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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Helping kids and communities get active: the Active After-school Communities program

Report

Primary school aged children across Australia are less active than in the past. At home they are increasingly engaged in sedentary activities such as watching TV and playing computer games rather than playing in backyards or local parks, or participating in community sporting club activities. Families have become increasingly mindful of the potential dangers of leaving children to play in unsupervised settings and often instruct children to stay inside. In addition, changed work patterns have reduced the opportunities for families to support their children in extracurricular activities, whether in sport or other forms of physical activity. At the same time, providing opportunities for children to be physically active in schools has come under pressure from a crowded curriculum. The resulting decline in physical activity levels has had an impact on children’s health and motor skills.

The Australian Government, through the Australian Sports Commission, has developed an after-hours physical activity program that addresses many of these needs and concerns.

The Active After-school Communities (AASC) program is a national program that provides primary school children with access to quality, fun, safe and inclusive sport and other structured physical activities in the after-school timeslot of 3:00 to 5:30 pm. The AASC program is offered free of charge to all Australian primary schools and out of school hours care services (OSHCS), and involves up to 3,250 sites and 150,000 primary school aged children each term. It reaches all corners and populations of Australia, including Indigenous, remote/rural, special schools and School of the Air.

The AASC program offers organised sporting games and activities, and concentrates on a ‘Playing for Life’ approach. This approach centres on the fun of the game; the need to cater for all abilities; a model whereby the coach is seen as a facilitator who modifies the game based on feedback from children; and the encouragement and engagement of children in modified sporting games that focus on mobility skills and motor-skills development.

At last count there were 85 traditional and non-traditional sports and structured physical activities being delivered around Australia. In Term 2, 2009, the top ten AASC sports and activities, by participation, were dance, soccer, AFL, basketball, circus skills, fitness/circuit activities, gymnastics, martial arts, tennis and netball.   

All sports and activities within the AASC program are delivered by trained and registered community coaches who are continually monitored and assessed by regional coordinators under the AASC program's quality assurance framework. This framework requires that all coaches:

  •        complete the free Community Coach Training Program
  •        gain a satisfactory police check/Working with Children Check
  •        deliver all sessions in line with the ‘Playing for Life’ philosophy (based on  the Game Sense approach to coaching)
  •        are appraised during a full 60 minute session within the first 6 months
  •        maintain satisfactory outcomes.

Current AASC community coaches include staff from local sporting clubs, as well as volunteers, private providers, teachers and OSHCS staff, retirees, senior secondary and tertiary students, and the parents and siblings of the children involved.

AASC regional coordinators work at national, state and regional levels to implement the program, linking suitable deliverers to participating schools or OSHCS. They also help plan and develop suitable programs, monitor and evaluate delivery, provide feedback to the deliverers, and explore opportunities for other community initiatives to enhance the objectives of the program.

Activities and resources for schools

Schools and OSHCS participating in the AASC program are eligible to apply for funding to contribute toward the costs associated with running the program including: teacher supervision, delivery costs, transport, venue hire, equipment costs and afternoon tea. All participating schools and OSHCS also receive a free Playing for Life Resource Kit containing over 100 game cards, which can be used in the AASC program as well as by teachers during school hours, and free Playing for Life companion books, which provide lesson plans for the delivery of 14 different types of sports and activities.  

Participating schools and OSHCS also have access to AASC Online – a secure website providing support and information to schools/OSHCS and community coaches. Participants from across the country can read newsletters, access program information, useful templates, guidelines and documents, and online training modules for the Community Coach Training Program. Other resources include information on nutrition, tips on sourcing grants, handy hints, translated documents, current research, and information about the games that appear in the Playing for Life Resource Kit and its companion books.

Each school, in consultation with its regional coordinator, determines which sport and other structured physical activity programs, such as modified junior sports programs or multiskill-based activities, are delivered. In deciding the activities to be implemented, a number of factors are taken into consideration, including the school environment; the age or ability level of participating children; inclusion principles and special-need considerations; local community resources; and any potential barriers to involvement.

Participating schools and OSHCS are normally required to deliver a 60-minute program two to three times a week between the hours of 3:00 pm and 5:30 pm, and should have a minimum of 15 participants per session. However, these parameters may be modified to meet local considerations such as smaller school/OSHCS sizes or the situations of remote or Indigenous communities. All expressions of interest are assessed, based on a range of criteria, according to regional, state or territory, and national needs.

The involvement of the local community is a cornerstone of the AASC program, a key goal of which is to offer opportunities to support and strengthen community cohesion and development. It is hoped that the program will also stimulate local community involvement in structured physical activity and sport, encouraging the development of community networks and partnerships to create sustainable programs and pathways that will encourage lifelong participation in sport and structured physical activity.

This article has been prepared from material available via the AASC website. The website includes Expression of Interest forms for 2010, with details of closing dates for applications.

Key Learning Areas

Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

Physical Fitness
Sport
School and community
Primary education
Australia