Advances in Physical Education
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 215-220
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ape) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ape.2013.34035
Open Access 215
The Fundamental Movement Skills of a Year 9
Group and a Gifted and Talented Cohort
Gillian Griffiths, Rebecca Billard
Department of Sport and Physical Activity, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK
Received August 1st, 2013; revised September 1st, 2013; accepted September 8th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Gillian Griffiths, Rebecca Billard. This is an open access article distributed under the Crea-
tive Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any me-
dium, provided the o riginal work is properly cited.
Physical Education is often viewed as the place where Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS) are developed.
These skills underpin the development of motor competence and perceived competence, therefore im-
pacting on participation and physical literacy. Within education, Gifted and Talented (G & T) and inclu-
sion agendas have been high profile yet research has shown that children across the world are not reach-
ing expected levels of skill mastery at primary level (5 - 11 years). The aim of the research was therefore
to investigate the levels of mastery at secondary level (11 - 16 years) and within a G & T cohort to estab-
lish their levels of mastery, and investigate how this may relate to their participation in physical activities.
Forty five children, 19 Year 9 pupils (13.24 ± 0.2 years) and 26 G & T pupils (13.24 ± 0.2 years) were
evaluated performing a combination locomotor, manipulative (object control) and balance skills (n = 5). 5
trials of each skill were recorded and graded against the performance criteria by one experimenter. Mas-
tery or near mastery were only achieved, if, in 4 out of the 5 trials, 5 of the 6 component criteria were
present. If this was not attained, non-mastery was designated. Results revealed that the G & T pupils had
greater overall mastery of the 5 skills, however they did not master all skills. All G & T had significantly
increased jumping and throwing skills, and males significantly increased kicking skills. In both groups the
majority of participation outside the school curriculum was related to games activities and was dominated
by invasion games however no males participated in “aesthetic” activity outside school. These results in-
dicate that development of FMS may not be occurring in children at KS3 and there is both an invasion
games bias and a gender bias in the activities accessed out of school.
Keywords: FMS; Physical Literacy; G & T; Year 9
In the last two decades the recognition and investigation of
Fundamental Movement skills (FMS) has developed and in-
creased. It had been assumed that the development of these
skills was a natural part of maturation however it is actually a
more complex interactive process relating to biological con-
straints and the environment (Clarke, 2007). Happening virtu-
ally in tandem with this developing issue, the identification and
discussion of giftedness within education was a relatively
“new” concept which first arose in USA, DoE (1993) and in
NSW, Australia, Department of Education and Training (DET)
(1991). Following this in the UK, the “Excellence in cities”
scheme (EiC) (DfEE, 2000) sought, in one strand, to promote
and resource education for very able pupils, otherwise known
as the “Gifted and Talented” (Bailey, Tan, & Morley, 2006).
This occurred at a time when the National Curriculum for
Physical Education (NCPE) (2000), promoted inclusion as a
key objective, and unlike the 1992 and 1995 curriculum moved
from a “product” to a more “process” focus. So schools’ role of
supporting elite athlete development has been continually out-
lined by either the NCPE (1992) (DES/WO, 1992) or various
policies, such as “A Sporting Future for All” (DCMS, 2000),
Game Plan (DCSM/Strategy Unit 2002), the National Strategy
for Physical Education, School Sport and Club Links
(PESSCYL) (DfES/DCMS, 2003), the PE and Sport Strategy
for Young People (PESSYP) (DCSF/DCMS, 2008) and to a
lesser extent the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS)
So whilst NCPE (2000) clearly aimed to be inclusive other
policies and initiatives sought to support and develop elite ath-
letes within the PE arena. Croston (2012: 61) points out
“merging the aims of PE and sport in policy added to the dis-
cursive…about what is actually educationally worthwhile prac-
tice in PE” and criticism highlights the shift towards “elite de-
