The changing face of physical activity in schools and kura

Issue: Volume 101, Number 14

Posted: 1 November 2022
Reference #: 1HAXao

Our Lady of the Assumption, a Year 1–8 special character school in Ōtautahi Christchurch, is transforming its approach to physical activity. Supported by its local Healthy Active Learning team, the school has made the most of other funding and resources available through Sport New Zealand to create an environment that is more holistic and inclusive for all ākonga.

Moon-hoppers offer an alternative way to get around at Our Lady of the Assumption.

Moon-hoppers offer an alternative way to get around at Our Lady of the Assumption.

Visit Our Lady of the Assumption and you can expect to see ākonga walking around on stilts and bouncing on moon-hoppers at lunchtime, teachers learning marching routines as part of their professional learning and development (PLD), and a whole school, student-led and designed Commonwealth games complete with tug-of-war and soaked-sponge races. 

It is all part of the whole school’s three-year transformation into a more inclusive, active, and play-friendly environment that is more suited to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse school roll. 

“We were getting a variety of students from different backgrounds and so their background in physical activity and PE is different as well. We were dynamic and changing and needed to think of ways to address that,” says principal Janet Cummings. 

Sport Canterbury’s Healthy Active Learning team has supported the school to make the change. The local Regional Sports Trust facilitated staff PLD, introduced resources such as MoveWell, ran leadership workshops for the school’s physical activity student leaders (PALS), and supported the school to strengthen its connections to its local community, including local sport and physical activity providers. 

At every break at Our Lady of the Assumption, Year 8 physical activity leaders (PALS) bring out the school’s play pod, which they co-designed based on input from their classmates.

At every break at Our Lady of the Assumption, Year 8 physical activity leaders (PALS) bring out the school’s play pod, which they co-designed based on input from their classmates.

For lead PE teacher Bridget Grant, it has helped teachers, ākonga and whānau expand their understanding of what being active can look like at school. 

“It doesn’t just have to be that we are going for five laps of the field and then doing 10 star jumps. There are so many different things you can do.” 

Thanks to Tū Manawa funding, the school also introduced a play pod to help ākonga engage in unstructured free play. Co-designed with students it comes out every break time. 

Isla, who is eight years old, is a big fan of it, saying, “I like bouncing on the moon-hoppers because I like bouncing on the field.”

Tū Manawa has also supported the school to increase and diversify the sport opportunities available to ākonga. In addition to traditional offerings like hockey, football and netball, ākonga have travelled to their local gymnastics club Olympia – that also provided the school with a trailer of gymnastics equipment. 

Healthy Active Learning facilitator Vicki Cowley then provided teachers with PLD to support teaching gymnastics in the classroom. 

There is also handball, golf, volleyball, and marching – all delivered on school grounds by teachers or in the local community. 

Janet says the increased range of opportunities is giving more ākonga an opportunity to shine. 

“We were surprised by one of the young boys who led the marching team. If we hadn’t given him that opportunity, we would never have known that he had those skills.” 

Physical activity is also now embedded in the strategic plan and there is an understanding across the school of the connection between physical activity, mental wellbeing, and learning. 

“We are all reading from the same page, we are all singing from the same song sheet, we all value this for our tamariki,” says Bridget.

Physical activity in schools and kura made easier 

Sport NZ is supporting schools and kura so all ākonga can take part in quality physical activity and enjoy being active in ways that suit them, enhancing their learning and improving their wellbeing in the process. 

There is a wide range of support available to help all schools and kura create an inclusive active learning environment. 


Movewell is a joint initiative between Sport NZ, Physical Education New Zealand and ACC, supported by the Ministry of Education. MoveWell is a practical games-based resource that has strong links to the health and physical education learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum. MoveWell is available in hard copy and can also be downloaded on the Sport NZ website. 

Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa Funding

Tū Manawa is a Sport NZ fund managed around the country by Regional Sports Trusts. It provides funding for play, active recreation, or sport opportunities for tamariki and rangatahi. Tū Manawa is available to support school-based initiatives, particularly for those who are less active or have limited access to opportunities to be physically active. 

Healthy Active Learning

Healthy Active Learning is about improving the wellbeing of tamariki and young people through healthy eating and drinking, and quality physical activity. It’s a joint initiative between Sport NZ, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health. Now in over 800 schools and kura nationwide, Healthy Active Learning is supporting schools and kura to create healthy and active learning environments, and better connections to their local communities. Schools and kura who are not already part of Healthy Active Learning can still take advantage of a collection of online resources. 

In Our Backyard

With New Zealand hosting a series of major sporting events over the next two years, Sport NZ has developed a suite of resources and a framework called In Our Backyard to support schools and kura, sporting organisations, and local communities to work together in collaborative and innovative ways to help students learn through sport. 

Regional sports directors

Sport NZ, with secondary schools, supports a nationwide network of regional sports directors responsible for coordinating inter-school sport opportunities, connecting schools with community sport organisations, and providing support for school sport staff.

For information on these initiatives and opportunities visit link) 

MoveWell offers a number of practical games-based resources and ideas.

MoveWell offers a number of practical games-based resources and ideas.

Learning with sport opportunities in 2023 

Two new opportunities to learn through sport will become available across Aotearoa New Zealand as the country hosts the Football Women’s World Cup and the Sail Grand Prix in 2023. 

Clusters of teachers in different parts of the country have been working with Sport NZ, Healthy Active Learning teams and a group of national sporting organisations to put together new and innovative ways to learn sport. The topics and resources that have been created will become available for the first time as two of the world’s most significant sporting events come to our shores in 2023. 

Sail Grand Prix

In 2023, Christchurch hosts the Sail Grand Prix.

In 2023, Christchurch hosts the Sail Grand Prix.

The first opportunity connects ākonga to the Sail Grand Prix, which takes place in Christchurch during term 1, 2023. 

Yachting NZ has two opportunities for schools to use the SailGP as a context for learning. The first of these is called Kōkōkaha – Powered by wind, and focuses on the science, technology, engineering, and maths involved in harnessing the power of the wind.

The second is called Kōrinorino – In our ancestors’ wake, and relates to Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories, by focusing on early interactions between tangata whenua and tauiwi as settlers arrived on these shores. 

FIFA Football Women’s World Cup

In terms 2 and 3, schools and kura can participate in Kōtuitui – Let’s get connected, as the country hosts the FIFA Football Women’s World Cup. 

Kōtuitui uses the context of this major event for ākonga to explore the big ideas about biculturalism and multiculturalism from the social studies learning area. 

The FIFA Football Women’s World Cup is going to be the biggest event ever held in Aotearoa and the excitement it generates provides a great opportunity for ākonga to explore these big ideas. 

Each of these topics includes sets of classroom learning experiences supported by place-based learning experiences at sailing clubs or football clubs around the country.

The FIFA Football Women's World Cup is a major event providing a unique opportunity for learning through sport and the empowerment of women and girls in sport.

To find out more about Kōkōkaha, Kōrinorino and Kōtuitui, and to register your school or kura to be involved, visit link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:17 pm, 1 November 2022

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