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Active Schools: Movement we can all get behind


his month, in the first of our features on addressing the challenges of reducing

obesity in children, Education Today hears from Jack Shakespeare, the Head of ukactive Kids. New in the role, Jack brings with him a wealth of experience in the children’s physical activity sector, having spent the past decade at Fit for Sport. He is committed to revolutionising the work of ukactive Kids and championing the children’s activity agenda, working to activate school and community environments for physical activity.

Britain’s children today are the least active

generation ever. Movement (be it commuting, working or playing) has been stripped out of modern lives, to the extent that the fittest child in a class today would be one of the least fit just 25 years ago. Children increasingly grow up sat down staring at screens rather than playing in the park or running about in the playground. Many children arrive at school overweight and

lacking the fundamental movement skills to confidently participate in physical activity. Currently, not enough is being done to teach these skills or offer children the opportunity and encouragement to get moving regularly. While schools are doing a good job fighting the

tide of physical inactivity by serving as the primary source of kids’ daily exercise, we need to provide further support to those children who are already unfit and perhaps less comfortable participating in traditional sports and activities. ukactive research shows that children’s fitness levels plummet by 80 per cent during school holidays, so we must also ensure that children’s activity offerings outside of term time matches up to in-school standards. The long-term impact of this couch potato

generation will place huge pressure on the nation’s already-stretched health services. Inactivity already costs the UK £20bn annually, and is the cause of 37,000 annual deaths a year.

This will only rise as Generation Inactive get older and less mobile. Medical professionals are even reporting a number of cases of Type 2 Diabetes in children, despite the condition typically only affecting those aged 40 and over. Physical inactivity is a major problem in its own

right. But combine it with the ravages of obesity – the two are closely linked – and you have a recipe for disaster. In a similar vein to inactivity, the UK’s childhood obesity rate has trebled in the past 25 years. They are two sides of the same coin and only an holistic approach that promotes both regular activity and a sensible diet can truly tackle these twin evils. Turning the tide of physical inactivity by getting

Britain moving again is the overriding ambition of my organisation, ukactive. We are the UK’s leading not-for-profit health body and we work to improve the health of the nation by getting more people, more active, more often. The challenge of overcoming inactivity and

childhood obesity will take a huge collaborative effort across government departments and other key national stakeholders to make a change. Shifting the scales starts with a change in attitudes towards physical activity and overall awareness of the benefits it brings. It is important that we acknowledge and harness the positive impact of physical activity. Studies show this improves not just children’s fitness, but also academic achievement, self-confidence, behaviour and enhanced ability to positively interact with other children and adults. The end goal of being physically active

shouldn’t be just to play in the school football team or to win a gold medal at sports day. It should provide a platform for children to confidently engage in a range of games, sports and activities. It should also demonstrate, at an early stage, the value physical activity has as a key part of everyday life. The current political landscape offers real

opportunities to capitalise on the government’s fresh focus on physical activity, health and wellbeing in schools and communities. Initiatives such as the PE and School Sport Premium, the Healthy Pupil Capital Programme (funds from the sugary drinks levy), the Healthy Schools Rating

26 April 2017

Scheme and Sport England’s recent funding announcement aimed at activating families all represent fantastic avenues for positive progress. We have an opportunity here to answer the

calls from the recent Childhood Obesity Plan and provide whole community approaches to raising physical activity levels, nurturing physically literacy and tackling the childhood obesity problem.

Challenges facing schools The Government Childhood Obesity plan (August 2016) focuses heavily on physical activity and helping all children to enjoy an hour of moderate- to-vigorous physical activity every day. Furthermore, the report suggests at least 30 minutes of this physical activity should be delivered in school every day through active break times, PE, extra-curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events, with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time. Amid limited school resources, exacerbated by

greater workloads, rising class sizes and minimal training for teachers to confidently deliver PE and physical activity, you may well be asking whether making teachers to get children moving consistently is an unrealistic expectation? One option would be through active mile

concepts, where teachers take kids outside for 15 minutes each day to run, walk, or jog at their own

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