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Creative Ways To Improve Kids "Physical Literacy"

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.

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Healthy Schools News Roundup. The Heat is On!

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.”

Boris Receives Nudge From The Youth Sport Trust


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.

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Schools May Be Kept Open For Sports In Holidays

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.

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Boris Promises To Fight School Funding Crisis

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.

Sources:
https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/social-affairs/children-and-young-people/news/104924/boris-johnson-vows-reverse-tory

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
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jun/11/ending-exclusion-specialist-teachers-trained-support-vulnerable-schools

The Difference https://www.the-difference.com/what-we-do

Eton College gets 80% tax break while state schools are ‘at breaking point’

 

https://metro.co.uk/2019/04/27/eton-college-gets-80-tax-break-while-state-schools-are-at-breaking-point-9326762/

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Get Active. Live Longer. New Study Has The Facts.

A Cambridge University Study of 15,000 40 to 79 years olds found that people who increase their activity levels later in life half the risk of an early death.


The government recommended activity levels are to carry out 30 minutes of exercise for 5 days a week (or twenty mins each day) and following this can reduce the risk of death by almost a quarter compared to inactive people. However particularly active people who undertake 42 minutes of exercise a day cut the risk of early death by a whopping 42%.

Activity measured included walking, cycling and oddly enough, office work which is great news for you standing desk heroes out there.

Very importantly the study found that people who hadn’t done any previous activity could also reap "substantial" benefits meaning it’s never too late to start increasing your movement irrespective of your previous relationship with exercise. (Mine is turbulent to say the least)


The research was held between 1993 and 1997 and participants followed until 2016. The timeframe has allowed researchers to extrapolate that activity levels over time and higher activity levels are both linked to living a longer life.

Participants who were inactive at the start of the study but worked up toward accomplishing the daily recommended exercise figures of 20 mins a day were able to cut their mortality rates by a quarter and the group who were highly active (60 mins activity a day) halved their mortality rates.




"These results are encouraging, not least for middle-aged and older adults with existing cardiovascular disease and cancer, who can still gain substantial longevity benefits by becoming more active, lending further support to the broad public health benefits of physical activity," researchers said.

"In addition to shifting the population towards meeting the minimum physical activity recommendations, public health efforts should also focus on the maintenance of physical activity levels, specifically preventing declines over mid to late life."

Hew Edwards from UKActive explained how this new evidence should be used to push back against the notion that older people should do less and said "Only by reimagining ageing, can our society reduce the growing burden on our NHS and social care systems.”

Louise Ansari, from the Centre for Ageing Better said "It’s not just about aerobic exercise like running or cycling. All adults should also do activities that boost their strength and balance twice a week."

 

 

 

Standing desks encourage movement and help active people stay active. Whilst they are not a miracle cure they do encourage movement and fit excellently into a healthy lifestyle as part of the solution to today's sedentary culture. 

Increasing your exercise levels reduces the risk of diabetes, obesity, cardiac disease, cancer and depression. At an age where chance of dementia or Alzheimer’s increase older people who exercise have brains which are ten years younger so naturally staying active has mental health benefits too. So buff off those running shoes and get yourselves moving for the benefit of your body and your minds. 

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Parents Don't Know Kids Recommended Activity Levels

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.

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School Introduces Sporty Tracksuit Uniforms

There has been some debate this week amongst parents of Leamington Spa school Telford Junior, since the school has introduced a new style of sporty school uniform designed around a tracksuit.



In place of the usual smart attire the head teacher has implemented a uniform of sportswear with trainers raising concerns amongst parents of the increased cost to purchase.

The head teacher explained the uniform which many pupils have started wearing would serve a more "active" curriculum featuring the daily mile and active lessons such as the super movers’ classes.

In wales in 2022 the new curriculum due to be implemented is said to include well-being at the core of many subjects. Should England’s curriculum borrow from the same songbook this may be first of many schools opting to introduce a sporty alternative to the school uniform in the future.


We frequently work with active schools and understand that any actions schools can take to change the mentality of their students towards the idea of increased movement and fitness can only yield positive results.

Higher activity levels in students who embrace physical literacy and use standing desks in the classroom have improved academic results, increased engagement and experience overall improvements in physical and mental health and well-being. You only need to glance through this blog to get a sense of the myriad of statistics supporting active classrooms.



Despite initial objections from about 40% of the parents the new uniforms have come into use and some parents said the new uniform is "smart" and the “children liked it” however one parent said "I could understand the children going to school in games kits on days they had sports but to be wearing it every day I think will put the children in a different mind-set towards school,"

Will this school see an increase in physical activity adoption amongst the tracksuit wearing school kids? Does the sense of school pride increase or diminish when the uniform becomes casual?


