School ballroom dancing scheme improves children’s fitness, social skills and classroom behaviour
A scheme to teach ballroom and Latin dance in school PE lessons can improve children's fitness, engagement in physical activity, social skills, self-esteem and classroom behaviour, says a report launched today (June 22) with dancers Darren and Lilia from the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing TV Show.
The independent report conducted by Dr Jeanne Keay, Dean of Education, and Dr Jon Spence, Head of Physical Education at Roehampton University evaluated the impact of the Essentially Dance teacher-training scheme, which was piloted in 29 primary and secondary schools across the country.
Over 2,500 school pupils aged 5 -17 took part in the pilot scheme, funded by the Aldridge Foundation, which trained school staff to teach the cha-cha-cha, waltz, jive and quick step in PE lessons. The study found 80% of the children enjoyed the lessons describing it as 'exciting, cool, brilliant,' as well as 'elegant, relaxing and romantic.'
Attitudes towards exercise, and dance, changed as a result:
· less sporty children became more engaged in physical activity,
· shy children gained self-esteem and made friends,
· behaviour improved, which teachers attributed to the disciplined and structured nature of ballroom and Latin dance.
At one school where behaviour in PE lessons had previously been poor, the teacher praised the scheme saying: "These boys, they usually can't get out of school fast enough and now they're giving up their free time to do this." One previously reticent boy said: "I used to hate dance now I love it." When asked how to squeeze dance into the busy school curriculum, one boy replied: "Cancel maths – put dance on instead!".
Peer group relations improved between boys and girls, who worked together as dance partners, and across age groups as older children taught younger ones new dance steps in the playground. This infectious enthusiasm spilled over into extra-curricular activities, such as after school dance clubs where dinner ladies and other teachers learnt side-by-side with the students. Parents, inspired by their children, have asked for their own dance clubs and many schools are planning to go out into the community to hold tea dances.
Dr Keay said: "The response to the Essentially Dance pilot programme was overwhelmingly positive and it clearly has the potential to make a huge impact on all children's learning. The research also found that the programme has the potential to positively affect social interaction within families and in local communities."
The Essentially Dance pilot scheme has been funded by the Aldridge Foundation and reflects its core ethos to tackle educational underachievement and social immobility.
Rod Aldridge, Chairman of The Aldridge Foundation, said: "As a young boy, I was an under-achiever academically but gained confidence by competing in both sport and dance. I wanted to find a way to make this experience available to all children, no matter what their socio-economic backgrounds. So it's immensely rewarding to see how this dance scheme has ignited the passion of a new generation of children in a way that can also improve their fitness and social skills."
The training resource was developed in partnership with Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, professional dancers from the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing TV show along with other dance and school sports experts.
Teachers said they believed the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing TV show has had a positive impact on children's awareness and positive perceptions of ballroom dance. This was especially so for boys who viewed sports figures, such as rugby player Darren Gough who previously won the TV competition with Lilia Kopylova, as role models.
Darren Bennett, said: "It has always been our dream that every young person should have the opportunity to learn Ballroom and Latin American dancing and finally this is being realised through Essentially Dance. It is exciting to see how successful it has become and we are looking forward to seeing the long term results."
The Essentially Dance training scheme is launched nationally today (June 22) at the Royal Festival Hall, with a dance demonstration by Darren, Lilia and school children from Bromley, in London. Schools can find out how to sign up for the training by visiting the Essentially Dance website www.essentiallydance.com.
The launch of Essentially Dance takes place in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX, on Monday June 22 from 10-11am. To confirm attendance, contact Petra Coveney Associate Director of The Aldridge Foundation on 020 7925 7905 or Blackberry 07590831966. For a full copy of the Roehampton University report visit the Aldridge Foundation's website www.aldridgefoundation.com/essentiallydance
For information about the Essentially Dance resource visit www.essentiallydance.com
Notes to Editor
- The Essentially Dance pilot scheme was funded by the Aldridge Foundationwww.aldridgefoundation.com. It was developed in partnership with professional dancers Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, Dale Bennett of City Limits Education, School Sports Partnership expert Sue Cooper and Lorraine Drolet, a former world amateur champion ballroom dancer who runs children's dance classes in New Addington, Croydon and Coulsdon.
