Physical Literacy in school

Physical Literacy is now common talk amongst teachers, both primary and secondary.  However, there are some mixed messages about what ‘physical literacy’ is and what it means in a school context.

The IPLA defines physical literacy as;

“the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.”  (IPLA, 2017)

Can Physical Literacy be taught?

The short answer is ‘No’.  Physical Literacy is not a sport or activity area such as hockey or dance.  Therefore, physical Literacy is a by-product of exposure to many and varied physical challenges. These can range from simple to the complex.  Exposure to physical challenges begins at birth and carries on throughout our lives.

How children become physically literate

As a concept, we cannot teach physical literacy because it is not a specific skill (see IPLA definition above).  It is layers of physical competencies built up from birth and continuing throughout life.  The most significant window opportunity for children to develop their physical literacy is between the ages of 0 and 7 years old.

How to support the development of Physical Literacy in schools

The key is lots and lots of opportunity through PE lessons and beyond.  Develop a varied and progressive PE curriculum (explored further in next blog) made up of both indoor and outdoor activity.  Provide before and after school clubs with a mix of formal and informal sessions.

Above all, allow for physical challenges, both team and individual.  Furthermore, encourage active breaktimes, incorporating trim trails, playground games and small equipment. Every child should learn to swim, consider developing this area even if your pupils have had their statutory teaching.

Think motivation, confidence, competence and understanding when planning PE lessons and other activities for your pupils.  Certainly, the conversation surrounding physical literacy and schools’ contribution to children’s development will continue and is an exciting area for debate.

“Crucial questions, or conflicts, arise when an abstract concept such as physical literacy is put into the educational context for learner mastery and the assessment of the mastery of the concept in its entirety…physical literacy is far from a neutral or simple concept.”   Physical literacy in the field of physical education – A challenge and a possibility, Suzanne Lundvall

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