Interview - Chris Caws, development manager, Youth Sport Trust

Catherine Gaunt
Monday, September 16, 2019

The Youth Sport Trust has been working in West Somerset, an Opportunity Area, which is ranked lowest in the Social Mobility Index

WHAT ARE THE AIMS OF THE HEALTHY MOVERS PROGRAMME?

The overarching aim of the programme is to increase children’s self-esteem and well-being, and develop their physical literacy skills, which all help children gain a better start to their life. We have four key outcomes to support children aged two to four:

  • Improve physical development.
  • Have improved physical literacy.
  • Increase amount of physical activity.
  • Have improved physical, social and emotional development with a focus on school-readiness, communication, literacy and language.

This is because West Somerset is the country’s lowest ranking district for social mobility. As a charity it is crucial to our mission to go where children are most in need to ensure every child enjoys the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport.

WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?

The project supports 15 early years settings with an initial training session for nursery and pre-school teachers. They then have monthly visits from two of YST’s Learning Academy tutors who provide ongoing mentoring to develop their confidence and competence in delivering physical activity. This has been complemented with Healthy Movers resource cards, equipment, a wallchart to showcase the work they are doing and a physical literacy assessment tool.

Stay-and-play sessions offer an opportunity for parents to participate in Healthy Movers activities with their children. The children and parents received free Healthy Movers backpacks which include equipment and resource cards to ensure families can take their learnings home. The activities are designed to develop movement competence and confidence in a fun and engaging way.

HOW DO YOU WORK WITH EARLY YEARS SETTINGS AND PARENTS?

On a flexible basis, we aim to fit around them and provide support where and when it is needed. We’ve had some great feedback around the fact that the support is ongoing and not just a case of teachers and professionals attending a training course and that’s it. The settings and parents said it is invaluable to have our tutors visiting on a monthly basis.

YOU’VE JUST PUBLISHED AN EVALUATION OF THE PROJECT. WHAT ARE THE KEY FINDINGS?

We have found children as young as two are demonstrating improvements in speaking, along with managing relationships (55 per cent), understanding (64 per cent), and 57 per cent have shown improvements in listening and attention. We also found that 100 per cent of early years teachers felt that Healthy Movers has had a positive impact on children’s attitude to learning and their ability to follow instructions, and 95 per cent of parents felt the initiative has helped their child to have better movement skills.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?

To continue to support all practitioners with their confidence and competence in delivering physical activity in the early years settings. The programme has made a good start in engaging parents, but this is an area that early years settings are keen to do more of as the project progresses. Parents have been upskilled and feel more confident and able to help their child to be active, which means that the benefits of the project can be extended beyond the early years settings and into children’s homes.

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