BLOG: Using Top Start to adopt a new approach to physical activity

Reece Goodwin is a PE Teaching Assistant at Crags Community School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He blogs about how his school uses TOP Start (formerly Start to Move) to develop and support teachers' confidence in teaching key movement skills and to increase physical activity levels across the school.
Young people jumping

As a PE teaching assistant, I think it is key to develop children’s physical literacy skills and encourage them to be active as early on as possible. A few months ago, a colleague of mine came across Top Start from an email and we realised it filled a knowledge and skills gap for teachers in the school and would be a great way to encourage the children to be more physically active and independent.

Teachers lack confidence to effectively teach physical literacy

In my experience, I have found that teachers lack confidence when it comes to facilitating physical literacy in young children. As children are increasingly facing tougher physical, mental and employment prospects, research finds 84% of primary school aged children believe what they learn in PE will help them get a job one day. However, young people are increasingly facing difficulties when it comes to accessing physical activity, with opportunities to engage in decline. It is becoming more important than ever to engage young children in the key skills that can be carried through to secondary school and set them up for lifelong participation in physical activity.

With an increasingly difficult social climate and opportunities for children to access Physical Education on the decline, I think it is equally as important to ensure teachers are developing the confidence and skills needed to engage young people in meaningful play and sport. At Crags Community School, we have a team of 4 PE specialists who have accessed Top Start training, followed up with a team teach with teachers around the school who could support PE lessons or use the skills to develop confidence in other lessons and to encourage physical activity during lesson time.

Improving attention

Something else I observed and learned from other teachers across the school is the children tended to lose focus and become distracted when they were facing a challenging problem in the classroom. It had become clear there was a need to reinvent lessons in a way that would be beneficial to the children’s learning. Using Top Start meant we could not only develop children’s physical literacy, but also increase their concentration levels and focus in the classroom by getting them thinking and moving around more whilst they were learning. This meant the children were less focused on not being able to solve a problem as their attention was diverted to moving around and exploring different ways they could solve a problem.

A new approach

It was interesting to see the take up of Top Start across the school. Some teachers struggled to adapt to a new approach, where others welcomed adopting new techniques, skills and acquiring the confidence to teach physical literacy. It’s encouraging to see all teachers making the most of the skills they have learned to adopt their own approach. Parents have also acknowledged there has been a positive influence on their child outside of school, with improved communication with their child being one of them.

The children show greater enjoyment of play and sport during school. I think if we can achieve this from an early age, then we can look at ensuring children are carrying these early physical literacy skills through school and into secondary school.

A word of advice

It’s so important to challenge the approach to physical activity in school. Getting children moving and thinking more about their physical literacy is essential at a time when schools are seeing cuts to timetabled PE as the obesity crisis worsens. Making sure teachers more confident in delivering physical education and enhancing physical literacy is one step towards supporting this.

For more information about Top Start, visit https://www.youthsporttrust.org/TOPStart