velopment, competition, and school sport”. This, alongside the
somewhat conflicting rhetoric of “inclusion” and “talent id”
could be seen to place physical educationalists in a confusing
predicament. This is perhaps likely to be further compounded
by the recent National Curriculum in England framework
document for consultation (DoE, 2013) with one stated aim to
ensure all pupils “develop competence to excel in a broad r ange
of physical activities” (DoE, 2013: 179). Previously the DCSF
(2007) stated talented students were encompassed by the ability
to excel in sport and artistic performance, which seems very
similar to the more recent statement (DoE, 2013) outlined,
which relates to all pupils and not talented pupils alone. Clearly
the statements and aspirations conflict and it is perhaps ques-
tionable whether all pupils can be competent enough to excel in
G. GRIFFITHS, R. BILLARD
a range of activities. Regardless, this competence is based on
gross motor development which has been “overlooked” in early
education due to misconceptions that this naturally occurs
To facilitate competence pupils need to develop certain
movement patterns, the key being breadth and balance of ex-
perience and a range of activity settings. Whitehead (2010: 3)
continues, “there is a great deal of empirical research, for ex-
ample, in cognitive science, that supports the fundamental im-
portance of movement development”. PE in school is the main
place where young people are assured of having experiences for
physical skill development (Bailey, 2006; Whitehead, 2013), it
is the place where PE teachers have the unique position of all
pupils available (Williams, 2008). It represents perhaps the one
opportunity for every young person to develop their motivation,
confidence and competence in a balanced and breadth activities.
Individuals who perform a broad range of movement compe-
tencies within their own physical capacity, applying these dif-
ferently and understanding how they can develop further, en-
compass the term physical literacy (Whitehead, 2001). This
literacy is built on blocks of movement termed Fundamental
Movement Skills (FMS) which begin to develop in early child-
hood years (Stodden, Goodway, Langendorfer, Roberton, Rud-
isill, Garcia, & Garcia, 2008) and are generally categorised into
three different areas: locomotor, object control and manipulat-
ive skills. However Croston (2012) points out that talent identi-
fication in PE may undermine the participatory teaching prac-
tices which work toward developing the physically literate in-
dividuals (Whitehead, 2001) outlined previously. However this
integration has perhaps been longstanding and is not aided by
the often competitive bias of extra-curricular activities (Kirk,
There is a growing body of evidence (van Beurden, Zask,
Barnett, & Dietrich, 2002; Stratton, McWhannell, Foweather,
Henaghan, Graves, Ridgers, & Hepples, 2009; Lemos, Avigo,
& Barela; 2012; Stodden et al., 2008) that many children are
delayed, or do not obtain proficiency in FMS development.
This contrasts previous opinion, supporting the notion that
children do not naturally learn FMS (Clarke, 2007) and it has to
be nurtured. Development of these competences is a primary
underlying mechanism that promotes engagement in physical
activity whilst reduced development of motor competence cor-
responds to lower perceived motor skill competence and less
physical activity (Stodden et al., 2008; Breslin, Murphy, Mc-
Kee, Delaney, & Dempster, 2012). Supporting these findings
Okely and Booth (2004) found that the prevalence of mastery
and near mastery in primary school children (aged 7.3 yrs) was
low, with boys performing better in object control tasks and
girls better in skipping. Using a similar method in children aged
9 - 10 yrs, Stratton et al. (2009) found that boys prevalence of
mastery did not exceed 60% and in girls only the hop exceeded
30%. This highlights a real concern as the expected age for
mastery of FMS is 8/9 yrs (Gallahue & Cleland, 2007). Whilst
there are clear concerns about the overall FMS of our children,
it might be expected that within the UK, given the support re-
ceived through the PESSCYL strategy, at least those identified
within schools as Gifted and Talented (G & T) individuals and
those who participate outside school PE lessons would have
developed to mastery level. Given previous findings at KS2 it
would be interesting to quantify FMS at KS3 and compare the
abilities to G and T pupils. The aims of the study are to 1)
quantify and compare the FMS skills of a Year 9 cohort and a
Year 9 G & T cohort and 2) consider the influence participation
out of the school curriculum having on these skills.
