Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Con Burns

Second Advisor

Dr. Cian O'Neill

Third Advisor

Dr. Edward Coughlan


Background: Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are basic observable patterns of movement such as running and jumping. FMS facilitate participation in physical activity and sport. The ability to perform FMS correctly (i.e. FMS proficiency) is associated with numerous health benefits and is important for the holistic development of children. FMS proficiency among primary school children worldwide is low. Thus, interventions aimed at improving FMS levels among children are warranted. Therefore, this thesis aimed to assess the FMS proficiency among a cohort of Irish primary school children and examine the effectiveness of a physical activity (PA) (Year 1) and a multicomponent FMS (Year 2) intervention on children’s FMS levels.

Methods: FMS proficiency was assessed using the Test of Gross Motor Development-2 (TGMD-2), across academic year 2014/2015 (Year 1) and academic year 2015/2016 (Year 2). Participants were children from three primary schools (two intervention, one control) in south Ireland. In Year 1 (N=187), intervention (n=96) and control (n=91) groups were children from senior infant and fourth classes. In Year 2 (N=357), intervention (n=195) and control (n=162) groups were senior infant, 1st, 4th and 5th class children. At baseline Year 1, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to assess age and sex related differences in FMS proficiency among all participating children (N=203). Following both the PA- and FMS-intervention, repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to investigate the effectiveness of each intervention. Only participants with complete data sets at baseline and post-intervention testing were included in the analyses.

Results: FMS levels among Irish primary school children are similar to children worldwide, with age and sex differences evident. Older children scored significantly higher than younger children in both locomotor (p

Conclusion: FMS levels among primary school children in Ireland, and worldwide, are less than satisfactory. While a PA-based intervention improved locomotor proficiency, it was not more effective at improving children’s FMS levels than the Irish PE curriculum only. However, a multicomponent FMS-based intervention significantly improved locomotor, object-control and overall FMS proficiency among primary school children (large effect sizes for all). It is suggested that multicomponent FMS-based interventions should be implemented across primary schools in Ireland to improve FMS proficiency level, as greater proficiency is related to greater PA participation and numerous health benefits.


Chapters published in peer-reviewed journals:

Chapter 5: Accepted author manuscript version reprinted, by permission, from Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 6(1), 81-100. © Human Kinetics, Inc.

Chapter 6: Accepted author manuscript version reprinted, by permission, from Journal of Physical Activity and Health 16, 1, 29-36, available from: © Human Kinetics, Inc.

Chapter 7: Accepted author manuscript version reprinted, by permission, from Journal of Motor Learning and Development 7, 2, 153-179, available from: © Human Kinetics, Inc.

NB*: Additional FMS resources, including lesson plans and teaching material can be found in the attached additional files.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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