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Physical literacy initiative will ‘build a nation that loves to move’

A new initiative to support adults and children to improve their physical literacy has been launched in London
Greater physical literacy skills are directly correlated with higher levels of participation in physical activity
An expert body has created a consensus statement on physical literacy to act as the foundation collaborations in all areas of the industry
The physical activity sector is being encouraged to swing in behind the initiative to deliver physical literacy coaching and participation opportunities on the ground
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£56,107.80 - £63,165.86pa + benefits
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More than 100 people from across the academic and sport and physical activity sectors gathered at the Royal Society of Arts in London on 28 September to launch the Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England.

The event, Positive experiences for children and young people: A spotlight on physical literacy, represented a culmination of 18 months’ work by more than 50 organisations who explored the importance of physical literacy in providing positive experiences of movement and physical activity for all.

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: “People enjoy what they’re good at and often shy away from things they find they find too challenging. 

“Achieving mastery of any physical activity, in addition to being very rewarding, also means people are more likely to be motivated to take part, so this initiative could be a game changer for the sector if widely supported.

“With the physical activity crisis we're currently facing, working to help people improve their physical literacy could underpin huge increases in participation.”

The project, funded by Sport England, began in March 2022 and included desk research, two national consultations and the creation of an expert panel.

A group of researchers and professionals also contributed, from Liverpool John Moores University, Coventry University, the University of Bradford and the University of Gloucestershire.

The collective process was driven by the team at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Science.

Dr Lawrence Foweather, reader in physical activity and health at LJMU, said: “Unfortunately, despite all our hard work, 53 per cent of children and young people are not getting enough daily physical activity, and those who stand to benefit the most from being active often find it hardest to access the opportunities to do so.

“One of the barriers is the lack of physical literacy and also a lack of awareness of the benefits of or opportunities to participate in activity,” he said.

“The consensus statement is the first universal definition of physical literacy in England which seeks to catalyse efforts to support and promote physical literacy in practice,” he concluded.

The Statement has been developed to create a shared understanding of physical literacy for those who work in the physical activity, sport, education, recreation, play, health and youth sectors.

It offers a broad overview of physical literacy, why it matters and how it can be developed and supported by industry professionals and people working in policy, sport development and research.

Developing consensus on the term ‘physical literacy’ has been a priority, as understanding what impacts people’s relationship with movement and physical activity throughout life will enable those working in the sector to ensure their offer is as appealing as possible.

Jack Shakespeare, who sits on the expert panel, said: “The Physical Literacy consensus statement is a really important reference point for the way we think holistically about participation in physical activity and sport.

“Focussing on an individual’s relationship with physical activity directly challenges policy and practice to be inclusive – this is an approach that meets the individual where they are at and builds out from there.

“From city planning to local community programming, from workforce training to children’s earliest experiences at school, from the way we capture and analyse data to investment and funding decisions, from governance and policy to the legacy of major sporting and cultural events – it's our collective challenge to embed and apply the principles of physical literacy in to our policy, planning and practice decision-making," said Shakespeare.

Commenting, Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England said: “We must ensure children and young people have positive experiences of sport and physical activity that are fun, inclusive and help them develop physical skills.

“In our strategy, Uniting the Movement, we said every child and young person has the right to be active, to benefit from being active in a safe, positive and trusted environment and to have an equal chance to achieve their potential,” he said.

“The new Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England provides a framework to help us explore this in greater depth and is relevant for all ages and everyone working to improve activity levels and the health of our nation. 

“It must be seen as one of the first steps in our efforts to promote positive experiences and lifelong participation for all children and young people, but particularly for those who face the greatest inequalities.

"Putting the concept of physical literacy into practice is now our collective task.”

In a statement, the team at LJMU said: “The consensus statement helps us recognise that everyone has a unique and complex relationship with sport, physical activity and movement – what makes a positive experience for one may be a negative experience for another. 

“It isn’t always easy to live an active life and we know that personal circumstances and wider socioeconomic factors make a significant difference.

“We need to listen and respond to individual needs and circumstances and recognise that these change over time.

“Collectively we need to use physical literacy as our guiding principle to develop the wellbeing of our nation at both a national and local level.

“Physical literacy belongs to everyone,” they concluded, “therefore it's taken a number of organisations to come together to help unite perspectives on it.”

Foweather said: “The hope is that the launch event and the new consensus statement will help energise work around physical activity and participation in physical activity.

“As a sector, we need to think deeply about what we could be doing differently. A united effort behind physical literacy will help to build a healthier, happier and more resilient nation that loves to move.”

Follow this link to read the new Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England.

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More than 100 people from across the academic and sport and physical activity sectors gathered at the Royal Society of Arts in London on 28 September to launch the Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England.