More than 130 Early Years teachers, support assistants and practitioners improved their understanding of fundamental movement skills at a special training day last week.
Titled ‘Physical Development is for Life – not just PE’, the event was organised in partnership with the Guernsey Sports Commission and hosted by Beau Sejour. The day featured sessions from Lottie Evans, the Commission’s newly appointed Sport Development Officer for Early Years, Ruth Sharp, Lead Education Officer for Early Years, Raney MacPherson, Lead Occupational Therapist for Child Development Services and Alun Williams, the Health Improvement Commission’s Be Active Lead.
‘The day was about improving our understanding of fundamental movement skills and how important these are to a child’s foundation,’ said Ruth. ‘They provide the building blocks for their whole education.
‘Schools are facing continued pressure with a full curriculum and it is about ensuring that activity is at the core. This is a fundamental prime area of learning.’
Around 30% of Bailiwick children are starting school at below age-related expectations.
‘Although things are improving, we need to do better which is why we are working on this today,’ said Ruth.
‘These skills start to develop at birth,’ said Raney. ‘Children should be developing these skills naturally but if it doesn’t happen then that might be through lack of opportunity. We need to understand why and help address it.’
The aim of the training was to empower those working with Reception and Year 1 children to bring activity into their everyday practice.
‘I have been showing how we can bring games, activities and songs into the classroom using things that might have been tucked away in the PE cupboard but that can easily be used in the classroom,’ said Lottie.
‘They are really hungry for it!’
Those attending the training also looked into the link that motor skills development has with cognitive development and ultimately academic performance.
‘We are helping teachers and practitioners understand what typical and atypical development looks like. Helping them observe when things aren’t quite right and understanding what we can do about it,’ said Ruth.
‘A weekly session of occupational therapy is not going to be as good as doing this day to day,’ added Raney.
‘We have been doing a lot of work with our Early Years settings and they have been so responsive,’ said Alun.
‘Although our statistics need to improve further, they have been heading in the right direction thanks to this partnership working. Colleagues are buzzing with being active and this is about supporting them and recognising the part they can play.
‘Being more active has so many benefits including supporting mental health and wellbeing which is especially important now,’ said Alun.
This sort of partnership training is so important,’ said Ruth. ‘We want to keep this momentum up and empower our workforce.’
Feedback from the day has been really positive:
‘Fantastic practical ideas to take straight away into the classroom, playground, outdoor and activity centres, which will have an immediate positive impact!’ wrote a Year 1 Teacher.
‘Inspirational, knowledgeable and passionate speakers, so much more to physical development and the important foundation other subjects such as reading, writing and maths sit upon,’ added a Deputy Head Teacher.
‘Understanding the importance of ensuring motor skills are well developed and automatic is essential in enabling a child’s cognitive processing, reading abilities, writing skills and abilities in calculation. An essential building block that should not be rushed, quicker is not better in the long run!’ (Reception LSA)
The Early Years team are determined to keep momentum going and continue to build this successful partnership.
‘We are looking forward to continuing to work collaboratively to empower and upskill our workforces in schools and in our preschools, day nurseries and our childminders,’ said Ruth.
‘We plan to build on our purposeful partnerships as we work together to improve outcomes for our children and families. This really is an investment in the Bailiwick’s future now.’
Photo: GSC Sport Development Officer Lottie Evans gives Early Years practitioners some practical tips for being active in the classroom