One piece in the New Yorker discusses how liberating school uniform can be and how some schools experience notable difference following the introduction of uniforms, reporting fluctuations in the regularity of violence. It’s certainly true amongst sociology experiments that our behaviour can become altered based on the uniforms we adopt.


In this example students wearing police uniforms exhibited biased attention towards individuals wearing hoodies. The Leamington Spa school did debate using hoodies but this idea was apparently quickly thrown out. 

Parents received the following letter when initially consulted which leads with the idea of active wear for an active curriculum.

Will this school see a difference in how its smart uniform wearing children behave towards the sports kit kids? This writer believes there is a danger of creating a culture divide amongst young children when a new uniform isn’t adopted by every child as is the case with the Leamington School.

Simply dressing some as smart and some as sporty may well have an impact in the student’s sense of identity. I certainly believe that we are starting to tread into dangerous territory when we give children yet another reason to treat one another as different. 


It’s certainly an interesting move and one that I believe reflects the shifting consciousness towards embracing well-being as imperative for the next generation to grow up happy and healthy.

Will other schools follow suit? Well assuming a riot doesn’t break out between the tie wearers and the tracksuit gang this writer believes we may see this type of cultural shift popping up more and more over the coming years in line with the education sector starting to prioritise the notion that they are responsible for children for huge portions of the day so these are the hours that kids must be encouraged to be active and understand their own health.


Hopefully this new idea proves successful and the potential for backlash is managed successfully as its possible the improved mentality from wearing a sporty outfit should have a positive influence on the school children. If you dress healthy maybe it’s possible you start to eat healthy and move healthy.


In 2012 two researchers tested students in two alternative uniforms and found a notable difference in behaviour coining the term “enclothed cognition”


“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” Adam said. And he thinks the study’s results can be applied to many more fields, including activewear and fitness. “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.”

You may also want to read:
Psychology of Lululemon: How Fashion Affects Fitness

Soon Welsh Schools Will Decide If They Include P.E.

The Downsides of School Uniforms - The New Yorker

Let us know what you think about the new uniform by commenting below or getting in touch via our socials. 

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Soon Welsh Schools Will Decide If They Include P.E.

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.

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Parents Protest SEND School Spending Deficit

Protests has sprouted up across the UK against funding cuts for Special Educational Needs support in schools. 28 towns a cities played host to rallies and marches including London, Leeds and Birmingham.

 

 

These national rallies are the first of their kind in the UK. One of which was led by Emma Parker whose son James has spent over two years out of school in the last five as a result of sanctions, reduced timetables and exclusions.

An issue we wrote about in our article here is that schools who are underfunded for SEND support typically end up relying on sanctions to address issues they could be tackling in a more proactive manner. A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs are statistically more likely to be expelled and sent to isolation rooms.

 

 

 

“We have thousands of children across the UK who are not in schools, who are on reduced timetables and who don’t have access to the schools that they desperately need,” Parker said.

Her son James Parker delivered a 13,000 signature petition to end the "spending crisis" on SEND in schools.

 

 

Emma & James Parker.

 

Ministers for the Department of Education (DfE) commissioned a review last march and concluded that schools are using expulsions to get rid of students they fear may drag the schools results down and insisted that head teachers take responsibility for students who they have excluded from school.

The Dept. of Education released stats within the last fortnight which explained that SEND students have increased by 11% from last year alone. That’s a whopping 34,200 children that schools have to accommodate with limited funding and training to do so.

The TV presenter Carrie Grant attended and spoke at one of the rally’s describing her experience of attaining support for her four children with special needs as "shocking to say the least"

 

 

“The world that they [disabled children] face is a world that is just not ready.” - Grant

 

Children with special needs and excellent grades are being rejected from attending 6th form colleges with education centres claiming they just do not have the funding to support them. With local Government Association estimates a £500M deficit between what UK schools and education centres need and what they currently receive.

Last year Ali Fiddy, the chief executive of Independent Parental Special Education Advice said

“The system for supporting children and young people with SEND is verging on crisis. Against a backdrop of increasing cuts to local authority budgets, parents are having to deal with poor decision making on the part of local authorities"

Standing Desks Help Schools With SEND Pupils

Hundreds of UK schools are turning to standing desks to help provide stimulating and safe learning environments for kids with ADHD and similar special needs which find them with excessive energy. Schools wishing to trial our Eiger student standing desk can request a try before you buy trial right here.

Ministers have promised an extra £250M towards SEND but campaigners argue this still leaves a huge deficit and a severely unsolved problem. 

