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School Introduces Sporty Tracksuit Uniforms

There has been some debate this week amongst parents of Leamington Spa school Telford Junior, since the school has introduced a new style of sporty school uniform designed around a tracksuit.



In place of the usual smart attire the head teacher has implemented a uniform of sportswear with trainers raising concerns amongst parents of the increased cost to purchase.

The head teacher explained the uniform which many pupils have started wearing would serve a more "active" curriculum featuring the daily mile and active lessons such as the super movers’ classes.

In wales in 2022 the new curriculum due to be implemented is said to include well-being at the core of many subjects. Should England’s curriculum borrow from the same songbook this may be first of many schools opting to introduce a sporty alternative to the school uniform in the future.


We frequently work with active schools and understand that any actions schools can take to change the mentality of their students towards the idea of increased movement and fitness can only yield positive results.

Higher activity levels in students who embrace physical literacy and use standing desks in the classroom have improved academic results, increased engagement and experience overall improvements in physical and mental health and well-being. You only need to glance through this blog to get a sense of the myriad of statistics supporting active classrooms.



Despite initial objections from about 40% of the parents the new uniforms have come into use and some parents said the new uniform is "smart" and the “children liked it” however one parent said "I could understand the children going to school in games kits on days they had sports but to be wearing it every day I think will put the children in a different mind-set towards school,"

Will this school see an increase in physical activity adoption amongst the tracksuit wearing school kids? Does the sense of school pride increase or diminish when the uniform becomes casual?


One piece in the New Yorker discusses how liberating school uniform can be and how some schools experience notable difference following the introduction of uniforms, reporting fluctuations in the regularity of violence. It’s certainly true amongst sociology experiments that our behaviour can become altered based on the uniforms we adopt.


In this example students wearing police uniforms exhibited biased attention towards individuals wearing hoodies. The Leamington Spa school did debate using hoodies but this idea was apparently quickly thrown out. 

Parents received the following letter when initially consulted which leads with the idea of active wear for an active curriculum.

Will this school see a difference in how its smart uniform wearing children behave towards the sports kit kids? This writer believes there is a danger of creating a culture divide amongst young children when a new uniform isn’t adopted by every child as is the case with the Leamington School.

Simply dressing some as smart and some as sporty may well have an impact in the student’s sense of identity. I certainly believe that we are starting to tread into dangerous territory when we give children yet another reason to treat one another as different. 


It’s certainly an interesting move and one that I believe reflects the shifting consciousness towards embracing well-being as imperative for the next generation to grow up happy and healthy.

Will other schools follow suit? Well assuming a riot doesn’t break out between the tie wearers and the tracksuit gang this writer believes we may see this type of cultural shift popping up more and more over the coming years in line with the education sector starting to prioritise the notion that they are responsible for children for huge portions of the day so these are the hours that kids must be encouraged to be active and understand their own health.


Hopefully this new idea proves successful and the potential for backlash is managed successfully as its possible the improved mentality from wearing a sporty outfit should have a positive influence on the school children. If you dress healthy maybe it’s possible you start to eat healthy and move healthy.


In 2012 two researchers tested students in two alternative uniforms and found a notable difference in behaviour coining the term “enclothed cognition”


“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” Adam said. And he thinks the study’s results can be applied to many more fields, including activewear and fitness. “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.”

You may also want to read:
Psychology of Lululemon: How Fashion Affects Fitness

Soon Welsh Schools Will Decide If They Include P.E.

The Downsides of School Uniforms - The New Yorker

Let us know what you think about the new uniform by commenting below or getting in touch via our socials. 

Full article →

Soon Welsh Schools Will Decide If They Include P.E.

Despite recent news that two thirds of parents believe that P.E. should get as much importance as the core subjects, the new draft curriculum due to be implemented by the 2022 educational year for Wales includes zero mandatory physical education in the timetable. No set amount of time has been enforced and individual schools can decide how much P.E. time is allocated in the school week.

The Welsh Government said the curriculum "takes into consideration the importance of physical activity" as "wellbeing" is supposedly built into one of six primary areas of focus within the new curriculum.



The NHS are prioritising preventative medicine and health and fitness improvements to stave off disease yet the latest draft curriculum including no P.E. allocation has former gold medallist Baroness Grey-Thomson concerned that in 15 years’ time Wales NHS will feel the strain of a generation of inactive children without the fitness to stay healthy as a consequence of schools minimising or completely removing P.E. from the curriculum.

"If sport is not explicitly mentioned, it will just drop off. Whatever the meaning and the intention, it won't have the same priority.

"We won't see the problem right now, we'll see it 15 or 20 years down the line when the NHS bill goes through the roof because we have a generation of young adults who are just not fit enough to be healthy."

Childhood obesity is at crisis point as obesity related cancer diagnosis spike amongst UK kids...should the latest changes be echoed through the U.K. it will surely impact negatively on the nation’s overall health and the NHS ability to cope. Latest figures show that children’s expected lifespans are now 5 years shorter than ever before and obesity and childhood diabetes is at an all-time high as well.

Many schools are adopting standing desks to inject a culture of physical literacy into their classrooms. (We recently wrote about standing desk classrooms reducing students BMI here) The standing classroom should see an upsurge if the idea of undertaking Physical Ed outside the classroom is possibly phased out in favour of schools working towards stricter timetables to achieve better academic results. Many schools are now allocating their sports premium funding to including standing desk in their learning spaces. Schools wishing to trial before they buy standing desks designed specifically for classrooms can get in touch here.


