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Physical literacy

Virgin Acitve, University of Bedfordshire and primary schools unite to put physical literacy into PE lessons

01 Jul 2015

More than one in three children dislike physical activity when they leave primary school

Active Inspiration launches year-long teacher development programme as part of it's campaign to get 500,000 young people across the UK active

In-depth research with 400 primary school teachers reveals they believe more than one in three (39%) children across the UK are leaving primary school with a negative disposition towards being physically active.

Two in five (42%) teachers say their students don’t enjoy PE lessons and believe 40% of children leave primary school without the foundation movement skills to engage effectively in physical activity.

Against a backdrop of rising youth inactivity levels, being physically literate – which means to develop a lifelong love of physical activity – is crucial. The first ten years of childhood are some of the most important in creating active habits for life.

Primary school teachers play a crucial role in helping children develop physical literacy. However, a third of teachers (32%) lack confidence when it comes to teaching PE. Over a quarter (28%) said they don’t feel adequately qualified to teach the subject and over half (53%) want more professional development opportunities for PE. The majority (88%) of teachers say they recognise PE is important, and as important as the other subjects they teach.

Virgin Active, the University of Bedfordshire and primary school teachers across the country are uniting to address this problem. Teachers will be drawing on Virgin Active’s industry leading and innovative approach to activeness and the University of Bedfordshire’s world-renowned academic expertise in physical literacy.

Today, Active Inspiration partners are launching a year-long programme working with teachers to develop new ways of approaching PE that will inspire a lifelong love of physical activity in primary age students. The aim is to create a new approach which is easy to learn and practical to apply for all teachers, and something they can use with confidence when taking PE lessons with their students.

Professor Margaret Whitehead, leading academic on physical literacy, said: “PE lessons help shape a child’s first experiences of physical activities and their attitude towards leading an active lifestyle. It is crucial that these first experiences are positive, rewarding and enjoyable. We must do all we can to make sure teachers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver quality PE, helping all students to make progress on their physical literacy journey. We need to enable teachers to nurture a lifelong love of physical activity among future generations.

Matt Merrick, European Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Active, said: “The vast majority of children are not currently taking the recommended level of physical activity each week. We are committed to changing this. Primary school teachers have the unique challenge of having to be experts across all the subjects they teach and PE is an area where many lack confidence. By working with primary school teachers directly to bring something different to PE lessons, we hope to help them inspire their students to fall in love with being active.”

The programme:

It kicks off with a two-day intensive Summer Camp at a Virgin Active club. Primary school teachers from across the country will be challenged to think differently about activeness and how PE lessons can be used to encourage a life-long love of physical activeness in students. The bespoke, co-created programme will explore pioneering teaching methods and new approaches to getting active.

All teachers will have the opportunity to gain a recognised Continuous Professional Development qualification - studying at Master level, accessing credit bearing units. Teachers will be supported to continue their studies on the MA Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy.

Active Inspiration Campaign ambassador Alastair Humphreys, a renowned explorer and pioneer of micro-adventure, will be on hand, working with teachers to think differently about movement.

Teachers will co-create innovative lesson plans. They will then be supported over the course of the year in applying these to their own PE lessons. Alastair Humphreys, adventurer, author and campaign ambassador for Active Inspiration, said: “PE should be one of the most stimulating and creative lessons for children. What we learn at school acts as a foundation for everything we go on to do – this applies to our physical ability as well as our mental ability. We need to inspire children to see PE lessons differently and prove that being active is fun and rewarding.”

Alastair Humphreys, adventurer, author and campaign ambassador for Active Inspiration, said: “PE should be one of the most stimulating and creative lessons for children. What we learn at school acts as a foundation for everything we go on to do – this applies to our physical ability as well as our mental ability. We need to inspire children to see PE lessons differently and prove that being active is fun and rewarding.”

Notes to editors

*All stats from survey of 400 primary school teachers conducted by Bilendi UK, May 2015.

Press contacts

Press team: 020 7367 5222 Vaheadland@headlandconsultancy.com

Elle Macgregor-Chatwin: 07825 981 859 Emacgregor-chatwin@headlandconsultancy.com

Dan Smith: 07880 200 975 DSmith@headlandconsultancy.com

About Virgin Active Health Clubs

Virgin Active’s first club opened in 1999 and, since then, it has grown to become the leading international global health club operator with over 1.3 million adult members, 14,000 employees and 267 clubs spanning four continents and nine countries (South Africa, UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Namibia, Thailand and Singapore). For more information, please go to www.virginactive.com.

About Active Inspiration

Active Inspiration brings together a coalition of partners committed to getting young people active, led by Virgin Active UK. It launched in May 2014 with the aim of getting 500,000 young people across the UK more active over the next five years.

The first stage of the campaign was in collaboration with leading charity Women in Sport. The project tackled the barriers girls experience when participating in physical activity at age 11, the point at which a sharp drop-off in girls’ physical activity levels often begins. As a result, 91% of participating girls said they were inspired by the AttrActive Project to be more physically active, and 86% said that taking part had made them feel more confident about themselves.

In partnership with Youth Sport Trust, the Active Inspiration campaign has adapted its innovative junior activity program, Active Crew, to be delivered in Primary schools for free. During 2014-15, this was delivered to ten primary schools in five cities, over 24 weeks, and in 2015-16 the programme is being expanded to 70 schools all over the UK.

In addition, through a partnership with Enabling Enterprise, the campaign has explored the concept of taking activeness beyond PE lessons and into the classroom through a collaboration called Active Minds. The programme seeks to help young people come up with innovative ideas to inspire their peers to lead a more active life. Four schools were involved in 2015, and thanks to its popularity has now been expanded to at least 28 schools during 2015.

About the University of Bedfordshire

The University of Bedfordshire is a modern, innovative university with a heritage of top quality education going back more than 100 years. Our history in training physical educators can be traced back to the founding of Bedford College of Physical Training in 1903. Throughout the twentieth century Bedford became synonymous with the training of physical education teachers, a tradition it retains by being one of the leading trainers of physical education teachers in the country today.

The Institute for Sport and Physical Activity Research at the University of Bedfordshire conducts leading-edge research with elite athletes, educators, clinicians and policy makers. Over 95% of our research outputs were rated as internationally recognised or better in the recent Research Excellence Framework Assessment.