GIVING children the confidence to take part in sport and getting them “hooked on sport” for life was the name of the game yesterday, as not one but two Welsh ministers visited a Newport primary school.
Minister for sport and Newport East AM John Griffiths, and education minister Huw Lewis AM, were at Maesglas Primary School yesterday morning to announce £1.78 million funding for what the Welsh Government describes as a programme for “physical literacy” in schools.
Mr Lewis said there is “solid evidence” that boosting children’s confidence in subjects like PE has a direct link to their academic achievement, and whatever results are measured at pilot schools like Maesglas will be copied across the whole of Wales.
The initiative is part of the Welsh Government’s drive to put physical ability on a par with literacy and numeracy.
The cash will go to schools in deprived areas and will free up staff to engage children in sporting games, getting them to design the games themselves and asking them questions about how to make the games more challenging, working as a team.
The funding has been released to meet the recommendation of a task group, headed by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, which suggested PE should be a core subject along with maths and English.
Mr Griffiths AM, who ran the Newport Half Marathon earlier this month, said the money will bring the worlds of sport and education together and instil good habits for life.
“Physical literacy is motor skills, catching a ball and being confident in your own physical ability,” he explained. “It’s more difficult in deprived areas because children tend to get less of the wider experience, they don’t get the mums’ taxi as much as children in more affluent areas.
“I hope we’ll get sporting people and professionals into schools more, get the children to know the sports community more.”
Prominent athletes could also come along to community sports days at the schools involved in the pilot project.
Mr Lewis said the focus on improving sporting skills mirrors work being done to raise standards in reading, writing and maths.
“We know and there’s solid evidence to support this that an uplift in confidence and motivation around physical activity and sport translates itself across the curriculum,” he said.
“There’s something about that confidence that this instils in young people that is transferable. Maesglas is a great example, staff and students will tell you that young people’s achievement in many areas has been transformed as a result of what’s happened in sport.”
Further funding of up to £2.35 million has been agreed in principle to continue the work up to 2015-16 but will be subject to review.
This pilot project will be knitted together with a separate £40 million cash pot designed to drive up standards at 40 of Wales’ worst-performing schools, known as Schools Challenge Cymru, he said.
The government is in the final stages of a review to eventually draw up the first ever “made in Wales” curriculum.