The baroness chaired a group which recommended that P.E. be made into a core subject and this recommendation was not implemented. Rather the school improvement service for Wales said they believed that their changes would be better for pupils as sport will be used to support learning and will be considered valued by society, "rather than just being something that small groups of individuals benefit from."

The problem with statements such as these are they lack any substance. No references to how sport will be implemented in the absence of P.E. time in the curriculum. Without rules and management how will our children’s Physical education not become a postcode lottery?

Chief exec of sport Wales said the success or failure will rest on the quality of training that teachers receive. A fact which already puts the onus on the schools themselves to change how they include physical education if they do not include specific time for just sport and exercise.

"The essential thing is to build up the confidence, motivation and skills of teachers to be able to deliver a high quality curriculum. But if we don't see that, then this is a curriculum that doesn't actually deliver the changes that we need to see." - Sarah Powell (Sport Wales) The following video shows how important student physical movement impacts the learning environment.

Full article →

Parents Protest SEND School Spending Deficit

Protests has sprouted up across the UK against funding cuts for Special Educational Needs support in schools. 28 towns a cities played host to rallies and marches including London, Leeds and Birmingham.

 

 

These national rallies are the first of their kind in the UK. One of which was led by Emma Parker whose son James has spent over two years out of school in the last five as a result of sanctions, reduced timetables and exclusions.

An issue we wrote about in our article here is that schools who are underfunded for SEND support typically end up relying on sanctions to address issues they could be tackling in a more proactive manner. A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs are statistically more likely to be expelled and sent to isolation rooms.

 

 

 

“We have thousands of children across the UK who are not in schools, who are on reduced timetables and who don’t have access to the schools that they desperately need,” Parker said.

Her son James Parker delivered a 13,000 signature petition to end the "spending crisis" on SEND in schools.

 

 

Emma & James Parker.

 

Ministers for the Department of Education (DfE) commissioned a review last march and concluded that schools are using expulsions to get rid of students they fear may drag the schools results down and insisted that head teachers take responsibility for students who they have excluded from school.

The Dept. of Education released stats within the last fortnight which explained that SEND students have increased by 11% from last year alone. That’s a whopping 34,200 children that schools have to accommodate with limited funding and training to do so.

The TV presenter Carrie Grant attended and spoke at one of the rally’s describing her experience of attaining support for her four children with special needs as "shocking to say the least"

 

 

“The world that they [disabled children] face is a world that is just not ready.” - Grant

 

Children with special needs and excellent grades are being rejected from attending 6th form colleges with education centres claiming they just do not have the funding to support them. With local Government Association estimates a £500M deficit between what UK schools and education centres need and what they currently receive.

Last year Ali Fiddy, the chief executive of Independent Parental Special Education Advice said

“The system for supporting children and young people with SEND is verging on crisis. Against a backdrop of increasing cuts to local authority budgets, parents are having to deal with poor decision making on the part of local authorities"

Standing Desks Help Schools With SEND Pupils

Hundreds of UK schools are turning to standing desks to help provide stimulating and safe learning environments for kids with ADHD and similar special needs which find them with excessive energy. Schools wishing to trial our Eiger student standing desk can request a try before you buy trial right here.

Ministers have promised an extra £250M towards SEND but campaigners argue this still leaves a huge deficit and a severely unsolved problem. 

 

Further Reading:

The Guardian Oct 2018 // Special needs pupils being failed by system 'on verge of crisis' 

The Telegraph May 2019 // Schools must be held accountable for results of excluded children

 

Chronicle Live March 2018 // Meet the autistic 11-year-old boy who the council can't find a school for

 

Full article →

P.E. As Important As Maths & English to 2/3rds of Parents.

A poll conducted by YouGov for the Youth Sports Trust surveyed 2071 adults and the results indicate that P.E. is just as important to parents as maths, science and English. Two thirds of parents believe P.E. should get as much time in the curriculum as the core subjects.

Almost half of the parents surveyed believe that it is wrong to take kids out of P.E. for extra tuition in English, Maths and Science.

Meanwhile it has come to light that P.E. has received tuition time cuts putting the subject as the 2nd most cut from our children’s schedules next to ICT.

 

Children need P.E. but should it muscle out the core subjects?

Children need P.E. but should it muscle out the core subjects?


Alison Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “Pupils are being taught fewer hours of physical education than they were a decade ago,” she said.

“The wellbeing of young people is in decline, with too many struggling with issues that a good quality physical education could support them with.

“Provision of opportunities to enjoy sport, play and physical activity should be a core part of every young person’s education. We passionately believe that a transformed physical education should be on a par with maths and English in the curriculum.”

The Youth Sport Trust is holding National School Sport Week, from 24 to 28 June.

8,200 schools have taken part in national sport week since 2014. Readers can find out more about the National School Sport Week here and register their involvement. The first 500 schools to submit their registration will all receive a National School Sport Week bonus pack including bunting to decorate their school.



A Department for Education spokesperson said that the government has doubled its P.E. and sport premium funding to £320 million a year.

What’s the takeaway here? No this writer doesn't agree that physical education should hold as much curriculum time as the core subjects however it is indicated that the majority of parents believe that physical literacy is important and should be a main concern for our children.

