Sports Programs Are Keeping Disadvantaged Teens

Sports Programs Are Keeping Disadvantaged Teens

Participation in special sports programs helps teenagers of low socioeconomic backgrounds to stay at school and improves their math grades. This is what I discovered in my PhD research. Engaging in learning is a key to success for the rest of your life. Experts consider it one of the most important goals of early adolescence.

Primary school students are more engaged in school, but secondary school engagement is lower. Teachers are looking for ways to encourage students to maintain their engagement in school early. My PhD research focused on the impact of special sporting programs on students from low-income areas of Perth. Particularly, I was interest to see how these programs affected students academic performance as well as their school engagement.

What Are Specialist Programs In Sports?

Students who are part of specialist sporting programs specialize in one sport instead of several elective subjects from years 7-10. All students are eligible to enroll, even those who do not live within the school’s reach. Selection is usually based on:

  • A high level of coaching ability and sporting ability.
  • A positive attitude towards school and sport (primary school)
  • A good record of attendance and behavior.

Selection criteria allow schools to communicate clearly their expectations right from the beginning. These criteria are design to encourage positive behavior in secondary school and not try to fix the problem of students becoming disengaged.

There are many specialist sport programs available across Australia (including South Australia and Western Australia). Some programs focus on elite pathway while others are more focused on participation. They taught in private and public schools.

Schools allocate on average four hours per week to specialist programs in sports. This time evenly split between theoretical and practical work in years 7-10. In years 11 and 12 there roughly a 70-30% practical-theoretical split.

Practical sessions are focus on improving skills and student fitness. Theoretical sessions include topics like biomechanics, physiology, rules, tactics, nutrition, and sport psychology.

My Sports Study Revealed

The positive impact of these programs often cited in broad claims. For example, Western Australia’s education department states specialist sport programs can:

Develop character, self-discipline and technical skills, as well as a love for sport and allow children to compete at the highest level and improve their skills as athletes in the classroom and on the field.

However, there have not been any studies on these programs in Western Australian schools that support this assertion.

Only two studies have examined the impact of specialist sports programs on student academic achievement. They were both conducted in the United Kingdom. The studies examined the academic performance of final-year students in the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). Specialist program students scored higher than non-specialist students. Schools with a high proportion of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds saw a greater improvement in their scores.

Investigate The Relationship

My study is the first to investigate the relationship between academic achievement, engagement in school, and participation at specialist sporting programs in Australia. My research involved seven secondary schools, students in years 7-10 and residents of low socioeconomic areas in Perth.

Total of 68 students from specialist sports were able to access their school grades over the course of a year. 73 students also completed a survey that measured their engagement with school. I interviewed 11 students, three parents, five teachers, and three graduates.

I used the A = 5 and B = 4 grades to compare their effects on student grades. C = 3 was for a better grade. The mean grade for each subject was then compared, one year at a time. The baseline measurement showed that the maths mean grade was 3.08 (a grade of C). It was 3.30 at the follow-up one year later. It was still a C-grade, but statistical analysis found that this marked improvement.