In this article I explain how County Durham Sport is using an insight-led approach to develop a physical literacy pilot programme for County Durham schools. Physical literacy can be described as having the motivation, confidence and skills to value and engage in physical activity for life. However, in many schools, physical activity is not currently incorporated throughout the school day.
Children in areas experiencing health inequalities are less likely to be physically active, so introducing a whole-school physical literacy approach offers the potential to raise activity levels throughout the school day in ways that are not restricted to PE lessons alone.
The project has been developed by Joe Armstrong, Children and Young People Programme Coordinator for County Durham Sport, and Gethin Mon Thomas, an independent physical literacy consultant working across education, health and wellbeing.
How will the pilot work?
Participating schools will select activities from a ‘menu’, including active travel to and from school, healthy breakfasts, and an active curriculum where physical activity is incorporated into lessons other than PE. This menu acknowledges that some schools are already including lots of physical activity. Schools will also receive a self-evaluation tool and an infographic to share with parents, featuring positive messages. In line with County Durham Sport’s approach to evaluation, which focuses on learning and reflection, the self-evaluation tool will help schools to reflect on and assess their progress, identifying successes and areas for development. There will also be physical literacy workshops, delivered by Gethin. In contrast with similar schemes elsewhere in England, this programme is funded by County Durham Sport instead of being paid for out of individual school budgets.
There will be two programmes of activity:
In the first model, Joe Armstrong used County Durham Sport’s data mapping tools to identify schools in areas with below average healthy life expectancy. Ten schools in Easington have been selected. In these schools, all staff will undergo physical literacy training.
In the second model, open to all schools in County Durham that express interest, one member of staff will become the ‘physical literacy policy champion’, the go-to person, taking responsibility for the programme throughout the school. County Durham Sport are asking that the lead person in schools is not the PE lead but someone from senior leadership instead. This is in order to create a top-down approach to physical literacy within the schools. This second option requires less funding.
Which approach will work better? Can the programme work successfully, embedding physical literacy within the school day, with just one person being trained as a physical literacy champion?
How will the project be evaluated?
Schools will create case studies to share their stories, showing how they have applied physical literacy approaches, and what impact these have had. Each school will have different experiences of the project, so this approach will enable schools to reflect on their individual contexts. They will be able to capture wider impacts of the programme, rather than simply focusing on, for instance, behaviour change among pupils, or similar ‘one size fits all’ feedback. Case studies will also provide an opportunity for schools to share reflection, learning and best practice.
What happens next?
County Durham Sport will share findings with Sport England after the pilot concludes in July 2023. If the pilot proves successful, we will work with Durham County Council to expand the project to involve more schools from September 2023.
Who else is involved?
County Durham Sport are working with partners including Durham County Council, Easington School Sports Partnership, Durham and Chester-le-Street School Sports Partnerships, and GoWell (which was previously Sedgefield School Sports Partnership).
Article by Clare Danek (Insight and Engagement Officer)