Standing desks promote physical literacy in kids and are available to try before you buy for schools using this link. It has been proven that children who are physically literate and include movement in their daily routine go on to become healthier, happier adults. We all want that for our children... so what can you do? If you're a parent or teacher you can get behind your schools health programs and make sure your children are exercising. This could be holding classes out in the playground or integrating standing desks into your learning spaces. Some schools are now starting to tap into their sport premium funding for standing desk purchases whilst school PTA's are even supporting their schools by funding standing desks for their kids.


Children’s life expectancy are now 5 years shorter due to low physical and mental health. It's time to curb the trend of low physical activity and stomp on the sedentary habits demonstrated by our children. Reduce screen time and let them play outside more. (One in eight kids don't play outside!)

Exercise, Fresh air and vitamin C are regarded as miracle cures we are so desperately in need of. Maybe you agree with this writer that exercise should be encouraged but not in place of the core subjects or you believe P.E. should be getting more timetable space. It seems the majority of parents agree that physical literacy matters...and serious change needs to occur to give out children those 5 years back. 

Source: Times Educational Supplement

Full article →

Primary Kids Won't Do Sat’s After Parents Boycott

Following news that Labour claims they will abolish Sat testing for primary school kids should they come into power, a group of parents have universally decided to boycott the Sat testing of their children at Bearlings Primary School, Suffolk in favour of letting them play outside.


One of the parents Heather Chandler reportedly said kids should be out and about investigating the world around them and that "it was far too early" for children aged 6 and 7 to undertake SAT tests. She went on to say that the Sat’s were "unnecessary" and "a waste of time".

 

Abi Elphinstone, author of The Dreamsnatcher


Whilst the school declined to comment the chair of governors Rick Gillingham said they wouldn't stop the parents boycott stating "over-testing is certainly something we wouldn't go along with".

"It adds extra pressure they don't really need and takes a lot of teachers' time away from what they should be doing." Said Heather Chandler.

A month ago the Guardian reported that Primary School teachers will be balloted on boycotting the Sat’s due to concerns that they harm children’s mental health due to the unnecessary anxiety the testing produces. If the ballot is successful the NEU members will refuse to administer the tests next spring however this could in theory be navigated by head teachers should they bring in substitute teachers to oversee tests.

The joint general secretary of the NEU said “The days of universal standardised testing, designed more to make judgments about school performance than about pupil learning, are numbered.”



The Sat’s are a matter of great controversy. Many argue the undue strain on children’s mental health is unnecessary and that they should be scrapped for primary kids however there is the counter argument that without accountability at this age the quality of teaching in basic skills such as English and Maths will slip in the absence of a regulated measure that headmasters have to meet with exam results.

Equally some say that the testing results are only used by governments as a yardstick to measure their own success and aren’t benefiting students or schools directly.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said abolishing Sat’s would be "a retrograde step".

He said it would "keep parents in the dark" by preventing them from knowing how good their child's school was at teaching maths, reading and writing.

Jeremy Corbyn’s news grabbing headlines are really just PR given that the current government has already stated that they are moving towards scrapping Sat testing in favour of a new baseline testing at reception age.

The top comment of the BBC article reads

"As a Primary School Head teacher with more than 35 years’ experience I am ashamed of how parents and teachers have sacrificed a broad and balanced education for children for the need of politicians to provide statistics as to how well they are personally doing in government. The obscene nature of preparing 6 and 7 year olds to pass meaningless tests has become a national disgrace."


Understand Our Language: Sat’s are Standardised Attainment Tests

 

Further reading: The Guardian Article on Parents Boycotting Sats / Childrens Author Fails Sats, Encourages Kids To Dream Big

Full article →

SEN Kids More Likely To Get Solitary or Expelled

The Guardian has reported that a mother has decided to bring legal action following her daughter’s suicide attempt in a UK school's "isolation room."

The woman whose child cannot be named is set to take action against the government. The child has autistic spectrum disorder and spent over a month in the isolation room, expected to stay silent with no directed teaching and only three toilet breaks a day.



A pre action letter from Simpson Millar read “[isolation] has caused her depression. It also led to her taking an overdose while in the isolation room itself,” they said. “Following pre-action correspondence from us, [the school] has removed her from isolation.”


The same firm took action on behalf of a boy who had ADHD had spent 35 days in isolation within one year. The academy's policy meant that failing a day in isolation meant another day in isolation creating a perpetual cycle. The boy is said to have gone from being "a cheerful, bubbly boy" to developing "anxiety and depression."

The use of isolation booths or consequence rooms has been criticised as being barbaric. With recent news that 45 schools in England excluded at least 20% of their pupils it would seem we are at a point where schools and academies are experiencing funding crisis to adequately educate or provide support for children with special needs so isolation is being used a one stop shop to fix behavioural problems alongside excessive measures such as exclusion.

A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs or impoverished backgrounds are more statistically likely to be expelled and are also more likely to be sent to isolation rooms.

 

 


Sitting children in rooms for long periods of time with sensory deprivation, no socialisation and no direct teaching is tantamount to an early experience of prison.

One academy’s policy reads;
“You will be allowed to go to the toilet up to a maximum of three times during the day (maximum five minutes per visit),” the policy reads. “You must use the closest toilet and go directly there and back. You will be escorted to get your lunch, but you must stay silent.” one mother whose son had lost out on days of education said “It’s a small booth. They can’t look left or right, they can’t look behind. They have to focus in front all the time. They can’t speak to anyone for the whole day. It’s basically an internal exclusion. It’s barbaric.”

