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Physical Literacy


The Research Work Group decided that it was important to include this additional indicator to reflect the work being completed in Wales.

Sport Wales adopts Whitehead’s definition of physical literacy, namely: “the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life” (Whitehead, 2017). Physical literacy is considered a ‘holistic’ concept and acknowledges the physical, affective and cognitive domains as equally important (Edwards et al., 2017). Recent developments have acknowledged the ‘social element’ of physical literacy alongside the affective, physical and cognitive domains (Australian Sports Commission, 2017). Sport Wales’ definition is comprised of physical skills, confidence, motivation, knowledge and understanding and lots of opportunities

Despite being a lifelong concept, work in Wales has primarily centred on youth populations. In the past, Welsh Government and Sport Wales have invested into related programmes such as the Physical Literacy Programme for Schools. Further, Sport Wales have focused much attention on physical literacy as an outcome of successful programme delivery.


In collaboration with Swansea University, Glyndwr University and Edge Hill University, Sport Wales designed a national measure of applied Physical Competence for children aged 8-14 years old called the “Dragon Challenge”. Physical Competence is an important component of Physical Literacy and can be defined as “one’s ability to move with competence in a wide variety of activities” (Edwards et al., 2017, p. 118). Physical Competence includes the acquisition of health and skills related components of fitness (e.g. aerobic fitness, strength, flexibility, agility, balance, coordination, power, reactions and speed), as well as fundamental movement skills like catching, throwing and running. Research suggests that higher physical competency levels will cause a positive trajectory toward perceived competence, health-related fitness and, sequentially, physical activity levels (Foweather et al., 2014; Holfelder & Schott, 2014; Robinson et al., 2015; Lubans et al., 2010; Stodden et al., 2008). The Dragon Challenge assesses physical competence skills in the areas of ‘stability’ (balancing the body in one place or while in motion), ‘locomotion’ (moving the body in any direction from one point to another) and ‘manipulative skills’ (handling or controlling objects with the hand, foot or an implement).

Participants perform nine tasks in a circuit that require single or combinations of skills to accomplish a goal. The circuit is designed to be fun, engaging and challenging. Throughout the circuit, participants are also required to use movement concepts such as spatial awareness (changes in direction and levels) and awareness of effort (changes in speed, force and flow) in relation to objects, goals and boundaries, as well as, cognitive attributes such as confidence, decision-making and understanding the environment. The participants are timed whilst they complete the circuit, and are marked by trained assessors on the quality of the movements and the completion of the end goal for each task. These are used to calculate an Overall Dragon Challenge Score, which provides a single observation of a participant’s physical competence at the time of testing (Stratton et al., 2015).

Survey Data

The Research Work Group explored the best available representative data to assign a physical literacy grade. In doing this, the Group divided the concept into four sub- indicators: Physical Competence, Motivation, Confidence and Knowledge and Understanding.

There was no available data for the affective (Motivation and Confidence) and cognitive (Knowledge and Understanding) domains. That said, data from the Dragon Challenge offered nationally representative Physical Competence data. In 2017, 4355 children aged 10-12 years completed the Dragon Challenge obstacle course (Central, n=875; South East, n=1238; Mid & West, n=1336; North, n=906). Results concluded that 62% children did not achieve an expected level of physical competence (bronze/silver awards) leaving 38% children with a good level of physical competence. The 38% of children meeting the ‘good level’ of physical competence translated to a D+ grade for Physical Competence.

Dragon Challenge Map

Click the image to view the map

Deciding on a Grade

The Research Work Group decided to grade Physical Literacy as inconclusive based on the limited available data.

  • There are limited empirical research around the concept of physical literacy internationally.
  • Current research does not account for the holistic nature of the concept. That is research tends to separate the domains and does not consider interactions between the domains.
  • As such, there is a need to be more creative with developing approaches to measure/assess physical literacy beyond the constructs of physical proficiencies, from a more holistic perspective (Edwards et al., 2018).
  • Physical literacy is both integrated and diverse – assessment/measurement might be viewed differently in different cultures. Therefore, a robust approach is needed to deciding which assessment to use, and why for a specific context (Barnett et al., under review).
  • Further data collection is needed across Wales to allow the Research Work Group to assign a grade to this indicator in future Report Cards.
How to Improve
  • Physical Literacy - link
  • 5 x 60 - link
  • Dragon Multi Skills and Sport - link
  • Physical Literacy Programme for Schools- link
  • International Physical Literacy Association - link
  • Australian Sports Commission - link
Data Sources