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Blog: My views on the importance of physical literacy shared at the School Games National Summit

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Blog: My views on the importance of physical literacy shared at the School Games National Summit

David Taylor is the Active Schools Officer for Active Sussex. Recently he was asked to sit on a panel at the School Games National Summit 2024 in Telford. 

The panel discussion was titled ‘Applying the national Physical Literacy Consensus through a local system – school and community’ and drew on a range of projects and stakeholder collaborations that have enhanced positive experiences with movement.

Below David has detailed the messages he tried to get across during the session.

Can you share your journey with physical literacy?

Growing up, Football was what first hooked me into the world of sport. My first coach was a parent who had no coaching qualification, but simply wanted to set up a team that his son and his friends could play in together. Despite the majority of results not being in our favour, I loved playing football; I loved practising; I loved playing matches (regardless of the result); I loved having fun with my friends in all weathers.

A few years later a second coach began to support us. He did have experience in both coaching and playing the game and quickly began to make us more physically competent players. The overwhelming focus of our sessions at this point was on how we moved, however this came at the detriment to how we connected, thought and felt.

Up to this point my enjoyment had been high, however this soon changed. My enjoyment was clearly linked more strongly to the three areas not being focussed on. I soon gave up playing football, but didn’t have the understanding to explain why.

Fast forward 15 years and I was made PE Subject Leader at a primary school with a task of updating the PE curriculum. I wanted to make the curriculum more meaningful and therefore hopefully more engaging for the school’s pupils and quickly came across physical literacy. I used physical literacy as a lens to adapt the curriculum, modules and lessons and in doing so, made them broader in their aims and objectives. I understood why the enjoyment of being physically active had left me and I was keen to ensure the same didn’t happen to the pupils under my supervision.

In my role at Active Sussex, I now support schools across the county to develop their PE, school sport and physical activity provision. Physical literacy is a key concept in helping me shape what this support looks like.

How can organisations, such as schools, Active Partnerships and community groups, create the conditions that promote and sustain physical literacy? 

Organisations need to initially learn about and discuss physical literacy internally so that they gain a deep understanding throughout. Once this has been achieved, physical literacy should be used as the golden thread that runs through your organisation e.g. when making decisions, when designing programmes and events and when reflecting. 

Ask yourself: ‘How do we know this is going to lead to a positive experience for those participating?’ And go from there.

At Active Sussex we have noticed that the language we use is changing. For example, internally and amongst our partners we use the word ‘movement’ a lot more to support the notion that being physically active will look very different from one person to the next and that everyone’s relationship with it will be personal. 

Can you give us some examples of where this is happening in Sussex?

Some obvious examples of how this is happening within Active Sussex include: 

Our Children and Young People Investment Fund now has a requirement for youth voice to be used as part of the programme design. If we need to meet people where they are at, then we need to know where they are to begin with. We see youth voice and positive experiences being inextricably linked.

Our School Games programme now delivers a Roadshow element. The Roadshows are bespoke to the area’s needs in every way and are therefore completely unrecognisable from one to the next and from year to year. They are place-based too so, after understanding the specific needs for that area, an event is put together that is driven by the ideas of the participants, based on the identified needs and supported by local community partners. 

Both the above programmes have a strong focus on sustainability beyond the project. This includes for the participants as well as those involved in the delivery. In this way, we are beginning to spread the message about physical literacy, and how it can be used to support the design and delivery of a session/event/programme, to our partners and, in doing so, create the conditions that promote and sustain physical literacy. 

Finally, Sussex schools are beginning to use physical literacy to re-design their PE, school sport and physical activity offers. This has included adjusting, expanding and providing choice to the opportunities offered to pupils so that it becomes more personally relevant. Through this, pupils begin to develop a deeper connection to movement, for example, they begin to realise how it can support their mental health and wellbeing, which also gives it greater value.

What are your top tips which delegates should focus on when taking a ‘whole systems approach’ to physical literacy?

When designing a session, programme or event, consider not just how it will make the participants move but how it will make them connect, think and feel too. Afterwards, use these same four areas to reflect and make changes for your future provision.

Within this, consider how the participants can continue to use and develop the skills they have been learning. What opportunities are there in the local community? Can participants continue to practice at home? Make participants aware of these opportunities and help to remove any barriers to them accessing them.

Read more about Physical Literacy here


A blue, orange and red graphic explaining that physical literacy is our relationship with movement and physical activity throughout life
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