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]
The same week the vast majority of teachers have moved against high stake primary school testing such as SAT's via a ballot of members at the UK's largest Education Union another news piece has surfaced indicating that the majority of Head teachers are against mandatory baseline testing of primary school children on entry to primary school.
54,500 primary school teachers voted en-mass against the SATs means of testing as it negatively impacts children’s mental health and puts schools under undue pressure to hit benchmarks the government can hold them accountable to. Nick Gibb, the school standards minister however said that this number doesn’t even represent half the profession and that the tests had been around since 1990 and are designed to improve the standard of teaching in our schools.
Despite Gibbs insistences it seems the general consensus from head teachers is that the government are insisting on mandatory tests in order to measure the schools progress and an initial test to be used as a yardstick from which progress can be measured. However head teachers have argued vehemently that the £10 Million it will take to implement the newly proposed baseline testing for primary school joiners is completely unnecessary and the pitfalls of introducing this system include labelling children who speak English as a second language or those with SEN needs could be "unnecessarily labelled as low-ability"
“We already have an appropriate baseline that does not take staff too much time,” one teacher wrote. ”The baseline is used to identify gaps in learning and development for the staff to support the child, not locked away for seven years.”
Research carried out by staff at University College London’s Institute of Education surveyed 288 head teachers and only 8% of which spoke positively about the suggested testing regime due to become mandatory in 2020.
Some head teachers suggested some schools will “game” the system by underpreparing pupils for the baseline test in order to show greater demonstrable improvements when the government revisits and measures against the initial results.
Jill Robinson of More Than a Score who commissioned the head teacher interviews said;
“Heads agree with education experts and parents: this scheme is a waste of everyone’s time and a waste of £10m,”
“It has no basis in academic theory or even simple logic. It is simply another way for the government to judge schools, using unreliable and unfair testing methods.
“A batch of reception pupils will be used as guinea pigs when they should be settling into school and the government still can’t tell us how they’ll use the data which will be extracted from these four-year-olds.
“It’s time for the DfE to admit failure and halt the roll-out of this pointless and damaging experiment."
Parents tried to oppose the plans via a legal challenge however this was overturned at the high court.
A spokesperson for the DfE said that the baseline checks are simply standardising the way schools carry out their own baseline checks.
“We are confident that the reception baseline assessment will lighten the load for schools, which will no longer have to carry out whole-class assessments at the end of year two, or deal with the test papers and administration that comes with that, while also being stress-free for children.
“We have been listening carefully to feedback we have received throughout the development process to ensure we get the experience right for pupils and schools.”
We are certainly in a time where education staff are at odds with the government as to the best way to measure the success of UK education standards and one way or another change is going to be required to find common ground between both parties’ priorities. A SATS strike occured this year and the majority of voting teachers at the large union meeting had voted in favour of this action so from one year to the next our children could be having vastly different experiences.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) staged the boycott which meant that nearly 200,000 children missed the SATs. This inconsistency is without a doubt not in our children’s interest in this writer’s opinion however if it results in the reduction of high stress testing of our young learners then it may well be what they call a necessary evil.
Wherever you lie on this issue we'd love to hear from you in the comments or via out social channels.
The Decathalon Activity Index 2019 has shown that 77% of Parents are more active than their children. The survey asked parents to compare activity levels with their kids and even when including P.E. lessons a huge 77% of parents said they exercised more than their kids.
If the parent’s child is adult then the figure shot up to 93% showing a huge disparity in (self-perceived) exercise levels between generations. Our children have a 5 years shorter expected lifespan due to the sedentary crisis and given that only 11% of family’s say they exercise together this shows that not enough is being done at home to combat the problem.
Schools who integrate standing desks into their classrooms are doing their bit by stimulating movement and physical literacy but a truly combined effort is the only solution when we look to make a culture shift back towards healthy active lifestyles for our children. Failure to do this sufficiently well, experts say will bring incredible strain to the NHS when sedentary kids become unhealthy, unfit adults with burgeoning health issues associated with obesity such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
"We are increasingly disturbed by how often the statistics are showing us that children are just not active enough and the alarm bells haven’t set off across the country yet. Sadly this is the kind of problem that doesn’t make the headlines until the health issues it creates culminates in our NHS coming to a standstill."
