NGO and charity committed to reducing injury in sport

Understanding the Teenage Growth Spurt

The Developing Child: Helping PE teachers and coaching staff better support early and late maturers through online educational resources.

  • Working collaboratively with the University of Bath, creation of online resources for PE teachers and coaching staff to better understand and support pupils going through growth spurt, and accommodate for early and late developers.

    What is the context?

    The teenage growth spurt represents a pivotal period of developmental change for adolescents. This phase is not just about physical transformations but also includes significant emotional, cognitive, and socio-emotional changes. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for anyone working with young people.

    The Developing Child project is focused on providing professionals with expert-led knowledge on the growth spurt. This initiative aims to empower and build confidence in delivering developmentally appropriate physical activity and PE experiences to adolescents during this critical time of their lives.


    What are the study objectives?

    Our study has several key objectives.

    Primarily, we aim to understand the current landscape of physical education (PE) in UK schools, specifically during the teenage growth spurt years.

    We seek to assess PE teachers' existing knowledge, perceptions, and confidence levels in delivering PE during this period. By identifying knowledge gaps and understanding teachers' needs, we can develop strategies to optimise student success and engagement.

    Another major objective is to create an online digital health module tailored to provide teachers with the necessary information and tools to support their students effectively.

    Finally, we aim to evaluate the feasibility of these methods to determine the best ways to disseminate this information and ensure it has a meaningful impact on teachers and students alike.


    What was our approach?

    To achieve our objectives, we adopted a mixed-method approach. Initially, we conducted nationwide questionnaires and focus groups involving PE teachers. These methods allowed us to gather comprehensive data on the current state of knowledge and practice regarding the teenage growth spurt.

    The focus groups, in particular, provided valuable insights into teachers' specific needs and preferences. This co-creative process ensured that the product and service we develop would be directly relevant and useful to teachers. Our approach also included scenario-based case studies to assess how the knowledge and tools provided could be applied in real-world classroom and PE settings.

    These case studies will inform our feasibility study, which aims to understand how best to implement the developed resources to improve teacher confidence and student experiences in PE.


    What’s the output?

    Our early findings have been quite revealing. Nationwide questionnaire results indicate that 94% of PE teachers believe that education on the adolescent growth spurt would improve their confidence in delivering developmentally appropriate experiences. Furthermore, 97% of teachers expressed a keen interest in understanding how this information could impact student experiences.

    Despite this, only 9% of participants had received formal training on the adolescent years at either the BSc or PGCert level, with most training focused on early years and Key Stage 1. This highlights significant gaps in initial training for teachers. To address these gaps, we have co-created an online curriculum with teachers through two focus group sessions.

    This curriculum covers five key topic areas related to the growth spurt and PE experiences in schools. The feasibility project, set to commence in the autumn term, will collate these learnings into a comprehensive final product.

    This product will be made available to the educational sector for free starting in September 2025


    What’s next?

    The next phase of our project involves the feasibility study, scheduled to run from September to December 2024.

    During this period, the free online curriculum will be offered to schools. This curriculum contains approximately two hours of content that teachers can access at their convenience, allowing them to learn at their own pace and integrate the knowledge into their teaching practices. The insights gained from this feasibility study will be crucial in refining the final product.

    By September 2025, we aim to have a polished, comprehensive resource available to the educational sector at no cost. This resource will not only enhance teacher confidence but also significantly improve student experiences in PE and physical activities.

    We believe that by addressing the gaps in teacher training and providing targeted, developmentally appropriate resources, we can make a substantial positive impact on the educational and developmental outcomes for young people during this critical growth period.


    About the Project Lead

    Gemma Parry PhD is the Growth and Maturation Project Lead. Gemma is a physiotherapist and musculoskeletal researcher with over 15 years' experience across the health and education sectors, including. She holds a PhD in Movement Assessment and the Adolescent Child, an MSc in Sports Rehabilitation and a PGCert in Higher Education. 

    She was the lead physiotherapist to GB Short Track Speed Skating at PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, the EYOF in Finland 2022 for Team GB, and Wheelchair Basketball Team England during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Previously occupying positions at multiple sports organisations, including GB Boxing and Birmingham City FC, clinically Gemma continues to work for the English Institute of Sport delivering across multi-sport Olympic and Paralympic programmes.


    Contact information

    For more information, please contact either Gemma or Sean at the University of Bath:

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