 

Further Reading:

The Guardian Oct 2018 // Special needs pupils being failed by system 'on verge of crisis' 

The Telegraph May 2019 // Schools must be held accountable for results of excluded children

 

Chronicle Live March 2018 // Meet the autistic 11-year-old boy who the council can't find a school for

 

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P.E. As Important As Maths & English to 2/3rds of Parents.

A poll conducted by YouGov for the Youth Sports Trust surveyed 2071 adults and the results indicate that P.E. is just as important to parents as maths, science and English. Two thirds of parents believe P.E. should get as much time in the curriculum as the core subjects.

Almost half of the parents surveyed believe that it is wrong to take kids out of P.E. for extra tuition in English, Maths and Science.

Meanwhile it has come to light that P.E. has received tuition time cuts putting the subject as the 2nd most cut from our children’s schedules next to ICT.

 

Children need P.E. but should it muscle out the core subjects?

Children need P.E. but should it muscle out the core subjects?


Alison Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “Pupils are being taught fewer hours of physical education than they were a decade ago,” she said.

“The wellbeing of young people is in decline, with too many struggling with issues that a good quality physical education could support them with.

“Provision of opportunities to enjoy sport, play and physical activity should be a core part of every young person’s education. We passionately believe that a transformed physical education should be on a par with maths and English in the curriculum.”

The Youth Sport Trust is holding National School Sport Week, from 24 to 28 June.

8,200 schools have taken part in national sport week since 2014. Readers can find out more about the National School Sport Week here and register their involvement. The first 500 schools to submit their registration will all receive a National School Sport Week bonus pack including bunting to decorate their school.



A Department for Education spokesperson said that the government has doubled its P.E. and sport premium funding to £320 million a year.

What’s the takeaway here? No this writer doesn't agree that physical education should hold as much curriculum time as the core subjects however it is indicated that the majority of parents believe that physical literacy is important and should be a main concern for our children.

Standing desks promote physical literacy in kids and are available to try before you buy for schools using this link. It has been proven that children who are physically literate and include movement in their daily routine go on to become healthier, happier adults. We all want that for our children... so what can you do? If you're a parent or teacher you can get behind your schools health programs and make sure your children are exercising. This could be holding classes out in the playground or integrating standing desks into your learning spaces. Some schools are now starting to tap into their sport premium funding for standing desk purchases whilst school PTA's are even supporting their schools by funding standing desks for their kids.


Children’s life expectancy are now 5 years shorter due to low physical and mental health. It's time to curb the trend of low physical activity and stomp on the sedentary habits demonstrated by our children. Reduce screen time and let them play outside more. (One in eight kids don't play outside!)

Exercise, Fresh air and vitamin C are regarded as miracle cures we are so desperately in need of. Maybe you agree with this writer that exercise should be encouraged but not in place of the core subjects or you believe P.E. should be getting more timetable space. It seems the majority of parents agree that physical literacy matters...and serious change needs to occur to give out children those 5 years back. 

Source: Times Educational Supplement

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Primary Kids Won't Do Sat’s After Parents Boycott

Following news that Labour claims they will abolish Sat testing for primary school kids should they come into power, a group of parents have universally decided to boycott the Sat testing of their children at Bearlings Primary School, Suffolk in favour of letting them play outside.


One of the parents Heather Chandler reportedly said kids should be out and about investigating the world around them and that "it was far too early" for children aged 6 and 7 to undertake SAT tests. She went on to say that the Sat’s were "unnecessary" and "a waste of time".

 

Abi Elphinstone, author of The Dreamsnatcher


Whilst the school declined to comment the chair of governors Rick Gillingham said they wouldn't stop the parents boycott stating "over-testing is certainly something we wouldn't go along with".

"It adds extra pressure they don't really need and takes a lot of teachers' time away from what they should be doing." Said Heather Chandler.

A month ago the Guardian reported that Primary School teachers will be balloted on boycotting the Sat’s due to concerns that they harm children’s mental health due to the unnecessary anxiety the testing produces. If the ballot is successful the NEU members will refuse to administer the tests next spring however this could in theory be navigated by head teachers should they bring in substitute teachers to oversee tests.

The joint general secretary of the NEU said “The days of universal standardised testing, designed more to make judgments about school performance than about pupil learning, are numbered.”



The Sat’s are a matter of great controversy. Many argue the undue strain on children’s mental health is unnecessary and that they should be scrapped for primary kids however there is the counter argument that without accountability at this age the quality of teaching in basic skills such as English and Maths will slip in the absence of a regulated measure that headmasters have to meet with exam results.

Equally some say that the testing results are only used by governments as a yardstick to measure their own success and aren’t benefiting students or schools directly.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said abolishing Sat’s would be "a retrograde step".

