Do levels of academic achievement correlate with hand-eye coordination?

On the week when schools were nervously awaiting the results from Key Stage 2 SATs tests, new research suggests that hand-eye coordination can affect pupils’ academic ability in reading, writing and maths.
A study for the journal Psychological Science assessed the abilities of 300 pupils at Lilycroft Primary School in Bradford, as reported by The Telegraph.
Researchers from the University of Leeds concluded the following:

  • Pupils who could ‘steer’ past obstacles were on average nine months ahead of their peers academically.
  • The same part of the brain that develops spatial awareness is understood to also process numbers – “the current thinking among psychologists is that the neural circuitry used to build up a child’s understanding of their external environment, the way they orientate themselves spatially and understand their world, is also used to process numbers and more abstract thinking” (Mark Mon-Williams, professor of Cognitive Psychology).
  • Interventions can prove beneficial to pupils both physically and academically –should schools be identifying those children who are seen as clumsy or not so well coordinated and giving them extra support?”

Such findings underpin similar concerns raised by Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, as recorded her book Neuromotor Immaturity in Children and Adults.
She explained, “if basic physical skills are underdeveloped, children are going to struggle with dependent learning tasks. It introduces a mechanical problem in the action of writing, which may just interfere with how much a child writes or what their handwriting looks like.”
It is an area that Evolve Health Mentors have been supporting in various schools across the country. One former Health Mentor, now Regional Manager, explained how he noticed a clear correlation between fine motor skill interventions and physical literacy.
“I was fortunate enough to have a timetable that allowed me to work with some pupils individually and on a group basis as part of their PE lessons. Through discussions with the class teachers and evaluations during PE, we agreed on a set of pupils that required support with their coordination.
Utilising a variety of activities including blu tack and play-doh moulding, feeding spaghetti through small hoops, picking up objects with pegs and directing small objects around twisting mini obstacle courses, pupils were able to develop their coordination skills in a pressure-free environment. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed a substantial improvement with various skills such as catching and balancing in PE, as underpinned by various statistical progress checks. Teachers also commented on how pencil control had improved in the classroom.”
Evolve are also now working with cognitive development experts, MyCognition, to fine-tune their support and further understand the correlation between brain activity, physical literacy and academic achievement.