Twenty six G & T pupils participating in a Junior Athlete
Education (JAE) day and nineteen pupils from a local secon-
dary school volunteered to take part in the study. Their ages
ranged from 13 - 14 yrs, girls (n = 23) and boys (n = 22). Con-
sent was gained from the Head teacher/G and T co-ordinator
and the right to withdraw at any time was re-iterated at the be-
ginning of filming. The study was approved by Edge Hill Uni-
versity Ethics C o mmittee.
Assessment of Fundamental Movement Skills
Each skill was assessed against 6 components considered
essential to mastery of the skill. The skills were assessed using
a process orientated measure focused on how the skill is
performed (Knudson & Morrison, 2002). Each skill was broken
in to 6 components which afforded measurement a level of
objectivity beyond that of a single score (van Beurden et al.,
2002). Assessment was by video analysis of the specific criteria
using a checklist derived from an existing assessment tool
(Department of Education and Training, NSW, 2000) and with
established validity and reliability (Okely & Booth, 2000). The
assessment tool enabled direct comparison to previous research.
(Foweather, McWhanell, Henaghan, Lees, & Stratton, 2008;
Beurden et al., 2002).
The five skills that were assessed were vertical jump, hop,
throw, kick and balance. The skills were considered due to their
relative simplicity and variety. Recordings of each skill were
taken from identical angles, with optimised image size and with
separate cameras set up for the right/left handed throws and
kicks. Data was taken from SD card converted to DVD for ana-
lysis. One trained assessor conducted all fundamental move-
ment skill assessments. Groups were tested on separate days
which limited any interaction. Children were given a verbal
instruction and a single demonstration of each skill before they
completed five trials. Children were grouped (n = 5) and moved
between stations where the specific skills were filmed. Each
subject rested whilst the group undertook their trial giving each
participant a similar rest period between each trial. Additionally
the children were given a questionnaire which was used to un-
derstand the amount and type of activity they regularly partici-
pated in outside of the school.
Each skill was rated either 0 = non-mastery or 1 = mastery.
Mastery/near Mastery was deemed to be 5 out of the six criteria
being successfully demonstrated, whilst failure was deemed as
demonstrating 4 or less. Frequency statistics were used to cal-
culate overall, skill and criteria mastery from which group
comparisons were analysed. Statistics, chi2 with continuity cor-
rection was used.
Figures 1 and 2 show the mastery levels of both groups in
G. GRIFFITHS, R. BILLARD
each of the five skills. Mastery levels are separated by gender
showing mastery and non-mastery.
Participation in Activities
Table 1 reveals the participation rates of the pupils outside
their classroom experience. This has been further categorized
into the type of activity. Where a pupil engages in more than
one activity area they have been included in both/all of the
areas. The table shows that within both groups invasion games
was the area in which the majority participated out of school. It
also highlighted that only female participated in aesthetic ac-
tivities out of school.
In both groups invasion games are the predominant activities
participated in outside the curriculum. Aesthetic activities
Mastery and non-mastery of G & T males and females.
Mastery and non-mastery of males and fem ales in Yr 9.
Involvem ent in extra-curricular activities.
Activity Boys Girls
Total Year 9 G & T Total Year 9G & T
Invasion 21 9 12 15 6 9
S & F 2 2 0 1 0 1
N & W 6 6 0 3 1 2
Aesthetic 0 0 0 9 3 6
Athletics 1 0 1 5 4 1
Other 2 1 1 0 0 0
(dance, gym and cheerleading) are only experienced by the
Group Compariso n
Significant differences between the G & T group and Year 9
cohort occur in both the Throw (2 =4.148, p < 0.05) and the V.
Jump (2 = 11.135, p < 0.001).
Significant differences between males and females occur in
the kick (2 = 3.870, p < 0.05). Whilst not significant, near sig-
nificant differences (2 = 3.736, p = 0.053) occur in throwing
highlighting gender differences in object control skills.