- Nick White, Managing Director iwantastandingdesk.com
Parents and schools who want to combat childhood inactivity can invest in student standing desks like the Eiger Student Standing Desk. Schools can request a try before you buy trial for this here.
In July the government published the School Sport and Activity Action Plan where the government outlines their intent to make it so kids have the ability to partake in the recommended 60 mins of physical activity every day. The plan is due to updated later in the year.
This image shows how 80's kids were more active than today's youth.
Currently only 17.5% of children meet the required activity levels and this is going to need to dramatically improve if the government’s plan to halve childhood obesity by 2030 by supporting schools and parents enabling kids to lead healthier more active lives is to be realised.
Further reading: Schools May Be Kept Open for Sports in Holidays
The Government’s Sport and Activity Action Plan
BBC Panorama has reported that an Academy head ordered her staff to cheat on Sat’s tests.
Suzanne Barham spoke to TV documentary Panorama and details how she was instructed to provide the answers to pupils that were struggling in the 11 year old test environment.
"We were told to go and work with specific children and to give them a little help.
"That's what happened, those children were given answers.
"You know it's not what should happen. You know it's the wrong thing, it's not going to help the children."
Citing a fear that she would lose her job if she didn't do as instructed Barham told Panorama she also was ordered to change test scores at three schools in 2017.
The Academy is effectively being dissolved and enveloped by another trust. Silver Birch says the current trustees cannot be held responsible for its earlier actions.
The trusts chief Exec Patricia Davies allegedly also ordered Barham to help children cheat in a reading exam.
"Mrs Davies called me into her office, and it's a reading paper, so you can't read it to them, and she said, 'I want you to read it for them'.
"I said, 'but it's a reading test.' She went, 'yes, I know'.
"You did what Pat told you to do, otherwise, you knew you wouldn't have a job, and so I read that paper."
Parents understandably were not happy to hear about the cheating. One Mother was stood at the gates when children came bounding out delighted they had been allowed to cheat
"The boys were quite vocal, as they thought it was funny, they thought it was hilarious: 'We cheated, we cheated, they let us cheat'.
"They were skipping up the hill screaming it out."
Startlingly the Standards and Testing Agency have investigated the allegations of cheating and let the results stand. The BBC have written about one girl who witnessed a teacher walk up to her desk during an exam and point at an answer saying "That’s the answer" the girl said “I was so annoyed. I just looked at her like, 'what are you doing, this is a test'."
Barham explained that the trust gave her sheets of paper with the actual results on and specific results scrubbed out with a request to change them in order to falsify and inflate how well the school was doing.
She resigned when the academy was taken over by another trust.
The academy is closing due to financial issues.
Labour and the Lib Dems have pledged to abolish Sat’s testing in favour of teaching “not to the test.”
A ballot of 54,000 primary school members of the NEU showed that 97 percent backed the campaign to scrap the tests which have been heralded as damaging to children’s mental health due to the high pressure environment and anxiety inducing process.
The criticisms of Sat’s testing often come from the fact that they exist as a means for schools to be measured against one another as opposed to having the welfare and education of the pupils at the forefront.
“Test-driven primary assessment is damaging children’s mental health and wellbeing; it intensifies the stress on teachers. Preparing children for Sat’s squeezes out other parts of the curriculum.”
- Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU
The Telegraph have released an article this week showing 25 ways parents can get kids more active to stave off the summer holiday slum. That dreadful reduction in mobility that has been recently reported on by UKActive and Sport England.
Just surf through our previous blogs this month to see the stats on how little kids move during their summer holidays and it'll come as no surprise that they put on the pounds whilst staring at screens for 4 to 5 hours a day.
The Government’s new School Sport and Activity Action Plan is now pushing a term we've been writing about all quarter. Physical Literacy. According to the plan this encompasses enjoyment, motivation, competence, understanding and knowledge. Ensuring children can demonstrate all aspects of this means reportedly they will become happier, more resilient and more trusting of other kids. They also improve academically.
