Guest post

The History of Physical Development Champions

In this blog post, I asked Sharon Skade what had motivated her to set up ‘Early Years Physical Development Champions’ and what the benefits for children are.

You can find out more on Sharon’s FB group: @EarlyYearsPhysicalDevelopmentChampions and you’ll find lots of interesting posts, articles, links and advice on her Twitter feed here: twitter.com/GMUnder5s

You can contact Sharon directly to ask about training and consultancy here: sharons7@hotmail.co.uk

Here is what Sharon had to say about young children’s physical development:

Physical activity specialists are often seen as the poor relations when matters of curriculum are discussed.

I experienced this first hand during my time working for a Local Authority, when having been asked to consult on local provision for families and attending some very productive meetings I was not invited back as I only had a Level 3 Childcare qualification. My various Coaching qualifications were not recognised, even though many of my ideas were implemented.

I was delivering a long-standing successful physical activity programme for children and their parents/carers and had developed a new programme which would encourage parents to interact and engage in physically active games with their children and be able to continue this in the home environment without the need for expensive specialist equipment or a large amount of space.

In some instances, the sessions involved providing time for the parents to learn how to play but more alarming was this knowledge had to be shared with the practitioners supporting the session.

There seemed a shared myth in Early Years that Physical Development just happened as children grew, physical competence and the development of movement took care of itself. The onset of free-flowing settings and the myth that children were always on the move, provided a tick box for the provision of PD with little attention to actual time spent moving or any observations of how a child was moving their body and how this could be supported and developed.

I soon realised for my knowledge and experience on physical development to be acted on in this environment and to get the support of Early Year’s Professionals and Health Visitors I needed to gain more knowledge in their field. So, I undertook a Childhood Studies Degree. This again proved alarming as there was no module on Physical Development and many of the practitioners and tutors believed it just happened, even though it was now a Prime Area in the EYFS #PrimeForAReason, not a poor relation and not just to make the numbers up.

I researched other Under 5’s physical activity specialist and found GreaterSport, who had been doing some desk top research on provision for Under 5’s and had developed a leaflet Let’s Play Baby and Let’s Play Toddler, which was included in the Child Health Record Book across GM (Red Book).
I volunteered with GreaterSport and eventually gained a full-time position as Under 5’s Training and Development Officer, my role was made redundant in December 2018.
Which has proved a positive, I was so passionate about continuing the great work with Stockport Early Years team and Bertram Nursery Group that I bit the bullet and set up as an Independent Early Years Consultant and Trainer.

During my time at GreaterSport I developed the leaflets into physical activity programmes and created Early Years Physical Awareness training, whilst these were very successful, they only had short term impact. I looked at developing on line training to reach more people but again this did not appear to create a legacy or sustainability (plus my IT skills did not reach that level).
I felt that the only option was to get out on the ground to fully understand the issues and barriers to promoting opportunities for children to choose to be physically active.

Two main issues were highlighted by the practitioners’ lack of outdoor space and resources, so more myths uncovered
• Physical Development only happened outdoors
• You need expensive resources to be physically active

I also highlighted two main issues
• Lack of understanding of PD
• Emphasis on the other areas of learning

So What
• Levels of school readiness low
• High proportion of children not meeting CMO guidelines
• Early Years Professionals lack of awareness of role of PD on other areas of learning
• Low levels of positive physically active role models in settings.

What Did I Do?

This was not going to be resolved by one three-hour training course, so I began to
• Offer a series of talks
• Spoke at Conferences Whole System Approach to Physical Literacy
• Created a twitter account @GMUnder5s

To raise my profile and more importantly the importance of physical activity from birth.

My personal dream is to have a Physical Development Champion in every nursery in Greater Manchester and for every borough to have a physical pathway that incorporates all professionals who work with families and their children under 5.

Therefore, I needed to create a training model that met the needs and goals of all involved
and ensure this knowledge can be cascaded to other professionals and shared with parents.

All professionals who work with families and children under 5 need to be sharing the same positive messages about physically active play.

So, I consulted with Health Visitors, Physiotherapists, Children Centre staff, nursery and key stage one staff to understand their concerns around children’s physical development.

One simple finding was that getting a class full of Reception/Year1 children ready for P.E., specifically taking and putting back on shoes and socks was very time consuming and left little time for P.E meaning P.E was often avoided.
Taking this barrier to P.E back to nurseries I promoted the benefits of children going bare foot and that part of their continued provision should be children taking shoes and socks off and putting them back on, themselves.

Some of the ideas and activities the Early Years Professionals have developed in tandem with the children’s interest have been amazing, with impact and benefits noted in so many areas of learning.

Another finding was that Physical Development was very often not a planned activity but delivered by an external provider. It was therefore vitally important for practitioners to create opportunities indoors for children to choose to engage in physically active play.
One simple change was to remove some chairs from activities and have No Table Tuesday, again great impact on children and practitioners.

Creating PD Champion training has involved a great deal of consultation and insight gathering so the training can be accessed and utilised by all professionals working with children under 5,.to benefit the children in their care and provide the professionals with awareness and knowledge to share good practice.
To “Have the confidence to break the Status Quo and do things differently to make a difference to the 225,000 Under 5’s in GM”

It was great to see another 30 Physical Development Champions graduate in Stockport on training funded by Stockport Early Years and School Sports Partnership.

Even more inspiring was seeing the impact across the whole spectrum of care and education, Child Minders, Private Nurseries, Maintained Nurseries, Reception and Year One classes.

This training has benefited 2500 children Under 7 in Stockport and has created a legacy of understanding and partnership working across Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum colleagues and Key Stage One colleagues, supported by Helen Grimsditch, Russ Boaler and myself.

By schools adopting a collaborative, approach with their feeder nurseries in understanding the importance of providing quality opportunities for children to engage in physically active play and the positive impact this has on all areas of a child’s development, more children in GM will start school ready and in turn schools will have a greater understanding of the physical needs of children starting reception.

Sharing resources and knowledge in this way means we can provide the best possible active start in life for the 225,000 Under 5’s in GM.

I was honoured to be asked to support Dr Lala Manners in her recent two-part article “Time for action” where she describes PD Champion Training as “a successful training model in Manchester and why it can be replicated”.

It most definitely can as I was invited to deliver PD Champion training to Bertram/Holyrood nurseries in Scotland, who are now creating amazing innovative opportunities for children to choose to be physically active.

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5 Comments
  • Amanda Jul 29,2019 at 7:30 pm

    Love this read and well done for getting so far with physical development.I love physical development and try and keep children as active as I possibly can from running ‍♀️ to jumping,to hoping,climbing over equipment,set up obstacles and courses.This is actually an idea to put forward to my own place of work.

    • Kathy Aug 16,2019 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks so much Amanda!

  • Linda Jul 27,2019 at 1:42 pm

    Really interested in your work have begun a trial by promoting a Panco role in nurseries I support. Would love to learn more to help promote this vital area.

  • Shahzad Ahmad Jun 23,2019 at 6:52 pm

    Very Informative.

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