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Education

Minister SKIPS to school

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The Meads Infant and Nursery School: Part of the SKIPS project

REBECCA EVANS AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health has visited The Meads Infant and Nursery School in Milford Haven to see the impact of the SKIP project – Successful Kinesthetic Instruction for Pre-schoolers.

The SKIP project is a major programme of professional development in West Wales that aims to develop pupils’ motor development in the Foundation Phase. SKIP is run by the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and The Meads School was one of 100 schools that trialled the innovative scheme.

The programme is part of the Welsh Government funded Physical Literacy Programme for Schools which the Wales Institute for Physical Literacy manages in the region.

It is led by Dr Nalda Wainwright, Director of the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, who has been instrumental in changing behaviour by working with schools across south west Wales.

“We are facing issues that we have never encountered before in our society,” says Dr Wainwright.

“As a result of the increased levels of inactivity in children it has been predicted that they may die five years earlier than their parents despite improvements in modern medicine.

“The bill to the NHS is estimated to be £30b for the treatment of conditions linked to inactivity, which is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. Changes in society have created a ‘perfect storm’ for sedentary behaviours. “Modern technology, lack of green space, fear of strangers, a habit of driving, baby gadgets, coffee shop culture and screen time have all eroded time that would have been spent moving.

“Research into the implementation of the Foundation Phase shows that in Wales we have a potential solution to this with a world leading play based early childhood curriculum.

“However, this potential has not been realised as teachers and supporting adults don’t always have the necessary knowledge to ensure children are having appropriate experiences to develop the important movement foundations for good brain development and life-long physical activity.

“Drawing on research which identified the gap in knowledge, a programme of training and support was implemented in target schools.”

Working with Professor Jackie Goodway of The Ohio State University and honorary research fellow at the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, SKIP trains teachers, teaching assistants and parents about the importance of early movement for child development. The training shows how children learn to move through developmental stages; how to alter tasks and the environment to move children through these stages, and crucially, to achieve the mastery of these skills needed for life long physical activity.

Part of this project also involves running parental engagement sessions with parents taking a bag of equipment home to play with their children and in some cases, even taking over the running of sessions.

“We have been assessing the impact of the project on samples of pupils from schools across the region. The analysis of the data thus far shows we are having a significant impact on pupils’ motor skill development. Importantly, teachers are developing their understanding and confidence so we are building real capacity for sustainable long term change,” continues Dr Wainwright.

“It’s great news that our research on the SKIP programme in Wales has shown that in as little eight weeks there is a significant impact on motor skills. Teachers also report huge improvements in the children’s concentration, focus and engagement in the classroom.”

Sonja Groves, Acting Head of The Meads Infant and Nursery School, Milford Haven has seen the positive impact of the SKIP project on both pupils and parents in the school.

“Since beginning the SKIP project we have been overwhelmed with the improvement in our pupils’ physical well-being. The training that the staff received has enabled them to teach vital skills of physical literacy in a developmental and sequential way. This means that pupils’ motor skills have improved significantly as well as developing positive behaviour and an enthusiasm for physical activity,” says Ms Groves.

“The parental workshops have provided an opportunity for parents and children to work together to build coordination and physical stamina. The weekly workshops have allowed parents, children and staff chance to engage enthusiastically in SKIP activities. The parents thoroughly enjoy the ‘Parental Engagement’ bags that the children bring home weekly. These bags contain a range of equipment and suggestions on how to get their children physically active.

“As a result of the success of the project, staff have been proactive in developing opportunities to integrate SKIP skills across the curriculum. Getting children moving at this young age is vital for their long term health and for the health of the community. It is crucial that the skills of physical development are understood by all teachers to enable this to happen effectively,” she continues. Having seen aspects of the project being delivered during her visit, Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health added: “It was great to see the physical literacy programme at Meads Infant and Nursery School, which aims to give all children the opportunity to develop physical skills, as well as the confidence, motivation and opportunities to take part in sports and physical activity.

“We are committed to creating opportunities for children to develop healthy behaviours and I encourage all schools to develop innovate approaches to make physical activity part of the school day.”

The Wales Institute of Physical Literacy at UWTSD has a range of projects such as SKIP that will help Wales become a more physical literate nation. SKIP is aimed at early years and young children but Physical Literacy is developed throughout life. It is much more than learning skills and playing sport.

It’s about being confident, motivated and about understanding why activity is important and how to be active – whether that’s playing sport in a club, walking in the hills, doing yoga, cycling, swimming or taking a dance class.

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Education

Acorn Antics Achievement

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From little acorns: Learning can grow

LEARNERS from all over Wales have been taking part in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) biggest ever Acorn Antics campaign.

Over ​30 education and learning groups collected approximately 386,400 acorns in three weeks – enough to plant 257 football pitches full of oak trees.

