So here we are in lock down. It’s not a nice word and instantly we associate it with negative emotions and feelings. It indicates that we’re trapped and unable to move about freely…to do what we want.
Human’s need to move to be healthy and happy both physically and mentally. It’s a fact. Not one we always pay enough attention to in “normal modern day times”.
But moving, taking exercise, playing sport is nature’s magical medicine…and it makes us smile too.
Just take a look at Joe Wicks, “The Nation’s PE Teacher”. You won’t have been able to miss what he’s doing and the positive engagement he’s had.
Look at the enjoyment of both children and parent’s when they’re “working out” together. It’s bloody amazing and uplifting!
3.7 million people watched his first video this week…3.7 million people! They all wanted to do something positive and active and I’ll put my house on the fact that at the end of the 30 minute session 99% of children and adults who did it we’re smiling and feeling great.
We get this type of feedback from schools that are using our EIGER classroom standing desks. The children don’t want to be sat all day, every day in lessons. They probably don’t know why they don’t, but they just don’t. It’s not natural. It’s not in their biological blueprint.
“My Y6 class love using the EIGER standing desks for maths, rather than longer writing activities - but they are so popular we have to organise a rota for each group of children!” Dobcroft Primary School. Sheffield.
When they stand, they can fidget and “move” without being disruptive. Nobody stands still (unless you’re a guard outside Buckingham Palace!), we make micro-movements and this increases our oxygen and glucose levels. Vitally it increases positive endorphins in the brain which stimulate us and helps us feel good. Sitting is the complete opposite.
So let’s give Joe Wicks a round of applause. Hats off to him. He’s highlighted how movement and exercise positively impact us physically and mentally. How we should make sure it’s part of our daily routine. How it brings people together and makes us smile.
Let’s not brush this under the carpet when the lockdown goes away.
In a political climate where politicians’ are pushing to increase class sizes, some schools are earning a gleaming reputation for pushing back against the norm and keeping classes small.
We are in a time of flux with standardised tests, the debate as to whether the pressure from GCSE's and SAT's are too disruptive to pupil mental health are ongoing. Meanwhile the same non-conformist schools have thrown out exams all together. Where the modern day school system demands uniformity, California based High Tech High asks their pupils not to wear a uniform.
‘We have been very intentional at High Tech High about keeping our class sizes, team sizes and school sizes small...This allows us to build that sense of community and collaboration.’
Subject of a 2018 documentary "Most Likely to Succeed" High Tech High is a school proactively doing things differently. A place where pupils tend to be separated by what they are learning rather than their age group. A place where subject boundaries are fluid and are often taught simultaneously by focusing on project based learning. For example Physics and Art are conceivably one of the most unlikely pairings which result in life size Escher styled staircases which seemingly go nowhere being hand crafted and displayed by pupils. Science projects merge with environmental to see students measuring the local waterways and feeding their data into larger scope university projects.
By stark contrast to the Escher staircases this Montessori style school in California has pupils who certainly go somewhere as 95% of its students enter university education. The schools two month long internships that every student undertakes sees them experiencing tech companies, art museums and fertility clinics as part of their personal development. One student was quoted as saying "‘it was such a powerful experience, It’s made me realise I want to work in midwifery.’
Surprisingly High Tech High is a state funded charter school like the UK's free schools. It doesn’t discriminate on who gets to join. The classes boast SEN pupils and financially disadvantaged kids in relatively high percentages.
As we wrote about in our article on the Finnish school system. It seems that an ethos and culture innately embedded in a schools DNA can instil into pupils a desire and love of learning. This seems to translate into better results and more well-rounded successful individuals.
The culture of High Tech High is a flagship concept in new wave schooling. Envisioned by Educational leader Larry Rosenstock, Silicon Valley tech billionaire Irwin Jacobs and a team of civic heads and teachers who sought to redesign the entire system with notions of deep learning and holistic development at its core.
‘In our maths class, the teacher explains a concept. Then we all must go away and use this concept to create our own problem and solution – and then come back and teach the rest of the class. It’s a really powerful way to learn. And sometimes it’s easier to understand from your peers than a teacher.’
The school is visited by 5000 influencers and educators every year seeing celebrity visitors such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill gates through its doors. The pupils this type of free range education is spawning are confident, critical thinkers whose maturity and collaborative skills have been cultivated through constant collaborate activity in teams.
Their creativity is nurtured and given as much importance as the basic fundamentals such as English and Maths. This core subjects are mandatory but the options to venture into coding, language, politics, engineering and environment are there.
The landscape is changing and it seems Britain may be getting left behind in an outdated and regressive methodology. There are still some UK schools adopting new ideas and undertaking Dead Poets Society style mentoring but they are amongst the few not the plenty.
High Tech High students working on a robotics project.
The quality and style of international education is shifting towards pupil-centric ideals. Soon it's likely the face of schooling will have a new look. One not designed to produce workers for the factories, subservient and hardworking but instead, free thinkers with diverse critical thinking skills who are better equipped to take on the challenges being presented by the digital age.
Where do you stand on this new type of schooling? Would it work in the UK? Does your school embrace change? Let us know in the comments or on our social media channels.
Schools wishing to trial standing desks as part of their own new wave thinking can trial them here: Schools Student Standing Desk Trial
As my own anecdotal experience tells me (as a big advocate for taking our children hiking in the local woodlands.) Research has now been able to demonstrate a scientific link between being out and about in nature and feeling good.
A study released on Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Psychology researchers studied the direct link between a group of kids “connectedness to nature” and their sustainable behaviours and happiness.
The study asked 300 children to fill in a questionnaire about how they perceive nature from how they feel when they see wild animals to the joy of smelling flowers and hearing birdsong. The children who measured as having good connection to nature also showed some other interesting results.
Connected to nature is defined by the researchers as;
"Thinking and feeling emotionally connected with all the elements of the natural environment, with feeling happier as a consequence."
The kids who scored higher on nature connection also were more likely to engage in altruism, help people, care for the environment, recycle, save water and perhaps more interestingly they were more likely to state they believed in equality between race, sex and financial standing.
The same children scored higher on the happiness scale.
As a parent who recently paid for his son to attend a weekly gardening club whose toddler also goes to forest school. I’m, feeling pretty validated. I know getting your hands dirty and understanding your environment is a big part of what made my childhood fun. But above happiness it seems according to the researchers they believe we owe it to the planet to ensure that the future custodians of our environment learn to love it and develop their other altruistic tendencies in the process.
"They are future consumers of products, entrepreneurs, decision-makers, workers, and depending on the environmental education received, their connection with nature, environmental awareness and environmental values are the future of the environment, too," said Dr. Laura Barrera-Hernández, author of the study.
