First of all there is mounting evidence from the Physical Literacy literature that not only is CAI a great way of engaging young people in physical activity in a Physical Literacy Informed (PLI) way, but it is also better than traditional sports at being inclusive, engaging, accessible and reducing the gender gap. You can read more about the Physical Literacy movement here, including the latest research, but here is an extract from the abstract from the latest research comparing CIA with teaching “sports” in schools:
“Results: Significant improvements in motor competence for both groups; endpoint differences favored the circus arts instruction in physical education schools for 15 of 18 movement skills … with corresponding increases in children’s confidence and comprehension of movement terminology, as well as active participation. The gap in motor competence between girls and boys in the circus arts instruction in physical education schools was smaller than in standard PE schools. Conclusions: Circus arts instruction enriched PE can effectively aid in the development of physical literacy in children with greater gender equity.” [emphasis ours]
Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, (Ahead of Print as at Oct 2019) – https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.2018-0269
Teaching in a PLI way, just means focusing on fun and inclusivity, rather than competition, which can alienate young people if they are not immediately good a sports. The focus can be more on personal achievement and progress, and working in teams, without constantly being judges or graded by comparison to others. It also has a wider range of props to engage with in different ways: some of which CAN be competitive, but others can be more creative, dancey and artistic, or just plain solo and nerdy, which allows for many more inclusive ways for young people to be accepted for what ever level they are in physically activity.
But why is it good to be physically active?
An article by Public Health England suggests that early engagement in physical activity led to improved physical and mental wellbeing as well as academic achievement and was a good indicator of continuing to do physical activity into later life (which has its own obvious multiple benefits). You can read more about that here.
The physical, mental and ecenomic benefits are also promoted by Sports England. See picture opposite.
A pilot study in Wales in conjunction with the Welsh Institute for Physical Literacy backed up these findings and you can read about it in this article – see quote below:
‘One of these teachers, Kate Piper, says circus has transformed her pupils’ attitudes to PE. “I have been amazed by the high level of inclusion in my classes since I introduced circus,” she says. “The kids no longer identify as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as they often do when they play traditional sports . Many of the children who used to avoid PE are now asking to take a diabolo home to practice. …She recently covered a class for another PE teacher and brought out her lime green bag of circus props. “At the start of the class, a number of girls came up to me with notes saying they couldn’t take part,” she says. “By the end of the lesson, most of them had decided they felt much better!’
If you are still in any doubt about the benefits of CAI – then just watch our video from the Swiss Cottage Special Needs School Project funded by a Network for Social Change Grant.