Sport England says making sport fun is key to getting kids motivated to get active. I know my own son jumped at the chance to attend mixed martial arts when I put it to him that he had been invited to attend "Ninja School".
So what are some of the suggested activities the Telegraph say you could inspire your kids with?
Well amongst the typical suggestions of outdoor sports and challenges they brought to light the LIdl Mudder challenge from the folk behind Tough Mudder. A yearly event for 5 to 12 year olds around the country to run an assault course designed just for kids. Race for Life is also hosting Pretty Muddy Kids, a 5k obstacle challenge on Aug 31 in Morden Park, London, and Sept 7 in Nottingham and Milton Keynes
Other unique suggestions for exercise include the world’s largest indoor inflatable assault course aptly named the "Monster"
Folu Ososanya founder of children’s football coaching academy says exposing kids to professional sport early on lets feel more connected to it. So you could think about taking them to the game. I think giving them a team to support can have an amazing affect on their buy in to any sport. I'm sure many fully gown adults still support Man United because their favourite childhood colour was red.
Another fitting suggestion to motivate the screen obsessed children in your household is to get the tech they love so much involved in the journey. This year’s Pokemon Go is Harry Potter: Wizards Unite which has kids exploring their locality casting spells and collecting artefacts. Apps such as Yoga for kids and Just Dance are also great motivators.
Amidst many other suggestions (Check them out here yourself) The article explains that bribery and blackmail are still a sure fire tactic to get your kids moving. There are also dance classes that teach the moves from the most popular game of the moment "Fortnite." I know a few kids who would fall over themselves to do anything Fortnite related so this could be gem for other parents with like-minded gamer children.
Theme park walks can find your kids clocking up the miles with a smile on their face so the lesson here is how we position the activity. Kids are interested in games and using their imaginations. Traipsing through harsh woodland is a lot more fun for my sons when we are hunting witches or taking their trusty teddies on a picnic at the top of a long hill walk.
Whatever your methods take some inspiration from anywhere and everywhere and get your kids used to moving and respecting their bodies. Studies have shown that children who are active turn into active healthier adults.
Standing desks are a great way to get kids moving whilst they are distracted performing an activity which motivates them such as colouring, drawing or magazine puzzles. Schools interested in undertaking a try before you buy Eiger Student Standing desk trial can apply through the short form here.
Recent studies have show that spending time on mobile phones for 5 hours a day means you are more likely to become obese and develop heart disease. So for your own sake and your kids try and put down the devices and get outside with your little ones this half term. Lets make the teaching of physical literacy start at home and hopefully see it continued back at school.
Healthy Schools News Roundup
Poorest children three times more likely to miss out on extra-curricular activities.
Eleanor Busby from the independent has written about a new study this week which indicates children are three times less likely to do extra-curricular activity if they are from an impoverished family. This includes out of school sport amongst other activities such as music.
The study by the Social Mobility Commission is calling on the government to introduce a bursary scheme to change these rather disturbing figures. Now given the new PM's stance on education and 'not leaving anyone behind' being a big part of his patois in the run up to his taking the role it seems this kind of action might actually happen under the newly introduced New School Sport and Activity Action Plan being touted by the government as a fix for the shocking rise in childhood obesity.
Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “It is shocking that so many people from poorer backgrounds never get the chance to join a football team, learn to dance or play music"
Former Education Secretary Damian Hinds added: “The more opportunities we make available to young people, the more chance they have of becoming well-rounded adults who can take on life’s challenges with confidence.”
Number of overweight children rises by a fifth because of lazy summer holidays spent staring at screens
Meanwhile this week the Telegraph have reported the number of overweight children has risen by a fifth because children becoming inactive during the summer holidays. Estimates indicate kids are staring at screens for up to 4 hours a day instead of getting outside and being active.
We also wrote about this last week here where we talk about the government’s plans to keep schools open during the holidays due to be implemented in the governments new plans.