 


In light of increasing mental health issues amongst our children (One in ten of them have mental health issues) this writer finds it downright disturbing that schools are using such punitive measures which will not only contribute to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem but can also perpetuate the obesity crisis by expecting some children to sit a booth for up to 8 hours at a time.

As the government is only now paying attention to the use of such extreme disciplinary action under the assault of lawsuits hitting the Department of Education we propose that parents start to take a stand against these overzealous punitive measures and act the questions of their schools what their stance on isolation is and ask to see their policy on the matter.

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” - John Stuart Mill

Schools can take measures to improve their onsite commodities for children with special needs by installing standing desks which hundreds of schools in the UK now employ as a measure to help fidgety or SEN kids keep focus whilst being afforded some freedom of movement which reduces in class disruptions significantly.

If your school wants to try before you buy classroom standing desks then fill in this quick form and get started.

 

Full article →

Schools Get Outside For The Playground Challenge

Schools are being encouraged to sign up to the Playground Challenge to raise money for Soccer Aid. The idea being that pupils help to design an outdoor assault course and fun sporty activities like headmaster penalty shoot-outs or teacher versus parent footy matches are held to raise money for UNICEF.



“The kids loved the Playground Challenge so much we organised a whole Soccer Aid for Unicef week. Every class took on the obstacle course, we held a pupils vs teachers/parents football match, a keepy-uppy challenge and loads of other activities.” Alex, Head of Sports, St Dunstan’s RC Primary School, Manchester


School can use whatever they have available and indoor or outdoor assault courses are used by thousands of participant schools to join in. The activities get the kids thinking about other countries and cultures and helps them understand that not everybody has the opportunity to learn and play as they do. Money raised is distributed to foreign countries in the form of various kits.

  • £172 could provide a preschool-in-a-box, full of toys, games and books to help children learn through play.
  • £375 could build a whole community playground in Zambia so that 100 children can play.
  • £1,124 could provide a tent for a temporary school or clinic to help children live safe, healthy and happy lives.



This kind of fundraising has so many plus sides. Giving kids some social awareness by using the assembly plans to introduce them to relate-able  case study’s whilst reaping the positive physical and mental health benefits of getting the whole school outside and moving seems like an no-brainer to us and we encourage schools to join thousands of others and sign up for a free playground challenge kit here 

 

Until the 23rd July Money raised will also be matched pound for pound by the UK government so your schools donation could potentially have a real effect on children throughout the world.

 

Soccer Aid Website

Further Reading:

Standing Desk Classrooms Reduce Student BMI

Movement Teaching Kids Tolerance

Full article →

THE AGE OF DIGITAL HEROIN: Persuasive Tech Trapping Kids Online.

I remember watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child and most frightening image that has stayed with me throughout my years from that movie is that of the net wielding child catcher. 

Well I hate to write it but ...he's back! ...and this time his lollipops and treacle tarts are facebook likes and fortnite loot crates. His net has grown bigger into a world wide web to snare you with and some of the largest corporations in the world are sponsoring him. How can he possibly lose?

Children are spending more time online than ever before. According to research, 86 per cent of school children now have their own phone, and that includes 28 per cent of eight- to 11-year-olds.

 


Video game systems sit under the majority of kids televisions. Over 70% of US school kids have a TV in their room. The culture shift towards technology has happened and our children are growing up within this unchartered territory. The question is how we help them navigate it in the face of exploitative video game and social companies who opportunistically create persuasive technology to keep our children online even longer so their user data can be harnessed and sold or their habits reformed to become paid for loot box opening machines.

The field of creating inescapable technology is called “Captology” its right there in the name. Captives. Don't climb into the back of the cart kids. It's a trap. 

 


The World Health Organisation now recognises “gaming disorder.” An addiction which has downsides like any other that left untreated can have legitimate negative impacts. Now in a climate where this is recognised albeit somewhat controversially as a real issue, should we really allow companies such as Bungie the creators of AAA video game "Destiny" an online looter shooter which crosses over the most addictive genres of video games (FPS and MMORPG) to employ the services of addiction consultants to integrate systems and processes into their games which will keep the player online with the promise of more powerful gear for repeated playing on a daily basis.

Some addiction experts have suggested that video gaming is more addictive than cocaine or heroin due to the reward systems they utilise. Meanwhile games such as Rocket League and Anthem give you additional rewards in the form of virtual currency or XP (Experience Points) for playing with your friends on a regular basis. Season passes are now geared towards developing the player into a repeat visitor to the game to reap the greatest rewards and they're not shy about using social pressure to do it. "Come on Joe! If you complete this mission with me the clan bonus should give me enough XP to buy the new gun that’s only on sale until midnight"

 


Gamers and social media users are often finding themselves demonstrating compulsive behaviours. A need to get back online, mental health and social relationships deteriorating due to obsessive behaviours. Children afflicted by gaming addiction can now seek treatment on the NHS. Children are being hospitalised as a result of this newly identified disorder meanwhile the company behind Fortnite in one month alone last year made $296 million across all their platforms as a result of micro transactions and downloadable content provision. Starkly contrasted outcomes from provider to user. Uncanny that a term often thrown around when discussing substance abuse is what game designers often call the gamer. 