It is expected that the majority of FMS should be achieved
by the age of seven years (Clarke, 2007). However in this study,
which only looked at 5 FMS, mastery of the skills is only
achieved by 67% (males) and 21% (female) of G & T pupils
and 10% (male), 22 % (female) of Yr 9 pupils. As the skills
viewed were a mixture of object control, balance and locomotor
skills it was apparent that at the age of 13 - 14 yrs young people
may lack a range of movement skills and within both of the
groups observed, do not achieve mastery in all of these basic
skills. This finding reflects those of previous studies looking at
younger children (van Buerden et al., 2002; Stratton et al.,
2009). The results show that, whilst the groups differ in their
FMS proficiency levels the G & T have a 27% increased over-
all mastery, however not all the G & T pupils were proficient at
the five FMS skills tested. Whilst this might be explained
within specific object control skills, it is perhaps not expected
in basic locomotor skills e.g. hopping which has at best 40%
mastery in both groups. This poor mastery might suggest ex-
perience of hopping is limited both within and outside of school
perhaps being viewed as of limited pedagogical importance.
However care must be taken when interpreting this result as
Barnett, van Beurden, Morgan, Lincoln, Zask and Beard (2009)
found this test to be the least reliable of all the tests. However it
is clear that mastery of hopping is relatively poor.
The occurrence of significant FMS differences and the
ac hievement of some high levels of mastery are anomalous. Both
groups have a similar mastery of the football kick (G & T 60%,
Yr 9 53%) an object control skill. Table 2 shows that whilst
92% of G & T have mastered the vertical jump, which could be
Group comparison: FMS differences between the G & T and Yr 9
Difference s between G & T and Y r 9
Skill Chi2 Significance
Kick 0.001 0.915
Throw 4.148 0.042*
V. Jump 11.135 0.001**
Balance 0.861 0.654
Hop 0.011 0.915
Note: *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01.
Open Access 217
G. GRIFFITHS, R. BILLARD
termed a relatively basic, perhaps non-specific skill, signifi-
cantly, 58% of Yr 9 have not. This kicking ability reflects the
overall high participation rate in invasion games and more spe-
cifically football (50%), which in turn is influenced by the cul-
tural values of society (Gallahue & Ozman, 2006). The signifi-
cant group differences in jumping mastery, as seen in Table 2,
seem to indicate a lack of this activity, related activity or spe-
cific skill activity within the curriculum. In contrast to kicking,
reduced Yr 9 jumping mastery was observed even when out of
school activities that require some basic jumping (netball/bas-
ketball) were well represented, indicating that “related” sport
participation may not influence FMS. Additionally, there is
decreased throwing mastery (compared to jumping) and a sig-
nificant difference between groups, which is perhaps accounted
for by this being an object control skill (Stratton et al., 2009;
Booth, Okely, McLellan, Phongsavan, Macaskill, Patterson,
Wright, & Holland, 1999). This explanation should reflect a
difference in the activities the groups experienced out of school
however it does not, with the Yr 9 participating in more
“throwing related activities”. However the FMS test for kicking
reflects the sport specific skill more closely than the throwing
and jumping tests which may influence results. Looking at both
throwing and jumping it could be argued that, 1) sport specific
development does not assist (even detracts from) the develop-
ment of certain FMS, 2) that the sport specific skills required
may not be similar to the FMS tested or, 3) perhaps both. The
lack of hopping mastery in both groups suggests it is neither
encountered in the school curriculum by the groups nor experi-
enced within the activities engaged in outside of school hours.
Within kicking, Table 3 highlights females significantly re-
duced kicking mastery and within throwing reduced mastery,
34% compared to 64% in males. Whilst not significant this is a
clear gender difference in throwing ability reflecting the find-
ings of Stratton et al. (2009). These gender and object control
differences reflect the findings of Booth et al. (2006) and Bar-
nett, van Beurden, Morgan, Brooks and Beard (2000). Signifi-
cant gender differences do not occur in the hop, vertical jump
Expected timing of FMS mastery differs between skills but
there are expected ages between 5 to 9 years by which specific
skill criteria should be mastered (DoE, 1996). In specific skills
certain criteria proved more difficult to master. Within object
control skills in kicking particularly G & T girls, struggled to
“forward and sideward swing of arm opposite swing leg” and
“Hip extension and knee flexion of at least 90 degrees during
preliminary kicking movement”. In throwing “arm nearly
Gender comparison: FMS differences between males and females.
