Move more

How two schools are encouraging children to move away from inactive influences such as computers and TV and more towards physical activity and sports

Jason Kearins, Head of Primary PE at GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis

How many minutes each week do students partake in PE?
When a student joins the academy in FS1, they engage in 40 minutes of PE per week which increases to 60 minutes in FS2 and Year 1 and two hours of PE weekly from Year 2.

How do activities vary depending on the year group?
Research shows that physical development from an early age is highly important for future participation in exercise. To promote this, our FS students develop their fundamental skills of agility, balance and co-ordination. Within Key Stage 1, we ensure these skills are built upon in a range of environments. Competitive situations and team scenarios are introduced. In KS2, these skills are linked to actions and sequences of movement. Students communication, collaboration and competitive skills are developed independently and with each other.

Does lesson time for PE decrease for older students?
Lesson time as the school day increases is rarely affected and PE is valued by all at WSO as a highly important part of the school experience. One of the areas in which we excel is our provision of extra-curricular experiences.

What (non-paid) after-school activities do you host?
Any pupil can participate in morning sports clubs before the school day begins. We have more than one hundred competitive squads and we compete at the highest levels across the UAE. For our Elite students, we provide first-class training opportunities within squad training and enrichment time. We compete in many sporting initiatives and events: World School Games, National Sports Week, health and well-being week, swimming interventions and the Dubai 30×30. We offer sports-based trips to Austria for skiing. We were the host school for the first ‘GEMS Determination Cup’ and also the first ‘Unified Champions School’ within the UAE. We ensure that every child of determination has the opportunity to participate in sports through our partnerships with the Special Olympics.
Our partnership with Sports Leaders UK has enabled us to equip our students with leadership skills. We also have a Sports Development Academy (SDA) for talented athletes.

How are you trying to educate children to be less reliant on computers?
Here at WSO we have our GroWell programme (our Wellbeing curriculum) from FS1 – Year 13 which highlights the importance of physical activity within everyday life. Within our PE curriculum, we have a focus on physical literacy which is equipping students with the necessary skills to become lifelong participants of physical activity. However, we also recognise that students require balance and there is also a need for technology to equip them with 21st-century learning skills. For example, during the Dubai 30×30 students were encouraged to track their physical activity at home using the Dubai 30×30 app and Me Move. This has helped to encourage students to become more physically active outside of school. A further example is using technology as a tool for movement analysis.

In your opinion, how does regular exercise change a child’s attitude in the classroom?
Having worked within the field of education for over 13 years, the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise has a profound effect on a student’s performance within the classroom. Firstly, it increases endorphins (producing happier students) and improves focus within the classroom. Furthermore, we support students in developing the concept of respect as well as our school competences which include teamwork, independence, responsibility, communication and resilience.

Richard Austin Head of PE at GEMS Metropole School, Dubai

How many minutes each week do students partake in PE?
Each Year Group takes part in two 45 minute PE lessons weekly. In addition to this we also have an extensive squad programme and enter into national and international competitions such as the GEMS Sports Series, Dubai Athletics School Sports Association (DASSA) and The World School Games.

How do the activities vary depending on year group?
In FS we start with activities such as fundamental movement skills. In KS1 this progresses onto activities such as run, jump and throw or attack, defend and shoot. In KS2 and KS3 students begin to learn specific skills for specific sports such as football, netball, swimming, trampolining, basketball and badminton. In KS4 we focus on applying appropriate tactics for these sports. Students also have the option to study GCSE and A Level PE.

Does lesson time for PE decrease for older students?
The amount of time dedicated to PE remains the same. This is of great benefit to our GCSE and A Level students who study the subject.

What (non-paid) after-school activities do you host?
I already referred to the Sports Squads that we run. In addition to this, we also have paid after-school activities (ASAs) that are run by companies such as Hamilton Aquatics etc. These are of great importance as they help students to progress in sports and physical activities. In our Squad trials we normally have 500-600 students trialing for teams each term.

How are you trying to educate children to be less reliant on computers?
By giving students lots of opportunities to play a range of sports, by offering GCSE and A Level PE to allow students to study the subject in more depth, by taking part in Dubai and KHDA initiatives such as the Dubai Fitness Challenge, hosting swimming galas and sports days and through our squad programme. Also by celebrating achievements in all these events.

In your opinion, how does regular exercise change a child’s attitude in the classroom?
Students become more confident and better at communicating and working together to solve tasks. Students enjoy being successful.