Good sports targeted to be great students

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 09:45 18/11/2012
Aotea College
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

SPORTING CHANCE: Aotea College one of eight NZ schools chosen to take part in a new Sport NZ initiative using sport as a context for learning and student engagement. Teachers Katie McFarlane, left, Sam Forward and Celia Fleck.

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Reading, writing and arithmetic will be given a sporting twist in Kiwi classrooms through a new pilot scheme.

When the Sport in Education initiative kicks off next year, it will further test the notion that sporty kids make great students.

Eight secondary schools have been chosen to develop a three- year, Sport New Zealand-funded programme that will give subjects, including maths and English, a sporting context.

Porirua's Aotea College principal Kate Gainsford was excited to be part of the pilot. It would open more doors for pupils who had a passion and enthusiasm for sport, while helping them become "an all-round good person".

"What it means for a lot of our students who are really keen and very good at sport, is it gives them a focus between that kind of achievement and academic achievement.

"Sometimes good sportspeople are very good students too, with great time and self management skills. They often do well and we're looking to extend that link."

Although details had not yet been finalised, the school would have a physical education, English and maths teacher working together to launch the initiative.

"We have a lot of very good sportspeople here. It means that we will be quite deliberately looking to use our students' interest in sport, and their successes in sport, to lead to academic achievement."

Head of physical education and the initiative's project manager, Celia Fleck, was excited to develop a resource that could be used nationwide.

"It is going to be a lot of work, but it's an exciting opportunity to be part of in terms of strengthening what we currently have."

Research showed that a pupil's engagement and achievement improved when learning had a sport context. And she hoped it would lift their sporting achievement as well.

Papakura High School principal Peter Heron said a similar sport- focused project the school already ran had led to better attendance and results.

"They are not just doing a subject because we tell them to. They are doing a subject because there is a relevance . . . from a student's point of view it actually becomes sensible to do it."

Dunedin's Kaikorai Valley College principal Rick Geerlofs said the initiative came with funding to employ a project leader, who would run it within the school and five contributing primary schools.

"I see the passion and enthusiasm kids bring to sport," he said. The project would help translate that same passion to academic study. However, exactly how that would work was unknown until training in about a month.

Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin said 41 schools applied to be part of the initiative, but they chose eight that were a mixture of decile, location, size and demographics.

"Every day we see the power of sport change the lives of young people and to help them succeed in other aspects of life. This project will harness that power for schools to get the results they want in their communities."

The initiative - that will vary between schools - would hopefully increase participation in school sport and better connect secondary schools to primary schools and sports clubs in their communities.

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It drew upon knowledge gained from a similar successful project in the United Kingdom that now included over 550 schools.

The schools selected for the Sport New Zealand initiative are: Aotea College, Wellington; Hillmorton High School, Christchurch; Howick College, Auckland; Kaikorai Valley College, Dunedin; Papakura High School, Auckland; Queen's High School, Dunedin; Tauranga Boys' College, Tauranga; Te Kuiti High School, Te Kuiti.

Contact Jody O'Callaghan
Education reporter
Email: jody.o'callaghan@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @miss_jodyo

- Sunday Star Times

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