The government has been called upon in a report released by the outgoing Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis to adopt her recommended policy changes designed to directly tackle childhood obesity.
The report entitled "Time to Solve Childhood Obesity" asks politicians and policy makers to focus the lasers of their policy making to etch out a future for our children which includes creating and shaping our towns and communities so there are healthy transport options, access to affordable healthy food, and a barrier against often despicable junk food marketing.
Since 1990 obesity levels amongst our children has risen by a whopping 50%. Attributable not only to the emergence of entertainment technology which encourages sedentary lifestyles but also our diets and availability / uptake of physical activity spaces.
Childhood obesity is a real issue that will undoubtedly increase pressures on the NHS over the coming decades as the unhealthy children of today become unfit and obese adults who are statistically more likely to develop health concerns as a result of their weight. These can range from diabetes, heart conditions and cancers to the development of mental health problems as a result of inactivity and isolation.
In short, obesity is the enemy and in the absence of a silver bullet to tackle him, measures need to be taken to ensure we are all fit enough to escape him.
The report stresses a need to put our children’s health above the profits of corporations. This is particularly poignant in light of the recent controversial deal agreed this month by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and KP Snacks.
There are 53,000 fast food outlets in England and more than half of them are within 400 Meters of a primary school. The marketing towards children is aggressive and uses social media influencers to create unhealthy behaviour patterns by exposing children to junk food mascots and their online heroes indulging in energy products and unhealthy snacks.
The report asks politicians to take a leaf out of history and in the same way that policies of 1965 protected children from cigarette advertising on TV and the 1989 policies ensuring seat-belts are put on children in cars that modern day politicians should exercise their ability to shape the future landscape by using the law to change our children’s lives for the better.
Startling facts such as unhealthy food being three times cheaper are highlighted throughout the report which quite rightly explains we as a nation are not doing enough to ensure our populations future health. Suggestions on how VAT could be applied differently to healthy versus unhealthy foods illustrate how policy can encourage businesses to adopt healthy ranges over their more expensive unhealthy alternatives.
The road map to combating childhood obesity is a much needed and hopefully it doesn’t fall on deaf ears before it’s too late and the new crisis is a failing NHS due to a spike in obesity related disease and death.
The report main principles being recommended are as follows.
• Re-balance the food and drinks sold to favour healthy options, through regulation.
• Allow children to grow up free from marketing, signals and incentives to consume unhealthy food and drinks.
• Introduce innovative policies that find the win-wins for children’s health and the private sector: E.g. continue private sector sponsorship of major sporting events, facilities and stars, but only allow advertising and sales of their most healthy products on site.
• Invest in and design the built environment to create opportunities for children to be active and healthy.
• Take action to improve: exercise and healthy weight in pregnancy, breastfeeding rates, and infant feeding.
• Ensure schools and nurseries play a central role, supported by Ofsted monitoring. Teachers know that being overweight impacts on children’s lives and they need support to do the right things. Food, drink and physical activity standards should be set and adhered to in all schools and nurseries.
• Ensure our NHS and health sector workforce can deliver what our children and families need to prevent, manage and treat obesity, including having conversations about weight and tackling weight-related stigma.
• Make better use of data to guide practice: e.g. systematically link and share data on children’s weight to intervene early; share private sector data, such as supermarket sales data, with policymakers and researchers
• Protect and prioritise our children’s health and rights while making trade deals. Their health and a healthy environment must come above company profits.
• Develop the evidence base to inform practice and policy.
Those wishing to read the full report can do so here.
Standing Desks for Children's Health
Standing Desks are being implemented by Schools wishing to take responsibility for their pupils health and well being. A "try before you buy" trial of the Eiger Standing Desk is available for your classrooms. Just fill in a simple form and we'll get you started. Here's the form.
Schools can use pupil and student support premiums to fund the cost of desks and join hundreds of other education centres in the UK to send a message to their communities that they are proactively tackling in-school sedentary habits.
The 10th October is World Mental Health day. Schools and organisations through the UK will be donning yellow and running in-house initiatives to stimulate the conversation about mental health problems amongst young people and workers across the UK.
Most of us know by now that Mental health issues should no longer be stigmatised and creating open, honest dialogue amongst young people will ensure future generations treat mental health without stigma and with as much importance as their physical health.
This culture is already firmly embedded in the USA however by comparison the UK's attitude towards caring for our own mental health is only now moving away from the stiff upper lip attitude of ignoring the problem and focusing on more tangible issues to one where holistic approaches and talk therapy are only now becoming regarded as good solutions not indicative of someone being a weak or less manly human being. In the UK last year a total of 6507 suicides were registered by coroners. This is the highest level in the last 15 years and represents an 11.8% spike increase on the previous year. All time highs for young people and young girls were also reported.