Social media companies have gone to town including push notifications to mobile devices. The universally understood like systems in their platforms giving users the constant approval and validation that their every thought has been well received by their peers.

In the UK Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies has warned social media companies to reduce addictive technology or face new laws to ensure they do so with costly fines for failing to meet the targets. The Financial Times says they expect legislature to come into play as early as this year to force companies such as Facebook to stop using the Like system to nudge people back onto their platform over and over again throughout the day.

In the US the government is working towards minimising "Dark Patterns" of app and website user interfaces designed to trick users into to doing things they dont want to do. This could be giving up their data, disallow users to leave a service by creating a roach motel which makes it impossible to find an exit to a service or a subscribed marketing email or tricking you into subscribing to a paid service or giving up your friends contact information. Check out this excellent video to better understand dark patterns.


Also under fire are advertisers who intentionally target vulnerable groups such as children with their marketing. In the UK We recently reported that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood has called for stricter rules in place for junk food companies to tame their child focused marketing including the banning of friendly characters to advertise junk food and pushing back junk food advertising after a 9pm watershed. 

Well, the government is trying to play catch up with the changing face of the internet and the negative impact on child mental health this entails. 1 in 10 children now have mental health problems. Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Centre for Humane Technology says “A system wide rethinking of technology policy and design is in order”

In the UK the Chief Medical Officers say we need to ban screens at meal and sleep times. Understandable advice when you consider that the light emit from screens proactively stops the body from falling asleep.


Critics of the new laws cite issues around 'state control' and governmental intervention being a quick road to internet censorship. One Financial Times reader commented "I see little evidence that parents are equipped or able to exert positive influence on their children's habits. The evidence is that the parents are as addicted, as unaware and as unconscious when it comes to use of Internet connected media."

Videogames and social media platforms are at their most addictive. They have been designed that way. Snapchat offer streaks for using unique emoji’s day after day, games such as Fortnite are now considered to be topping the lists of most addictive games according to experts yet it's designed to target children with comical graphics and easy to replicate dances and poses. Numerous young children play the game obsessively.

There are now Fortnite dance classes popping up to get kids moving by teaching them all the in game moves. (Fun idea right!) I overheard two kids quizzing each other on what level they had achieved only yesterday. Why do they care? Because that’s how success is measured in online games now.

Games used to be a case of if you completed it then you had done the most successful thing you could do within the game. However this is a long obliterated concept now as games have been intentionally created and having no finish line. The finish line is perpetually pushed back in order to keep the player on the hamster wheel a little longer.

This is known as "The Grind". Video games want you to play them all year, every day. Social media platforms reach out to you and nudge you incessantly if you let them. (Change your notification settings to stop the nagging!)


If Facebook were a person you'd have ghosted them long ago for being way too clingy and giving you no space. Now we carry around this virtual assistant we call a phone and it taps us up over and over again and many of us happily allow it because the gratification we get from a like is inexplicably addictive.

Kids are less disciplined than us adults. The new legislation may be regarded as too little too late but it is this writer’s opinion that is essential for the future state of this generation’s mental health.

According to research by Common Sense an advocacy group for reducing online time 98% of kids under the age of 8 have access to a mobile phone. Other studies show us that 66% of people are addicted to their device and get anxious without it. The notion of unplugging is filling today’s adults with dread. I can only imagine the impact on the next generation if we allow the furtherance of the captive technology to run wild throughout our digital playgrounds. Parents can check out these helpful resources to combat captive technology and keep the child catcher at bay. 

Recommended Resources:

ASK ABOUT GAMES 

UK SAFER INTERNET CENTRE

PARENTS PROTECT

COMMON SENSE MEDIA

EVERYBODY PLAYS

Further Reading: 

Visit our article here which includes 7 pointers for reducing screen time within your family.

Health Report Links Children's Screen-Time To 12 Major Cancers

Full article →

Warning Signs of Obesity Appear From Age 2

Should 2 Year Olds Be Measured To Red Flag Childhood Obesity?

The Mail online seems to think so. Following conversations with Manchester Uni researchers who have determined that you may be able to see early warning signs of childhood and possible future adult obesity from as early as two years old.

Research has shown us that if children are overweight at primary age they are more likely to be overweight adults. As part of the National Child Measurement Programme, children are weighed and measured at school in reception and year 6. The information is used by the NHS to plan and provide better health services for children.


New independent research undertaken at the University of Manchester and published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine Reports explains there is a connection with early growth patterns and the likelihood of later life obesity. Following an interview with the researchers the Mail Online has produced an article stating that children should be weighed from age 2 in order to try and predict those with possible future obesity risk. The researchers stating that only collecting the data twice during schooling allows for at risk children to be missed.



The researchers harnessed results from over 1000 other studies from all around the world and collated the results to extrapolate their findings. The sheer breadth of the subject studies means it's difficult to specific how applicable the results are just for the UK school kids however the study does seem to illustrate clearly that early growth patterns can be used as a clear red flag for later life obesity and this information should potentially be built into our early assessment and preventative NHS model being touted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

( We wrote about this here NHS To Embrace Preventative Innovations to Prevent Illness and here Prevention is better than Cure - New Report Published by NHS )

“Right now, the obesity epidemic is probably the worst it’s ever been,” says Daniel Ganjian, MD, paediatric obesity specialist.

