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Animated Edition - Summer 2007
Dance for health in Scotland's schools
Carolyn Lappin, Executive Director of YDance evaluates the impact of dance on children and young people's physical activity levels across Scotland
YDance (Scottish Youth Dance) is the national dance agency for children and young people in Scotland. Established in 1988, YDance offers children and young people aged from 3 to 25 the opportunity to realise their potential as individuals and to learn and grow through participation in dance. YDance provides a year-round programme of workshops, residencies, performance projects and collaborations in schools, youth and arts organisations all over Scotland.

The Dance in Schools Initiative was set up in 2005, funded by the Scottish Executive Health Improvement Strategy Division as part of their Physical Activity Strategy. Over three years YDance is working in schools in each of the 32 Local Authority areas in Scotland through the Active Schools Network, delivering participatory dance workshops to promote physical activity. YDance employs 12 dance workers who work in two teams, each covering a different area.

The project has its origins in an earlier scheme - 321 Go! - which was developed in association with Sportscotland. 321 Go! worked with five to seven year old children (Scottish Primary 1,2 and 3) using dance to help develop motor skills and co-ordination which would be beneficial for sports participation in later years. The programme incorporated in-service training for teachers, and the development of a new interactive CD-Rom (nominated for a BAFTA interactive award in 2004) to promote sustainability beyond YDance's direct provision. The success of 321 Go! led to discussions with the Scottish Executive Health Improvement Strategy Division, on how dance could be used as a tool to promote increased physical activity amongst young people, particularly those who opt out of more traditional sports and PE activities. Research previously undertaken by the Scottish Executive Health Department showed a high dropout rate amongst girls aged between eight and 13, and this group became a target for the project.

The Dance in Schools Initiative got under way in September 2005, and over three years will work in every local authority area in Scotland, through the Active Schools network. The network, supported by Sportscotland and local councils, employs Active Schools Managers and Co-ordinators in each area, who work closely with schools and YDance to identify the most appropriate schools to visit.

In each area a team of six dance workers with a range of skills covering different age groups, abilities and dance styles, spends five weeks delivering workshops Monday - Thursday each week, with Fridays spent in administration time, training, personal development and preparation. A tutor will visit the same school on each weekday, ensuring continuity of delivery, and will work with up to 6 classes in the school, enabling teachers and Active Schools Managers to offer a tailored experience. YDance aims to offer activity to any school, and the Dance in Schools Initiative has run in large urban secondaries, in the smallest of rural primaries (two pupils on the roll!), in integrated schools and special educational needs facilities.

Direct delivery of the dance programme is supplemented by In-Service Training and YDance resources, including the company's innovative interactive CD-Roms. Over the three-year project, YDance will deliver an average of 288 classes in each of 32 local areas, attracting over 300,000 attendances, and training 1,920 teachers.

In parallel with the project delivery, YDance has undertaken a comprehensive evaluation, in association with Dr Bob Sharp of Strathclyde University. There is currently no existing data available with a large sample evidencing the impact of dance on physical activity levels in Scotland, and the project aims to provide proof of the benefits of dance for children and young people who might not easily engage with other forms of physical activity.

Creating measurement indicators presented particular challenges, as the short workshop blocks (five weeks in each school) can make it difficult to provide sufficient statistics to prove the impact of the programme on activity levels. Indicators therefore had to be clearly defined, observable and user friendly. The measuring process was independent of the dance worker, and instead asked primary and PE teachers to measure their own classes on a number of indicators. YDance was keen to find a common language that could be interpreted in dance, in sport and by PE teachers, and to make sure that evaluations were easy to understand, taking into account teachers' preconceptions of the success of programme.

Evaluation involved quantitative and qualitative evaluation by class teachers and PE specialists by means of 'before and after' questionnaires completed in weeks one and five and written evaluation of the in-service training sessions by teachers taking part, covering the quality and usefulness both of the training and the CD-Rom resources. In addition, the dance workers completed reports at the end of each block, and Active Schools Managers are asked to evaluate both the in-school delivery and the training.

The evaluation measured impact in five areas - motor coordination, sensitivity to musical stimuli, creative ability, sustaining concentration and level of dance participation. In each area, teachers were asked to rate their pupils prior to the start of the delivery, and again at the end on a scale of Low to very High. Results at the end of the first year of delivery showed consistent significant improvement in all areas studied:

Motor Co-ordination - defined as a pupil's ability to jump, hop, balance, move smoothly between positions and regain footing smoothly - showed movement from a High/Very High rating of 23% before the programme to 63% after, and a corresponding fall in ratings at the Low/Average end from 77% to 37%.

Sensitivity to Musical Stimuli - results showed a move from a High/Very High rating of 19% up to 64%, and a fall in Low/Average from 81% to 35%.

Creative Ability - Defined as a pupil's ability to create shapes with guidance, and to work with a partner to create short sequences of movement, showed an increase at the High/Very High rating from 22% to 72% and a drop in the Low/Average rating from 79% to 28%.

Sustaining Concentration - Based on teachers judgement of how well pupils focused attention on their tutor, their response to given tasks and ability to remember movement sequences, statistics show an increase at the High/Very High rating level from 27% to 62% and a fall in the Low/Average rating from 74% to 39%.

Dance Participation - Showed a marked shift to the High/Very High end of the scale, from 51% to 89%, and a fall in the Low/Average level from 49% to 11%.

From the experience of the first year it is clear that the programme has had significant impact in all areas and statistics for Year Two are likely to show similar results.

In addition to the internal evaluation, YDance has also commissioned the Child and Adolescent Heath Research Unit (CAHRU) at Edinburgh University to conduct an academic study of pupils participating in the project through two case studies. CAHRU will report in December 2007.

Future Development
The current programme finishes in March 2008. YDance plans to submit a proposal to the Scottish Executive this summer to continue the programme on a longer-term basis. The proposed five year project span would allow much greater flexibility - delivery would be tailored to suit the circumstances in each area - with additional time spent in highly populated urban areas, and more time for teacher training and mentoring, particularly in rural/island areas where there are few professional dance workers to sustain the work.

The recommendations of the recent PE Review, and the evaluation of the first two years of the Dance in Schools Initiative, will be used to devise and update the current workshop programme and YDance will work within the new Curriculum for Excellence which will be introduced in Scottish Schools over the next three years, to increase the profile of dance as a school subject separate from P.E.

The Dance in Schools Initiative enters its third year of operation in April 2007, as a proven success. Already, Active Schools Managers and other local authority partners are looking for ways to extend the reach of the project, programming Summer Dance weeks, after-school sessions and additional In-Service training. As ever, the lack of funds means the pattern of sustainability varies hugely, but YDance is also working with other partners including the big Lottery Fund in Scotland and the Scottish Arts Council to extend the reach of dance for children and young people in Scotland.

YDance has plans to extend the Dance in Schools Initiative over the next five years, to improve the status of dance as a subject in its own right in Scottish schools, and we are looking forward to August 2008 when we launch the Dance in Schools Initiative Phase 2!


In addition to providing dance workshops for children and young people and In-Service Training for teachers, YDance also produces interactive CD-ROMs - AnyBodyCanDance, 321 Go!, Science~Physical, and The Desperate Journey, aimed at encouraging primary and PE teachers to use dance in schools. visit

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Animated: Summer 2007