One in four people are affected by mental health problems every year. Mental health issues amongst men are rife. Mental health problems can be common conditions such as anxiety and depression or rarer, more complicated problems such as schizophrenia or episodic bouts of mania but whatever is affecting you or your loved ones help is available.
If you don't perceive yourself as having mental health problems it is still important to keep looking after your own mental well being. The organisation MIND has some helpful tips on looking after yourself and building positive relationships.
THINK ABOUT WHATS AFFECTING YOUR WELLBEING.
Common life events can affect your mental well-being and we all deal with what life throws at us differently. Bereavement, loneliness, relationship problems, work and money are all stressors in life and possible causes of disruption to your mental well-being.
SOMETIMES YOU CANT PUT YOUR FINGER ON IT
Mental health can be a consequence of external forces such as those listed above or can come from something innate within. You might be more susceptible to internal causes of mental problems if you have suffered from neglect, or childhood trauma, isolation or discrimination. Homelessness or health conditions. Poverty, unemployment or being in a position where you’re responsible for caring for another person. Even traumatic events such as military service or being a victim of crime can all be the causes of current or future mental illness.
MINDs website reminds us that no matter the reason for your low mental health you deserve to be happy. There are steps you can take to improve how you feel.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FEEL BETTER?
MINDs site explains we should aim to build positive relationships, make time for those we love, join groups and talk about how we feel. Volunteering can be an excellent way to combat loneliness and keep your mind active.
They suggest mindfulness and being present in any given moment can help udo to focus your emotions thoughts feelings and help you to accept the world around you. There is a dedicated “bemindful” website for more information on the importance of mindfulness and courses you can take to learn the technique.
Learn Something New
Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby to give yourself achievable goals and remind yourself that you can accomplish your targets. Start small. Read A Book, Bake a cake, learn a new instrument or language or simply start a new art or craft. Learning new things can boost your confidence and self-worth.
Here are 8 relaxation tips to boost your mental health.
If you want more tips on looking after your mental health in everyday living visit MIND here where you can read other blogs detailing tips on combating depression and find out new ways to combat low mental health.
Just remember even if you’re not suffering from mental health problems yourself, being a listening ear or a supportive friend can make a difference to someone you love.
So it’s worth understanding how to achieve good mental health and spotting the warning signs or poor mental well-being so you can ensure you AND those around you stay safe and well.
Standing Desks allow you to move freely and feel less stagnant when you work, they improve blood flow and encourage regular breaks which can act as good mental health breaks.
We asked Nick White, MD of iwantastandingdesk.com to explain to us why Standing desks are a great way to encourage positive mental health.
"The simple act of standing improves brain function, by increasing oxygen levels, glucose levels and vitally dopamine production. Using a standing desk as part of a healthy lifestyle can only contribute positively to to physical and mental well-being. " - Nick White MD, I Want A Standing Desk.
The sedentary lifestyle that has become so commonplace amongst young people is responsible to numerous illnesses such as diabetes and many more obesity related cancers. One group of non-movers these days are video gamers. Many can be so hooked on their games that they sit for extended periods of time without regular breaks to play the latest instalment of their favourite game. Just. One. More. Go.
Now in reality we don’t have any extra lives so what can you do to make sure you’re as healthy as possible when undergoing your gaming marathon?
Now aside from the obvious advice of ensuring you undertake regular exercise breaks (At least an hour a day to meet optimal recommended standards) it’s worth noting that gamers have also started to take up standing desks as a way to stay health positive whilst undertaking long gaming sessions and not stopping what they love.
A number of our customers have told us the Eiger Pro desk has become a perfect companion to change their gaming setup to a standing based one whilst online Twitch streamers are also starting to get in on the action as their dream job now means being sat all day has almost become an necessary evil.
Well the standing desk solution for gamers means you'll be more inclined to make micro movements and take regular breaks to stretch your legs. Taking a minute to eat, stretch, hydrate or empty your bladder can keep your energy levels up keeping you on your game and in the best possible health and position to win.
Early reports has taught us that competitive games are seeing the benefits of integrating standing into their everyday setup as it helps them feel more mental acuity and focus. i.e. Standing is literally keeping them focused and on their game.
Gamers all know that when you get tired physically or mentally you start to slip. Making school boy errors and letting you teams down. We’re not giving you the old “how do you do fellow kids” here this has been tested by gamers who testify that gaming upright puts you in exactly the right mental state you need to be top of your game.
Not Us, Honest.
