Movement for Learning

Academic

Movement for Learning is a programme of specific exercises designed to be delivered to the whole class on a daily basis. It has been designed for young children (aged 4-6) and aims to improve a range of academic and behavioural outcomes.

An independent state school partnership has been formed between:

  • St Bartholomew’s Primary School (Willowcroft, Quorn, Loughborough, Leicestershire);
  • and Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate (Thorpe Underwood Hall, Thorpe Green Lane, York).

The project is being led by Professor Pat Preedy (Independent Consultant) and Dr Rebecca Duncombe (Loughborough University), and is being supported by Joanne Duston (Occupational Therapist and Advanced Teaching Assistant at Queen Ethelburga’s).

Teaching staff from the two schools are currently involved in a pilot of the programme, resources and research methods (2015-2016).

Why is it important?

It is estimated that, in the UK, approximately 15.4% of children within the school population have some form of diagnosed developmental delay, otherwise known as a Neurodevelopmental Disorder (DfE, 2015). The term Neurodevelopmental Disorder is an ‘umbrella’ term which encompasses a large group of conditions, examples of which include: Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) (formerly known as dyspraxia) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). These conditions typically share a number of overlapping symptoms, are often sensory in nature, and potentially impact a wide range of educational, behavioural, physical, emotional and social outcomes. 

There is a long-held belief that Physical Activity, Physical Education and Sport have the potential to improve a number of these outcomes (e.g. Bailey et al., 2011), but the mechanisms through which this occurs are less clear. The link between inadequate early movement experiences and poor physical development has been put forward as one possible explanation (e.g. Goddard-Blythe, 2005) and, at a time when there are increasing concerns regarding inactivity and sedentary behaviour in children (e.g. British Heart Foundation, 2015), it is feasible that an inactive lifestyle early in life may be contributing to a lack of ‘school readiness’ in young children. Thus, the Movement for Learning project aims to provide compensatory movement experiences for young children when they enter the Foundation Stage during their first year at school. 

The programme

The programme is split into six units of activities with each being delivered on a daily basis for half a term. Each half-termly unit comprises a warm up, circuit-type activities (using equipment) and a cool down. The daily session should last approximately 15 minutes and children participate in their normal school uniform (but with bare feet). The programme should contribute to the Physical Development component of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and is not intended to replace other physical activities or PE (if provided). The key to the programme is that it is run daily (i.e. the movements are repeated on a regular basis) and that children are given opportunities to practise and improve the quality of each movement over the 6-week period. 

Anticipated Benefits of the Programme

Previous similar movement programmes for babies/very young children (e.g. Ready Steady Go) and children aged 7+ (e.g. the INPP School Intervention programme) have led to improvements in the following:

  • Balance;
  • Muscle tone, stamina, suppleness and gross motor movements;
  • Posture and control;
  • Body and sensory awareness;
  • Grip and fine motor movements;
  • Self-control, persistence and organisation;
  • Language, rhythm and communication skills;
  • Attention, listening and processing of sound;
  • Independence, leadership and team work;
  • Self-esteem and confidence;
  • Awareness of all round mental and physical health.

The Research

One foundation stage class (ages 4-5) has been selected to do the programme in each school (the parallel foundation stage classes in one school will act as a comparison group and will be offered the programme the following year).  The research involves baseline and end of project physical development tests, as well as questionnaires and interviews with parents and teachers.

Early Findings

Analysis of the baseline data indicates that, at the start of the foundation year, over half of the children in both the state and independent school had significant movement difficulties that would impact their learning. These tests will be repeated towards the end of the academic year (June 2016) and data analysed to establish whether there are any differences between those children participating in the Movement for Learning Programme and those in the comparison group.

Initial feedback from the teachers delivering the programme has been positive with improvements in fine and gross motor skills as well as in behaviour and concentration being noted.

What Next?

Following feedback from both schools involved in the pilot (2015-2016), the programme will be revised and stage 2 of the pilot conducted in 20 schools across England. Ten schools will be involved in baseline and end-of intervention tests, and the remaining ten schools will be asked for their feedback on the programme. Following this, further revisions will be made to the programme and it will be made available to schools across the country.

Getting involved

For further details and/or to register your interest in delivering the Movement for Learning Programme in your own school, please contact:

References

Bailey, R., Armour, K., Kirk, D., Jess, M., Pickup, I., Sandford, R. (2009) The educational benefits claimed for physical education and school sport: an academic review, Research Papers in Education, 24(1), 1-27.

British Heart Foundation (2015) Physical Activity Statistics 2015, London: BHF.

Department for Education (2015) Special educational Needs in England: January 2015, available:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/447917/SFR25-2015_Text.pdf

Goddard Blythe, S. A. (2005) ‘Releasing education potential through movement – a summary of individual studies carried out use The INPP Development Test Battery and Exercise Programme for use in Schools’, Child Care In Practice, 11(4), 415-32.

O’Donovan, C., Preedy, P. (2006) Ready, Steady, Go! Wiltshire Learning Works

White, J. (2015) Every child a mover.  London: The British Association for Early Childhood Education.

To find out more please visit Ready Steady Go and the website for the Institute of Neuro Physiological Psychology (INPP).