PE courses involving circus skills – such as acrobatics, trapeze work, diabolo and even being a clown – are going down a storm in rugby-mad Wales, reports Matt Pickles
This is likely to prove controversial in some quarters of rugby-mad Wales, where many PE teachers, politicians and parents want to produce the next Jamie Roberts or Leigh Halfpenny. But Dr Nalda Wainwright, who is director of the Welsh Institute for Physical Literacy, says that the competition-based approach to PE in primary and secondary schools needs urgent reform. “There is nothing wrong with sport at all, but the way it is taught in the UK has hardly changed in the past 70 years,” she says. “The usual format of drills and competition works for a certain percentage of kids but not for everyone. There is a real issue of high dropout rates and a lack of engagement in PE, particularly from girls.” Dr Wainwright says research shows that before the age of eight, children have a natural enthusiasm for movement and physical activity. But after that, if they are not motivated to do physical activity, they are at risk of entering a “negative spiral” of disengagement which can end in obesity, heart disease, lower bone density and increased risk of injury in later life. Girls’ enthusiasm for physical activity drops much more rapidly than boys’. “So it is vital that as many children as possible learn to love movement, and it turns out circus is a great way of doing that,” she says.
Circus is a Big Tent
The Welsh experiment aims to see if these results can be replicated in the UK. NoFitState Circus in Cardiff gave 12 PE teachers six days of initial training and continues to support them as they introduce circus to their classes of 10- and 11-year-olds. “A lot of the teachers were sceptical at first,” admits Lynn Carroll of NoFitState. “But by the end, they said it was by far the best continuing professional development course they had ever been on.” One of these teachers, Kate Piper, says circus has transformed her pupils’ attitudes to PE. “I have been amazed by the high level of inclusion in my classes since I introduced circus,” she says. “The kids no longer identify as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as they often do when they play traditional sports . Many of the children who used to avoid PE are now asking to take a diabolo home to practice.” She recently covered a class for another PE teacher and brought out her lime green bag of circus props. “At the start of the class, a number of girls came up to me with notes saying they couldn’t take part,” she says. “By the end of the lesson, most of them had decided they felt much better!”
Not Just Clowning Around
Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/explainers/iq/juggling-timetable-every-school-teach-circus-skills-pe-lessons/