Sports teachers in UAE coming up with innovative ways to keep students physically active

Extension of distance learning system until end of academic year means children could be away from organised physical activity for five months

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 05, 2019: Nic Vorster of BSAK takes on the Al Yasmina defence in the match between BSAK and Al Yasmina in the U19 boys at the HSBC rugby sevens series 2020. Thursday, December 5th, 2019. The Sevens, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Sports teachers at leading schools in the UAE say the extended period of remote learning is worrying, but that they are finding new learning methods that could be beneficial in the future.

Earlier this week it was announced “the implementation of the distance learning system will continue throughout the 2019-2020 academic year at all private and public schools, and higher education institutions in the UAE.”

Among the challenges the situation has brought about, it has meant that children could be without organised physical activity for up to five months.

Tailoring PE lessons plans to suit distance learning for children who could be limited by space has been tough, but teachers believe there are positives to come from the situation.

“The innovative teaching methods and resources which PE teachers are creating and implementing will definitely be useful after the remote learning period,” Max Lohe, the director of sport at Dubai English Speaking School, said.

“We miss having face to face interactions with our classes, however, it has been pleasing to see how motivated the students are to continue with physical education independently.

“We look forward to having more confident learners in our classroom when we return.

“We are also moving to a live lesson platform which will enable us to have small groups live for personalised feedback and instruction.

"That will increase the amount of social interaction which the children have been missing during remote learning.”

Jonathan Coombs, the head of sport at British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, said “physical activities also really help with maintaining student wellbeing”.

“Due to much of distance learning being based around a digital device, our students have welcomed the physical parts of their day and appreciate the value this brings during this challenging time,” Coombs said.


DUBAI COLLEGE A, wins against DUBAI COLLEGE B, in GULF UNDER 19 category on the final day of this year's Dubai Rugby Sevens.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Section:  NA  SP
File photo of Dubai College A team, in red and black, in the Gulf U19s at Dubai Rugby Sevens in 2018. Reem Mohammed / The National

“Matches and competitive opportunities are difficult to replicate, and as BSAK thrives in these arenas, we are looking forward to getting back to the competitions and fixtures as soon as we return.”

Dubai Affiliated Schools Sports Association is a group of institutions that have been working to create social media platforms to provide all students with daily fitness or skills challenges. The programmes are being distributed to 81 schools across the emirate.

“I think different ages will have different physical requirements that need addressing,” Andy Jones, the director of sport at Dubai College, said of the effects of distance learning PE.

“For instance, the development of gross motor skills and fundamentals with primary children is essential, and needs to continue at home.

“We must remember they will now be without direct contact to their full curriculum lessons and extra-curricular clubs for five months until the start of the next academic year.

“These would include throwing, catching, jumping, striking and basic, coordinated movements.

“For the older students, the emphasis on skill development continues to be relevant, but also the need to stay fit and engage in regular daily exercise.

“As their enthusiasm wanes and gets drawn towards the temptation of ‘tech’, it is essential they are physically active and embed good exercise habits.”

Mike Randall, the director of sport at Dubai English Speaking College, reckons the time away from competitive action on the field can at least help talented students improve their tactical knowledge of sport.

“For keen athletes this is an opportunity to work on individual strength and conditioning, so it’s a great time to follow the programmes we are sending home, alongside those skills you are able to focus on,” Randall said.

“The other aspect we have been working on at DESC is strategy and analysis.

“Students in sports such as football, rugby, and netball are receiving tactical and analytical videos to work on in the break.

“This gives the students the time to develop their knowledge of the game, and the systems and tactics we are trying to implement at DESC.”

Randall has been impressed by the resourcefulness of his students – as well as their families.

“We have seen some incredible videos being submitted through our online learning platforms,” Randall said.

“The workouts and challenges we are posting require none, or minimal equipment, and can all take place indoors or in a small area.

“We have had a great family line-out video from one of our online rugby challenges, with a dad lifting one son and the other throwing in.

“We also had fun with a ‘Toilet Roll’ challenge of keep ups that was produced by KS3 footballers and staff.”