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University qualification helps Physical Education school pupils gain an extra curricular edge

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The University of Stirling has developed a new coaching qualification which helps secondary school pupils enhance their employability.

Young Fitness Leader is aimed at pupils aged 16 and over sitting their Higher in Physical Education and provides the opportunity for them to gain coaching certificates whilst developing their leadership skills and employment potential.

Qualifications include Gym Instructor, Exercise to Music and an Introduction to Free Weights, with each providing recognised SQA credits for pupils hoping to achieve a place at a college or university.

Eleven pupils from Abronhill High School in Cumbernauld completed the pilot Gym Instructor programme, which was delivered on campus at Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.

Demi Mitchell, 16, hopes to become a Physical Education teacher and is already putting the qualification to good use. She said: “I put the Gym Instructor qualification on my application form for University so hopefully it will help show how interested I am in physical education.

“We have a gym at school and some of the pupils and teachers use it at lunchtime. It’s the sort of thing which a teacher would have needed to run, but now we are qualified we can watch over and help people if they don’t know how to use the equipment.”

Elinor Steel, Principal teacher of Physical Education at Abronhill, said: “It has given the pupils an opportunity to gain qualifications and experiences not normally afforded to them. At the same time it has helped to tackle the barriers which pupils feel stop them from volunteering and coaching in their local community.

“We have developed links with national governing bodies, local clubs and the further and higher education sector which means that this is now a sustainable programme within our school which will help many other young people over the coming years.”

It is now being extended to five secondary schools across Stirlingshire, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Glasgow with the potential to support Physical Education teachers to deliver the qualifications from their own school sports facilities.

“Young Fitness Leader is designed so pupils can progress along the coach education pathway and at the same time the qualifications are delivered in a way which gives them a taste of what it’s like to study at a college or a university, with practical experience and theory combined,” said Nicola Duffy, who developed the programme with colleagues from the School of Sport.

“It is not just about a qualification to add to the cv – the pupils develop leadership skills, communication skills and gain the confidence to return to their schools and hopefully pass on the knowledge to others.”

For more information, please contact Nicola Duffy by email to: nicola.duffy@stir.ac.uk or call 01786 466907.

The photo shows (l-r): Abronhill pupils Demi Mitchell, Scott Smith and Leigh McKeown at the University's MP Jackson Fitness Centre.

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