Interview – Jessica Pearce, British Gymnastics
As schools partnership officer at British Gymnastics, Jesicca Pearce, recognises that educational settings have a huge responsibility in supporting the wellbeing and physical development of their pupils. British Gymnastics is proud to offer a Partner School Programme featuring a brand-new addition of an inclusive recreational gymnastics programme – Rise Gymnastics – which has been designed in conjunction with teachers and schools across the country.
England’s Physical Education National Curriculum lists gymnastics as a sport relevant across all stages of development. This is because it aids young people in co-ordination, flexibility, and strength – as well as helping them to enjoy communicating, collaborating, and competing with each other.
In March 2022, Ofsted published a comprehensive review of physical education and how it is taught in schools. Specifically, the report “highlights the importance of building firm foundations in fundamental motor skills, as well as providing pupils with high quality instruction, practise and feedback.”
Jessica said: “Gymnastics is arguably the best sport for supporting young people in developing healthy habits that last a lifetime. It is considered a ‘foundation sport’ – not only does gymnastics inspire young people to remain active, but it also works as a fantastic base for discovery and development. It is the sport that doesn’t just make people active, it makes active people.”
The benefits for school children run throughout every developmental stage. Preschool and early years gymnastics develops children to explore fundamental movement patterns such as balance, locomotion, rotation and spring which are important for a child’s development and the basis of all gymnastics disciplines. Grounding young people in a sport that supports their physical development means they will be far more likely to stay active throughout their youth and into later life.
One example within the Partner School Programme is the inclusion of active classroom cards. Whatever space you have available, the programme is focused on providing accessible and engaging opportunities for learning using the joy of gymnastics.
Active classroom cards are designed to link the curriculum to gymnastics-based physical activity from the comfort of the classroom, with no equipment or large space required. For instance, asking pupils to combine maths and gymnastics exercises, answering equations with the correct number of star jumps or floor touches.
Research by the Youth Sport Trust showed that taking a more active approach to teaching and learning in lessons other than PE increased academic progress by 74%, and children’s mental health by 86%. This is a clear indication that physical activity doesn’t just benefit pupils in a one-dimensional way – active learning practices can have a hugely positive impact and energises students to learn in a more creative way.
British Gymnastics is committed to supporting and upskilling teachers. Teachers know their pupils better than anyone, so it is focused on supporting education professionals in delivering whatever kind of sessions that will best benefit their class.
The Partner School Programme is designed to evolve and ensure relevance to the changing requirements of the National Curriculum.
It recognises how difficult it can be to keep up with an ever-changing set of requirements for educators to adhere to, but British Gymnastics supports schools in not only ensuring the national curriculum guidelines are covered, but cultivating a flexible and multi-faceted programme which achieves the core mission of all teachers – to passionately support the physical and academic development of young people.
The programme is built to inspire and empower educators. Along with all assets and carefully curated session plans, teachers are also given a support guide – showing how to progress pupils of different abilities, and how to create their own session plans.
It is apparent that more needs to be done to embed active and healthy living as part of the education experience. Teachers need support to deliver the messages and information that will help pupils make healthier choices and be more active.
British Gymnastics Partner Schools Programme hopes to continue to support the wellbeing and development of young people through the joy of gymnastics – combatting child inactivity with its most inclusive and adaptable programme yet.
If you are interested in engaging with the British Gymnastics Partner Schools Programme, or want to know how introducing the sport in your school can make a positive difference, visit www.british-gymnastics.org/schools for more information.