Public Health England has produced slides to illustrate the childhood obesity data updated in June 2017.



Research has shown that integrating standing desks into classrooms reduce the students BMI in just a year. With the childhood obesity crisis hitting record breaking highs, is it time to start asking your school what they are doing to combat the issue? If your a conscientious head teacher / teacher and want to start making moves to improving physical literacy in your classroom by including standing desk stations you can utilise your sports premium to access funds. 

Schools wishing to try before you buy can trial standing desks for students by visiting this short form and getting in touch.

 

Resources:

The National Child Measurement Programme 

To calculate your child’s BMI there are online apps and resources available such as this one.

Change4Life Website offers tips for parents hoping to get their whole family in shape and combat the obesity crisis.

NHS has advice for you if your child is overweight

Full article →

Standing Desk Classrooms Reduce Student BMI

An estimated 41 million children worldwide are deemed overweight or obese (World Health Organisation, 2017)

A study by the World Health Organisation and Imperial College London showed that the number of obese children and adolescents has increased tenfold in the past four decades and should current trends continue then more children will be obese than underweight by 2022. To put this in simple terms in 1975 there were 11 Million obese children now 124 million kids are obese meanwhile another 213 million are overweight but shy of the obesity threshold.

BMI is a measure of a person’s weight and body fat mass for their height, and indicates whether their weight is healthy.

A study undertaken by researcher Monica Wendel, University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences has shown a significant drop in student Body Mass Index for classrooms fitted out with student standing desks for kids.

The study was published by the American Journal of Public Health and included 193 kids at three Primary age schools. Children in the control classrooms used traditional desk seating (The kind one Head teacher referred to as inhumane!) whilst the test subjects used standing desks with the option of rest stools.

At the beginning of the study each students BMI was recorded along with pertinent information on their age, weight, gender, height etc. and after one and two years the same information was collected for comparison.

After adjusting for grade, race, ethnicity and gender Wendel discovered a 5.24% decrease in the standing desk classrooms student body B.M.I. The same results also showed up after only one year.

"School-age children spend most of their waking hours during the week at school. Changing classrooms to stand-biased environments has the potential to affect millions of children by interrupting sedentary behaviour, and this can be done simply, at a low cost, and without disrupting classroom instruction," Wendel said.

Now childhood obesity levels are at a record high so the simple implementation of standing desk classrooms affecting student BMI is an excellent supporting argument for making the move to include them in your learning space. Schools wishing to trial standing desks in their classrooms can start a try before you buy trial here. 

New data published in October 2018 showed year 6 child obesity has increased by more than a third in 2007. This was from data captured by the national child measurement programme overseen by Public Health England.

The same data captured has shown;

  • The proportion of overweight and obese children in reception year (aged 4 to 5) has remained at 22.4% equal to a staggering 136,586 children
  • For year 6 children, it is 34.3% (equal to 197,888 children) compared to 31.6% in 2006 to 2007

 

 

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE described childhood obesity as a Crisis which the government needs to tackle with bold steps.

"This threat to our children’s health has been decades in the making – we’re moving in the right direction but reversing it will not happen overnight."

 

Further reading:

Article on Record number of severely obese children by BBC 

World Health Organization: Tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity in four decades

 

 

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Labour Say No To Primary SAT's Twitter Reacts

Friendships were no doubt destroyed yesterday as twitter erupted in tweets for and against the use of SATs in primary schools following Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement of Labours pledge to abolish Primary School formal tests if they were elected.

 

In front of National Education Union in Liverpool Corbyn delivered the news to loud cheering and whooping. He explained that it would free up schools struggling with funding cuts and full classrooms He also said it would improve teacher recruitment and retention.

 

Schools are currently ordered by their success on the SATs and this ranking system would be abolished also. 

"We need to prepare children for life, not just exams," Said Corbyn

Corbyn claimed they would abolish SATs for 7 and 11 years olds, moving away from standardised testing in place of "the clear principle of understanding the learning needs of every child."  The news was received excitedly by the room full of teachers who gave Corbyn a standing ovation.

 

The National Education Union Joint Secretary supported Corbyn and said he recognised the damage a test-driven system does to children and schools.

 

Head Teachers also responded positively to the announcement. The Leader of the National HT Association said "everyday teacher assessment and classroom tests" can be used to monitor children's progress.

 

Obviously as system that holds a school accountable to the results from SATS might be frowned upon by Head Teachers. One head teacher on Twitter referred to SATs as being expected to perform whilst having a gun to your head. Schools Minister Gibbs said he believed abolishing SATS would be a huge step backwards in maths and literacy for UK Kids and would "Undo decades of improvement in children's reading and maths".

"Labour plan to keep parents in the dark.

"They will prevent parents from knowing how good their child's school is at teaching maths, reading and writing," said Mr Gibb.

 

Here are some of twitters mixed reactions. The general consensus being that SATs do put undue pressure on children at primary age however without them it seems grades and standards slip so some went as far as to propose that the SATs stay but the way in which the data is utilised is the real problem. The ranking tables and the implications to a child’s individual learning journey were all questioned.

The fact that some children are experiencing unnecessary stress as a result of the testing might not be a direct consequence of the testing itself but the manner in which some teachers and schools deliver the SATs internally said one teacher.

