Northern Ireland

Coaching in schools improving pupils' confidence, resilience, self-esteem and motivation to learn

More than 32,000 children are involved
More than 32,000 children are involved

A scheme involving Gaelic and soccer coaches in schools is improving pupils' confidence, resilience, self-esteem and motivation to learn, research has found.

The Sports Programme focuses on children at Key Stage 2 (P5-7) and is delivered by Ulster GAA and the Irish FA.

It replaced the previous Curriculum Sports Programme which was wound up.

More than 32,000 children and 700 teachers are involved.

It is delivered by coaches who integrate cross-curricular themes, cross-community and healthy lifestyle messages through physical literacy and sports-specific programmes.

An independent research project sought to establish the effect on pupils' confidence and motivation to learn.

It also looked at whether taking part helped enhance young people's achievements in other curricular areas.

It found the programme had most impact with those that did not normally take part or took part less regularly in sport or physical activity.

It "enthuses, builds confidence and is something pupils look forward to regardless of their sporting background or ability", it said.

Less active groups looked forward to the sessions and were reporting increases in confidence and the ability to try new things.

Teachers also placed high value in the programme and quoted a growth in pupil confidence, self-esteem, happiness, activity levels and wider health.

A key conclusion was that the coaches, their expertise, their manner with the children and ability to enthuse the `less-active' pupils and teaching staff was an integral component of the programme's success.

"Without this rounded expertise the programme would not deliver the same level of impact as it currently does," researchers found.

"Fundamentally, the data unequivocally shows that the programme has impact, particularly with those children who do not normally take part in physical activity and sport. Therefore, the programme is a huge asset to schools across Northern Ireland and every effort should be made to ensure it can continue."

Michael Glover, project coordinator for Ulster GAA, said the research was invaluable.

"We know the value of sport and PE in schools and we are also aware not every teacher in a primary school is specifically trained to deliver on this part of the curriculum, so our coaching staff assist in providing this expertise at Key Stage 2," he said.

"The research insights highlighted the importance of the support we give teachers during our delivery and the confidence and resilience developed by those pupils involved in lesson delivery on a weekly basis.

"Ninety per cent of teachers highly valued the programme and 92 per cent stated they seen marked changes in happiness of pupils.

"However, more significantly 97 per cent of teachers referenced the impact and positivity of children towards being more active - an indicator of the programmes success.

"This piece of research has reinforced an obligation to provide a quality PE and sports programme in each primary schools setting. Apart from the physical exercise, the long-term associated benefits cannot be underestimated in terms of increased confidence of pupils and teachers involved but also the added benefits of better mental health for our children and an early introduction to good eating habits and the importance of a healthy heart as part of the programme."

Keith Gibson, Irish FA interim Foundation Director, also welcomed the findings.

"The research shows the difference that high quality PE lessons can make to young people helping them not only stay active but also helping them in the classroom," he said.

"The positive responses from principals and teachers, as well as the stories from the boys and girls themselves, endorses the coaches and the programme. We look forward to continuing this programme into the future giving boys and girls a lifelong love of sport and physical activity."