Merthyr children Hop, Skip and Jump their way to Healthier Future





"My daughter's confidence has sky rocketed since coming to tots, she's not only learning basic skills but is making new friends."

Children of Merthyr are looking at happier, healthier and more active futures thanks to the efforts of their local community.

In a unique move, groups from across the community have joined together in a commitment to provide youngsters with the skills, motivation and opportunities to be hop, skip and jumping throughout life.

Starting with the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Sport Development team and with support from the local PLPS Manager, physical literacy has become a key focus for schools, community sports clubs, libraries, the local college and social welfare organisations alike.

The move is now ensuring that children within the area are getting more active, developing essential life skills, and with it the ability and desire to go on and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Merthyr Tydfil Sport Development Officer Emma Christopher explains:

"Physical Literacy underpins everything that we do.  It's the best way of setting children up to go on and lead an active and healthy life.

 "Different to traditional sport sessions, it ensures that a child develops the right skills, in the right environment to then choose the physical activities that they take part in throughout life.

"It's not been an overnight process, but with the support of our local PLPS Manager, we are working physical literacy into all of our programmes and bringing partners in from across the community.  We now know that we are providing the best possible options for our youngsters."


How they did it…

The Merthyr Sports Development team started to implement their physical literacy agenda using the Sport Wales, Play to Learn resources and ethos.

Using local leisure centres, netball sessions were set up for three to six year olds, focusing on basic all-round skill development rather than purely netball based skills.

 After school clubs were also set up utilising the resource, again meaning that infant level youngsters were able to practice and develop basic movement skills.  Both sessions with one very important factor central to the success, FUN.

Parents were also encouraged to play their part in supporting children to develop their physical literacy.  Homework set through the Play to Learn resource saw youngsters across the county practicing their throwing skills with mum and dad using a pair of balled up socks and washing basin.

In line with the physical literacy ethos, the Merthyr Sports Development team also offered, while encouraging partners to do so, a Multi-Skills option for older children (six to eleven years).  Meaning that youngsters are now able to continue developing all round skills at this important learning phase, before specialising in just one sport.

The Merthyr team made sure their physical literacy offer was sustainable by bringing in partners from the local college to Flying Start, Communities First and Social Services programmes.  After engaging and training students and social workers alike, the team were able to utilise an additional workforce to provide Multi-Skill and Play to Learn sessions, while ensuring the physical literacy message was spread to new groups.

Non-traditional venues such as local libraries and community centres were also sought in addition to leisure centres and schools to make sure that the new offering reached as far and wide as possible.

The physical literacy approach is ensuring that youngsters in Merthyr are having fun, while they enjoy developing a wide range of physical skills.  This in simplicity means they will have the ability and confidence to try and take part in many different sports and activities as they get older.

Top Tips for Success

Top tips from the Team at Merthyr on how to make physical literacy work in practice.

Get others involved

Merthyr Sport Development Officer, Emma Christopher cites buy-in from other partners as one of the main contributors to their success.

She explained: "In order to spread the physical literacy message it is imperative to get as many people involved as possible.  For the message and practice to be embedded it needs to have a presence everywhere, from the school and local library to the leisure centres and many community buildings."

Use the knowledge of the experts

Emma also cites the close working relationship the team have with their local PLPS Manager as essential to success, advising that the knowledge, training and guidance that they have provided is invaluable.

This guidance along with the understanding and skills that Sport Development coaches have been able to develop in physical literacy has ensured that all sessions have been of a high quality.

Mentors are Invaluable

Merthyr have ensured that their session offer is sustainable by supplementing their workforce through student mentoring programmes.  Both the Play to Learn and Multi Skills programmes were coupled with mentoring options for local college students, providing fantastic skill development options for the students and a healthy workforce for the team.

Don't let traditions create barriers

Merthyr didn't let the fact that libraries weren't traditional sporting venues, or that Flying Start wasn't a traditional sports partner, stop them from utilising them as part of the physical literacy agenda. This has been a huge factor to the success of the new approach.

Likewise the team and their partners, such as the local clubs who quickly became involved, didn't let the new approaches to teaching 'sport' faze them.  With the support of the Sport Wales resources and training options offered, they were quickly seeing big results in terms of lots of happy and motivated children.

Connect with the Merthyr Sport Development team on Twitter  - @merthyrcbc 

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