This week UK media have been reporting on the increasingly visible issue of childhood obesity. Leading figures in sport state “Today’s children are the least active generation ever,” and say that school sport facilities should be kept open all summer, to allow people to access them for sports clubs and activities so they stay active during the summer holidays.
The proposals are designed to re-establish the holidays as a time to get active instead of peak dormancy time when UK kids aren’t getting any exercise.
News reports such as this [and this] shine a light on recent lobbying from fitness leaders to encourage our government to implement real and measurable changes in order to provide more opportunity for sport for our young people.
Nearly 40 percent of all sports facilities sit behind closed gates in schools for the extensive summer holiday period. During this time children become even more inactive and undo about 80% of fitness gains they develop during term time. According to a recent Sport England Survey cited to the government now only 17.5% of children meet the daily recommended exercise quota of 1hr a day and one in five UK school kids are overweight by the time they commence primary school.
The fitness leader group called upon the government to keep the facilities open and have laid out a plan that would need very little funding to implement. (Presumably staffing and maintenance costs only?) as the equipment and playing fields are all there ready to use. The coalition said that for just £7 per child a day 1.2 million school children could benefit.
Healthy active children are statistically more likely to grow up into active healthier adults so the proposals would reduce some of the prophesised future burden on the NHS from the next generation of screen addicted inactive kids and save lives by reducing obesity related disease and mortality rates.
The group’s leader Baroness Grey-Thompson said “It is time for the Government to show its commitment to the next generation by unlocking the school sports facilities lying unused on the doorstep of every neighbourhood.
“We urge the next Prime Minister and Chancellor to support schools to have a powerful impact on the health and wellbeing of children, young people and their families by opening over the summer holidays and engaging families in local, affordable and healthy activity opportunities.
“This is an unmissable opportunity to reshape the summer holiday period, and realise the ambitions of many existing policies aiming to improve child health by encouraging physical activity, tackle childhood obesity and reduce loneliness through improved social cohesion.”
Recent surveys have shown that 30 percent of kids are doing less than 30 mins exercise a day meanwhile ministers have announced a long awaited and seemingly limited action plan to get children doing an hour of exercise a day. The plan does suggest that the government are going to be pressing schools and sports groups to work together to share facilities and keep sport available during evening’s, weekends and holidays.
So are the government going to do what is being asked of them? The language is (as usual) deeply ambiguous. The government has laid plans and come up with a name for the plans but it is doubtful we will see the plans fully realised whilst the money being committed to implement change is considerably minimal.
The proposed “School Sport and Activity Action Plan” met a lukewarm response from the sports sector and came under criticism for being a rehash of the School Sports Partnership which was introduced under the previous Labour government but scrapped by the coalition in 2010.
Criticism has also fallen on ministers for not capitalising on the London 2012 Olympics as it was promised to be a bounding board for a mass uptake in sports culture in order to make us more competitive in future generations whilst reaping the massive societal benefit to being healthier as a nation whilst taking the pressure off the NHS due to reducing illness born from sedentary lifestyles.
Sport leaders including the Youth Sport Trust and The Football Association released said in a joint statement that the Governments School Sport and Activity Action Plan "sets out some encouraging intentions and acknowledges the absolute priority of getting every young person enjoying 60 active minutes every day.
“It is also important that further policy change is brought forward. The success of the plan will ultimately hinge on how it is resourced.”
At a time when schools are considerably underfunded already the government has been asked to make some real changes by pledging to implement to sports coalitions suggestions and they have responded with a named action plan but it remains to be seen if this translates into a commitment of money to make something happen when school budgets are at an all time low. Watch this space.
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
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