By Sarah Ryan, Sport Waikato Professional Learning Partner (Primary)
I have this vivid memory of physical education as a student. You know the one….the whole class goes out and plays one game of basketball, one ball for 30 children, I stand on the court for 20 minutes and not once have I touched the ball. What did I learn? Probably that I am not very good at basketball.
And then there was the lesson during Cross Country term where the teacher sends us for laps around the field. I am not sure what we were supposed to be learning here... perhaps it was more just some time out for the teacher from their hectic schedule.
I also have a memory of shotput on athletics day. I got to touch the shotput once and then my turn was over; back to the line I go.
These negative experiences can have quite a dramatic impact on whether a child continues with a love of sport and active recreation, or ends up with such a negative outlook, that they never play sport or participate in physical activity willingly again.
So when we talk to schools about quality physical education and creating enjoyable opportunities – what we mean is we want tamariki to enjoy being active so much that it creates a positive mindset about physical activity, in turn creating a lifelong love of being active.
But how do we do that? That is the real question……
We know from the data that from the age of 12, we see a steep decline in participation in physical activity in our tamariki and rangatahi. This is often due to the poor experiences leading up to this age through not just sport, but physical education and physical activity.
So what can we do about this decline?
In 2019, Taakaro Ora was developed as a three year pilot in conjunction with Sport New Zealand, Te Pae Here Kaahui Ako (community of learning) and Sport Waikato.
Prior to Taakaro Ora, we noticed that physical education would be the first curriculum area to be dropped from the school day because of other demands in the classroom. We also found that teacher confidence was often lacking as well.
It was identified that the traditional prescribed, one size fits all Physical Education programmes needed to change to a model that helps build teacher and school capability, and further enhances existing school systems.
In a tangible sense, we wanted to see the Physical Education curriculum embedded and give teachers ways to combine it with learning for all the children.
The Taakaro Ora pilot had some very clear goals:
- Schools value health and physical education to improve tamariki wellbeing
- Teachers feel confident and competent in the planning and delivery of HPE
- Communities are well connected and put the needs and wants of tamariki at their heart
- And tamariki are provided with quality opportunities for participation, support and experiences
With a Health & Physical Education champion in each of the 21 Te Pae Here schools, they attend termly professional development on identified needs in HPE, play, active recreation or sport.
These teachers then deliver their learning back to their respective school staff. Students learn best from people they hold a relationship with, so therefore teachers delivering to teachers is the smarter way to impart knowledge into the school community. Not only is this method building teacher confidence, it’s such a sustainable model – meaning that once Sport Waikato moves on from the school, the learning will continue and be passed down from the HPE leads.
In order to cover all aspects of the HPE curriculum, we also bring in external providers such as the Waikato District Health Board, the Ministry of Education and Life Education to support the schools, with the Sport Waikato community connector role establishing and maintaining links to the wider communities.
What we are now seeing is that schools are planning for learning, not just for the activity. In the schools we have supported, Health and Physical Education is now a valued part of the whole school curriculum and is delivered meaningfully. The teachers have an increased capability and confidence, and that’s really great to see. And this is not possible without the backing and commitment from the senior leadership teams within the schools.
The Taakaro Ora pilot has been instrumental in informing the way we work with schools across the Waikato region, with a number of Kaahui Ako now on board and flourishing.
By working at the strategic level we are able to empower teachers to feel confident to deliver quality experiences which means more tamariki more active, more often in a meaningful and enjoyable way.
If we want to empower our tamariki to have a life long love of moving, we have to accept that things need to change. We hear often that communities and whanau want traditional opportunities like Cross Country to be part of the school programme.
While we don’t tell schools they shouldn’t do it, but we encourage them to ask themselves why - is it because we have always done it, and they did it, so should their children? It is our job as a collective to analyse and ask our tamariki what they value. I can assure you it is probably not laps around the field! Our surveying tells us the top reasons tamariki engage in physical activity/sport is to have fun with their friends.
We are no longer in a world where physical education needs to be military in nature. The world is changing, priorities are changing and it is time to change with it – ensuring we keep our student wellbeing at the centre of this.
Let’s work together to create great experiences that children cherish and can build on to encourage a lifelong love of being active.
As a Professional Learning Partner, Sarah's role is to build teacher confidence, challenge current thinking and practice, and provide teachers with the tools to use physical education, sport and physical activity as a vehicle to drive greater wellbeing/hauora outcomes for tamariki. She supports school leaders and teachers to better plan and implement the Health and Physical Education and Hauora Curriculum as a linked component of the wider collaborative approach of the Health and Education Team in identifying, developing and supporting opportunities for quality physical activity experiences for tamariki wellbeing.