With the ever growing trend of forest and beach schools gaining momentum it makes sense to give children the benefit of the outdoors when their online role models are influencing them to sit down and watch video games, streamers and YouTube for hours on end.
Allowing kids to exist outdoors whatever the weather is culturally embedded in the Finnish education system we recently wrote about where kids get regular exercise and outdoor time during the school day to encourage their development and morale.
So why would we suggest going outside when we are retailing standing desks? Well two reasons.
The first being that using our classroom friendly Eiger standing desks means groups of kids can easily be taken outside if it’s a nice day as the desks are extremely portable and can be disassembled, moved and re-assembled in a matter of minutes. Many of our clients are schools who do this regularly to give their kids some much needed outdoor time.
We wrote recently how one in eight kids don’t even play outside.
A 2015 study also showed adults benefit from being outside and report less negative thoughts and general increase in mental health. So the same applies to office workers who might want to take their laptop to the local park with our outdoor Eiger carry bags this outdoor office can be achieved in a matter of minutes.
Secondly standing desks are part of our prescription for a holistic approach to good physical wellbeing and overall mental health. They are not a cure-all. They can be and should be used as part of a healthy lifestyle shift. Using a standing desk all day and not moving when doing so is fundamentally not much better than sitting extensively.
Using a standing desk to encourage movement is the optimal way to benefit from having one. So taking regular movement breaks to get a glass of water of walking to the loo a little farther away are all great habits to get into when standing at work or school to increase the micro movements needed to burn calories and release physical tensions.
The need for mobility is one of the reasons we have leaned towards portable designs in our desks. Stationary desk users are less likely to more and improve their physical literacy.
So what’s the main take away here?
• Whether child or adult, there’s now a scientifically proven benefit to getting outside into nature.
• Kids who engage with nature basically become better, nicer and happier people.
• Standing desks can be a great way to get your classroom outside and still learning.
• Standing desks are part of the solution and should be used in conjunction with cultural and behavioural changes that see you using your body more and being more mindful to truly get the most out of the standing desk movement.
Low Literacy Due To Overuse of Screen Time?...Health Secretary Prescribes An App For That.
The independent reported today that the majority of parents would struggle to help a 7 year old with their homework according to a new study.
The study by Oxford Home Schooling found that only a third of parents felt confident assisting their kids with school projects. The study provided 1000 parents typical year 3 homework and found only 1 in 16 of the participants could answer each of the Maths, English and Science questions correctly.
You can head over to the Independents article to do the test yourself.
The study also determined men are more likely to feel confident helping out with homework. 39 percent of Dads compared to only 28 percent of mums said they were confident to help.
More than one in 10 parents acknowledged they use Siri or Alexa virtual assistants to help answer homework questions. More than 75% of parents admit to often using the internet to answer homework questions.
“The results of the survey are quite surprising, but they will probably resonate with many parents across the country," said Dr Nick Smith, principal at Oxford Home Schooling.
"For some, a large amount of time will have passed since they themselves were in the education system and so they will be unfamiliar with the current curriculum.
“Our research has found that over a third of primary school parents think their children are stressed because of work, so it is important that they strive to help out where they can, using assistants, like Google, if needed.”
Meanwhile despite televised warnings of kids getting too much screen time the education secretary Damien Hinds believes parents should be getting their kids to use educational apps to reduce the literacy gap between children at school entry age.
He talked in terms of the development gap being a "profound issue" and will let the areas most affected by the readiness variance have free prescriptions to educational apps for kids as young as two years old.
He said the so called sesame street can be harnessed to bridge the skill gap. He also puts the responsibility on distracted parents who are too engaged with their own devices to talk to their kids and help them out.
Both these articles are painting a picture of a society which has a two sided relationship with technology. The majority of parents are relying on the internet and devices to help kids do their homework. kids copy what they see at home and in turn spend too much time using devices and doing less and less of more proactive activity’s such as reading and motor skill improving creative play. The kids suffer as a result of their own and their parents overuse of tech whilst the health secretary prescribes more screen time to solve the issue no doubt creating kids who grow up reliant of technology to solve their problems and so a perpetual loop seems impossible to avoid.
With Apples steady integration into the school room via digital text books and homework apps, it seems that parents are going to undertaking an uphill struggle to push back against the machines we are increasingly relying on to help us raise our kids.
One way we can make sure our kids are getting some extra exercise is by providing them with standing desks. Schools can trial standing desks on a “try-before-you-buy” basis here. Parents can grab a suitably sized Eiger Standing desk here to encourage more physical literacy at home to make their own stand against the developing screen time addiction crisis turning our kids obese and illiterate.
I Want a Standing Desk Publishes a Fortnightly Blog about health and education. Bookmark us now or follow us on Twitter / Facebook to keep up to speed with our latest.
Loot boxes may have run into their end of game boss in the form of UK Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch. Murdoch has called for the removal of loot box based systems from games bought by children. The case against loot boxes is not a new one and gaming as a whole has only recently been classified as an potentially addictive activity however with top ten developers utilising the services of addiction consultants to intentionally make their games habit forming it seems the NHS is waking up to the issue and calling for a change.
‘Frankly no company should be setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes. No firm should sell to children loot box games with this element of chance, so yes those sales should end’
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch in a statement published by The NHS
This is first time a leading figure in the NHS has called for a stop to loot boxes. Which Belgium already qualify as 'gambling'. For those that don't know loot boxes are systems within a video game or app where you can earn or purchase crates or packages which give you various chances for tiered rewards. The higher the tier, the lower the chance that it will be a prize from your loot box. They work like a slot machine and encourage the player to self soothe by giving themselves a serotonin boost when they pop another crate, often following a loss in a game. The items available in the loot crates are often unavailable through regular play or require hundreds or even thousands of hours of grinding to acquire them all.
Some of the biggest games played by children utilise the loot crate system to massive profit. Games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, Fifa and Rocket League all make huge sums selling loot crates. (Although Rocket League has recently adapted its system to make most items outright purchasable to presumably sidestep to oncoming legislation which seem increasingly likely to be brought into law in the UK following the recent NHS position.)
In 2017 the UK Gambling Commission said loot boxes do not qualify as gambling under current British law, however opinion on the matter is starting to shift and the systems are intentionally exploitative and designed exactly like gambling machines. The only reason they are perceptibly not considered gambling is the inability to officially convert your earnings into real money however this is entirely possible through a growing digital item black market available through eBay, Facebook groups and dedicated websites which will pay you real cash for your digital items.
So what can a parent do?
> Understand the games your children are playing and identify if those games contain loot box systems.
> Turn off in app purchases from devices such as phones or tablets and remove the stored credit card details on your children's consoles to avoid any unexpected bills.