 

Whatever your take on this is certainly has polarised teachers, heads and parents and is obviously a contentious subject. It is this writers opinion that a one size fits all system is unlikely to be best for everyone and a more holistic approach would surely offer an advantage to schools with the resources and training to deliver a more wholesome solution however many teachers are over worked already and adding the pressure of concocting their own individual monitoring methods might be detrimental to the teachers workload and therefore overall quality of their delivery.

 

We don't have the answers here but it will be interesting to see whether proposed changes pre-election and actual changes are the same if Labour do take power.

There were several useful suggestions from teachers and one which seemed to float to the top was the idea of reducing time restrictions and making the whole experience less stressful as a whole. Surely whether of not primary SATs are abolished these considerations should be addressed.

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Movement Teaching Kids Tolerance

Whilst both groups clearly benefit from the well-established benefits of physical activity, children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) tend to experience poorer physical health than children without.

Evidence suggests an improvement in mental well-being, concentration and general academia for SEND kids who experience physical activity. Perhaps even more importantly essential life skills such as how to make and keep friends, social cues and sharing and communication are boosted for SEND kids when they undertake physical activity with non-SEND kids.

The benefits are two-fold as Non SEND children benefit from the experience also by developing a sense of compassion, tolerance and sensitivity to social diversity.



Studies have highlighted a need for teachers, coaches and schools to better understand how to include their SEND children in physical activity. Meanwhile local communities are struggling to properly advertise any local opportunities for physical activity that is inclusive for SEND children.

The Daily Mile is one way in which schools are trying to integrate inclusive exercise into their students’ lives but some schools are also including Student Standing Desks into their classrooms as a way to offer an alternative means of movement and physical literacy for their children. Many schools report that whilst these can be excellent resources for non-SEND kids many have seen increased benefit for children with a range of disorders and disabilities including Attention Deficit Disorder.



Jo Rees, Assistant Headteacher, ARK Atwood Primary Academy

So hope is not lost for schools looking to improve their in house physical activity provision. The Youth Sport Trust offer extensive support and resources for schools looking to upskill their staff in being able to support SEND and non-SEND kids in the physical activity and sport. Their website states;


The full YST strategy


"82% of schools and children's groups reported that the availability of appropriate facilities or equipment was a key barrier to participation by children with disabilities."

"We are a national children's charity passionate about creating a future where every child enjoys the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport."

The BBC has also teamed up with the Premier League to create Super Movers which is designed to encourage primary school children to get more active.


There is also a great site called Parasport which can help you to find sports or activity based clubs in your area. https://parasport.org.uk/

If you want to talk to us about including standing desks in your classroom then just drop us a message into the chat on the website or visit this trial page to sign up for a try before you buy on student standing desks. 

 

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'Healthy' Kids Food + Drink Packets Misleading

A Glasgow University Research team has uncovered a series of surreptitious food packaging designs suggesting that food which has been labelled as healthy and good for kids is in fact misleading.

Dr Davie explained that parents are being misled by "manipulative marketing campaigns" and "crafty messaging" and has called for more stringent rules on the messaging.

This follows recent news that the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood demanded regulations be put in place by the government to ensure companies aren't proactively targeting children and tone done their sometimes cynical methods for doing so.



Sugar chart illustrating how bad sugary drinks are for kids


Examples of misleading packaging include foods being labelled as containing one of your five a day not living up to the claim. Meanwhile healthy fruit juices often exceeded the recommended daily allowance of 150ml of fruit juice.

Healthy children’s yoghurts were also found to contain unexpected sugars from added fruit purees.

One of the researchers said "It is important parents don't look at the claims in isolation but look at all the ingredients on the pack and judge the whole quality of the food."

More than half of the 80 fruit drinks analysed claimed that they contained no added sugar but more than half of these had substitutes in the form of puree and concentrated fruit juice which has sugar that is already broken down and can be absorbed quickly by the body meaning children become hungrier faster and the child suffers from possible tooth damage and decay.



Foods with barely any fruit or vegetable were touting they contained one of the five a day in a cynical attempt to mislead parents into believing they were making healthy choices for their children.

"It is clear that families are being influenced by surreptitious food packaging. We strongly support the researchers' call for stricter regulations on composition and labelling." Dr Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Unsurprisingly a rep from the food and drinks federation commented that many companies gave even more information on packaging than they were legally required to and that sugar is a naturally occurring substance in fruit and that much of the food is still classed as healthy under advertising rules.

It is believed she was unable to comment further, not wanting to be late for an appointment with a world renowned trident manufacturer. 

If as she said, no rules are being broken then perhaps those last comments actually give weight to the call for stricter advertising rules being called for by multiple paediatricians, children’s health organisations, researchers and child interest groups.


The work is published in the journal the Archives of Disease in Childhood

Further reading: Arsenic and lead are in your kid’s fruit juice, report says.

Junk Food Adverts change kids Tastebuds

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Your Kids May Soon Be Under Surveillance

The Big Brother School System...

Since December 2017 the Chinese education system has been subject to an experiment ripped straight out of the pages of a sci-fi novel. Artificial Intelligence surveillance on students. The image conjured by website Sixthtone.com weaves a disturbing glimpse into the future of education technology as it describes a boys realisation his classroom was being monitored and his facial data captured without his consent.