The Acorn Antics project, which takes place each year, helps NRW plant more trees which have been grown from local seeds.

The project also gives young people the opportunity to learn about, and connect with, the natural environment in Wales.

Ffion Hughes, Education Co-ordinator, Natural Resources Wales said: “We piloted the project in North East Wales over the last two years, but this year we opened the opportunity to education groups across Wales.

“The reponse has been huge and we’re proud to help more people get outside and learn about our woodlands and forests.

“In three to four years we will be able to replant the succesful saplings in the area they were found as acorns.”

Education groups such as Brownies, Cylch Meithrin, Scouts and primary schools took part.

With acorns collected from school grounds and country parks. Some were even collected from the grounds of a tennis centre and an art gallery.

Ffion continued: “We want to thank everyone who organised or took part in collections, and the landowners who gave permission for groups to collect acorns from their sites.

“2017 has been a great year for Acorn Antics which will help ensure there will be plenty of Welsh oaks for the future.”

NRW have sent the acorns to the Forestry Commission tree nursery in Cheshire where they will be grown into saplings.

Replanting local seeds helps reduce the risk of spreading pests and diseases which can devastate forests.

Oak trees help provide a home for wildlife, and help reduce the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

They can also help reduce flood risk and help create great places for people to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

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Education

Keynote speech at Natural History Museum

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Microfossils: Relevant to the future

DR MARTIN BATES was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Micropalaeontological Society Annual Conference held at the Natural History Museum

The conference theme was ‘Microfossils: A Deeper Understanding of Human History’ and was open to all aspects of micropalaeontology. The title of Dr Bates’ keynote speech was Barriers, beaches and landscape change in Prehistoric Orkney: the contribution of microfossils which he presented jointly with Dr John Whittaker from the Natural History Museum.

The annual conference attracts international academics and experts but particularly encourages postgraduate students and early career researchers to take part, with awards for the best oral and poster sessions available for those early in their micropalaeontology careers. This conference helps support the work of the Micropalaeontological Society (TMS) which exists ‘to advance the education of the public in the study of Micropalaeontology’ and is operated ‘exclusively for scientific and educational purposes and not for profit’.

Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, geoarchaeologist Dr Martin Bates has a research focus on soils and sediments from archaeological sites and the geoscience of submerged landscapes.

He said: “I was delighted to take part in this year’s Micropalaeontological Society Annual Conference held at the Natural History Museum. It was particularly enjoyable to present a talk jointly with John after working together for so long in the field and laboratory but never sharing the same stage.

“The talk focused on what happens when sea levels rise and flood formerly dry land areas. A topic that is pertinent not only to the past but also perhaps the future.”

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Education

Google for Education in Wales

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Teachers to get digital tools: Kirsty Williams

TEACHERS will soon have more choice about the digital tools they use thanks to the roll-out of Google for Education, Kirsty Williams has announced.

The new software is a direct result of feedback from schools and will be made available through Hwb – the digital learning platform for Wales which provides a range of centrally-funded, bilingual digital tools and resources.

Latest statistics for October 2017 show that there were a total of 736,813 log-ins to Hwb during the month – a 55% increase over October 2016 – which equates to an average of over 23,000 log-ins every day.

As well as announcing plans for the roll-out of Google for Education, the Cabinet Secretary also provided an update on other areas of the Learning in Digital Wales (LiDW) programme.

This included progress on investing in School Broadband – a Taking Wales Forward commitment to provide superfast broadband to all schools in Wales.

This will provide fibre connections for 343 schools across Wales via the PSBA network and will ensure schools are able to access the range of tools and resources available via Hwb, as well as supporting the new curriculum.

The Cabinet Secretary announced that to date, over a third of targeted schools have been upgraded to faster speeds.

Guidance will also be published shortly to help schools understand how local area network issues can affect their internet connectivity and how they can make the best use of investment from the LiDW programme.

Kirsty Williams said: “We want our teachers to have access to the best digital tools and resources and the best quality superfast broadband.

“We have listened to the feedback we’ve been receiving from schools and I’m very pleased that, as a result of their feedback, we will be rolling out Google for Education in 2018.

“This will give our teachers a much wider range of digital tools and resources and will lead to greater collaboration and communication within the classroom.”

As a result of ongoing feedback, the Welsh Government will also not be renewing the Hwb+ virtual learning platform once the current contract expires in August 2018.

Schools, local authorities and regional education consortia will be contacted to ensure they are ready to take advantage of the new digital tools and can make the transition from the Hwb+ platform next year.

Liz Sproat from Google for Education said: “We congratulate the Welsh Government for their commitment to provide the very best education to learners across Wales. We’re delighted that Google’s education tools will be made available to schools via the Hwb platform and look forward to supporting them on their journey with us.”

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