> Speak to your child and explain to them that loot boxes are designed to entice players to spend hours playing the game and spend money. Most games can still be played and completed without using loot boxes.
Importantly it’s time to start observing the PEGI in game ratings which are generally ignored by parents but exist to ensure the content we allow them to binge is age appropriate. Take a look at the following ratings guide to get to grips with it.
So not only should you be looking to ensure your children aren’t overdosing on screen time it’s time to start considering the content they play and how that may be designed with gambling systems and addiction habit creating mechanisms.
Around 39 per cent of British teenagers spent money on gambling in 2018, according to a report by the Gambling Commission entitled Young People and Gambling 2018.
A report on Parent Zone shows that nearly half a million kids have gambled on an in game item at least once. Put some time aside to discuss in game loot boxes with your child and set some boundaries.
Standing to Game
Video games are not inherently bad. Many video games are well designed entertaining or educational experiences which do not contain loot boxes. If you or your child play video games then a standing desk can be an excellent way to ensure that screen time isn’t necessarily couch time and reap some calorie burning benefits whilst you indulge the hobby.
Our standing desks are used by gamers for streaming sessions or casual play and ensure that players can give their best with the added benefit of freedom of movement, greater blood oxygenation and eye level monitors.
Players experience heightened attentiveness and better results whilst standing to play. Streamers benefit from navigating traditionally long sitting sessions and have improved health and engagement with their audience. You can check out our range of standing desks here.
Companies are predatory, they will continue to create systems to extract money from their customers and if their users are children this means they are just going to do it more divisively and sneakily to side step changing laws. The NHS making a stand now and calling for a ban may lead to more regulation however it’s heavily under regulated for the time being so parents need to buckle in for a battle for your children’s minds and your wallets against the brightest characters, peer pressure and predatory games companies. Fight the good fight and be sure not to quash the fun in the meantime or you'll simply become the enemy.
Teach yourself to understand the games and what they contain. Open dialogue and honest explanations go a long way with children. Their adult response may just surprise you.
Further reading: What are loot boxes?
Trick Your Sleepy Brain
Have you ever laid in bed with the unshakeable feeling that you want to go to sleep but just can't slip away into slumber? I know from experience this can drag on for hours. A little shift in perspective can make all the difference. How you look at your given state can help trick your mind into fully relaxing.
So what’s the shift in perspective here? Well tell yourself that it's morning time. The mind-set you have towards being in bed in the morning for most people is that it’s the comfiest place in the world and you don’t ever want to leave. This is certainly why it’s so hard to get our engines going in my household every 7am.
So when I find it hard to sleep I tell myself that it’s first thing in the morning and that I don't have to get up. I roll over and I drift away happily under the brief suspended reality I have created for myself.
This is the same suspended reality that can keep Wylie Coyote suspended in mid-air for all those moments before he finally looks down over the cavern he has sped into and plummets.
There’s a power to how we frame things. My children don’t try and eat vegetables they aim to get as many colours on their plate as possible. I don't go on a diet. I adopt a lifestyle change….and when kid’s need a bit of encouragement to move more or eat less how we frame these experiences stands for everything.
My 5 year old gets nearly his recommended dose of daily exercise in one after-school class. A class that had they framed it in the traditional way would have no doubt lost his interest months ago like Rugby Tots did after two sessions before it was tears and pleas to go home on a Saturday morning. So every Tuesday instead of attending mixed Martial Arts, we head on over to Ninja School. Not before the boy tells every school friend and their parents on the way out of school that he is on his way to ninja school and that he is a real ninja.
One ninja t-shirt and the persistent sticking to the Ninja School alibi from every Sensei means that the kids not only all -in emotionally but they get active and even spend the extra five minutes listening to a ninja lesson where they might learn about the benefit of eating their Veg to be fast and powerful ninjas or the importance of respect along with other life lessons. Which of course they listen to because it's from someone other than their parents.
Instead of drifting off mid talk they actively participate. They contribute ideas and they listen. Whilst the mantra they shout every lesson also suggests. They "will do their best!" ...to become better ninjas of course.
Now this is not lying to kids. The instructor’s and savvy parents alike all go with the verbiage and play along to the benefit of their kid’s enthusiasm for that much needed dose of exercise and enrichment. How it's shaped is simply the difference. How the kids perceive the class and themselves within it.
Dancing & The NSPCC Pants Song
Our house includes daily bouts of dancing for fun and exercise. Even our 2 year old demands his favourite songs and shouts the request to our Alexa device which is smart enabled to play any song on demand. One play of the song "Kung Fu Fighting" and both the boys are diving about the kitchen with arms and legs flailing with wild abandon. The same device plays the "Pants Song" when we want to learn about the pants rule.
This is another fine example of how we frame things. We are able to kick start the NSPCC skill on the Alexa device and either work through the pants quiz which lets kids know it’s okay to say No and to respect theirs and other people private parts. The song sings of Pantasaurus who gets his power from wearing pants and how its okay to say no if someone makes you uncomfortable. Whilst this might seem like a world gone mad to some people in reality by framing a very taboo subject in a kid friendly language the removal of stigma means important conversations can be had in our household and important lessons learned from an early age when kids are most vulnerable.
Here is the pants skill if you want to install it on your Alexa or other device and the pants song because it's catchy as hell.
King For A Lesson
Kids at school might need a little encouragement to adopt healthier choices, but as above how we frame these scenarios go a lot towards how children respond to them. Is it cool to sit or to stand? If your participate at school are you a "swot" or a "clever clogs" or perceived as simply "clever" by your peers.
Schools that adopt our standing desks find the children who use them improve their productivity. They participate more, are less disruptive and the quality of their work output improves. Statistically they even score higher on academic tests. Does the standing desk change the child’s perspective in the very moment we want them to be as engaged as possible?
There have been many psychological studies which find that room layouts and chair placements effect people’s behaviour. For instance if you sit in the middle chair of a talking semi-circle you are most likely to adopt the role of leader in the dynamic. Now people are physically looking towards you for leadership but should that mean someone more likely in their personality wouldn't outshine you and step up to the plate. Well the data suggests that you will lead the group. Wall flowers can use this to force themselves to participate.
Studies have shown how important mind-set is to the classroom. A mind-set that one will aim to master a subject is more useful than a natural aptitude to accomplish the same thing. Like my old guitar teacher said. "There are those who can play this naturally and there are those who have to work at it. You will have to work at it." Thanks Shirty. It was hard advice to hear in my teens but completely set me on the correct mind-set to accomplish my goals. He explained in that simple idiom that this wasn't going to come easy. At the age I went to him I wanted everything to come easily and he no doubt had seen it all before.
