Picture by: Milford Mercury

Helping pre-schoolers stay active and feel physically confident improves concentration and motor skills, a programme in Wales has shown. Pupils at 100 primary schools have taken part in the SKIP-Cymru© project (Successful Kinaesthetic Instruction for Pre-schoolers) which aims to develop pupils’ motor development in the Foundation Phase.

Families and teachers have been involved with parents taking part in engagement sessions, bags of equipment sent home with children to keep them active and, in some cases, parents even running the sessions. The programme, part of the Welsh Government-funded Physical Literacy Programme for Schools, is run by the Wales Institute for Physical Literacy at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Institute director and leader of the SKIP-Cymru© programme, Dr Nalda Wainwright, said: “It’s great news that our research on the SKIP-Cymru© programme in Wales has shown that in as little as 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. We have been assessing the impact of the project on samples of pupils from the 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.” 

Working with Professor Jackie Goodway of The Ohio State University, honorary research fellow at UWTSD, SKIP-Cymru© 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 and how they can master skills needed for life long physical activity.

“We are facing issues that we have never encountered before in our society. 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,” added Dr Wainwright. “The bill to the NHS is estimated to be £30bn 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.”

One of the 100 schools trailing the scheme is Meads Infant and Nursery School in Milford Haven. Acting head teacher Sonja Groves said she noticed the positive impact of the SKIP-Cymru© project on both pupils and parents in the school. 

“Since beginning the SKIP-Cymru© 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. The parental workshops have provided an opportunity for parents and children to work together to build co-ordination and physical stamina. The weekly workshops have allowed parents, children and staff the change to engage enthusiastically in SKIP-Cymru© activities. 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 results of the success of the project, staff have been proactive in developing opportunities to integrate SKIP-Cymru© skills across the curriculum. Getting children moving at this young age is vital 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.”

The programme has also had praise from Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans AM. Visiting the Meads Infant and Nursery School to see for herself how SKIP works, Rebecca said: “We are committed to creating opportunities for children to develop healthy behaviours and I encourage all schools to develop innovative approaches to making physical activity part of the schools day.” 

For further information about SKIP-Cymru©, please visit our website or contact Dr Nalda Wainwright [email protected] 


Original article by Abbie Wightwick, [email protected]

Picture: Milford Mercury


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