The days of developing gross motor skills in children by letting then climb trees and fine motor skills by helping them make kites are long gone.
This is according to Michael Mthethwa, Physical Education Specialist Lecturer at the Embury Institute for Higher Education (Musgrave Campus).
“So too are games in the park, walks on the beach, leaving a trail of digitally-focussed teenagers who otherwise get little or no exercise, or the skills and stamina to help keep them fit in later life,” says Mthethwa
Part of the problem, it seems, has been exacerbated by the fact that physical education (PE) was removed as part of the South African curriculum in 1994 and only reintroduced 19 years later in 2013 as part of the new national CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) curriculum.
Against the shift in curriculum, comes a generation of teachers who lack teaching skills in PE and school sports. Then, there’s the niche group of teachers who are currently heading sport-related programmes in schools but lack the necessary experience.
This has a knock-on effect on the quality of how PE programmes are delivered in schools.
Mthethwa says that it is to address this gap in teacher education between physical education and school sport that his institution developed and accredited their Advanced Diploma in Physical Education and School Sports (PESS).
“PESS,” says Mthethwa, “is about equipping teachers with an NQF 7 real-world qualification that will up their game to the level of a specialist.”
Embury received their first part-time intake of PESS students in February this year. Over the next two years, the group will be taken through their paces on and off the field. To this end, the institution understands that PESS students all have full-time jobs as teachers. Lectures are thus held twice-weekly after school and, occasionally, over a Saturday.
At Embury, a key focus is on the recognition that, in children, interaction with others during early movement and play is necessary for the development of interpersonal skills that are carried through later on in life. A child’s ability to ‘play well with others’ in their formative years can have a transformative impact on their social skills during their lifetime.
Parents today also all too well know the short-term physical impact that one too many sausage rolls at the school tuck-shop has on their kids. From lethargy to diabetes and weight gain, most parents often try to balance their diet with veggies and take their children to parks to run around on Sundays, but is that really enough?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that children and youth aged 5 to 17 accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. By this estimate, it is clear that most children fall short of achieving this goal, although parents may consider them to be active. With busy-but-inactive, tech-focused lifestyles are we losing the battle?
WHO notes that for children and young people, physical activity includes play, games, sports, transportation, chores, recreation, physical education, or planned exercise, in the context of family, school, and community activities.
Given that schools play such a pivotal and transformative role in children’s lives, it is critical that they gear up the delivery of their PE programmes. Qualified specialist PE teachers could go a long way to narrowing the gap between our digitally focussed children and their physical needs.
Apart from its Advanced Diploma in PESS, Embury’s PE programme offering also includes specialised, accredited short courses that focus on Physical Education in the Foundation and Intermediate phases as well as Movement-play in Crèches for Babies, Toddlers and Young Children.
Teachers who haven’t learned new principles of holistic and inclusive education can now be encouraged through these Continuing Professional Teacher Development programmes which offer critical interventions in ongoing teacher development. The Increased Need for Physical Education in Today’s Schools