The International Physical Literacy Association guiding Dumfries and Galloway – Scotland

‘Physical literacy should be at the core of a communities development’, was the conclusion of a working group of policy makers, teachers and parents following three workshop sessions provided by the International Physical Literacy Association (IPLA) in April 2016. The final discussion group also suggested that opportunities should be provided to increase understanding of the concept, ‘physical literacy’, for pupils, teachers, parents and the community as a whole, so as to encourage everyone everywhere to engage in physical activity for life.

The sessions provided by Nigel Green (Liverpool John Moores University and IPLA Trustee) and Andy Sprake (University of Central Lancashire and IPLA Member) to policy makers from Dumfries and Galloway, teachers, parents and learning support staff from Wigtown and Kirkcowan Primary schools, introduced the concept of physical literacy and allowed time for reflection as to what their understating of physical literacy was and how they could develop their own and others physical literacy in the future. A final discussion session with policy makers and teachers considered the comments from the three sessions and suggested a number of points that were considered to be important for a community who intended to embrace the aim of developing physical literacy.

The key points were:

  • To recognise and value the range of purposeful physical activities, within a spectrum from gardening to sports pursuits, which are encompassed within physical literacy.
  • To recognise and respect each individual’s starting point and their capability to make progress within the physical, affective and cognitive domains.
  • To recognise barriers that may restrict an individual’s ability to engage in regular physical activity and to look at who, what, why, where, how it is possible overcome these barriers with regards to both systems and attitudes.
  • To identify and share the current provision, facilities and potential opportunities available, within each specific community, that allows people to be more physically active.
  • To challenge the status quo and co-ordinate the growth of opportunities within a community.
  • To identify community champions who will be role models and leaders and are in a position to enlist support from the whole community.
  • To provide and share models of good practice within communities so that others can consider how to make an impact within their own community.
  • To focus on starting small and then positively influencing others for growth.
  • To develop a coordinated strategy within a community that is effectively communicated and promoted using a variety of media and settings.
  • To adopt an integrated and supportive approach that involves education, leisure, health, travel etc.
  • To develop a means of measuring and celebrating success.
  • To promote the recording and celebrating of achievement and progress that individuals and groups will be proud of.

The individuals involved in the sessions agreed that physical literacy is an excellent concept that when clearly explained can provide a clear and genuine focus which people are happy to embrace. If sharing the concept is undertaken sensitively and purposefully then this will motivate individuals to enhance their own and others personal development through regular involvement in physical activity. The final working group believed that the concept of physical literacy needs to be marketed effectively by making it simple to understand by all whilst maintaining its integrity. They considered it important that co-ordinated efforts by communities will allow the concept to be adopted and this will result in regular physical activity being embraced by all.
The community of Dumfries and Galloway have made a start by embracing the concept and it is interesting to see Wales, New Zealand, America and more recently India are all channelling energy into making physical literacy a focus for physical education and for life. Perhaps it is now time for the government of England to take a serious look at physical literacy and the potential it has to change lives in the future.

Nigel Green