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Free Scottish Physical Education app hits the ground running

Children line up ready to run a race

An innovative free app aimed at Scotland’s National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher Physical Education pupils has been downloaded more than 10,000 times in its first academic year.

So far pupils at more than 350 Scottish secondary schools have registered as having used the ‘PE Cycle of Analysis’ app in either pilot or mainstream form since its launch in August 2020.

Developer John Millar, who heads up the Health and Wellbeing faculty at Newbattle High School in Dalkeith, Midlothian, secured £10,000 funding aimed at staff and post-graduate researchers for commercialisation of his idea from the University of Strathclyde.

A man holding up an ipad

John, who previously ran the PGDE Physical Education course at the University, spent more than 14 months developing the app from concept to release in partnership with design agency Wigwam Marketing.

Pupil centred

He said: “As a PE teacher I wanted to celebrate and promote pupil equity so it was vital it was free for all schools and pupils to download on both IOS and Android platforms. 

“The app exemplifies sustainable learning that’s technology based, pupil centred and very interactive. The response has been incredible. It’s designed for National 5 to Advanced Higher and is truly innovative in what it can do in terms of teaching and learning.

“When pupils register they put in the name of their school, so I’ve been able to track where it is having the most impact.”

John says the app has proved even more useful with the advent of COVID-19 and added: "No subject has been affected by the pandemic quite like Physical Education. But one thing we have all learned as teachers is that technological platforms need to become the norm in everyday practice if we are to drive forward excellence.

The app complements all of these technologies and interactive work can be completed at home, whilst testing results and training diaries can be shared with the teacher.”  

The app was initially designed for Higher level study only, but John wanted to support as many young people as possible and ensured it is multi-level across the Scottish senior phase curriculum. 

Sporting performance

He says his app places increased emphasis on the mental, social and emotional factors that impact performance, as well as the actual physical sporting performance itself, and added: “Certificated PE is designed to challenge young people and develop a whole host of transferable skills, such as the ability to analyse and evaluate progress, to work independently and as part of a team and to problem solve and make decisions under pressure.

“All courses at all levels challenge thinking about how mental, emotional, and social factors play a significant role in a young person’s ability to develop and excel in sport and in life. So in that sense the app has encouraged the courses to become so much more pupil centred and organic.”

The app uses interactive data collection technology so pupils can collect data specific to them and their sport or activity. Background coding also allows users to compare their results with standardised norms to identify their development needs and set clear, achievable goals.

Training diaries

Pupils can also design and implement approaches to develop their performance, as well as monitor and evaluate their holistic progress through a variety of embedded interactive tools, like training diaries.

Teachers and pupils have been asked for their feedback, with plans in place to launch a second, improved version of the app in August 2021.

John added: “I would like to thank the University of Strathclyde for backing me in the app, especially the IP & Commercialisation team who helped me take it forward. I hope it’s made a difference to a large number of schools and pupils.”

Dr Olga Kozlova  Director of Innovation and Industry Engagement at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Strathclyde has a proud history of encouraging entrepreneurship among staff and students.

“Our Strathclyde Inspire programme, launched last year, offers every student and staff member entrepreneurship training and opportunities to develop their ideas into products and services that could be used by in society. It will be very exciting to see the Physical Education app being used by pupils in Scotland.”

Advanced Higher Pupil and footballer Katy says app is top class

Katy Pollock, 18, is an S6 pupil at Newbattle High School in Midlothian and amateur footballer who is sitting Advanced Higher Physical Education. Last year she achieved an ‘A’ pass for Higher Physical Education and she plans to study Physical Education teaching at university.

Katy said: “I have really enjoyed the Advanced Higher course this year as the essay assessments are very similar to first year university standard, so it is amazing preparation.  The course has also allowed me to properly investigate, analysis and improve my own footballing performance - I play with Hibernian FC.

“One thing that makes the Advanced Higher course so accessible this year is the PE Cycle of Analysis App. It can be used across National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses. It’s easy to use, includes a lot of important content and literally takes you through the full cycle of analysis for all four factors impacting on performance.

“I think the best thing is how practical and interactive it is. It can be used in practical and theoretical lessons and is so much more fun than pen and paper, or even Google Classroom. All the data you input is automatically saved and background coding works out all your test results and data collection statistics. The built in videos and training diaries also allow you to reflect using your phone, there is no need for paper or booklets. Reflections can be typed live in class, in your next theory session or even on the way to your next class elsewhere in the school.

“It is an amazing teaching and learning resource.”