We all know how much better you play when you lean forward right? Well standing just multiplies that and focuses your mind by increasing the blood flow around the body and supplying oxygen to your brain and your extremities much better than if you’re playing from the couch.
It seems StandUp To Cancer the Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 fund raising initiative hasn’t failed to notice the connection between gamers and the sedentary lifestyle and they have setup a campaign which encourages players to take on a gaming challenge to raise cash for life saving cancer research. Donning it up in your favourite games in unique and interesting ways during a fortnight of Fundraising from 11-25 October with a link to your JustGiving page is all you need to do to get involved. There’s a helpful sign up page to get stuck in right here.
To find out how easy it is to get involved you see more about the campaign here.
For total streaming noobs, Yogscast have produced a tongue in cheek video on how gamers can set themselves up a fundraising stream on Twitch, Youtube or other platform here.
So you can attempt a gaming marathon, go for a record or (and we think this a goer!) Literally stand up to cancer by taking on a gaming standing challenge and show people how easy and important it is to stay fit and healthy when you game and how much you benefit once you break through the angst barrier.
I want A Standing Desk will contribute £20 to Stand-Up To Cancer for every one of you raising money for this month’s campaign using any of our standing desks... and we have just launched the perfect accessory to your gaming challenge in the Eiger Pro Plus for those clever tech folk who need the extra real estate to power up their dual monitor game streaming setup.
The Eiger Pro Plus holds to the same exceptional design standards as the Eiger Pro but also includes a top shelf which will fit two monitors on. It retails at £227 +VAT and includes Free delivery and would be the perfect desk mate to your gaming record breaking.
The product is so early days we don’t have our typical shmanzty photo-shoot shots yet but here’s a sneak peek for those who like to be an early adopter you can get in touch to order the Pro Plus now and we'll organise it by special order.
So what’s stopping you gamers? Get hydrated, get standing and get your game face on to raise money for Cancer Research. Cancer is the new end game boss and it beats over 9000 young people each year. This is your turn to take it down and smash those numbers to oblivion by doing what you love.
Please keep us updated by social and we will happily signal boost any stand up to cancer gaming challengers. If you can’t undertake the fundraising but want to donate directly to Stand-Up To Cancer you can do this here.
This week is European Week of Sport! Punctuated on Wednesdays National Fitness Day @FitnessdayUK
This week European Week of Sport reminds us that inactivity is a leading factor in poor health and it's time to get involved and get active. Organisations such as schools, Gyms, recreation centres and activity events across the country are opening their doors and providing free activities throughout the week and particularly on Wednesday which is also National Fitness Day.
Nearly half of all EU citizens don’t do any sport. The growing sedentary epidemic is responsible for the increased rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity related cancers. The initiative now in its fifth year aims to raise awareness on the benefit and positive impact of sport staying active.
Last year’s participation was outstanding as 13 million people took part in 50,000 events supported by 47 partner organisations in 42 countries from Ukraine to Malta.
Events being put on include Salsa events in the middle of London, runs, fencing, martial arts, yoga and dancing. The hashtag #beactive is being used on social media throughout the week so spread the word with this hashtag and let’s help to get it trending.
Those wanting to learn more about the event and how they can participate should check the website out here.
Whilst yesterday saw Mind hosting #MindfulMonday a series of events across the country showing how sport can support mental well-being. Wednesday’s National Fitness Day is considered the most active day of the year when hundreds of schools, workplaces, gyms and leisure centres how events up and down the country.
Thursday is the Day of Opportunity focusing on giving young people the chance to try multiple new and exciting activities from rowing to boxing and more. Friday brings a day of inclusivity, Saturdays Festival in Cardiff will have giveaways, performances and parkour whilst the evening culminates in Ministry of Sound playing host to a series of workouts at their iconic dance venue and an extra special club night.
Schools wanting to increase their pupils physical literacy and promote healthy lifestyles can opt in to a try before you buy standing desk trial here.
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
A recent study featured in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has linked sitting for extended periods of time to approximately one in ten deaths each year in the UK.
Speaking of modern day workplaces the lead author said they “represented a significant proportion of unavoidable daily sitting time for many people”.
A recent article on the REBA website explains how in 2016/17 1.3 million people suffered from work related ill-health which according to government guidance translates into 25.7 million working days lost affecting business on the whole to the tune of £32 Billion a year.
Research shows happier, healthier people are more productive. This counts for students in education who when standing engage 16% more and office workers who when happy are more productive by a whopping 31%. Research by Talent Works International shows 10 times fewer sick days are taken by happy employees.
