Developing a movement culture in the first ten years

Langdown, Ben (2021). Developing a movement culture in the first ten years. In: Bailey, Richard; Agans, Jennifer P.; Côté, Jean; Daly-Smith, Andy and Tomporowski, Phillip D. eds. Physical Activity and Sport During the First Ten Years of Life: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. London: Routledge.



There has never been a more pressing time to stimulate young people towards physical activity and sport, with rising obesity levels, coupled with ever-younger children favouring technology use over outdoor play. Almost one third of 2-15 year olds in the UK are classed as overweight or obese (Oliver, 2016) and this figure is predicted to rise to 66% by 2050 (Government Office for Science, 2007). The decline of outdoor play during childhood can be associated with reduced physical activity (Slutsky & DeShetler, 2017) and fundamental movement skill (FMS) competence (i.e. the ability to complete basic locomotion, manipulation and stabilisation skills used in sport/everyday life). Indeed, a recent Active Lives Survey (Sport England, 2018) highlights that schools are not providing adequate opportunities to achieve 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day, with only 17.5% of 1.2 million children achieving this target. Fostering a culture within a school where children are encouraged to move, be active and be subject to positive movement experiences (Agans et al., 2013) across the curriculum, not just in physical education settings, could lead to a movement culture that achieves these targets. Much emphasis is placed upon the ‘core’ subjects of phonics, reading, writing, and mathematics. Whilst becoming literate in these areas is undoubtedly important from a quality of life perspective, being physically active and developing ‘physical literacy’ is the only literacy that can have a direct impact on health and life expectancy.

Recent research demonstrates the important role that primary schools can play in this regard, with results indicating that, on days where physical education is provided, boys and girls achieve 88% and 70% of their recommended physical activity volumes respectively (Howells, Wellard, & Woolf-May, 2018). It is therefore critical that educational settings are adequately informed and equipped to assess and develop physical literacy while fostering a movement culture. Evidence highlights that with improved FMS comes greater enjoyment and motivation for children to engage in MVPA (Simpson et al., 2017), while adolescents are more inclined to partake in sport/physical activity 6 years later (Jaakkola et al., 2016). A lack of physical competence ultimately results in larger dropouts from sport and physical activity into late adolescence or adulthood (Jaakkola et al., 2016) and is one of the contributors to the rise in obesity in school children (Oliver, 2016). This chapter explores the evidence underpinning FMS development and its role in physical literacy with an applied focus on best practice in primary education settings to support children towards sustained participation within a positive movement culture.

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