Difference s between male and females
Skill Chi2 Significance
Kick 3.870 0.049*
Throw 3.736 0.053
V. Jump 0.009 0.924
Balance 0.000 1.000
Hop 0.000 1.000
Note: *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01.
straightened behind the body” and “marked sequential hip to
shoulder rotation during the throw” were poorly mastered. In
the vertical jump between 55% - 60% could not “crouch with
knees bent and arms behind the body” and “forceful upward
thrust of arms as legs straighten to take off”. In hopping, “takes
off and lands on forefoot” and “able to hop on both right and
left legs”. This reflects the findings of Scott, Williams and Horn
(2003) that use of the open kinetic chain occurred as technique
became more mature. All being mastered later reflecting the
model of expected criteria mastery (DoE, 1996). So whilst
some of the basic criteria are mastered, more complex, co-ordi-
nated criteria are not.
As the expectation is that this occurs before KS3 this implies
that at a crucial developmental time children are not experienc-
ing, certainly not in any depth, activities which would encour-
age this development (Hardy, King, Farrell, Maciver, &
Howlett, 2010). Given the influence of perceived competence
on participation and achievement it is also perhaps unlikely
then that a policy promoting competition is going to be more
successful if basic skills are not being achieved. The lack of
FMS mastery is likely to have an effect on the development of
physical literacy, participation throughout life and long term
athlete development (LTAD). At a time when health, competi-
tion and achievement are high on Government agendas, re-
duced FMS development and its’ long term influence on moti-
vation and participation needs to be addressed if physical edu-
cation targets are to be achieved. Interestingly Koshy, Pin-
heiro-Torres and Portman-Smith (2010) found the topic of
younger children was mainly ignored when auditing confer-
ences and courses on G & T education between 2007 and 2009,
nor could they find training courses to support teachers of the
younger age group. This would clearly disadvantage instruction
of the younger age group at a time when many are arguing for
more specialist input. Kirk (2005: 2013) has argued that PE
specialism teachers should preferably be based at primary level,
when pupils are initially receptive to motor skill development
(Clark, 2007). Strengthening this argument Lemos, Avigo and
Barela (2012: 20) found “at the end of a school year, children
enrolled in physical education activities, provided by specialists,
showed better performance than children enrolled in recrea-
tional activities”. Whilst the new NCPE guidelines highlight
competition as important and primary school PE/sport invest-
ment is to be re-introduced, it is questionable, considering the
past investment and the findings outlined, whether this alone is
the answer. As Lemos et al. (2012) found and Hardy et al.
(2010) concluded that provision by specialist teachers at pri-
mary/kindergarten level providing regular physical activity
would promote better development of gross motor skills.
This research highlights that skill development is not as
“rounded” as it could be for pupils and even with identification
and investment of our “talented” pupils; skill development may
be specific activity. Many children are not achieving the levels
of expectations particularly the more complex FMS criteria
perhaps, in part, due to a lack of balance and depth in funda-
mental movement skills within our schools but also possibly as
a result of specific sport practice within clubs at a young age.
Mastery in some skills, particularly object control skills, may
benefit and be influenced by sport specialization at young age.
However this specialization may detract from FMS develop-
G. GRIFFITHS, R. BILLARD
ment and, in the long term, may limit overall physical devel-
opment for life compromising both the ability to excel across
activities and overall sporting excellence. Even with overt in-
clusion policies and G & T policies being prevalent within
schools and PE, it appears that those skills which are suggested
as the building bricks for movement, and therefore in part
physical literacy, are not being fully developed in our children.
It is perhaps time to look carefully at the construction and in-
struction of the “physical” provision in our primary schools to
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