A new qualification designed to support coaches and staff in developing vital physical activity skills among young children has been launched by the University of Stirling.
Research points to the importance of developing object control, locomotor and body management skills such as throwing, running and climbing at the earliest opportunity, before bad habits are picked up.
Some children, however, are being left behind on the basics leading to disengagement with sport and impacting upon their capacity to interact with their peers and become confident learners.
The new SQA Fundamental Movement Skills Award, developed by staff at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, equips nursery teachers and sports coaches with the capacity to deliver effective physical activity sessions to children aged four to eight.
Following a successful pilot to staff at Beaconhurst Nursery in Bridge of Allan, the qualification is now being offered to nurseries and sports organisations across Scotland.
“There is a problem with very young people not getting enough physical exercise, but there is also the issue of the quality of what they are learning even if they do have an opportunity for exercise,” said Gail Niven, the University’s Sports Participation Manager, who delivered the pilot programme.
She added: “We have a small window of opportunity where we have to teach those skills as without the fundamentals, they become alienated when they reach the school playground when they can’t catch a ball or join in with friends in a game of football. Taking part in this daily physical activity at a young age can also help their confidence levels and their behaviour.”
In March, the Scottish Government announced that every primary school pupil in Scotland will benefit from two hours a week and every secondary school pupil from two periods of physical education by 2014. Niven supports any move to increase physical activity, but highlights the fundamental importance at pre-school.
She added: “If you can’t ride a bike then you can’t take part in a cycling class or if you can’t support your own body weight then you can’t swing on the monkey bars. Likewise, if you don’t invest the time in doing something then you can’t learn the skills.”
The Award is one of several health-related SQA accredited qualifications developed by the University’s School of Sport, following a fitness course for school pupils looking to gain valuable work experience and a course for carers supporting people with dementia.
Coach Education Programme Manager Nikki Duffy said: “Our role is to up-skill people and give them the tools to deliver the techniques for themselves. Staff need to be confident and have an understanding of how to develop these fundamental movement skills in order to provide engaging activities which encourage children to take part.
“Beaconhurst was the perfect place to pilot the programme as they have taken a bold and impressive step with regards to sport, looking to offer daily physical activity and physical education from nursery age right through to late teens.”
Judith Ramsay, Head of Sport at Beaconhurst School, explained: “Sport in the nursery is the first step in our Beaconhurst Sporting Pathways which runs right through the school from pupils aged three to 18. At this crucial stage, we are looking to develop the correct movement patterns in our young pupils so that we can build and develop these skills as they progress through the school.
“The newly devised qualification has provided the staff with the skills and confidence to deliver movement skills. Our daily physical activity programme is an exciting new venture which is probably the first in Scotland of its kind and the nursery staff have embarked on the project with enthusiasm and we are looking forward to plans for a University student monitoring the impact of this initiative.”