The correct mind-set to mastery demonstrated perfectly by a man they call "shirty".
So how does the standing desk allow children to shift their perspective in the classroom?
Well the increased blood flow from standing and small movements aids brain function by increasing oxygenation. This can also help with children who suffer ADHD. The elevated position gives children a positive sense of their place in the rooms dynamic resulting in the increased participation. (Not unlike the chair example.) Engagement increases by approx 16% which is significant for such as small shift.
Let’s not forget that standing makes us feel better than sitting. Kids have a tendency to slouch and disengage in class. This is years of muscle memory, child born laziness passed down from generation to generation. The older kids are in school the less likely they are to be active so getting them standing from primary age is a must to ensure they develop a positive mind-set to the proposition and don't shun it because it appears to take slightly more effort.
Active kids become active adults. Our children are glued to devices all day and always look for the easiest way to accomplish tasks. The culture in this country amongst younger people is to shirk exercise in way of screen time and couch time. So it's time to get smart and outfox the young guns into adopting better habits.
How can your classroom frame the standing desk to make it desirable? Well most don’t' have to ...flexible seating is a big hit amongst kids generally. If delivered smartly and framed well the kids love the idea of changing it up and there is rarely any push-back but for those schools who need to get smart to encourage take-up. "King for a lesson" seems like a nice way to frame a singular standing desk classroom. Multiple standing desk hot desk classrooms can work in the idea of rotating between desks to include a little more brain stimulating movement into the daily routines.
I don't need to tell you how to suck eggs. Teachers are some of the most creative and encouraging people to walk the earth. Just remember to engage that part of your brain when you start to include standing in your classroom, because the benefits are huge and perspective is everything.
This article demonstrates the importance of mind-set to the classroom.
Just as it's been proven that brands encouraging our kids to watch YouTuber/Twitch presenters peddle Doritos and Mountain Dew increases those brands junk food sales it seems the correlation between the media we let or children engage with and their eating habits has been further illustrated in a new study which shows that kids who watch healthy food based cooking shows are twice as likely to choose to snack healthily.
“Kids who watched a child-oriented cooking show featuring healthy food were 2.7 times more likely to make a healthy food choice than those who watched a different episode of the same show featuring unhealthy food,”
- The study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.
The study which was based in the Netherlands, included 125 kids from five schools who were aged between 10 and 12.
The kids watched a Dutch TV show designed for children and were then offered a snack options as a reward. The kids who watched the healthy kids oriented cooking show opted for the cucumber slices and apples over pretzels and crisps.
Frans Folkvord, PhD, of Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands, who ran the study believes that positive TV programming can change the way children regard healthy foods and that kids can be steered towards healthier choices with "positive peer and teacher modelling".
As a parent it's hard to ignore the notion that kids do what we show them and not what we tell them. Hopefully some of the ideas from this study can be applied on a national level when it comes to planning and programming in the UK as part of the countries fight back against the growing childhood obesity epidemic reducing our kids estimated lifespans year after year.
We recently wrote about the fact that kids being involved in the preparation of food increases the chance that they make healthy choices. ( Childhood Obesity Solved: Teach Kids To Cook. ) So it seems we are in dire need of an increase in kid focused cooking shows which encourage kids to understand and get involved in food preparation.
Parents and teachers wanting to encourage their pupils and kids to watch kids focused cooking shows which encourage participation can look no further than shows such as "Kids Baking Show" and "Chopped Junior" on the Food Network and the CBeebies show "I Can Cook" featured here.
BBC Goodfood has a series of online kids cooking recipes you can try out together.
"Modern reliance on ready-prepared foods and a lack of modelling by parents in preparing fresh foods have led to a drop in cooking skills among kids”
The study talks about modelling and encourages parents to help teach kids how to cook safely. The habit of eating healthy much like being active stays with us into adulthood. If this country is to try and combat the growing obesity figures with real changes then a shift in the culture of kids programming and some laws to protect our children from persuasive and predatory kids programming (ON TV and online) needs to come into place.
One great method to get kids into eating fruit and veg is to challenge them to fit three colours onto their plate every day. Look at this selection, its much prettier than chicken nuggets and chips. Lets use that.
For now it’s simply up to you to ensure your children get outside, get active and eat healthily and the best way to influence them to do this is to show them how much fun it is.
“Increased cooking skills among children can positively influence their consumption of fruit and vegetables in a manner that will persist into adulthood.” - Frans Folkvord lead author of the study.
Kid’s cookery classes are also available throughout the UK - a list compiled by BBC good food has some good options.
Parents looking to also encourage healthy habits at home can purchase a kids standing desk on this site here. Whilst teachers and schools looking to include standing desk options in their classrooms can undertake a try before you buy trial at their school by filling in this small form.
The solution is holistic. A cultural shift. A series of small changes which add up to a change in attitude and perception of activity and health. Our children are fixated on their devices so lets co-opt that desire to binge watch media content for good, by spending a little bit of time curating their viewing options.
"The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones." - Confucius
Jeremy Corbyn recently called out the Finnish education system as the one we should aim to emulate in this country. Michael Moore produced a documentary detailing the quality of Finland’s education system and media across the world have since been abound with details of the unique Finnish scholastic approach.
With political leaders citing other countries methods as best practise perhaps time to look at what Finland are doing well and see what our schools and educators could borrow from their process.
Finland completely rejuvenated their education system about 40 years ago as an integral element of the country’s economic recovery plan but evidence this was successful didn’t come until the 2000’s when a standardized test given to schools across 40 countries showed that Finnish schools produce the best readers. Three years later tests confirmed they then led in Maths. By 2006 Finland were first in science, third in reading and 6th in maths. It seemed the education revolution in Finland had a real impact.
NO TESTS AND BIG ON EQUALITY
So what do they do differently? Well there are no mandated standardised tests in Finland until the end of students last year of senior school. Pupils are not ranked, don’t compete within the school or across regions. So ‘teaching to the test’ is an outdated principle in Finland.
Instead equality is the buzzword integral to the culture of the countries education system. So much so that the gap between the lowest performing pupil and the highest is the smallest in the world.
“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.
Despite Finland spending 30% less than the USA on each student a striking 93% of their students go on to graduate. That’s 17.5% more than the US. Facts such as these are why other countries are looking at Finland’s methods and asking themselves “how can we do better?”
“We prepare children to learn… how to learn, not how to take a test,”
Pasi Sahlberg - Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture
PLAY IS INTEGRAL. SCHOOL STARTS LATER.
