Do you want to hear something really shocking?
‘Today, nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer.’
HM Government ‘Childhood obesity- a plan for action’ August 2016
It seems that we are developing generations of overweight and inactive children but, why does this matter?
Apart from the obvious health implications (the increased risk of stroke, heart attack, type two diabetes and cancer) obesity has also been found to have an adverse effect on mental health.
One thing that we can all agree on is that the purpose of education is to develop and prepare the child for life. It must therefore seek to address the developing problem of youth obesity.
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman says:
‘Fundamentally education is about making sure the next generation have everything they need to realise their potential. This means offering them a broad and rich curriculum which gives them the knowledge and skills that will set them up for success… But it shouldn’t stop there; a young person’s time in education should help to build their confidence and resilience, helping them to deal with life’s ups and downs.’
September 2019 brings another revision of the OFSTED framework for inspection and handbook. Inspectors are being asked to judge schools on ‘their broad and rich curriculum’. A judgement will be made as to how effect the curriculum being delivered is. It makes multiple references to preparing children for later life and equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed for this.
Specifically the new OFSTED handbook says the school must
‘develop pupil’s understanding of how to keep physically healthy, eat healthily and maintain an active lifestyle, including giving ample opportunities for pupils to be active during the school day and through extra-curricular activities’
OFSTED – School inspection handbook May 2019#
So, how can this be done?
In schools we must increase the daily amount of activity our children have. National guidelines set down by the Chief Medical Officer in 2011 say that children should engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for a minimum of 60 minutes a day. Half of this should be in school. As well as this, children should have two x 60 minute PE lessons a week (this time should not include the half an hour it takes Reception children to change)!
There are very simple ways this can be achieved:
- Timetable in your PE lessons and stick to your timetable! Remember to allow time for changing.
- Introduce Sport Leaders in your school. Give them high quality training and resources and they will lead the activity of your children at breaktimes giving you extra support to get your pupils up and moving around.
- Invest in an Active Playground to give your children a fun focus whilst they are being active.
- Invest in resources to support pupil activity through the school. Schemes of work for PE, small equipment, brain break websites to use on your IWB, licenses for the use of music outside on your playground -kids love to dance!
- Introduce a whole school, daily initiative to get your children moving. ‘Wake and Shake’ and ‘The Daily Mile’ have both been low cost, easy initiatives that have proven results.
- Work with external companies to offer before, during and after school activities that you can not provide yourself.
- Take part in local inter school competitions. Nothing gets a school up and moving more than practicing for a netball or football tournament at lunchtimes. Introduce a ‘B team’ and school Cheerleading Club as well and you involve three times as many children.
- Encourage active lessons through the year groups. We all know that the Reception children spend half their time outside learning but why don’t the Year Five children do this? Is there a way that the same objectives could be taught in an active way? One of my best lessons was a Year Two Read Write Inc lesson where we were writing graphemes all over the playground in chalk. This could be done with a Year Five spelling or tables test couldn’t it?
The good news is that a lot of support is being offered, money is being spent and you are not in it alone. The Government themselves have said that it is not only the jobs of schools to solve this problem. We must work in cooperation with parents, sports clubs and activity providers to increase pupil activity. Public Health England and the Government are implementing national initiatives to reduce sugar, fat and salt in diets and improve the quality of the food we feed our children.
Schools have been given the Sport Premium grant to pa for many of these initiatives so, how will you spend yours and make the difference that is needed for the next generation?