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«Developing the Potential of Young People in Sport A report for sportscotland by The University of Edinburgh Developing the Potential of Young People ...»

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It needs to have longer time scales to be effective. It needs to be big inputs in it in terms of support and refinement and development. It's not going to be perfect overnight and, you know, the materials, the cards and stuff like that, need to be monitored continually and refined and that's the way it should be. I think the idea of having teachers involved in initial training and then supported is fine. I think they might need some other little inputs along the way as well, like a twilight where they come back. But that would be best done at a whole school level again, you know, the school should be involved in this rather than a teacher, so there's consistency year to year and there's a building on all of that. If you had a programme that operated from zero to sixteen or whatever, then you would be consistent but it's the same issues for PE as a bit of this programme.

5.3.2 Sports Specialists’ Perceptions of the Programme Impact

The coaches and other specialists involved in the DPYPS programme felt that there was some positive impact on the children and themselves. They certainly were enjoying it, more aware about themselves and learning from it. Those involved appeared to have a better attitude toward sport, with children possibly showing

greater uptake:

Did it boost confidence in children? I think they enjoyed it. I think they enjoyed a bit more of a focus on it and the fact that they're learning something. Again, you need to speak to the particular teachers who would be able to tell you a more detailed answer but from what I saw they seemed to enjoy the activities that they were doing.

It's difficult because I've never seen them in a DPYPS class. I'll tell you one thing I do notice, is that through the DPYPS and possibly the sports co-ordinator programme, the children have been exposed to more activities and more ideas and so the S1 that have come in attitude-wise, and it might just be that it's this year, they're enthusiastic and they are probably a little bit more progressed than, say, a normal first year would be who had not had the opportunity.

You know, there's a girl that went through DPYPS left the badminton and came to me about a month ago and said ‘Can I come back?’ Now, I don't know what triggered that. I don't know.

For me, it's making them a lot more aware.

Coaches reported that the activity levels of the children had increased and that they were still learning within that context. In fact, some of the coaches reported that the children had stopped asking when is there going to be a game, highlighting the ‘personal development’ orientation of much of the DPYPS methodology.

You have a personal philosophy of what kids should be having within a lesson, what their outcomes should be, but I've certainly noticed that, that, the activity level is definitely higher. Nobody's complaining about it, in fact nobody recently has said ‘when are we going to get a game?’.

I like the enthusiasm that you get from the kids but I would like to think that we would have that anyway. I'm not painting a picture of Utopia here, you know, it's not always hunky dory. But I think what struck me is the activity levels but we're still actually focusing on kids learning a skill.

But we can move from this into just ‘how do we skip’? You know? And it has occurred to me when we were doing throwing and catching recently nobody said ‘when are we going to get a game?’. And that's actually quite telling, isn't it?

In terms of evaluating the real impact on the children, many of the specialists and coaches feel that it is far too soon to be able to see such an impact. Indeed, a longitudinal study is really the only way to find out how new philosophies and methodologies have been impacting on the children that have gone through them.

You know, if you were asking me again in a year's time, or at the end of the school year I think I could probably give you a better answer. I think it's just too soon. I always felt that as a specialist, most primary kids like coming to the gym and as a specialist you know how you should be bringing something extra.

I like the bit that it goes from basic needs into taking it from P3 onwards, targeting at P5 onwards. I'm really keen to see the sort of bigger picture, the whole thing, and how it's panning out. Because until you know how it is in S1 and S2 for example, you don't really know if what you're doing is effective enough.

Yes, and that's a time thing obviously but it's just actually seeing the whole thing. I think is useful for actually evaluating what you are doing yourself. So obviously there’s been a year for the evaluation, I mean, twelve months is too short.

5.4 Summary From a quantitative perspective, data were broadly as expected. The outcome measures assayed, all of which are supported by literature as causative of, or concomitant with physical activity participation, are multi-factorial in nature and consequently, hard to change. For a programme to impact on these in less than a year would indeed be surprising.

Against this backdrop, the trends apparent within the data were extremely positive, and support the theoretically underpinned DPYPS approach as one of great potential. To achieve genuine changes, of both statistical and real-world significance, is even more encouraging. These changes match or exceed those achieved by similar evaluations, albeit that this level of assessment has typically been employed with much more wide-ranging and well-resourced initiatives.

Qualitatively the data are very positive indeed. It is particularly pleasing to find an almost universal approval for the approach. Critique is positively offered and, where accommodated within this pilot, has generated immediate benefits to an already effective initiative.

One caveat is necessary. The initiative is multi-factored, comprising the provision of direct specialist support, new programmes of work, enhanced in-service training and positive integration with other work. As such, however positive the results, next steps must be based on pushing forwards all aspects of this package in an integrated fashion. Furthermore, the DPYPS approach should be used as an umbrella under which parallel initiatives may be philosophically and practically structured. This approach, essential if the positive promise revealed by these data is to be fulfilled, is discussed in detail within the final section of this report.

Section 6 Discussion and Future Directions

As forecast in the first session, discussion of the full report will follow a set structure.

Initially we consider each of the sections, providing a brief review of the evidence, and its implications for the veracity and future refinement of the specific material.

Following this, we consider the holistic programme as a contribution to the aims and objectives of sportscotland, using the major objectives of Sport 21: Nothing Left to Chance (Scottish Sports Council, 1998) as the benchmark for its evaluation. Finally, we offer some recommendations for the future development and exploitation of the approach.