So what else is different? Well schools allows 15 minutes of free playtime up to four times a day. The kids are getting fresh air and exercise both of which proactively benefits them when they hit the books. Now whilst Finland might not test these children studies have shown that 15 minutes exercise has a positive effect on kid’s ability to learn and study resulting in higher test scores for active pupils who exercise in or before class.
In Finland kids spend far more time playing outside and aren’t rushed into the education system. Compulsory schooling only starts at age 7.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
There is a widespread cultural phenomenon throughout Finland’s education system and it is one of doing “whatever it takes” to get a child to where they need to be academically.
This might be a headmaster taking a child under their wing as a personal mentee to letting them express themselves with how they dress or flex their wiggles by letting them get outside more. This approach is more easily demonstrated by the fact that Finish schools have dedicated SEN teams available to each class ensuring that each child benefits from their education equally.
Teachers in Finland are highly educated and require a masters degree (5-7 years in the making) in order to be qualified to teach. They are then given a great deal of autonomy in the process and are respected within their communities far more than in other countries.
With the commitment of so many years under their belts and the regard for their profession being highly placed they are also far more likely to view teaching as a lifelong career which bodes well in terms of retaining the highly educated better qualified staff for longer.
Can UK schools adopt a more Finnish approach right now?
Well by taking a leaf from the Finnish schools habit of encouraging physical literacy in the school day. Whilst we know that schools are in no position to suddenly introduce 15 minutes of play before every lesson however hundreds have already started to include standing desks to allow children some physical freedom in the classroom.
Standing whilst you work can have the same effect of improved engagement, academic performance, personal well-being and good mental health. By letting kids stand and move more whilst they work schools are reportedly reaping the benefits similar to the schools whose children are allowed additional playtime and outdoor exercise.
LITTLE TO NO HOMEWORK / THE INNER MOTIVATOR
So what else separates Finland’s process from our own?
Well Children are given little to no homework but most importantly kids are encouraged to tap into their inner motivation. Teachers and school systems focus on working out psychologically how best to stimulate a child’s own inner motivation. Teaching them not to work to tests well but instead how to think analytically.
Goals are set but by the kids themselves. They are asked to identify their own goals and these might be yearly or weekly but the emphasis is on the child taking ownership of their own journey.
This seems to go hand in hand with the desire to teach them not to perform for others but for themselves. A key component of the system which seems integral to its success. In short they introduce a joy of learning by taking away the side British children, bemoan. Tests, homework, few breaks…working to satisfy someone else’s standards.
The overarching educational reform Finland dared to implement has turned them into a world leader of education. They seemingly afford their teachers and pupils far more respect than we do nationally and importantly both now outperform us. So if you’re a teacher or headmaster and you think you can take a leaf out of the Finish playbook. Then don’t wait for national reform.
As Ghandi was apparently mis-quoted as saying. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And implement some positive class or school wide changes in your institution. Show other schools, your pupils and communities that you are prepared to improve and change for the better. Positive change is contagious. It simply has to start somewhere.
or..."Bake-off Judge Takes A Break from Peddling Cakes on the Idiot Box to Say Bad Mums Fill Lunchboxes with 'Junk'"
Prue Leith, a judge from the Great British Bake-off TV show said home packed lunch boxes should be banned after detailing how she believes 'most mums' fill them with Junk food.
She argued that the habit of putting a treat in the lunchbox everyday should be curtailed and treats should not be a daily occurrence for kids. She believes the daily treat habit had directly contributed to the ongoing and very real obesity crisis the country’s young people are enduring right now.
Leith when speaking to Ben Shepard and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain said unfortunately a sandwich and a piece of fruit isn’t the average daily lunchbox and that schools should be
"Using lunch times to teach kids about healthy eating."
One comment on twitter agreed some stricter rules for parents might be a good idea but a country wide ban on lunchboxes made by parents is "ridiculous" another comment seemed pretty grounded in the real world read;
“Prue, who’s paying for these school dinners once you ban packed lunches? I couldn’t afford it for my children so packed lunches are our option. Ok for all you rich folk.”
As a parent who deals with packing multiple school lunches through the week I can say with absolute certainty that whilst there may be some parents who 'phone-it-in' that creating packed lunches with variability and healthy contents is a task on top of a million others that a reality TV judge has no place weighing in on. The obesity crisis is an issue however putting the fix firmly in the hands of the parents and not the corporations preying on children’s via online influencers and kid friendly mascots or fun house fast food environments is misdirected culpability.
Yes schools should educate children about healthy eating, I wonder if Leith knows that 2020's curriculum changes have been designed to do exactly that? Yes kids shouldn't necessarily have the added calories of a treat a day however the calorie issue could be being tackled not by depriving children of a simple snack based treat with their school lunches but by a cultural shift away from sedentary behaviour and towards creating active kids who would still have a calorie deficit even with a snack in their daily diets if their physical activity levels were anything like the recommended daily hour medical experts suggest they should be undertaking.
There is a certain irony of someone whose TV show illustrates high sugar food in the form of cakes spouting off about kid’s school dinners. Someone whose income is based off people couch potation in front of the TV engaging her content. A certain irony to the format she chooses to reel this information off i.e. once again whilst being on TV ...one of the big contributors to sedentary behaviour since we invented the settee.
How about we ban Televisions. Or cakes? The benefits would be huge compared to snack management in children’s school dinners. How about we include a standing desk in every classroom or better yet one for each child? The idea that this is on the parents or another responsibility to add to the schools to do list alongside delivering a new national curriculum, and educating children on the ever growing debacle that is understanding modern day sexual diversity. I believe schools probably have enough to do keeping up with the times and the majority of parents are overwhelmed enough already.
Changes need to be long-term, passive and easily maintained and remarks suggesting bad mums give kids snacks or schools need to add to their over exhausted workload are remiss when Leith operates in a predatory industry peddling sugar for a living.
But hey! maybe parents should take some note from this and maybe tone down the sugary snacks and drinks because yes in actual fact despite me playing devil’s advocate parents absolutely are involved in shaping their children’s attitudes towards sugary and fatty foods and in this day and age when every Instagrammer or big time YouTuber has your child’s ears we are all up against it anyway.
So dig deep and 'lest you be judged' by Leith perhaps help your child understand why they might start making healthy choices for themselves and maybe you can become the biggest influencer in their upbringing once again. Like the good old days before you needed a social account to be relevant to your kids.
With Christmas day just behind us it's time to start looking forward to the New Year and those inevitable news year’s resolutions and start looking at your family's future with 2020 vision.
Typically new year resolutions don't last much longer than about 8 weeks if your pretty dedicated but experts recommend making changes which aren’t so dramatic but several small effective changes are great so that you can stick to them throughout the year.