He said it would "keep parents in the dark" by preventing them from knowing how good their child's school was at teaching maths, reading and writing.

Jeremy Corbyn’s news grabbing headlines are really just PR given that the current government has already stated that they are moving towards scrapping Sat testing in favour of a new baseline testing at reception age.

The top comment of the BBC article reads

"As a Primary School Head teacher with more than 35 years’ experience I am ashamed of how parents and teachers have sacrificed a broad and balanced education for children for the need of politicians to provide statistics as to how well they are personally doing in government. The obscene nature of preparing 6 and 7 year olds to pass meaningless tests has become a national disgrace."


Understand Our Language: Sat’s are Standardised Attainment Tests

 

Further reading: The Guardian Article on Parents Boycotting Sats / Childrens Author Fails Sats, Encourages Kids To Dream Big

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SEN Kids More Likely To Get Solitary or Expelled

The Guardian has reported that a mother has decided to bring legal action following her daughter’s suicide attempt in a UK school's "isolation room."

The woman whose child cannot be named is set to take action against the government. The child has autistic spectrum disorder and spent over a month in the isolation room, expected to stay silent with no directed teaching and only three toilet breaks a day.



A pre action letter from Simpson Millar read “[isolation] has caused her depression. It also led to her taking an overdose while in the isolation room itself,” they said. “Following pre-action correspondence from us, [the school] has removed her from isolation.”


The same firm took action on behalf of a boy who had ADHD had spent 35 days in isolation within one year. The academy's policy meant that failing a day in isolation meant another day in isolation creating a perpetual cycle. The boy is said to have gone from being "a cheerful, bubbly boy" to developing "anxiety and depression."

The use of isolation booths or consequence rooms has been criticised as being barbaric. With recent news that 45 schools in England excluded at least 20% of their pupils it would seem we are at a point where schools and academies are experiencing funding crisis to adequately educate or provide support for children with special needs so isolation is being used a one stop shop to fix behavioural problems alongside excessive measures such as exclusion.

A recent report has shown that pupils with special needs or impoverished backgrounds are more statistically likely to be expelled and are also more likely to be sent to isolation rooms.

 

 


Sitting children in rooms for long periods of time with sensory deprivation, no socialisation and no direct teaching is tantamount to an early experience of prison.

One academy’s policy reads;
“You will be allowed to go to the toilet up to a maximum of three times during the day (maximum five minutes per visit),” the policy reads. “You must use the closest toilet and go directly there and back. You will be escorted to get your lunch, but you must stay silent.” one mother whose son had lost out on days of education said “It’s a small booth. They can’t look left or right, they can’t look behind. They have to focus in front all the time. They can’t speak to anyone for the whole day. It’s basically an internal exclusion. It’s barbaric.”

 


In light of increasing mental health issues amongst our children (One in ten of them have mental health issues) this writer finds it downright disturbing that schools are using such punitive measures which will not only contribute to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem but can also perpetuate the obesity crisis by expecting some children to sit a booth for up to 8 hours at a time.

As the government is only now paying attention to the use of such extreme disciplinary action under the assault of lawsuits hitting the Department of Education we propose that parents start to take a stand against these overzealous punitive measures and act the questions of their schools what their stance on isolation is and ask to see their policy on the matter.

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” - John Stuart Mill

Schools can take measures to improve their onsite commodities for children with special needs by installing standing desks which hundreds of schools in the UK now employ as a measure to help fidgety or SEN kids keep focus whilst being afforded some freedom of movement which reduces in class disruptions significantly.

If your school wants to try before you buy classroom standing desks then fill in this quick form and get started.

 

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Schools Get Outside For The Playground Challenge

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.

 

Soccer Aid Website

Further Reading:

Standing Desk Classrooms Reduce Student BMI

Movement Teaching Kids Tolerance

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THE AGE OF DIGITAL HEROIN: Persuasive Tech Trapping Kids Online.

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. 

Recommended Resources:

ASK ABOUT GAMES 

UK SAFER INTERNET CENTRE

PARENTS PROTECT

COMMON SENSE MEDIA

EVERYBODY PLAYS

Further Reading: 

Visit our article here which includes 7 pointers for reducing screen time within your family.

Health Report Links Children's Screen-Time To 12 Major Cancers

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Warning Signs of Obesity Appear From Age 2

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.

 

Resources:

The National Child Measurement Programme 

To calculate your child’s BMI there are online apps and resources available such as this one.

Change4Life Website offers tips for parents hoping to get their whole family in shape and combat the obesity crisis.

NHS has advice for you if your child is overweight

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