6.1 A Critical Appraisal of The Results Section 2 – Philosophy The vast majority of those surveyed, including deliverers, seconded teachers and Local Authorities, thought the philosophy of the DPYPS programme was exactly what was needed. Those questioned were particularly positive about the nonspecialised and inclusive nature of the philosophy, offering support to its educational and developmental thrust.

Those questioned were also very positive about the twin-track psychomotor/psychobehavioural approach. Indeed, at all levels there was a suggestion that the approach represented such common sense that many were amazed that they had never seen it before. Of greatest importance, however, especially when DPYPS is compared and contrasted with other similar initiatives, was the participants’ support to the need for a philosophy. The fact that this initiative offered a clear statement of its goals and methodology, against which subsequent actions could be operationalised and deployed, was seen as a particular strength. Furthermore, this clear ‘statement of intent’ enabled a variety of positive outcomes, including more rapid buy-in, refinement of existing practice to fit within the scheme, integration of the scheme within existing practice and, most notably, use of the scheme as an overarching structure (described by several participants as the ‘glue’) for a variety of parallel programmes.

Section 3 - Methodology and Content

A few deliverers expressed a preference for a much clearer structure and direction to methodology and content. Specifically, those individuals who appeared more nervous about the provision of PE activities felt that a clear curriculum, accompanied by set lesson plans, would make the DPYPS contribution more effective. This minority view contrasted significantly, however, to those who viewed the developmental nature of the approach as the key to its success. As several participants indicated, whilst some of the material was not particularly innovative, the style of its presentation and packaging enabled professionals to provide better individualisation of activity for the children under their care. For these individuals, who represented the majority view, combination of the philosophy with this flexible choice structure was seen as essential. Many also viewed this approach as providing effective professional development for teachers, both specifically within PE and in a broader sense in facilitating the professional decision making chain (cf. Thorburn & Collins, 2003). The data revealed an interesting difference between the clusters.

While those primary teachers in North Ayrshire were most positive about the psychobehavioural curriculum, those in Stirling were more positive about the psychomotor curriculum. These preferences notwithstanding, time in an already crowded curriculum was seen as the major hurdle to overcome before the programme could be fully and optimally utilised. When combined with the general nervousness of some primary class teachers in the area of PE this emphasised the importance of the specialist teacher’s role as provider and developer.

However, whilst acknowledging these concerns, all indicated their satisfaction with the initiative, with the vast majority expressing an intention to continue to use the resources and methods, even if the initiative was not continued. This positive commitment, coupled with teachers’ increasing integration of the material of other aspects of their work, bodes well for the content and methodology espoused. In short, the approach worked and the teachers and coaches were very positive about its use.

Section 4 – Resources

Positive comments were also reflected through individuals’ evaluation of the resources. However, it is perhaps in this area more than any other that the feedback provided by the deliverers required us to upgrade and refine. Certainly the organic nature of the intervention enabled us to modify and refine work cards and approach from the first to the second pilot run; refinements which were well received. However, there is no doubt that the DPYPS resource packs could do with a more professional touch. Almost the only negative comments about the programme in comparison to other initiatives related to too much information on the work cards and lower presentational quality of the resources against other somewhat better funded schemes like TOPS. However this is to be expected as the DPYPS programme is in its pilot stage.

From our perspective, we have always seen the necessity to integrate our resources with the best features of other programmes. We would hope that this would be something to pursue for the future, were support for DPYPS to continue. However, and this is a crucial caveat, it would be important that use of other resources involved at least surface modification in order that the strengths offered by the clear philosophy and methodology of the DPYPS approach were not lost.

Section 4 - Professional Development and Training

It is of concern that the professional training offered by DPYPS was for some teachers the first PE related in-service they had received for a long time. In general, despite the initially off-putting length of time required, professionals were very positive about the quality and impact of the training. A lot was learned from the first run in North Ayrshire, and refinements, which were incorporated into the work in Stirling, were generally well received. Further refinement and development of the training to ease the teachers’ applications of the material were offered and would be incorporated into any future version. Once again the role of the seconded teacher was seen as invaluable in supporting deliverers after in-service training.

With respect to coaches, we would suggest that the major limitation to the impact of the programme was the lack of basic coaching knowledge in those who attended the training. In no way do we wish to question the motivation, commitment and enthusiasm of those who appeared and took an active part in the training. However, this lack of knowledge severely hampered the presenters in applying the knowledge offered by DPYPS and there is no doubt whatsoever that a sound programme of coach education and ongoing development would raise the quality and experience for the youngsters they work with, with subsequent benefit to participation uptake and adherence.

From a programme perspective, the pilot has offered us an excellent opportunity to test and refine our ideas for teacher support. We would be extremely confident in our ability to provide a very effective programme for teachers, with specialised training provided to seconded teachers, enabling them to fulfil their role even more effectively. With respect to youth sports coaches, however, the picture is less positive and were DPYPS to continue or be extended, we would wish to work with partner organisations to offer a much more structured professional development to those involved in youth sport.

Section 5 – Impact of the Intervention

Previous sections have highlighted that the brief nature of the pilot programme was not expected to yield any behaviour or attitudinal impact on the children.

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