Arrival of the long overdue healthy schools ratings scheme
Following criticism from numerous sources including non-other than celebrity chef Jamie Oliver details of the healthy schools rating scheme has finally seen some light two years later than proposed.
Quite importantly this has not been made mandatory a fact not missed by Jamie who very believes it should be. Schools are being encouraged to fill out a survey to acquire a rating and a report based on their answers with the highest scorers getting a gold silver and bronze award.
The 2016 child obesity plan first proposed the measure which should have up and running by Sept 2017. The major issues here are that its as pretty underwhelming initiative compared to the initial proposals. When originally developed as a strategy it was proposed that parents would be involved in the production the rating scheme for each individual school however now the only mention of a parent is that schools may wish to advise parents of what score they get after getting involved. Furthermore as it isn't mandatory only the schools who already have dedicated themselves to becoming healthier are likely to voluntarily put themselves into the scheme. Until all schools have to it would be likely that schools will mostly just end up with high scores as they wont be entering the scheme if they expect anything less. Sadly it seems this is now a nice idea poorly executed that won't be making the waves it was conceived to do.
Ofsted Chief Inspector says pupil’s wellbeing at risk as sports are being squeezed out the curriculum.
Ofsted’s chief inspector spoke to the Observer this week and said it is essential that schools leaders include sport and exercise in a balanced education and that Ofsted would begin recognising schools that offer sport and exercise (in and out of school) in a new regime they intend to introduce in September.
“Schools that offer children a broad, balanced education, including plenty of opportunities to get active during the school day and through extracurricular activities, will be rewarded under our new inspection regime.”
The Youth Sport Trust, A Director of the FA, and many other sport leaders have sent an open letter to Boris Johnson indicating that P.E. hours have received a huge cut since 2017 and that they want the next PM to demonstrate that the government is making the health and wellbeing of children in the country a priority amidst a decline in general mental and physical health culminating in the loss of 5 years estimated life spans for our children.
“physical education has been cut by more than almost any other subject, with over 51,000 hours of curriculum PE lost between 2010 and 2017”
You'll have to excuse the format but its been a hot week for health and education news with much to digest across the media but it does feel like an important week. One where with the new PM in place and lots of public mention of the need for sport and physical literacy for children in this country that perhaps the public perception on how important movement and activity is could be made to genuinely shift.
Let’s hope we all take heed and get more active with our kids and encourage our schools to do the same. The new plan pushed by the government has pledged £2 million Sport England funding to create 400 new after-school ‘satellite clubs’ to get more young people in disadvantaged areas active, as well as additional funding to better coordinate sport programmes and competitions for young people. So let’s make sure when these appear that we make use of them or they won’t be around for long.
Schools wishing to include more movement in their classrooms can integrate super movers videos into their lesson plans, increase their pupils dedicated activity time and reduce the use of solitude booths for SEN and badly behaved kids in favour of more holistic approaches to discipline.
There is no one fits all answer for schools wanting to get more active but certainly opting in to the Healthy Schools rating scheme seems like a great starting point. Many schools have seen benefit by introducing flexible seating options such as Eiger student standing desks. A trial for any school wishing to try before you buy is available here.
Guidance on the healthy schools rating scheme is available here.
Have a great week and remember when you'rew out and about getting active, please wear sunscreen.
Today’s child is scarily inactive. They have increased cases of depression, obesity and diabetes. They over indulge on screen time due to the widespread availability of tablets, televisions and iPhones and they are likely to live 5 years less than we are. Children don't go out to play as much as previous generations. They have been dubbed "generation inactive."
Despite the mountainous evidence to suggest that physical literacy amongst children is at a crisis point a new study has found that parents just don't understand the importance of active lifestyles and physical literacy for children.
This week is national school sport week which is now in its eleventh year and is designed to encourage schools, teachers, parents and young people to shine a light on the importance of sport for our physical and mental health. The Youth Sport Trust who run the week long event commissioned the 2000+ person study which indicated that only a quarter of parents know that children should be active for at least thirty minutes each day according to the chief medical officers recommendations.
