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.
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.
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."
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;
"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.
A new report by Natural England has revealed a 13th of our young population don’t venture outside to play. Nearly 5,400 children were surveyed and only 17% had visited a beach. We have written about the ever growing popularity of beach schools who actively combat this figure but it’s clear that physical literacy and going outside is becoming obsolete in the face of increasing sedentary behaviour and screen time which has been linked to increased rates of depression in young people.
Active students perform better according to research.
This news hits amidst the backdrop of quickly escalating childhood obesity numbers and notable 5 year reductions in our children’s expected lifespans.
Unsurprisingly 67% of children believe “being in nature makes me happy”
It has also come to light from the report that whilst these figures are depressingly low they are higher than the amount of outdoor time spent by our nation’s adults. Economic factors also effect the results with 10% less poorer family’s getting outdoor time compared to more affluent families.
UK Active this week published a news report detailing that university students who engage in physical activity experience improved mental health and feel they are more employable and perform better. Physically active children were monitored and they experience a 16% improvement in productivity against inactive children. So the stats all point to better physical health aiding better mental health and clear cut improvement in academic results.
Not surprising really when you consider that the same part of the brain which manages movement also manages executive function and learning. There has been a bidirectional study in adults which shows a robust connection between activity and improved executive function.
In longitudinal multilevel models low levels of physical activity led to subsequent declines in executive function.
Now let put this in basic English;
- Adults who are active demonstrate sharper thinking. When you stop moving your thought processes slow down.
- University students who exercise believe they are more employable, happier and perform better.
- Children at school level are less productive and becoming depressed due to an increase in screen time and decrease in exercise and outdoor time.
Schools can combat the tide of sedentary culture in their classrooms and give their students an edge by building physical literacy into the classroom and integrating standing desks to normalise movement for our young people. Other standing schools are reaping the benefit of students with flexible seating. Their pupils are proven to participate more and become more productive in the process.
Physically literate children become active adults, perhaps the more active ones will get those 5 years back from their expected lifespans and retain their sharp thinking. This writer believes it’s our duty of care to help them achieve this.
Brad Johnson, Author of Learning on Your Feet: Incorporating Physical Activity into the K-8 Classroom has produced an article in Principle, published by the National Association of Elementary School Principles describing the practise of sitting in schools as "Inhumane"
Johnson makes links to rising rates of obesity, ADHD and diabetes as a result of the old fashioned sitting culture in modern day schooling.
He has the stats to back up his claims and says that if these figures were related to an infectious disease that we'd be declaring an epidemic however as this is resultant from education it’s simply the status quo.
Obesity rates in children have doubled since the 1980's
Type 2 Diabetes is up 30% in children between 2000-2009
There are now 5.7 million children diagnosed with ADHD and the use of pyscho-stimulants such as Ritalin is up by 700%
Johnson reflects on a longitudinal study by Howard Gardner which found that a group of children who all tested at a genius level up to age 4 only ten percent continued to test at such levels by age 20. Johnson attributes this to the public education systems imposed uniformity and sedentary behaviours.
Johnson offers tips on helping kids to burn off their excess energy and focus on learning - these include regular breaks for stretching and standing, two minute exercise breaks for sit-ups to refocus and dancing and games designed to work off pent up energy.
Johnson states that there are many connections between the brain and movement and our ability to learn, one of which is that the same part of the brain that controls movement controls also learning so Johnson believes that sitting actively hinders the learning process.
Basically exercise and movement stimulates the executive function part of the brain which aids cognition, organisation, focus, emotional regulation and multi-tasking all essential elements of a well-rounded learner.
"The part of the brain that processes movement also processes learning. So when students are sitting still, the learning process is actually hindered rather than enhanced.” - Johnson
Johnson’s article is available here.
...and his book is available here.