Now we'll all sit there with bloated bellies after indulging a little too much and conspire to attend the gym, change our eating habits and start googling the latest trendy diet which cuts out ketones or carbohydrates but very few of us are sparing a thought for our children. The gleeful recipients of a multitude of selection boxes, mince pies and Christmas puddings. The influx of devices as Xmas presents also push back against any notion of any movement or outdoor activity getting a look in.
One thing which never changes over the years is that kids also over indulge at Christmas and if we don't allow them to its easy feel like monsters. So let’s be fair and say that chocolate and sweets have probably been on the menu over December but it's time to think of our children’s waistlines, minds and body health when we consider how to plan news year resolutions that include our kids.
It's proven that healthy children go on to become healthier adults with fewer health related conditions, have better activity habits and live longer lives. So getting into the habit of planning some yearlong changes to improve health could be a good ritual to introduce your kids to so long as you all work together to ensure these changes can stick for more than a few weeks into January.
So here's 5 healthy kids New Year resolution suggestions for your little ones to combat the Christmas time crash. To shake off the screen time sedentary creep and get back into good habits. Parents and schools can work together this year to ensure kids learn to think for themselves and put their own health first.
1. Healthy Colourful School Dinners
80% of kids don't eat enough vegetables. So introduce an idea that you and your offspring can get into. Eat at least three or four colours on your plate every lunch time. This means that even if you’re brood regularly dine on kid’s favourite chicken nuggets and chips they might be tempted to also opt for some greens or sweetcorn, peppers or another colourful vegetable substitute.
This year we wrote about an excellent campaign called Veg Power which encourages kids to "eat them to defeat them" and take down the evil vegetable horde by crunching through them one by one. This campaign is inspired and schools can even encourage uptake by requesting poster and sticker packs here.
2. The Daily Mile
The daily miles was conceived to ensure every child has the chance to include activity and physical movement in their day and to encourage healthy daily habits no matter the child’s socio-economic background. Statistically more effluent families have better access to healthy physical activities, go out more and eat healthier. No surprise really when you consider how much more expensive it is to eat healthily these days. Well one headteacher came up with an idea which has spread across the country.
The daily mile encourages kids and teachers to fun for 15 minutes each school day before class. This not only encourages children to be aware and responsible for their own health but its inclusive and yields positive academic results.
Exercise before lessons improves test results, increases student participation and benefits the overall student experience by affecting the class morale and mood in a positive way. Students feel better and become better learners. Ask your school if they have considered participating in the daily mile in 2020. Your kids can join the 2.3 million other pupils now running a mile a day and you can see your child’s school doing their bit to ensure our kids grow up happy and healthy.
3. Standing Desks for Kids
Introducing your kids to standing desks in 2020 represents one of those changes that could well last the year. Children take to lifestyle changes such as introducing standing to their workstations exceptionally well. It’s inspiring to see how well students and kids at home take to the introduction of standing in their daily routine. Sedentary behaviour is a learnt behaviour. I’m reminded of an anecdote I heard this of one parent asking another parent how they 'got their kids to read' the lady on the subway was reading a book at the time and her child was quietly doing to the same. She replied. "It seems to me that kids don't like to do what you tell them to. However they do what you show them."
This is true for physical activity and standing. Kids whose parents stand whilst they work like to join in and work just like their parents and they find the whole transition a whole lot easier the earlier we introduce it. Reports from schools that introduce standing desks are entirely positive. Read some here.
You can help your child’s school to take up standing desks in the classroom by signposting them to this free try before you buy trial of the Eiger Standing Desk or for your child at home you can pick up a desk from our range right here.
4. Read Together.
The above anecdote aside. Not only will your kids read more if they see you doing but one of the traits of successful parents is reading with their children. New York State University School of Medicine found that babies whose parents read to them develop better literacy, language and reading skills much earlier.
"We compared children from the same social backgrounds who achieved similar tested abilities at ages five and 10, and discovered that those who frequently read books at age 10 and more than once a week when they were 16 had higher test results than those who read less, In other words, reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, in vocabulary, spelling, and mathematics."
- Dr. Alice Sullivan
Reading with your children will pass on a love of books which will not only improve their academic outlook but give them an interest that can only benefit them in later life. Good mental health is essential for good overall health. So show your kids how to love books and you'll be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime. Visiting a library with your kids will encourage them to read more.
5. Device Free Zoning
Research shows that the blue light from the devices you and your children have glued to your face all day including before bed can inhibit the production of the chemical the body needs to induce sleep.
Not only this but an abundance of screen time is linked to reduced motor skills, attention deficit and a host of other health problems stemming from the sedentary nature of screen time. So be it your kitchen at dinner times (A good idea is to spend more time around the family dinner table together so this is a good shout) or the family room or even one of their own bedrooms, but whichever you or your kids pick. Make them involved in the decision and make sure the rule sticks.
So we not suggesting you turn into a strict and unrelenting parent for 2020 but the careful introduction of some of these ideas might just allow you to push back against the poor habits we all slip into over the festive season and get your kids thinking for themselves and adopting healthier choices when a little encouragement and a framework delivered by your conscientious parenting and modelling.
Veg Power write up on iwantastandingdesk.com
The literacy trust has a campaign to let you buy other kids books.
383,775 children in the UK don’t have a single book of their own. You can donate by text here is how.
New data shows children born today will spend more time in ill health when they are older than our generation. Meanwhile new data from the office of national statistics has also shown that 65 and overs are seeing their life expectancy increase. Men aged 65 are averaging an increase in life expectancy of 32 weeks whilst women can expect to live an extra 20 weeks approximately.
The study found that Richmond-upon-Thames men can expect to live to just shy of 72 years whilst Blackpool men have a healthy life expectancy of only 53 years.
For women in Nottingham a 'healthy life expectancy' is only 54 years but by contrast a baby girl in Wokingham can expect to live to 72. A significant disparity of 18 years.
Before 2012 large life expectancy gains year after year were expected now those gains are decreasing massively. Today’s children can expect to live 5 years less than their parents. This is a dramatic decline in health due to prevailing failing support for the health of young people and an increase in cancer causing sedentary lifestyles and screen time addiction.
What can schools do to help encourage their pupil’s to live healthy lifestyles? Well aside from delivering health education the schools can ensure than they provide opportunity for pupils to learn in active classrooms. This means the provision of flexible seating options, standing desks for kids and help kids reach the advised daily targets of 60 Mins exercise a day to help them stay healthy.
Schools doing this are already reaping the benefit as they report that pupil engagement increases, test results improve and general class atmosphere benefits when standing desks are introduced.
Schools wishing to try out standing desks the classrooms for themselves can try before you buy by filling in this form.
There are options such as the daily mile, BBC super-movers and marathon kids which encourage pupils to move regularly and integrate physical literacy into their daily rituals.
