Children of Merthyr are looking at happier, healthier and more
active futures thanks to the efforts of their local community.
In a unique move, groups from across the community have joined
together in a commitment to provide youngsters with the skills,
motivation and opportunities to be hop, skip and jumping throughout
Starting with the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Sport
Development team and with support from the local PLPS Manager,
physical literacy has become a key focus for schools, community
sports clubs, libraries, the local college and social welfare
The move is now ensuring that children within the area are
getting more active, developing essential life skills, and with it
the ability and desire to go on and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Merthyr Tydfil Sport Development Officer Emma Christopher
"Physical Literacy underpins everything that we do. It's
the best way of setting children up to go on and lead an active and
"Different to traditional sport sessions, it ensures that
a child develops the right skills, in the right environment to then
choose the physical activities that they take part in throughout
"It's not been an overnight process, but with the support of our
local PLPS Manager, we are working physical literacy into all of
our programmes and bringing partners in from across the
community. We now know that we are providing the best
possible options for our youngsters."
How they did it…
The Merthyr Sports Development team started to implement their
physical literacy agenda using the Sport Wales, Play to Learn
resources and ethos.
Using local leisure centres, netball sessions were set up for
three to six year olds, focusing on basic all-round skill
development rather than purely netball based skills.
After school clubs were also set up utilising the
resource, again meaning that infant level youngsters were able to
practice and develop basic movement skills. Both sessions
with one very important factor central to the success, FUN.
Parents were also encouraged to play their part in supporting
children to develop their physical literacy. Homework set
through the Play to Learn resource saw youngsters across the county
practicing their throwing skills with mum and dad using a pair of
balled up socks and washing basin.
In line with the physical literacy ethos, the Merthyr Sports
Development team also offered, while encouraging partners to do so,
a Multi-Skills option for older children (six to eleven
years). Meaning that youngsters are now able to continue
developing all round skills at this important learning phase,
before specialising in just one sport.
The Merthyr team made sure their physical literacy offer was
sustainable by bringing in partners from the local college to
Flying Start, Communities First and Social Services
programmes. After engaging and training students and social
workers alike, the team were able to utilise an additional
workforce to provide Multi-Skill and Play to Learn sessions, while
ensuring the physical literacy message was spread to new
Non-traditional venues such as local libraries and community
centres were also sought in addition to leisure centres and schools
to make sure that the new offering reached as far and wide as
The physical literacy approach is ensuring that youngsters in
Merthyr are having fun, while they enjoy developing a wide range of
physical skills. This in simplicity means they will have the
ability and confidence to try and take part in many different
sports and activities as they get older.
Top Tips for Success
Top tips from the Team at Merthyr on how to make physical
literacy work in practice.
Get others involved
Merthyr Sport Development Officer, Emma Christopher cites buy-in
from other partners as one of the main contributors to their
She explained: "In order to spread the physical literacy message
it is imperative to get as many people involved as possible.
For the message and practice to be embedded it needs to have a
presence everywhere, from the school and local library to the
leisure centres and many community buildings."
Use the knowledge of the experts
Emma also cites the close working relationship the team have
with their local PLPS Manager as essential to success, advising
that the knowledge, training and guidance that they have provided
This guidance along with the understanding and skills that Sport
Development coaches have been able to develop in physical literacy
has ensured that all sessions have been of a high quality.
Mentors are Invaluable
Merthyr have ensured that their session offer is sustainable by
supplementing their workforce through student mentoring
programmes. Both the Play to Learn and Multi Skills
programmes were coupled with mentoring options for local college
students, providing fantastic skill development options for the
students and a healthy workforce for the team.
Don't let traditions create barriers
Merthyr didn't let the fact that libraries weren't traditional
sporting venues, or that Flying Start wasn't a traditional sports
partner, stop them from utilising them as part of the physical
literacy agenda. This has been a huge factor to the success of the
Likewise the team and their partners, such as the local clubs
who quickly became involved, didn't let the new approaches to
teaching 'sport' faze them. With the support of the Sport
Wales resources and training options offered, they were quickly
seeing big results in terms of lots of happy and motivated
Connect with the Merthyr Sport Development team on Twitter