How Wales is delivering Legacy Through Education and Sport
Posted: Thu, 11 Oct 2012 19:24
Laura McAllister is Professor of Governance at the University of Liverpool's School of Management.
A former Wales football international and national team captain with 24 caps, Laura is currently Chair of Sport Wales (formerly the Sports Council for Wales). Laura is also Board Member of UK Sport, the Welsh Football Trust and Stonewall UK.
Just weeks after the end of London 2012, Sport Wales has launched a new programme aimed at children aged 7-11. Here, Professor McAllister talks through how the Dragon Multi-Skills and Sport programme is another step in the legacy package in Wales and the wider issues of education and sport.
"I've lost count of the number of times during media interviews in the last few months that I've been asked about whether London 2012 will deliver a legacy for Wales, almost as if this is something that we've only just started to consider. I am clear that legacy is something we have been working on for some time and delivering a sustained legacy is something that is going to take concerted effort from a range of partners. Putting structures and development in place to take advantage of the huge enthusiasm we knew would come with the biggest sporting event on the planet has shaped our conversations with partners throughout the build up to the Games.
The role of education became one of the key talking points during the Games, with the media full of discussions about playing fields, more competitive sport versus recreational offers, and curriculum time. My frustration was that this tended to focus on the approach in England, seemingly unaware that as both sport and education are devolved the other governments in the UK would be taking different approaches to similar problems. This assumption does not allow for a richer, more open debate about how we can secure legacy across the UK. This should be a challenging debate for all of us in sport, driven by the desire to increase participation across the board.
Before the Games the Welsh Government had already made the bold statement that physical literacy should be as important a development skill as reading and writing, in recognition that we should be ensuring that all children and young people leave school with the basic skills to participate in sport. This places the development of physical skills right at the heart of school life and we are working with our partners, including education and Government, to make this a reality for all children and young people in Wales.
"We recognise that schools play a fundamental role in preparing children and young people for adult life, whether it is through academic ability, knowledge on how to stay safe or the basic skills to lead a healthy lifestyle. Schools should be producing young people who are fit and able to have a vibrant and fulfilled life as an adult.
"We have developed vital resources such as Play to Learn, designed to improve physical development and creative movement skills for 3-7 year olds, which fits in with the Welsh Government's Foundation Phase, dedicated to learning through play and activity.
"This school term, to build on Play to Learn, we have launched a new variation of our Primary School-aged Dragon Sport programme, Dragon Multi-Skills and Sport. This focuses on embedding basic skills - such as agility, balance and co-ordination – that give the essential building blocks, before moving on to playing a specific sport. We were pleased that recently Leighton Andrews AM, Minister for Education and Skills, was able to join us to launch the programme, reaffirming his commitment to basic skill development.
"In secondary school, our 5x60 extra-curricular project – with sports officers in every school - is in place to complement curricular sport and PE.
"But we recognise that there are still issues to be addressed, some of them common to all nations. Too often we see excellent work being carried out in gyms and on playing fields across the country, not being replicated everywhere. We must work towards a high quality school sport experience being the norm and that good practice is shared across the board.
"I believe that one of the most influential factors in all of this is the attitude a head teacher. Those that embrace the importance of vibrant school sport and are passionate about it, place sport high on the agenda. They ensure that opportunities, designed by the pupils that meet their needs, are provided and that they link with the community and local clubs. This coupled with teachers who are trained and supported to provide engaging PE sessions within our schools, can make a massive difference to what is delivered.
"We need to be ensuring that pupils are engaged with their sporting experience at schools as well, utilising our many excellent Young Ambassadors to inspire and support their peers. We know that young people feel more motivated when they are encouraged to take part by their peers and that those taking the sessions are learning valuable skills that they can use throughout their lives. We need to really embrace the pupil voice in the design and delivery of school sport, making it a participatory activity that provides something suitable for all.
"Last year we undertook the largest survey of school children in Wales. There were some pleasing results, including the sheer number of primary school pupils involved in school sport. But it also continued to highlight some age old challenges, including addressing the drop off in participation with age, particularly for girls and young women.
"How we package sport will be important in driving increased participation because we know that whilst many young people love the competitive nature of sport, others are motivated by more participatory activities. The whole debate around whether we need more competitive sport is a bit of a red herring as far as I am concerned. We need to have a sporting offer that meets a wide range of needs, rather than focussing too much on one particular aspect of sport. To this end we have been working with partners to look at how they can develop both competitive and recreational offers, which ensure that sport is something that everyone can participate in.
"We also need to ensure we are making the most of new technology, which some schools have been leading the way in using. We cannot pretend that technology does not exist and demonise it as something that prevents participation. We all need to be thinking creatively about how people now live their lives and making that offer relevant to the population as a whole. Technology is such an everyday part of life now, be it using social media to pass on information or using an app to keep a record of your best times, that we would be foolish to ignore potential opportunities.
"I am pleased that the Welsh Government has set up a task group, commissioned jointly by the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister for Sport, Huw Lewis AM, and chaired by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, to look at how we can maximise the role school sport plays in developing a sporting nation. I know that this group will not shy away from some of the more deep routed issues we face in increasing participation. Whether that is how we ensure strong school-club links or how we arrest the decline in participation among girls in secondary school, I believe this group can make a significant difference to the sporting landscape in Wales.
"We are mindful of the tough financial times that remain with us. However, we need to focus our minds on the resources that we have at our disposal and redouble our efforts to sell the impact of sport across government agendas, develop new delivery partnerships and to continue to ensure that investment maximises outcomes.
"Overall Wales had a very successful summer, continuing to punch well above our weight in terms of medal haul for a population our size. If we are to continue to achieve this we need to ensure no talent is wasted and that we have the largest possible pool to pick from. If a young person is inspired by Jade Jones or Mark Colbourne, then we need to do everything to provide them with the opportunity to try out the activity that has hooked them. We are already hearing some excellent reports from schools and clubs on the new interest in sport from young people. Now it is our duty to ensure that this is sustained in the coming years. It would be scandalous if we do not make the most of the opportunity to engage a generation of children and young people in sporting activity on the back of these successful Games."