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.
Many children spend at least nine hours a day sitting down and with anti-sitting research on the rise and a daily target of 30 mins in exercise, teachers are beginning to integrate active learning into their classrooms to combat childhood obesity and improve their academic results.
The BBC has published an article detailing new research on active students.
"International research found that after three years of physically active learning, pupils were still more attentive following the activity...After one active lesson, a child can improve their Maths performance by as much as 16%. If your child learns in an active way, after two years, they could be four months ahead in maths and spelling compared to traditional seated classroom learning."
We reported last month that childhood obesity is responsible for a record breaking 5 year reduction in our children’s expected lifespans. The BBC article breaks down the benefits of combining movement and learning. In only one 45 minute active learning session a child can do 9 minutes of exercise, hitting a third of their daily target.
Andy Daly-Smith for the BBC explained that recently the National Association of Head Teachers passed a motion to encourage all schools to adopt physically active learning. Running around the playground to answer maths questions or getting outdoors for forest schools are just some of the ways UK schools are trying to get their children active.
Super Movers is a popular classroom based approach to active learning and uses videos of well-known children’s characters such as the Worst Witch to get children interested in the active learning experience.
The Worst Witch sings and dances about percentages in a supermovers video.
Meanwhile the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education has reported that students given standing desks have been found to participate more in lessons than those sitting down. A study of 282 students aged seven to ten years old for two terms, showed those with standing desks were 12 per cent more likely to answer questions or join in class discussions.
With the research that being active improves brain connections, focus and academic results combined with schools feeling the increased pressure to achieve new daily movement targets and some US schools going all-standing you should expect to see standing desks and active learning on the rise throughout the UK.