Why do we send our children to school? Why does society invest so much time and money in the education of young people from the age of 4 to 16? If you ask different people you will get different answers. My 14-year-old daughter might say “Because you hate me mum! Why else would you make me go there?” and my 5-year-old nephew would say “It’s fun when I get to play with my friends outside.” As you can see, some people love school and some hate it, but we can all agree that there is a purpose to it!
Over the last 10 years the National Curriculum has been through numerous changes and ‘improvements’ in an attempt to raise levels of attainment in our children. The British Education system has been looking elsewhere for ideas and approaches to adapt and adopt as our own.
In November 2014 Public Health England released research linking academic attainment to pupil’s health and well-being. Key findings were that children achieve better if they were happy and healthy. There was a positive correlation between academic attainment and pupil activity. They also found that the cultural ethos of the school directly influences the health and well-being of pupils and their readiness to learn. So, if you get your ethos right you can make your children more active and happier which will have a direct impact on their attainment. Public Health England described this as a virtuous circle. Good health and well-being increases attainment and an increase in attainment effects of confidence, mental health and physical health – their well-being. It goes round and round but it has to start somewhere.
The long-term benefits follow. If children grow up with positive mental health and well-being they will have self-confidence and an ability to develop healthy adult relationships both personally and at work. A confident workforce who is academically able will achieve more four the economy. Socially more confident workers are able to problem solve better as well, meaning the workforce is adaptable and resilient.
Physically fit a children are more likely to maintain a healthy weight as they get older. They will have better cardiovascular health too. Women will have healthier bones so the risk of of developing osteoporosis is decreased.
If you asked teachers, children who take part in physical activity seem to learn skills that are very difficult to teach in the classroom and that are not discretely in the National Curriculum. A game of netball will develop social interaction, patience, compromise, quick thinking, focus and analytical skills all of which are essential for healthy adult life. Could you plan a classroom-based lesson that would develop even half of these in your children? Would it be as fun as an afternoon out on the netball court? I doubt it!