furniture; walk along a line or jump over objects.
“Can your children run, gallop and skip? Can they dodge in chasing games? If the weather is bad, why not roll up some socks and play catching games or target games inside?”
“You need to ensure that your child is active for several hours every day. You could walk and let them hold your hand instead of sitting them in a buggy. Take them to a park on the way home from school every day so they can chase, run and climb before they start using computers or sit in front of the TV.
“If you can make small changes every day, you will see your children becoming better movers and they will want to move more. In the long term, you will help them become healthier and to learn better in school.”
Dr Nalda Wainwright carried out a study looking at the impact of the Foundation Phase on pupils’ physical literacy and the findings have been significant. Her research showed significant links between the pupils’ physical competence and their intellectual development.
“It is very exciting to see the impact of the Foundation Phase on children’s Physical Literacy and also on their wider learning. Research has shown for some time that there are very strong links between early physical development and cognitive development.
“We are very lucky here in Wales to have The Foundation Phase as, when it is delivered well it is an amazing curriculum that uses a playful approach to learning and gives children opportunities to learn outside every day.
“This approach gives children many opportunities to be active, but our research showed that some of the skills were not being developed and teachers needed more training.
“We are now carrying out more research and are currently running the largest project in early childhood motor development in the world. This is showing us that when we train teachers and parents to develop these skills with the pupils there is a significant impact on the children’s competence.
“This is very important as we now know that teachers and adults working with pre-school children can make a real difference to their chances of being active. We need to make sure that this training is available in all areas of Wales to avoid a health disaster in the future”
Apprentices deserve better financial support
APPRENTICES in Wales should have similar access to financial support as University students.
That’s the main finding from the Assembly’s Economy Infrastructure and Skills Committee, which published its latest report on Apprenticeships in Wales on Thursday (Feb 14).
Committee Chair, Russell George AM, said: “Parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes needs to be underpinned by parity of support for learners.
“There is a strong moral case for the Welsh Government to apply similar levels of support to apprentices as would be available to their peers in full-time education.”
The Welsh Government has this week launched an advertising campaign to promote a new package of measures for university students which it describes as ’the most generous student support package in the UK’.
While apprentices receive a wage while they train, they are not eligible for the support available to students, which can make being an apprentice seem less attractive.
The Committee heard that some young people are deterred from entering apprenticeships by the initial costs involved. These can be relatively minor sums of money to travel to interviews, or the first few weeks of work before they get paid.
The Committee’s work found that while there is much that is positive about Apprenticeships in Wales there were a few surprises.
Mr George added: “We were surprised that the number of disabled apprentices in Wales was far below the rate achieved in England.
“We were also concerned that a lack of providers may be preventing young people undertaking apprenticeships through the medium of Welsh.
“There is still a stubborn gender segregation when we talk about apprenticeships. Both the Welsh Government and stakeholders are committed to address this, and are taking steps to do so, but progress has been slow. This issue is not unique to Wales.
“We are recommending annual publication of figures to maintain pressure and ensure that apprenticeships in Wales are available to all.”
The Committee also looked at the role of careers guidance for young people – particularly in schools – to ensure they are being made aware of vocational as well as academic options.
Mr George added: “During the course of our investigation we heard concerns about the way careers advice is delivered in schools. Our additional scrutiny in this area has given us assurance that Careers Wales has a credible plan, and is working closely with the Welsh Government and schools to address these issues. We will keep an eye on whether this proves successful.”
Minister visits adult learning initiative
WELSH Language and Lifelong Learning Minister, Eluned Morgan visited Monkton Primary School in Pembrokeshire on Friday, February 9, to hear more about a successful community adult learning initiative run from the school.
Started in September 2012 with support from the Welsh Government, the Launch Project aims to raise adults’ skills standards and education attainment within the community by making learning accessible to everyone.
Both accredited and non-accredited courses and workshops are delivered at the school and other community venues and have been specifically designed to remove barriers so that people in the community can gain the confidence and skills needed to seek employment.
The provision has also been designed to cater for a wide range of learner needs, from basic skills and IT courses to various accredited courses including a foundation degree in Education and Social Inclusion.
During the visit the Minister met with some of the adult learners who have benefitted from the project and heard their personal accounts about how it has helped them to turn their lives around, gain new skills and seize new employment opportunities.
Speaking after the visit, Minister said: “This project is a great example of a community-driven learning initiative that has been designed by the community for the community and I applaud Monkton Primary School for its pivotal role in that.
“The school is clearly committed to lifelong learning and building an ethos of working and learning together, built on mutual respect between adults and children.
“It was also inspiring hearing from those who have benefitted from the project and seeing first hand the positive impact it has had on their lives and their confidence.”
Extra investment in 21st Century Schools
£100M is to be invested over the next three years to accelerate the delivery of the flagship 21st Century Schools and Education programme, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams and Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning Eluned Morgan has said.
An extra £75m, has been allocated to the 21st Century Schools and Education Programme a major, long-term and strategic capital investment programme to modernise education infrastructure.
In addition, £30m will be released from the programme in future years for immediate investment in capital projects that will contribute to the goal of reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050. This is a shared priority with Plaid Cymru.
The money will bring the total invested over the life of the programme to almost £3.8bn. The first phase of the programme will finish in 2019 having invested £1.4bn to support the rebuild and refurbishment of more than 150 schools and colleges across Wales. The second phase will see a spend of £2.3bn.
Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission is to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence. Our 21st Century Schools and Education Programme plays a key part in this and is the largest investment in our schools and colleges since the 1960s.
“Having a comfortable, modern, fit-for-purpose environment in which to learn is vital to ensuring young people have the best possible education. This extra funding will mean that even more of our students will be able to benefit from having the best possible facilities in their schools and colleges.”
Eluned Morgan said: “Reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is a significant challenge and education is key to the success of this ambition. This means we need to invest in new Welsh medium schools and improve and increase the teaching of Welsh in English medium schools. Bringing forward this funding for immediate investment allows us to ensure there is no delay in the work to achieve this target.”
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