- It has been piloted in 29 schools at five key sites: Darwen near Blackburn, Salford, Rotherham, Bromley in South London, and Falmer near Brighton.
- The Roehampton University evaluation included two clusters of these participating schools in Darwen (one secondary school and five feeder primary schools) and Brighton (one secondary school and four feeder primary schools). Approximately 370 children aged 5-14 took part in the research.
- As part of the pilot scheme, 52 teachers and classroom assistants received practical training sessions with professional dance and PE experts supported by a training resource, which includes a step-by-step DVD led by Darren and Lilia, a booklet with easy to follow sessions and a CD with suitable music.
- The new initiative, which meets the Government's Every Child Matters outcomes on health, enjoyment and achievement, targets to reduce childhood obesity and the National Curriculum's Key stage 1-5 provision for Physical Education, aims to:
- Improve young people's health and fitness
- Build confidence and self-esteem
- Improve cross-gender and inter-generational relationships
- According to the NHS, ballroom dance can burn up to 300 calories per hour.
- Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova are appearing in their first West End show Latin Fever at Sadler's Wells' Peacock Theatre until Sunday 28 June
Summary of Roehampton University's research findings:
The report highlight the following impact on both teachers and pupils:
Increased enjoyment of PE, especially among those who had not previously found a physical activity they enjoyed
Over 80% of the pupils expressed enjoyment of the dance classes among girls and boys. "The way they've taken to it has exceeded our expectations," said a primary school teacher.
"It opens it up to a wider range of children, especially those who are less competitive and not as confident in PE lessons," said a primary school teacher.
Potential for improved fitness with the majority of pupils saying dance made them 'warm and out of breath'(42.37%) or 'hot and sweaty' (24.86%).
"Fitness has improved and they go a lot longer than if we had them running around a field," said a teacher. Another teacher added: "A lot of them have been saying that it's helping them to think about their fitness in a different way and it's helping them to improve their fitness without even thinking about it."
Improved social skills and peer relations.
The report notes higher levels of peer cooperation as a result of working with a dance partner – 'an empathy and mature approach, which in many cases had not been evident before'. There was an improvement in communication between peers within the class, across classes and age ranges as pupils were keen to share their knowledge and skills with others.
"Social skills have improved and interaction. Before I'd struggle to get them to work with certain people but now they're happy to work with whoever," said a secondary school teacher.
Increased confidence, and self esteem likely to boost their physical self-perceptions.
Teachers found that this form of dance attracted high performers in PE, but also those who were not competitive and hadn't previously found a physical activity they enjoyed. It had especially improved the self-esteem of shy children.
"We've got some kids who didn't want to do PE at all and now they're all joining in the sessions. One child in my class has really low self-esteem and it has really boosted her and she's joining in brilliantly," said a primary school teacher.
Improved pupil behaviour.
Teachers spoke of fewer behavioural issues during the dance sessions and attributed this to the disciplined and structured approach to learning ballroom dance steps. In one school where there had been poor behaviour in previous PE lessons, the same pupils actually chose to stay after school to participate in the dance sessions. "We don't see any behavioural issues at the Wednesday night session…these boys, they usually can't get out of school fast enough and now they're giving up their free time to come and do this," said a teacher.
Intergenerational benefits with children keen to teach parents and set up tea dance events with older people in the community.
In one secondary school they introduced a mixed class where pupils were taught alongside staff including teachers and dinner ladies at an after school club. The report says this is having a positive impact on relationships and the general ethos of the school, where previous experiences of trying to teach mixed gender PE lessons had been negative.
Many schools spoke of the ways they will carry on and expand the dance programme with community tea dances, proms, after school clubs, social events and expansion within the curriculum. Parental interest was noticeable they said: ""The year 2's really took to it, all of them, it was an amazing response from the parents and the kids, it was a real buzz, absolutely fantastic. All the parents were saying – 'oh I'd love to do that, let's get a parents' club going'," said a teacher.
Attitude towards ballroom and Latin dance in the long term
Children viewed dancing as fun and described it as 'exciting, cool, brilliant, amazing, fantastic' as well as 'elegant, relaxing and romantic.' When asked if they wanted to carry on with this form of dance, the majority responded positively with girls expressing the most interest.