Schools revamp sports education amidst growing interest in team activities

Innovative strategies come into play to incorporate both indoor and outdoor activities

Dubai, Oct 08, 2021: As the world begins to recover from the pandemic, there are some conscious steps that schools are taking to bring sports education back on track. To have an active participation from students, educators have started to develop strategies to incorporate both indoor and outdoor activities. 

More students are getting fully vaccinated, increasing the possibility of faster return to both indoor and outdoor sports activities. “With temperatures dropping, all PE [physical education] coaches and students are excitedly looking forward to prolonged hours of practice and readiness for inter-house and inter-school competitions,” says Meenakshi Dahiya, Principal/CEO, The Winchester School – Jebel Ali, which has already started both indoor and outdoor activities.

About the kind of demand from schools for sports activities, Paul Louzado, Founder and MD, BoomTree Adventure Playgroundssays the return to outdoor sports has resulted in a growing demand for natural, durable and sustainable materials. According to him, while  spending time in green outdoor activities reduces stress and ADHD symptoms, it enhances a students’ ability to  focus and concentrate, enabling them to perform better in the classroom.

The schools are also making arrangements for students to play in team-based sports such as football, netball and swimming along with other extracurricular activities. “Having sports back in school has completely transformed the energy in Physical Education, where students are now playing team-based sports, participating in squad trials and competing in swimming galas,” says David Jackson, Director of Sport, GEMS Metropole School – Motor City. 

“A range of sports-based masterclasses (enrichment) has opened up further opportunities for students to engage in sport. These include badminton, scuba diving and golf,” adds Jackson. 

According to him, there is a significant increase in interest among students to participate in after-school sports clubs and try-outs for sports such as football. He says 400 students from his school had applied for a place in three teams, demonstrating an urge among students  for team-based sports activities. 

Hannah Underhill, Director of Sport, Health & Fitness, GEMS Wellington International School says that they are reintroducing competitive sports in preparation for the return of the DASSA leagues following October half term. “We continue to explore alternative sports like Parkour and Kinball to give students a broad and varied offer, which aims to improve their physical literacy and promote lifelong participation in physical activity,” adds Underhill. 

Schools are also encouraging students to have more knowledge about the history of sports and games through  quiz, puzzles and competitions. 

“We are building a programme of activities that allows students to play, train and excel in a number of sports and activities using both external and in-house expertise. The emphasis continues to be on health and lifestyle choices to encourage students to become lifelong performers,” says Jackson. 

Meanwhile, Dubai Affiliated School Sports Association (DASSA) and heads of Physical Education (PE) had a meeting late September to decide what sports will be permitted this academic year. 

While all kinds of sport are allowed by the authorities as long as the guidelines are met, free play is something that remains under check. 

Schools in Dubai are following the Dubai Sports City (DSC) guidelines as laid out by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) ‘Back to School’ protocol, where authorities have stressed on maintaining social distancing and carrying out sanitisation exercises after every activity. 

When asked about restrictions on free play due to the pandemic, Underhill says, “Students are kept in year-group bubbles during break times, and all sports activities are operating under reduced teacher-to-student ratios.”