Lets work together to push back against the decline of out nations health. Surely we owe it to the next generation to make changes now before they spend more and more of their adult life suffering from ill-health and shorter lives.
This week sees several interesting news items surrounding kid’s health making the headlines. So rather than pick one out to write about we decided to bring you a news week breakdown focusing on kid’s health and education. So let’s get into it.
Dentists Call For Sugar Free Schools.
This week saw Dentists asking schools in England to go sugar-free after the launch of a new report which indicates the leading reason children are admitted into hospital between the age of five and nine is for tooth decay. The faculty of dental surgery has suggested supervised tooth brushing in schools. (These actually occur in Scotland and Wales already.)
They have put forward several suggested action points to combat the issues of tooth early onset tooth decay.
- Schools should become sugar free.
- Price increase sugary dairy drinks such as milkshakes.
- Reduce the amount of adverts for sugary food and drink.
- Lower the sugar content of baby food.
"It is incredibly worrying that levels of tooth decay among children in England remain so high. Everyone needs to play their part in ensuring our children have healthy, happy teeth." - Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery
New Tool for Assessing Screen Time Addiction
A peer reviewed journal, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking found that more than 12% of kids aged nine to twelve are at risk of becoming addicted to digital devices.
The system for assessment borrows diagnostic criteria from the Digital Addiction Scale for Children (DASC) and measures the impact of screen time on the family unit, the likelihood the child is to lie about their use and the likelihood that problems arise from overuse such as sleep deprivation, academic slipping and more.
The addiction criteria were: preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, and relapse. Now this might not seem like a huge news item but we live in an age where screen time is having direct consequences on how children’s brains are structured. A study released in November shows that more screen time means lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain responsible for language, literacy and emotional regulation.
Young people are now being diagnosed with a recognised disorder of gaming addiction because they legitimately experience symptoms of withdrawal and are controlled by their desire to play. No surprise when you consider how gaming companies now employ addiction consultants to implement game mechanics to cultivate exactly this response.
Info on the brain study can be found here.
"Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in home, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages, these findings highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on the brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain development in early childhood, so that providers, policymakers and parents can set healthy limits." - Dr. Hutton.
Ways to monitor screen time addiction seems like a necessary response to a problem which is quietly growing in impact. Teachers and parents, take note. Screen time isn't just another boogie man. Overuse has direct consequences on your children's brain functions, sleep patterns, mood regulation and cognitive ability. As we live in the tech age where kids are grabbing iPads instead of books please remember that doctors used to endorse smoking before the general consensus was that they kill you.
New study suggests brain differences may be linked to obesity.
So this piece is interesting in terms of how it links brain differences and obesity which should the thinking that they are heavily connected become mainstream this could directly influence how we equip education work-spaces.
The recent study doesn't suggest that intelligence dips alongside weight gain but it does show a reduction in executive brain function alongside increased BMI.
Some critics say that studies such as these are dangerous because poor interpretation of the results can lead to unfair stigma attached to overweight people but an editorial which was published alongside the results called it "an important addition to mounting evidence of a link between weight, brain structure and mental function."
We have release many articles in this blog which demonstrates the mounting evidence that physical movement and active lifestyles directly affect academic results and even raises test score results. There are Ted Talks to this affect for those interested in learning more.
In short: These findings suggest that body mass index is associated with cortical development and diminished executive functions, such as working memory and might directly impact how in the future we look to treat obesity by improving brain function and vice versa.
The study yielded an insightful comment from one Henry Skinner MD Family Psychiatry of Maine who explains that should the cause and effect be reversed that the results might make more sense. I.e. "People with executive function challenges have more difficulty negotiating the toxic capitalist nutrition environment."
Is it simply a case of lower functioning adolescents falling vulnerable to a hostile predatory marketing machine and making ill-advised choices. Well according to Skinner child and adolescent psychiatrists observe this in clinic frequently and he believes this is the more likely reasoning for the results given that it requires fewer assumptions. (Occam ’s razor)
So just some interesting titbit’s from the children’s health community. One thing is for sure is there is an ever growing notion that schools have the time and resources to fix every child’s health problems which is simply not the case but schools are well positioned to educate kids to make better choices and learning spaces which afford students the opportunity to include movement in their daily routines are certainly an effortless way schools can support their students mental and physical health.
We offer schools standing desk trials for this exact reason. If you want to try before you buy then visit this form and get In touch.
A study of 2000 children across the Southwest of England shows kids activity levels drop every year of Primary School resulting in a dramatic different between when they start and when they finish primary school.
The research by professor of paediatric physical activity Russ Jago from the University of Bristol found that kids became 17 minutes less active per week each year. Russ says the results show the numbers illustrate how we need intervention to fight the sedentary habit from creeping in.
“Evaluating patterns of physical activity across childhood is an important way to identify key ages in which to intervene to change behaviour – and establish healthy habits for life.
“These numbers prove that more needs to be done to ensure children keep active as they approach adolescence.
“This isn’t about getting children to exercise more, but rather maintaining their activity levels.
“Developing early intervention strategies that help children retain activity levels could include after-school physical activity programmes, focusing on participation and enjoyment in addition to popular sports – and a greater emphasis on promoting weekend activities.”
2000 pupils from 57 schools wore accelerometers all week including weekends. Activity which would be regarded as vigorous was recorded by the device.
UK Medical officer’s advice is that children do an hour of vigorous activity every day at minimum. The study however showed that whilst 61% of kids hit this target in year 1, this dropped to only 41% by year 6.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, British Heart Foundation said "Almost a third of children in the UK weigh more than they should, while one in four primary school children are not meeting the recommended levels of exercise"
The dramatic activity drop rates are accentuated even more in girls who drop from a 54% to only 28% by the time they finish primary. The study shows that girls are generally less active than boys but the drop off rates are far worse for girls every year.
The This Girl Can campaign by sport England was designed to stimulate uptake by women in sport and has had a decent effect resulting in 2.8 million 14-40 year old women saying they have done some or more activity as a result of the campaign.
The reason inactivity is such as sticking point for those in the know is because in total, 90% of children who were obese at the age of three remain overweight. Unfit children become unfit adolescents who become unhealthy adults who add extra strain to our already suffering NHS and invite ill health and reduced lifespans. KIds today are already expected to live 5 years less than their parents. This trend must be fought if we are to give future generations their five years back.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation says this is putting them at increased risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, later in life.
“Staying active must be combined with policies that help families make healthy and informed choices, such as a 9pm watershed on junk food marketing and restricting the promotion of unhealthy foods.”
- Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation
Hundreds of schools wishing to combat the sedentary creep in their pupils have been taking up student standing desk spaces in their classrooms. The results are in and reports from teachers and headmasters tell us that Including standing desks in classrooms helps improves children’s focus, behaviour and raises activity levels and engagement in the lesson. So schools may not be here to work on children's fitness but if doing so raises their test scores and attentiveness then surely its no brainer?
Schools wishing to trial the EIGER Student Standing Desk can sign up for a try before you buy trial here on our website.
Further reading: Sedentary pandemic threatens EU health
A film by Daniel Gordon has been released lauding one London Primary School for introducing a series of measures to combat the growing trend of poor mental health in children.
[You can watch the video here]
Highgate Primary School, has embraced several innovative measures to improve their pupils mental well-being, from dogs in the playground, sound proofed classrooms and the availability of talk therapy and psychotherapy for each student.
The school has normalised the process of attending therapy so each child feels no stigma should they wish to use the service.
The school is said to be delivering a 'well-being first’ approach. They offer on the premises drama therapy, and talk therapy which one in ten of the schools pupils attend. Most of the therapists are trainees or new graduates so with the combination of some charity funding and a small investment of £7000 per year from the school they are able to directly tackle the rise of mental health disorders in young people which is on the rise throughout the UK.
Watch the video and you can see the school has its own dog and also allows dogs to attend the school premises at drop off and pickup times.
Highgate has implemented 5 key measures to combat poor mental health.
1. Availability of Therapy
2. Dogs are allowed on site.
3. Soundproofed classrooms.
4. Lessons outside.
5. School is for parents too.
Every child has some lessons outside where they can engage with each other and climb trees. The classroom soundproofing allows teachers to command attention without raising their voices due to improved acoustics and the parents of pupils can also access the onsite therapists meaning the impact on the community doesn't just stop at the children but can resonate outwards to have a positive effect on the children’s households which can only help support a culture of well-being at home.
The amount of children attending Highgates onsite therapists is statistically mirrored by the data released from NHS digital last year that indicated one in nine children experience mental health disorders. That figure is for 5-15 year old's however if we broaden the scope to 5-19 year old's the figure becomes one in eight.
In the age group of 17-19 year olds one in four young women have a mental health disorder, emotional disorders such as anxiety ranking the highest. Over half of these reportedly have attempted suicide or self-harm.
Statistics like these are an important warning that the impacts of mental health disorders are very real and schools who go out of their way to combat the issues should be applauded and considered to delivering best practise.
Whilst many argue that schools already have a priority to educate and aren’t qualified to deliver therapy this school has shown how the introduction of several small but effective measures can shift the culture internally to become a learning space which caters for mental health well-being without costing a fortune or requiring massive change to be effective.
The mental health foundation has a 'Make It Count' Campaign which states that Mental Health is not extracurricular. You can find out more about the campaign here.
Mark Rowland Chief Exec of the Mental Health Foundation said
"The school environment has a significant impact on a young person’s emotional welfare. For children’s well being to thrive during school hours, teachers need the confidence and knowledge to nurture young people’s development. Equally, teachers need to be supported with their own mental health throughout their career.
By exploring the root causes that lead to distress, be it body image, relationships or exam stress, we can help build resilience and prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place. "
You can sign the foundations petition to put mental health at the heart of school culture here.
The previous education secretary Damien Hinds said every single school in the country should have a school dog. Here's a video showcasing therapy dogs in schools on channel 5 news.
Now in the spirit of introducing small changes to impact mental health in schools we would be remiss if we didn’t point you towards our try before you buy student standing desk trials.
Hundreds of schools nationwide are becoming healthier and embracing movement and physical literacy to create more attentive learning spaces by introducing standing desks into the classroom.
Take a look at our product range and apply for a trial if your school could benefit from improved engagement, better mental health, happier, better behaved children and improved academic results.
Childhood obesity in the UK is at crisis point. Nearly one in twenty year 6 pupils require medical intervention as a result of obesity. One in five children enter primary school already obese and a staggering two out of three end their last primary term obese.
The requirements of schools when covering food and nutrition are quite limited. Despite the knowledge that children who learn to cook early on tend to grow up to eat healthier than those who have not. The guidance for schools is delivered as part of the design and technology aspects of the curriculum and the goals are; Children are required to know "where food comes from" in the first couple of years at primary. At secondary level the teaching should include elements to educate kids on "understanding and applying the principles of a healthy and varied diet." and "prepare and cook a variety of predominantly savoury dishes using a range of cooking techniques."
Despite the secondary school guidance being quite specific very few schools are geared up to teach kids hands on cooking. They lack the resources from equipment, funds for ingredients and a safe learning space for cooking with appropriately trained topic specific educators.
A recent study of 1000 children by Zanussi illustrates how many children are left ignorant of some of the basics. For instance one in three children surveyed struggled to identify that the tuna in a sandwich comes from a fish. Perhaps even more disturbingly one in ten children surveyed believed eggs came from cows.
A scary reflection of the limited time we as a nation spend at home and in school educating our children about the world around them including food and its source.
The survey was produced by Zanussi to promote their new relationship with food writer, Amanda Grant's Cook School. The team have joined together to deliver a pilot scheme which works with primary school kids to teach them the skills they need to create healthy balanced meals.
The sessions can be held in school cafeterias. The session leaders talk to children about different foods they may be unfamiliar with and allow them to get hands on creating foods such as falafel and letting the kids get hands on with sticky, smelly and differently textured ingredients to inspire some retention and enthusiasm for the subject which seems to come easily once the kids get stuck in.
The telegraphs Sally Peck wrote about a session she attended and observed enthusiastic reactions from the kids participating in the sessions.
“It’s like playing with sand!”
“Disgusting... but nice!”
“I feel like I'm on ?Great British Bake Off!”
“I want to be a vegetarian, because I like animals, but I've never tried falafel.”
“I've never had it either, but it smells delicious.”
Grant and Zanussi’s Cook School aims to be available to at least 30 schools and 30,000 children nationwide by the end of next year.
Grant talks about how children emulate each other so it’s healthy to see each other trying new foods and also to foster independence by getting them to make their own meals without an adult to step in and take over.
Grant also came out with another stellar piece of advice for parents of young children suggesting that kids be encouraged to have foods of different colours on their plate for each meal.
“We’re not preaching; we’re equipping them with cheap recipes to make at home; a child learning to grate safely, how to chop garlic, is helpful rather than a hindrance.” - Grant
Cook School is a nationwide, not-for-profit organisation helping children to understand food & teaching children to cook. Children inspiring children. They are going to make a free newsletter available to families and you can sign up to it and learn more about how you could get involved right here.
Chief medical officer says ban snack culture. [Telegraph]