Other research found that only seven percent of girls and 11 percent of boys at secondary age are undertaking more than 60 mins of activity per day. There is also a disparity between children from different economic backgrounds with 39% of children from the poorest family’s doing less than 30 mins exercise a day compared to 26% from richer families.
“We’ve seen a worrying trend in recent years of a decline in young people’s physical activity, and a squeeze on time allocated to good quality PE,” said Ali Oliver, the YST’s chief executive. “With our new research showing that most people do not know how much physical activity children should be aiming for, it has never been more important to raise awareness of why this is so important.
“Our work with schools across the country all year round shows the power of sport and play to improve young people’s confidence, tackle stress and equip them with the skills to succeed in life.”
Only 17.5 per cent of children and young people were currently meeting the government target, according to Sport England’s most recent Active Lives Survey.
Damian Hinds in December last year called upon leading institutions in sport such as the Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England Hockey to advise the government on how they could fulfil his ambition of making competitive sport accessible to all children. The governments sport action plan focuses on health, well being and character.
"Sport has the power to boost physical and mental well being, while teaching important life skills. We are committed to building on the fantastic range of programmes already provided by the governing bodies here today to reach even more young people."
Sports Minister Mims Davies
Damian Hinds Said at the December summit
"Education is not just about the taking and passing of exams, important though these are. We want all young people to leave formal education as happy, confident and well-rounded individuals. It is clear that exercise and organised sport in particular can play a huge part in children’s personal resilience and emotional wellbeing."
Many schools are using their sports premium funding to integrate physical movement into their learning spaces with standing desks in their classrooms. If you would like to undertake a trial on a try before you buy basis then head over here and fill in the short form.
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.
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.
ASK ABOUT GAMES
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.
To calculate your child’s BMI there are online apps and resources available such as this one.
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."
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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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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.
It seems the government is backing up its claims that preventative medicine and mental health are now a priority. Following pressure to vastly improve our country’s safeguarding of vulnerable groups now by September 2020 school children as young as 4 years old will be taught compulsory lessons about the importance of sleep, looking after their own mental health, relationships and going outside. The new lessons will be part of the broader revised curriculum which will also cover for secondary school pupils, the dangers of sexting, spotting anxiety amongst their friends and the importance of staying safe on the internet.
They will be taught about nutrition, staying active and the link between mental and physical health. And that online time shouldn’t replace playing outside.
"So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and offline, can be difficult to navigate...Almost 20 years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on."
"It will help children learn how to look after themselves, physically and mentally.”
Education Secretary Damian Hinds
The is a notable rise in sleep disorders often attributed to night time screen time which has recently been advised against by the UK’s chief medical officers to be curtailed.
Researchers announced in a British Medical Journal study that sleep deprivation is a serious issue likely to cause more impact on a child’s well-being than bullying, physical activity and screen time. You can read about the study here.
In the meantime for teachers who want to get ahead of the game, in January the PSHE published sleep factor lesson plans which are available to download here: The free to download lesson plans teach children to;
• recognise what good quality sleep is and why it is important
• identify habits and routines that promote good quality sleep
• understand how sleep patterns change during adolescence
The new plans for sex and lifestyle based education has however received some criticism and after a 106,000 signatures have been gathered the issue of parents wanting the right to opt out their children will now be debated in parliament next Monday. It is worth noting that Parents will still have the right to withdraw their child up to age 15 although headteachers will be encouraged to discuss with parents the potential negatives of withdrawing their child, so it seems there will be pressure imposed to include your child.
“We believe that these changes are absolutely essential in creating an educated and self-aware generation next. In schools the teaching of physical literacy is malnourished and needs improvement …this is certainly a welcome step in letting children take some ownership through understanding their own health and it's importance.
"I know that Education Secretary Hinds said £6 million would be made available to cover training and resources, hopefully the initiative and the funding allowance will be built upon if the government genuinely expects any sweeping changes in outcomes.
"We work with over a hundred schools on improving their flexible seating options to enhance their pupils development from this we know first hand that even small changes can have a tremendous impact.”
Nick White, Eiger Standing Desks / iwantastandingdesk.com
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