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Students help deliver high-quality PE and sport in schools; EXPERT VIEW.

Byline: Paul Rainer and Rob Griffiths

SCHOOLS have long been identified as key institutions for the promotion of physical activity among the young.

While the PE curriculum is commonly regarded as the major vehicle for the promotion of physical activity in young people, physical activity recommendations for children cannot be met through physical education alone.

In response to this the Welsh Assembly Government has moved the health of the population of Wales to the top of the political agenda and the health of children and young people is a key priority.

In Wales the latest Sports Council for Wales survey revealed that the number of primary school children (7-11 years) achieving 60 minutes of physical activity a week, five days of the week is 41%.

Current guidelines recommend that all children should do at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity on at least five days of the week to promote lifelong physical activity.

However, this falls short of Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) physical activity targets, set out in "Climbing Higher", that all primary school children will participate in sport and physical activity for an hour on five or more days of the week by 2020.

This is clearly a big ask, especially when the quality of primary school PE is constantly being questioned.

In its 20-year strategy for sport and physical activity WAG has established some very challenging targets.

According to the latest Sports Council for Wales survey (2004-05) only 24% of secondary school pupils are physically active for 60 minutes on at least five days of the week and more alarmingly a quarter of secondary school pupils fail to achieve an hour of physical activity on any day of the week, this figure having only increased from 20% since the previous survey in 2001.

Reports by the Sports Council for Wales (2004-05) have identified that while 71% of young children (11-16 years) in RCT have participated in extra-curricular physical activity, only 46% have participated in extra-curricular activity five times a week.

In an attempt to address these issues and ensure high quality PE, the University of Glamorgan is working in partnership with Rhondda Cynon Taf education authority and utilising final year students as a coaching workforce.

In the first year of the partnership, 45 final year sports studies students delivered a 20-week programme between one to two days a week in 10 secondary schools in RCT.

Following an initial consultation with all of the children taking part, activities were drawn up to be delivered ranging from traditional team games to the less traditional.

While this is in only one of the 22 local authorities in Wales, the results clearly demonstrate the impact that students can have as a potential coaching resource.

Next year the programme will include 70-80 students, 12-15 schools and offer extra-curricular activity on two to three days per week.

These community partnerships demonstrate how this approach can contribute to Climbing Higher targets and ensuring high quality PE and school sport are delivered.

The key to success of the programme in Wales will be achieving the target of five hours of physical activity a week.

If the targets are to be achieved, schools will need to consider alternative approaches to the development and deployment of a workforce to impact upon extracurricular PE and school sport.

Paul Rainer and Rob Griffiths are experts in sports education at the University of Glamorgan
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 28, 2008
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