Children’s physical literacy and communication skills boosted by charity well-being programme

Olivia Rook
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Of the parents surveyed, 95 per cent believe the initiative has improved their child’s movement skills.

West Somerset was announced as one of 12 opportunity areas in 2017.
West Somerset was announced as one of 12 opportunity areas in 2017.

An active play programme has improved the communication of two to five-year-olds in the country’s lowest ranking district for social mobility, according to a new report.

West Somerset was announced as one of 12 opportunity areas in 2017, as part of a Government drive to improve social mobility through education. Youth Sport Trust (YST) has worked with partners to implement the West Somerset Physical Literary programme.

The initiative, Healthy Movers, is supporting children to improve their self-esteem and well-being, as well as develop their physical literacy skills.

YST believes that structured play is helping children be ready to learn when they start school, as it develops their ability to concentrate, communicate, and move a pen across a page.

The research shows that all early years teachers surveyed felt that Healthy Movers was having a positive impact on children’s attitude to learning, while 95 per cent of parents believed the initiative improved their child’s movement skills.

It also showed that over half of the children involved improved their communication skills, as well as their ability to manage relationships.

The findings are significant as statistics from the Department for Education have revealed that 28 per cent of four and five-year-olds are arriving at primary school lacking early communication skills, such as being able to discuss past and future events.

Chris Wright, head of health and well-being at YST, said: ‘We have placed a huge amount of resource and research into training and mentoring parents, nursery and pre-school leaders to give them confidence and ideas around how to be active with their children and structure play in a way that supports their development.

‘Not only are children developing the ability to sit for longer and have better object control to help them write and give them the skills they need to start school, but parents feel more confident to play with their children, they understand why it’s good to be active, and children are enjoying being more active which will mean they can develop healthy, active habits for good future physical and mental health.’

Dr Fiona McMillan, independent chair of the West Somerset Opportunity Area Partnership Board, said: ‘This Opportunity Area project is helping children and their families get into the habit of being active and using structured play to support development so they are ready to start school. 

‘Involving parents and carers in their child’s learning has been another positive outcome. As well as celebrating the difference this makes in West Somerset, the Partnership Board is looking at ways we can share this learning elsewhere to support social mobility more widely.’

Case study
Chloe was born premature and struggled with her physical development before her mum, Clare, got involved with YST. Through the support offered by the charity, Chloe no longer needs a dedicated one-to-one support worker at pre-school as the physical activities are suitable for children of all abilities. Clare has also gained new ideas for activities she can enjoy with Chloe at home.

Vikki Richards, early years practitioner at Little Berries Pre-School where Chloe goes to nursery, said: ‘We’re in a society where parents feel the pressure that they are doing their children a disservice if they haven’t made time to play with them.

‘Giving them information and the chance to come and do fun things with their children through this initiative will help them so by the time their children come to school and need help with their homework, parents will be able to engage better.’

The Healthy Movers programme will run until 2020 and is delivered in partnership with Somerset County Council and Futures for Somerset.




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