School sport: Project likely to motivate pupils

Two Dunedin schools, Kaikorai Valley College and Queen's High School, have been included in a pilot project that will use sport as the catalyst to improve academic performance in the classroom.

Eight secondary schools have been chosen for the project.

The other schools in the Sport New Zealand initiative are Aotea College (Wellington), Hillmorton High School (Christchurch), Howick College (Auckland), Papakura High School (Auckland), Tauranga Boys' College and Te Kuiti High School.

The three-year project aims to increase the number of pupils involved in school sport and better connect secondary schools to neighbouring primary schools and sports clubs.

"We are a decile 5 school and deal with pupils from all walks of life and we see the enthusiasm our pupils bring to their sport," Kaikorai Valley College principal Rick Geerlofs said yesterday.

"We saw this project as a wonderful initiative that could see the transference of that passion and enthusiasm come across to their studies.

"The aim of the project is to bring about improved academic and social outcomes for pupils and increase participation in sport."

Kaikorai Valley College has a sports participation rate of 52% "and we are keen to see it increase during the three years of the project", Geerlofs said.

"We are using sport as a context for their learning and believe it will work."

The eight schools were selected from 41 that expressed an interest. Working groups are being set up to look into curriculum development, student leadership and sporting links.

Queen's High School has a 60% participation rate in school sport and also expects that to increase.

"We are delighted to be part of the project because we see the qualities and skills that are developed by sport as valuable life skills and valuable in the classroom," Queen's principal Julie Anderson said.

"We hope that the project will engage and motivate our pupils for sport and take some of that into the classroom. We will use a sporting context when teaching subjects like mathematics and English."

Queen's also wants the project to help develop leadership skills in its pupils by helping local primary schools with sports coaching.

Queen's has had a sports council since 2009. It is led by Roy Shanks, father of former pupil and Olympic cyclist Alison Shanks.

The Sport in Education project, which starts in the first term next year, will draw upon the success and knowledge gained from a similar project in the United Kingdom that now includes more than 550 schools.