Inactive students in further education colleges in Wales are now far more likely to try sport and activity that has a positive impact on their learning.
More than 10% of college learners who were previously inactive participated in a new activity in the last academic year.
And new research from BlwBo found taking part in sport and activity led to increased confidence and enjoyment. Learners also considered that taking part in sporting activities could help relieve the stress of studying and also help them in future employment.
Since 2014, a partnership between ColegauCymru, colleges in Wales and Sport Wales has focussed on widening access to opportunities and looking at innovative ways to get further education learners moving.
Supported by funding from Sport Wales, colleges provide a range of new and enjoyable activities providing health and fitness opportunities for the 47,000 post-16 learners studying full time in Wales. And it has been confirmed that funding for the initiative will continue over the next academic year.
Sally Begley, Foundation Skills Staff Member from Coleg y Cymoedd said “The chance to get learners out of their comfort zone and see them participating in something new was great, they gained so much more confidence and it helped them work together as part of a team when back in the classroom as they were able to show their true self and not feel judged on their work.”
Project activity to date has included an offer of around 35 different sports and fitness activities, the take up has been far from predictable - with plumbers opting for yoga classes and childcare learners playing football.
In most cases the type of activity was chosen specifically by the subject group working closely with their tutor and college staff.
The groups involved came from 37 different subject areas from the 12 colleges across Wales who increased the holistic offer via tutorial programmes. Others decided to engage as a group and participated in new challenges linked to physical activity and fundraising.
Iestyn Davies Chief Executive of ColegauCymru, the post compulsory education charity said “Colleges have always prided themselves on being innovative and our partnership with Sport Wales has allowed the physical activity offer to become attractive to more than the traditional sporty learner. The new project has succeeded to widen access and participation to a range of vocational learners, in areas such as Childcare, Hairdressing, Construction and Equine Studies.”
“ColegauCymru and Sport Wales are passionate about embedding physical activity into the daily life of a college learner, hoping to grow the offer and invest in support staff to achieve the objective of creating a healthier and more active future workforce.”
Senior representatives from colleges spoke of the importance of this kind of provision as a strategy to address mental health and wellbeing issues and as enhancing the overall learning experience across colleges.
Sarah Powell, Chief Executive of Sport Wales added, “Colleges provide a natural community for learners to engage in activity as many have sports facilities on campus including gyms and outdoor areas. In rural areas the college may offer the best opportunity for learners to participate with their peer groups during the day without the need for additional transport. Another important benefit to this project is the knock-on effect of a fitter and healthier future workforce, and colleges are reporting wider benefits in terms of study and behaviour, this can only be beneficial to all involved and we are excited about future possibilities.”