Hundreds of primary school children across Northern Ireland are leading more active and healthier lifestyles, thanks to the success of the University of Ulster’s award winning outreach programme, Sport for LIFE.
The Sport for LIFE (Living Integration Fun Education) programme was designed by a team of Ulster specialists in physical activity, physical education, nutrition and sport as a way of encouraging more youngsters to get involved in physical activity.
Since January 2010 around 3,000 primary five pupils have participated in the Sport for LIFE 12-week programme which was delivered in schools by Ulster Sports Academy students in partnership with the pupils’ teachers.
Senior lecturer in Sports Studies and Director of Ulster Sports Outreach, Dr Deirdre Brennan, explained that Sport Studies and Sport Science undergraduates were trained to help deliver the physical activity and health programme in schools.
“Ulster Sports Outreach is dedicated to the provision of high quality work based learning opportunities for students in the Ulster Sports Academy. Our student volunteers who service these programmes have made a significant positive impact on school sport and physical activity within the province.”
She continued: “Our students are a very rich resource and when they visited the schools to deliver Sport for LIFE sessions, their enthusiasm and expertise rubbed off on teachers and pupils alike and contributed to the success of the programme.
“Our research findings on pupil physical activity levels before and after Sport for LIFE show that there was a significant increase in light, moderate and vigorous physical activity levels among the children who took part in the programme.”
She added that another benefit of Sport for LIFE was that it improves the employability of Sports Studies students, many of whom go on to qualify as PE teachers or pursue careers in sports development after graduation.
Sport for LIFE was awarded two London 2012 Inspire Marks and was shortlisted by World Health Organisation as a best practice physical activity and health programme. The legacy of Sport for LIFE will last well beyond the London 2012 Olympics as the successful outreach programme is now helping to inspire the next generation of teachers, said Dr Brennan.
“We got a 12 month extension to deliver a ‘Sport for LIFE Legacy’ programme. This focusses on training student teachers at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, St Mary’s University College and Stranmillis University College, Belfast in the delivery of Sport for LIFE."
The Sport for LIFE programme was hailed as an example of good practice during Universities Week 2012 - a week long celebration to showcase the contribution that universities make to the Olympic andParalympic Games as well as the wider sports industry in the UK. The success of the programme was also highlighted in two peer reviewed publications.
Conor Higgins, St Coleman's Primary School Kilkeel who designed ere invited an Olympic Elk Mascot for the Sport for LIFE programme with Carol Duffy, Sports Science student in the Ulster Sports Academy who volunteered to help with the deliver of the Sport for LIFE programme.
Arben Dedzeti, a pupil at Dromore Road Primary School, Warrenpoint, winner of competition to list the ‘cool’ things he learnt by taking part in Sport for LIFE pictured with Carol Duffy, Sports Science student at Ulster Sports Academy who volunteered to assist with the delivery of the programme.