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When Mrs Sally Hannah was appointed Coordinator of the Junior School Perceptual Motor Program (PMP) in 2010, she wasted no time finding a way to impress the importance of motor skills development upon parents. Today, the annual Bush Dance is the most anticipated event in the Indooroopilly Junior School calendar, and it’s all so that students can show their family and friends how well they can move!

PMP works alongside the Junior School’s Health and Physical Education (HPE) program and involves two 30-minute sessions per week for Prep to Year 3 students. It was developed to address the needs of what Sally refers to as ‘a new generation of computerised children’, many of whom have underdeveloped gross motor skills. She believes that a range of lifestyle factors, such as increased computer work; busier family lives; and the realities of modern housing with limited outdoors access, are preventing the development of physical skills needed to sit and concentrate in the classroom.

However, she’s quick to address the misconception that PMP directly enhances academic outcomes.

‘There’s always been a big argument that [Perceptual] Motor Skills is the be-all-and-end-all program that improves academics,’ Sally said. ‘It doesn’t improve academics. What it does do is improve the students’ ability to focus and concentrate in class.’

In Term 1, the Fundamental Movement Program familiarises students with the principles of locomotion (hopping, skipping, jumping, running and galloping); balance; coordination (hand-eye and foot-eye); and proprioception (spatial awareness). In Term 2, students combine fundamental movement skills to learn movement through sequence, honing their skills through gymnastics (Prep to Year 1) and game play (Years 2 and 3). Term 3’s Multicultural Music Program immerses students in five weeks of multicultural dance before final rehearsals for the Junior School Bush Dance begin. Students learn ten dances, but only showcase three to their family and friends on the night. Finally, a return to fundamental movement skills in Term 4 ensures students continue to develop through constant repetition.

‘We need to make sure that each child develops at their own rate through constant repetition of the skills,’ Sally said.

With this in mind, the program extends beyond the classroom for students who need extra support.

‘We’re fairly unique here at St Peters because… we also identify children who may have difficulties,’ Sally remarked. ‘We do a separate assessment for them using the Dale Ulrich assessment test and then we design individual programs for these students to give them maximum development for motor skills.’

Sally also connects families with external providers such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other support programs to supplement at-home programs she designs.

While Sally is adamant that improved gross motor skills improve students’ ability to concentrate and participate, she says that students’ joy at achieving new things, from hanging upside-down for the first time to learning to dance, is also reward. She encourages family and friends to get outside and active with students, no matter their ability.

‘There is some sport or some motor development for every child that they can do well,’ Sally said.

For more information about PMP at St Peters Indooroopilly contact Mrs Sally Hannah, PMP Coordinator.