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Healthy and Fit

Physically fit learners not only are healthy but can also do well in class

A two-day sport summit attended by top coaches, physical education experts, teachers and parents looked into scientific and best practice models to take school sport forward

The Teacher reporter

The recent reinstatement of physical education (PE) into the school curriculum received widespread praise from sport administrators, coaches and commentators. Thanks to the policy re-think, learners now get 90 minutes of physical activity per week. Not only will this encourage and increase the number of learners who take part in sport, but research also shows that physically active learners lead healthy lives and also do well academically.

In was in this context that over 200 delegates and 140 schools took part in a sport summit hosted at Sandringham Farm in Stellenbosch last month. Held for the third time, under the banner of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, this annual gathering provided an ideal platform for key stakeholders and leading sport minds to discuss innovative ways of promoting excellence in school sport. Ebrahim Moerat, who organised the event, said delegates were treated to high quality engagement and presentations.

“This is the third year we have run the School Sport Summit. There are a large number of schools attending the summit and it is growing year upon year,” said programme director Justin du Randt, adding: “It shows how hungry schools are for quality information that is relative to the setting they operate in.” Some of the critical topics covered during the eminent sport event included:

  • How to grow school sport in differently resourced settings;
  • At what age should kids specialise in one sport;
  • A look at the future trends in physical education; and
  • How to traverse the South African sports development context to develop talent.

Moerat said he was pleased with the quality of interactions among the participants. “The 2017 edition was a new challenge for us, but the feedback we have received from our delegates has been phenomenal. For us, it was about adding value to their experience and by the looks of it we succeeded in doing that, and we are excited about what lies ahead for the future of the conference.”


Trevor Smith, director of Aspire Academy, gave a seminal presentation about the model he uses to develop physical literacy in Qatar. His is a template that has the potential to be replicated in various school settings and contexts. He said the State of Qatar has developed a national vision for 2030 to educate its indigenous population of just over 350 000 on the importance of healthy and active living. The vision also aims to increase the opportunities for people of all ages and ability to take part in physical activity, including the enhancement of talent development for generating sporting success.

Talent identification

Smith said physical education has been identified as a “key delivery vehicle” to assist schools to streamline their variable teaching standards and quality assessment frameworks. Through his Multi-sport Skills Development programme, Smith said he aims to “turbo-charge” physical skills development among primary school learners. The idea is also to support identification of talented youth who can progress into elite training programmes and become the country’s future sporting champions.

Competitive spirit

Smith said his programme seeks to support the delivery of PE in schools through the development of two key initiatives: multi-skill challenges, which focus on individual skill-based measured challenges, and multi-skill competitions, anchored in co-operative, competitive skill-based challenges.

He said both are easy to set up and organise in any school setting, adding that they harness the natural competitive spirit among young people, coaches and teachers. And, he said, they provide online resource and scorecards for both teachers and coaches. The online resource, Smith said, records young people’s performances across a range of activities and has the capacity to provide national ranking and individual performance reports over time.

According to Smith, just after three months of introducing the programme at schools, it has:

  • Raised expectations of young people’s capability;
  • Supported physical literacy development through its focus on skills;
  • Meant that everybody can improve and succeed through the inclusion of individual challenges;
  • Instilled a teamwork mentality that had not existed previously through the inclusion of co-operative challenges;
  • Created the “another try” mentality — young people want to show that they can do better;
  • Supported talent identification due to the fact that the wide range of activities do not automatically favour the oldest, tallest, fastest or strongest — existing talent identification programmes tended to do this;
  • Increased the levels of physical activity in sessions, thus contributing to positive health and fitness outcomes; and
  • Demonstrated that positive outcomes can be delivered in any type of facility — it is not the facility that matters, but what is done inside it.

Smith said the programme could potentially evolve into a national competition format for schools and provide information to support a national physical literacy assessment tool. Through its online platform, it offers the opportunity, he said, “for other countries to activate the challenges and compare performances internationally”. Concluded Smith: “This is a development opportunity that we are keen to explore following the School Sport Summit with schools in South Africa.”


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