Physical Literacy and its Proven Impact on Classroom Performance.

The idea of sport, exercise and general physical activity adding value to a child’s education and wellbeing is almost universally accepted. Within the independent sector it is embraced, demonstrated not least by the thriving success and breadth of the IAPS sporting events calendar.

2 years ago David Hanson, Chief Executive of IAPS was invited to consider some basic findings that connected repetitive exercise to improved academic performance. He reviewed the STEP Programme in its infancy and recognised the potential within. Whilst there was much supportive evidence from its growing success in US and UK schools, what was lacking was empirical evidence robust enough to endure the requisite standards of UK education.

An independent trial was commissioned, designed and scrutinised under the direction of the IAPS Education Committee with 17 schools from the independent and state sectors agreeing to enrol in total over 100 pupils on the Programme. 20 were in the control group and the others undertook the twice daily STEP sessions with their physical, academic and emotional progress being regularly and thoroughly recorded. All the pupils were sitting in the bottom 25% academically. Some had a diagnosis of a learning difficulty but most were simply struggling and failing to hit benchmarks.

The results, released today, evidenced significant positive findings. Unsurprisingly all the pupils showed a marked increase in their physical capabilities with skills such as co-ordination improving on average by 50%. The classroom impact was even more significant.

75% of children went from below target in English to, on or above. Maths saw 70% of the STEP pupils improving up to acceptable and above, reading level benchmarks were reached or surpassed by 85% and spelling levels by 60%. Holistically, 81% of teachers reported positive changes in the pupils, particularly in their emotional development and 91% of children said they felt more able to focus, concentrate and achieve in class. Improved classroom behaviour was another key finding.

The STEP Programme works by improving a pupil’s core physical literacy skills: balance, eye-tracking and co-ordination. Delivered online, the system generates 2 new exercises each day, individual to the child and based on their performance the previous day. All the exercises are designed to stimulate the cerebellum, the skill centre of the brain, which, when working efficiently allows the cerebrum, the thinking part, to function more effectively. The fact that it is an individual learning programme ensures children progress only when they have embedded a skill, they learn at their own pace and teachers can track their progress online.

The STEP Programme received the full and rarely given endorsement of IAPS and is now being made available to all their schools. Thousands of children across the UK will now be able to benefit from an engaging physical literacy programme that helps them learn without them even realising, all thanks to IAPS’ commitment to leading innovation in independent schools.