A pupil in Beijing who for the purposes of the article is known as 'Jason' was surfing the web one day only to stumble upon a social media thread entitled #ThankGodIGraduatedAlready and upon clicking it he was presented with an top down photograph of a typical Chinese classroom setting, the backs of rows of students facing a teacher had been captured by an overhead camera. The image upon inspection had several students heads boxed of with subtitles describing the subject’s level of attention, from focussed, distracted to engaged if they were answering questions. Upon even closer inspection 'Jason' realised the uniforms of the students pictured were that of his own school. This sci-fi drama had quickly become a sci-fi horror as Jason recalled he had never been invited to consent to this surveillance.

In July 2017, China’s highest governmental body, the State Council, released an ambitious policy initiative called the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (NGAIDP). This new plan was designed to help turn China into the world’s leading A.I. Power by integrating artificial intelligence into all aspects of life ; Medicine, law, transport, environment and 'intelligent education'


The class care system is being monitored


Upon interview the man at the helm of the surveillance systems development explains the culture of Chinese parents is immensely hands on. He's describes in interview how teachers are usually bombarded by parent’s questions requesting information on their child’s progress. “Did my son fall asleep during English class again?” he says, mimicking the questions parents might ask. “Did my daughter and her desk mate talk too much during class? Should we separate them?”

He explains how the devs feel the tech allows schools to send the data to parents and the school through a mobile app and demonstrates an example of a report “For example, this student’s report shows that he rarely volunteers to answer the teacher’s questions in class. So his participation in English class is marked as low. Number of questions answered: one,” Zhang reads from the AI-generated report. “This week, the student spent 94.08 percent of class time focusing. His grade average is 84.64 percent. He spent 4.65 percent of the time writing, which was 10.57 percent lower than the grade average.”

The system is named the "Class Care System" and the developer head Zhang believes it means no child will left behind as the children who receive the most attention in a classroom setting are the naughtiest and the cleverest ones. The average child isn’t getting the same attention and Zhang says the Class Care System will remedy this.

Here is Sixthtones visual breakdown of the system which is quite enlightening and their full article here: https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1003759/camera-above-the-classroom

The class care system and how it works in the classroom

Zhang says the Children must consent to the surveillance and when asked what the children think of the tech he replied. "They hate it." Some schools within the trial even had students revolting against the monitoring by unplugging the system just before final exams.

Whatever your take on the implementation of tech in the classroom. It's important to ensure that we move forward into this modern era with a mindfulness to considering the potential mental health impacts of going home and be berated by your parents for not answering enough questions in maths that day.

The terms intelligent education and Class Care System are carefully developed terms of propaganda masking a possibly darker reality. Schools in Shenzhen have been collecting biometric data by fingerprinting their students and three and half thousand facial recognition patents were acquired in China alone. A concerning future is barrelling down on us, Whilst we might not quite be on the precipice of a 1984 style Big Brother dystopia one thing is increasingly clear. Tech is integrating into our daily lives inextricably and we have to ensure we remember the importance of going outside, reading from paper not screens and retaining a semblance of individualism and privacy.

“Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively are less free.” 
― Edward Snowden

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British + Irish Girls Say No To Sport During Puberty

A unprecedented global survey of 14,000 women by researchers at St Mary’s University, Twickenham has shown that British and Irish school girls lose interest in sport when they hit puberty which can be attributed to body changes, low confidence, unflattering sports kit and a feeling that sport was “not cool” or fun.

The figures show two out of five of them shun sport during puberty often using sick notes citing their periods as the reason not to participate. One P.E. teacher described how often this occurred as “ridiculous”.

 

Young girls are abandoning sport during puberty

 

The falloff stats are far more severe than anywhere else in the world which can be linked to English and Irish attitudes towards the sometimes sensitive subject and shines a light on a dire need to de-stigmatise periods whilst motivating our young people to embrace active lifestyles given the obesity epidemic reportedly straining the NHS to the tune of 6 Billion a year.


Dr Bruinvels

One of the researchers and international cross country runner Dr Georgie Bruinvels has written account of her own experiences as a young runner dreading having her period on a race day. ( Scroll down to the case study here.) She explained she has used her own experiences as a motivator for the research and in her capacity as a co-creator of the FitrWomen App which helps women individualise their training regimes around their menstrual cycles.

“One side effect of that is the bleed but a whole other aspect of it is about what is going on with the body all the time. Athletes are suppressing their bodies by taking the birth control pill to stop this natural and normal process which we should be embracing.” Said Bruinvels

Mims Davies, the sports minister, said the findings highlighted the need for the Government to address participation levels among teenage girls. “This is further concerning evidence of the challenge we must address” They have previously rolled out the “This Girl Can” campaign which inspired 3.9 million women and girls to get active however it seems that young people are moving away from sport in droves during the transitional time in their adolescence.

 



“I am working with the sector to make sport and physical activity both enjoyable and engaging for young people of all abilities and backgrounds.

The survey also illustrated that women found exercise to offer great relief to the pain and other side effects of menstruation and according to Bruinvels women actually show increased ability to exercise when menstruating.

A Sports England survey showed that 2.3 million children do less than 30 minutes of activity each day. If you want to help young people to embrace movement and push back against the growing trend to abandon physical activity during puberty you can consider fostering a culture of movement with a standing desk trial in your school just fill out this 60 second form to get started.


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One in Eight Kids Don't Play Outside

Junk Food Adverts OUT, Veg Power IN. UK Standing Up For Kids Health


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