Status: The government of Wales deems physical literacy to be as important as numeracy and literacy, and a recent task force recommended that physical education (PE) should be a core subject in the school curriculum. Notably, in 2008, the Welsh Assembly Government implemented a holistic play-based learning continuum for children with the intention of developing physical literacy. Recognizing the importance of reaching young children, the program for 3- to 7-year-olds is called the Foundation Phase.
Definition: Physical literacy in Wales is defined as “a disposition acquired by human individuals encompassing the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding that establishes purposeful physical pursuits as an integral part of their lifestyle.” Additionally, Sport Wales has a vision for sport in Wales in which every child is hooked on sport for life, based on the belief that early positive experiences will create a physically literate and active nation.
Leadership and Funding: The government of Wales has funded and supported Sport Wales through the Department of Natural Resources and the Deputy Ministry of Culture and Sport. Sport Wales supports physical-literacy-based programs in physical education and school sport settings. The Welsh government is separate from the British government, which retains responsibility for UK-wide areas such as tax, defense, foreign policy, and benefits.
Sector and Venue: Physical literacy is taught and developed through physical education, organized sport, and active play, provided in school settings, and practiced/delivered in a holistic manner (includes affective, cognitive, and physical components).
The Foundation Phase in the Wales school curriculum emphasizes informal learning experiences through play and the outdoors and advocates for an experiential, play-based approach to learning involving both direction from teachers and self-directed activities for children.
The PE and School Sport (PESS) Initiative, funded by the Welsh government, was established in partnership with Sport Wales to address PE and sport in the school setting (both during and after hours) and to promote physical literacy. PESS, an element of the Active Young People program delivered by Sport Wales, complements extracurricular activities in schools such as Dragon Multi-Skills and Sport in primary schools, 5x60 in secondary schools, and the Welsh Network of Healthy Schools Schemes. Additionally, PESS supports the delivery of programs that ensure all children and young people are able to access a range of sporting opportunities.
Physical Literacy – an all-Wales approach to increasing levels of physical activity for children and young people: The authoring working group recommends that the government adopt a national physical literacy framework and that physical education become a core subject. The group’s goal is to make visionary and transformational recommendations that would help Wales be a world-leading nation in sport and physical activity.
A Vision for Sport in Wales (unpublished): provides a vision for sport in Wales with a goal of getting all children “hooked on sport for life.” This vision is supported by clearly defined priorities.
Messaging: Sport Wales has created a video, circulated on the Internet, that helps explain physical literacy from a child’s point of view.
Inclusion: See success stories below
Assessment: Sport Wales administers the School Sport Survey, a perpetually ongoing national survey of young people’s sports participation. When completed, the survey will be the largest assessment in Europe. Schools and local sports teams use the data to shape the types of programs they offer. The survey results will provide for types of activity, participation numbers, levels of enjoyment, and the extent to which the programs voice or shape the delivery of PE and sport within school. Sport Wales is also measuring, “amongst other things, pupils’ intentions to stay active, their PE and physical activity experience, their vitality, and how, through the intervention with PE teachers (which explores their self-awareness, styles of delivery, etc.), they are (positively) affecting the motivational climate and quality experience for pupils within a PE setting.”
Additionally, data from the report for Dragon Multi-Skills and Sport (a program that incorporates physical literacy) suggest that the Dragon program was very successful; however, boys participated in the program more frequently than girls did, and participation by children with disabilities was rather infrequent. Neath Port Talbot, Flintshire, and Cardiff were the exceptions, featuring higher participation rates among girls than boys, and higher number of participants with disabilities. Further research is needed to better understand how to increase participation by underserved groups.
Sports Teams/NSOs: Sport Wales trains coaches in long-term athletic development (LTAD) so that they are equipped to emphasize physical literacy in their teaching and coaching activities.
- Ysgol Dewi Sant, a high school in St. Davids, remodeled its sports facilities and introduced a new approach to its physical education and school sport system. The school opened a multi-use sports hall and fitness center and has begun offering diverse options during physical education classes and after-school programming. Notably, they have taken advantage of their proximity to natural resources to offer coasteering, surfing, kayaking, and surf-lifesaving. Additionally, Ysgol Dewi Sant collaborates with the local primary schools and offers programming for the local community.
- In 2012, Sport Wales granted over £9,000 to Street Football Wales (SFW), “a social inclusion project partnership between Gwalia and other statutory and voluntary sector partners.” The grant allowed for the development of a core group of coaches who could then grow football-playing opportunities for homeless and socially excluded people in the SFW East and West Leagues. SFW’s hope was that its efforts would boost the confidence and self-esteem of those who took part. The program, which predominately reaches homeless and other socially excluded people who are 16 and older, started in Swansea in 2004. Since then, it has grown to provide weekly sessions across Wales, including Caernarfon, Flint, Conwy, Wrexham, Carmarthen, Llandovery, Swansea, Newport, and Cardiff. According to the project’s leader, Keri Harris, SFW engages “those furthest away from mainstream sports provision. Some activity was going on already, particularly in the West around Swansea, but this project was put in place to develop more opportunities and ensure future sustainability and engagement through a workforce development programme. The grant helped fund a new league structure in South East Wales, additional teams in the existing league structures, opportunities for those from [black and minority ethnic] communities, and a trained workforce to support activity and offer additional opportunities for other underserved groups. The SFW participants are now actively involved within their communities ... .”
In addition to weekly training sessions, there are forums for mental health organizations and services for refugees and asylum seekers, among others.
“By being involved in community services in this way, the coaches have had a positive impact on service users’ physical well-being and ability to make healthier lifestyle choices … . Participants have also developed exit routes for some players to enter mainstream sport and have a positive impact in communities as coaches, sports leaders, and first aiders. It has also helped build their CVs; improve their skills, experience, qualifications and provide potential future employers with a checkable history and reference; and move them closer to employability and social inclusion. The reality is that many of the players would find it difficult to engage in mainstream football training and volunteer programmes and require these opportunities in a safe and friendly environment.”