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Current issues relating to education, outdoor learning, childhood obesity, playground equipment and playground markings.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Competition, competition, competition…

It seems that the perennial issue of competition in PE and sport is raising its head again with the recent decision by the coalition government to undermine the last 10 years of School Sports Partnership success by criticising the lack of competition in schools. The use of competition from a developmentally appropriate perspective has always interested me, in terms of its use to challenge children and young people effectively and at the same time offer something for everyone to stimulate their curiosity and retain them within their chosen sport. I suppose the criticism I have with the latest governmental intervention is the emphasis placed on competition, particularly within traditional sports, and the lack of understanding of the interdependency of participation, competition and performance. In essence, more children participating will lead to more of them competing, and more of them accessing performance pathways. However, the base of the pyramid is always healthier when there is a large reservoir of participants engaged in high quality sports and physical activity. 

This is why I’m flabbergasted by the lack of vision in withdrawing funding from School Sport Partnerships - the very infrastructure that has successfully elevated school sports to unprecedented levels in this country. The final aspect of my utter bewilderment is that, at a time when the government seem intent on raising levels of competition, all of the National Governing Bodies of sport that I work with are adamant that they need to reduce it, often citing excessive levels of competition as counterproductive to their children and young people’s development and the main cause of ‘burnout’.

Self-referenced competition, that is the child competing against their own previous performances, remains the most developmentally appropriate method of charting progress for children and young people and avoids the commonly found stigma associated with the early introduction of adult-based forms of competition, most typically within games. The acquisition of multi-skills in a supportive and progressive environment is far more important than building self-esteem through defeating a direct opponent, or opponents, and is more likely to lead to lifelong participation.  I welcome your thoughts…

Dr David Morley
Head of Education - ESP

Take a look at ESP's playground equipment.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Using the Playground to Maximise Learning Experiences

With the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) articulated but not yet felt, there seems to be a polarised mood across educational communities. Some colleagues seem resigned to an uncertain future with diminishing direct funding from previous sources. Others are optimistic and are shaping their communities of practice around new and exciting opportunities. For these colleagues new doors have definitely opened and they are relishing the chance to operate outside of the demands once made upon them from previous regimes. In times of austerity, particularly in light of the collapse of the Building Schools for the Future programme, schools will be required to maximise existing spaces, such as playgrounds, in their bid to provide stimulating and vibrant learning experiences for their children and young people. Through the use of playground equipment and playground markings, the playground offers a mulititude of such experiences harnessing the power of cross curricular, kinesthetic approaches to learning that are proven to increase engagement and develop ‘real world’ learning.

ESP’s own pioneering approaches to the effective movement development of children and young people, through Multi-skills playground markings, is now fully substantiated through evidence from a series of national research projects headed by international child-development experts from Leeds Metropolitan, Roehampton, Liverpool John Moores and Glasgow Universities. The most encouraging aspect of this research is not only the fact that these playground development projects are having a positive impact on the variables that contribute to childhood obesity but they are also impacting upon wider areas of childhood development such as an increase in social interaction, creativity and girls participation as well as a decrease in anti-social and sedentary behaviours.

The days of high funding support for the interlinking aspects of educational infrastructure and the development of children’s physical literacy are numbered. There is a new call to action and that is to prove the place of physical activity, physical education and sport within the wider developmental aims of the school and ultimately the child.

Dr David Morley
Head Of Education, ESP

For more information please visit www.espplay.co.uk

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

How will the budget cuts impact education?

With the formation of the next government beginning to take shape it is perhaps finally time to envisage the impact a Parliamentary coalition will have on education. There is no doubt that education, as a public sector service, is going to experience cuts not seen for a number of years and this will no doubt be causing educational services up and down the country some concern. It is noticeable whilst on my travels that a large number of Educational authorities have already begun the process of what they will no doubt term ‘streamlining’ in a bid to increase cost efficiencies; this has been accelerated in some cases by the prospect of de-centralisation of funding control in some areas away from local authorities and back into the schools themselves. I’m led to believe that schools will then form foundations or clusters to buy in services relating primarily to their School Improvement Plans. The question that remains is how will funding be affected now and will these plans be upheld or a different route selected? Or a more appropriate question is how will a coalition government protect the interests of all children, and teachers responsible for their education? With the Conservative party already offering an indication of their intent pre-election, through their blocking of the Curriculum Reform Act that followed the Rose review, where does this coalition leave education now? Probably with more questions than answers…

Dr David Morley
Head Of Education, ESP

Saturday, 17 July 2010

ABC's or SOL?

ABC’s (Agility, Balance, Coordination) of movement are often used within Multi-skills sessions as a way of differentiating movement opportunities for children. Although easy to remember, ABC’s are limited in the range of movements that come to mind when people are using the approach. For example, Balance is often thought of as the ability to hold a static position. At ESP we have found that SOL (Stability, Object Control and Locomotion) represents a greater and more diverse range of movements and configures to models more readily accepted around the world as developmentally appropriate for children and adolescents.

Dr David Morley
Head Of Education, ESP