Healthy work-spaces and mental and physical health being seen as a top priority helps businesses attract and retain employees and shows that education spaces prioritise physical and mental well-being of their students which can attract new starters as more and more parents are keen to ensure their children are staying healthy in the classroom environment. Some parents even going as far as to urge schools to go entirely standing.
Sedentary behaviour is responsible for a multitude of illnesses and has caused our children’s estimated lifespans to be 5 years shorter. There is a proven relationship between inactivity and cancers, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The NHS is expected to buckle under increasingly accelerating stress if measures aren’t put in place by the government to tackle obesity and sedentary culture in the UK population. Efforts such as the governments proposed School Sport and Activity Action Plan aim to improve physical health culture in young people by keeping schools open for summer holiday sports sessions and more.
The government's cycle to work scheme is estimated to have saved the NHS over £5 billion as a result of participants being healthier and less likely to require treatments. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair of UKActive is calling for a nationwide cultural shift encouraged and supported by the government and to be embraced by all businesses in order to affect the nation’s health and our businesses bottom lines.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
If you are interested in workplace well-being programs you can visit UKActive to find out more. Schools wanting to introduce standing desks to their learning spaces can sign up to a try before you buy trial here.
Source: Tanni Grey-Thompson on the need to combine efforts to tackle sedentary workplace cultures.
In other News I want A Standing Desk has been featured by Feedspots Top 50 Education Blogs here. So thank you for the shout out Feedspot and thanks to our readers for your support.
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 BBC have produced a short video documenting their interviews with three primary school head teachers who say they feel completely unsupported by the government when it comes to offering mental health support to their pupils.
The BBC say there has been a 50% increase in referrals to mental health services for pupils aged 11 and under in the last 3 years.
"I think the government needs to decide whether they want us to be social workers and mental health workers or educators."
- Sue Blair, Pennine Way Primary School
Staff members at Pennine Way School were said to have cried together over the things they have been told by their pupils with mental health needs. They have seen children who self-harm on the premises by banging their heads against walls.
Freedom of information requests have shown that there have been 191 self-harm incidents within school walls since 2015.
"I find it really abhorrent, there's nothing that we can realistically do, that is going to give the child the help that that child needs."
Clem Coady, Head teacher, Stoneraise School
One in 10 primary school children aged five to 10 has an identifiable mental health condition. In serious cases schools are told to escalate the issues and refer to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) One head teacher explained how they are still waiting for feedback on a child who has serious mental health concerns two full years since the referral.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists "Services for children have been historically underfunded." One head teacher cites the UK being the 5th most powerful economy in the world and asks why we still under nourish the support for mental health in young people despite those challenges being well on the rise alongside the over-use of handheld devices and reliance on screen time being directly linked with a greater likelihood of children developing depression . (See the research here)
The head teachers are crying out for help and support whilst the government company line says they are "determined to improve mental health support for kids." Stating that 345,000 more children and young people with have access to specialist mental health care by 20232/24.
Meanwhile it's clearly evident that schools are ill equipped to handle the increasing rise in mental health issues emerging in modern society and unless the government does follow through on these promises the issues are only going to become a greater tax on our economy as under supported children become problematic adults with un-tackled issues and mental health problems which have been long standing since primary school.
CAMHS refuses to accept that a child can be considered depressed before they are 7 years old and this in itself means they deflect requests for support when a school flags a pre-7 with said issues. This lack of qualification and rebuttal just isn’t working and it remains to be seen how schools will be affected as if the issues continue to rise at the same speed as the last 3 years.
Standing desks and flexible seating options in the classroom are reported to help children alleviate anxiety, tension and have a tendency to generally improve student mental health.
If you want to try before you buy and trial Eiger Student Standing Desks in your School you can fill in the form on this page and we'll get the ball rolling.
Watch the piece by the BBC you'll no doubt find yourself in agreement that it's time to tackle the white elephant in the classroom.
The Department of Education has launched a competition to develop early years "edtech" apps which will be designed to develop literacy, language and communication skills to kids.
The winning apps will be offered to families for free in 12 underprivileged areas of the UK as part of a DfE pilot scheme.
"We want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use." – Kemi Badenoch, education minister
The DfE said it wants parents to “think about how to use screen time constructively and provide meaningful learning activities for their young children”.
The apps content will need to meet educational standards and offer progression through levelling up in difficulty. They will also be designed to stimulate personal interaction.
Kemi Badenoch said "we want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use, so they can help inspire a love of learning in their children.”
One in four children leave reception without key communication skills and the winning apps should be designed to combat this.
The areas selected for the pilot were chosen based on the proportion of children achieving below the national level for literacy, and include Brent, Enfield, Halton, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough, Oldham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Sandwell, Stoke-On-Trent and Tower Hamlets.
