I wanted to celebrate the success of a physical activity programme initiated at my local primary school (Sharpness) by a forward thinking PE co-ordinator. The programme of exercise, outside of the normal curriculum, supplemented by voluntary exercises for home time, has had a tremendous impact on the lives of the school children, and hopefully, may set a life long appreciation of being active.
The school has an outdoor swimming pool, which was unheated and underused until a group of parents was formed to raise money to heat it. Much of the funding was through a £10k lottery grant and donations from the council and local businesses. The teachers tried to ensure that all children used the pool, every day during the summer term, for 30 minutes.
During the winter, from September 2016 onwards, another idea was introduced: f4f (fit for fifteen) – that is 15 minutes daily compulsory walking or running around the school playground and fields after morning registration for all pupils and staff. They are encouraged to run, but can also walk if they need to. The PE coordinator tells me that they chat away during the fifteen minutes and come in red cheeked and buzzing. Apparently this has had a very positive impact on concentration levels in class, behaviour, alertness, and academic performance.
The benefits are further demonstrated by independent fitness testing from a company called fit4schools who measured the children’s fitness at initiation of the programme and again in January. The tests included shuttle runs, squats and bench steps. After the initial tests the children were given personalised exercise programmes to follow at home. At reassessment in January the results were ‘very encouraging’. The personalised programmes were then updated. The plan is to continue with the mandatory daily exercise as it has been such a resounding success so far.
Could other primary schools take this up following this example? What a difference it could make to academic and physical performance throughout the country, instil positive feelings about physical activity at a young age, and thereby hopefully have an impact on rising obesity rates among children.
Let’s get our kids moving more, and reap the rewards. Walk, scoot, cycle or run with them to school if you can.