With iPads becoming commonplace in the school and household, and screen time sessions at all time high this writer believes that being conscious of the content our children are engaging with can only be a good thing and would hope to see the winning apps offered universally for free instead of specific households or regions in order to benefit as many children as possible.
I know how difficult it is to find an app for free that doesn’t contain masses of adware or tricks to try and get the user to buy or subscribe to a service so I’ll be hoping to see this pilot be deemed a success and hopefully winning entries getting some real estate on the app store.
5 hours ago TES reported that Number 10 has lined up boxer and team England squad member Elena Narozanski as Head of Education at the Downing Street policy unit.
Narozanski is a former adviser to Michael Gove. She was a Children and Schools adviser whilst the conservatives were in opposition. Following the 2010 election she was appointed special adviser to the new education secretary before becoming Gove’s chief speechwriter in June 2011
She also worked as a policy adviser to Theresa May, was head of the New Schools for London Programme and worked on the vote leave referendum campaign. She has neither confirmed nor denied the news of her appointment.
Downing Street refused to comment on appointments.
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.
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.
Boris Johnson has stated in a sky news interview that he plans to reverse education spending cuts and he believes that providing a great education is the job of the state. He talks about readdressing the balance across the country and giving more rural communities with less funding the same opportunities and resources as more well funded communities. He also mentions he interprets the Brexit vote as an indicator that this is the peoples will.
Sky’s Sophy Ridge seems to question Johnsons promises that that he would invest more money into schools, more money into transport, investment in full fibre broadband for every UK household and put 20,000 more police on the street as a pipe dream given the likelihood that additional spend would in fact increase taxes however Boris claims there is money available and that certain tax cuts would in fact generate income.
"It is no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone else is you. There is no such thing as Government money. There is only taxpayers' money." - Margaret Thatcher
This could well be politicians being politicians and making numerous promises during the election battle but as funding for schools is at an all-time low the fact that the conversation shines a light on the education sector is at least itself promising.
The current state of play with regards to school funding has many school incapable of offering SEN pupil’s places and are turning them away as a result. It means a lack of funding for teacher training resulting in an increase in expulsions and the ever prevalent overcrowding of classrooms.
This year classes now have on average one extra pupil per teacher in them compared to last year. Whilst this may not seem like an extravagant increase if the lack of funding schools are suffering from currently continues these figures can only worsen.
The 4% funding cuts to spending per child budgets have meant that many schools are opting to expel their most vulnerable cases as they lack the intrinsic resources and training to react to poor behaviour from vulnerable young people with a more holistic and proactive approach.
Pictured abaove, a new social enterprise called 'The Difference' has been set up to offer a sort of education special forces. Their aim is to raise the status and expertise of those working with vulnerable learners: in Alternative Provision, and in mainstream.
41 children are excluded in the UK every day whilst 85% of children in the criminal justice system were once expelled. These figures shine a startling light on a problem people just aren’t talking about enough. School funding cuts has our education centres letting down our most vulnerable learners.
If elected Johnson said he plans to roll back education cuts implemented by George Osborne in 2015. The Conservative leadership frontrunner said he would give England's schools budget a £4.6bn boost per year by 2022/23 if he enters Number 10.
The former Foreign Secretary said: "The 2016 referendum result was a clear cry from many people that they have been left behind. As Conservative councillors and members all over the country know, for too many years, schools in rural regions have received much less funding than schools in other parts of the country."
Labour spoke out against the claims. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said "Even today’s supposed pledge doesn’t come close to reversing all the cuts that the Tories have imposed on education, let alone match Labour’s plans to invest in a national education service."
The Guardian has also written a scathing retort to the claims saying that old Etonian Johnson has on numerous times spoken out in favour of grammar schools and wouldn’t have dreamt of sending his own children to state schools. The full write up in included below in our sources.
The Metro in April wrote about how Eton college is to receive an 80% tax reduction due to its status as a charity being a tax avoidance loophole whilst soe state schools are now so underfunded that they are asking parents to pay for pens, pencils and toilet paper.
Unfortunately politicians say lots of promises and this ine is clearly not without its critics but at least the conversation is finally on topic. Education needs a large financial boost to catch up with the growing class sizes and the increased need for training to keep up with our ever expanding cultural differences and children’s mental health needs.
Johnson plans to reverse education cuts: https://news.sky.com/video/boris-johnson-wants-to-spend-on-education-11751391
The Guardian -
Ending exclusion: specialist teachers trained to support most vulnerable
The Difference https://www.the-difference.com/what-we-do
Eton College gets 80% tax break while state schools are ‘at breaking point’