The Challenge Of Getting Every Age Involved In Active Schooling

Schools getting involved with children’s activity is great news, as obesity levels and unhealthy habits continue to rise. It’s estimated that almost 10% of four and five year olds are overweight according to their BMI results. By the time they leave primary school, this figure has almost doubled, affecting nearly one in five children. The growing crisis has been attributed to the foods families across the UK are frequently eating, with almost four times more packaged food than fresh produce being consumed. But despite this, previous studies have indicated that a decline in physical activity is the primary reason behind the UK’s obesity issues.

From the youngest pupils that are just starting their school life to those preparing to take the next steps, activity can transform their education for the better. For schools and teachers looking to reap the rewards, it can be difficult to know just what to do and how to respond to the difficulties that they’ll face when trying to get pupils involved.

Key stage 1

Between the ages of five and seven, children are often filled with energy and still adjusting to school life. Introducing activity, including in the form of active breaks, can be the perfect way to break up the day and reengage with pupils. But there are challenges too. Key for this age group is ensuring that the activities are simple to follow and that they calm down again following the task. Short bursts that have a fun or competitive elements are ideal for connecting with pupils and building relationships.

As children are spending less time playing outdoors, with one survey indicating they spend just half of the time outside that their parents did, taking key stage 1 pupils outside of the classroom environment can be invaluable. Research found that children today spend just over four hours a week playing outside despite all the benefits of connecting with nature and imaginative play.

Key stage 2

Did you know that only half of eight year olds get the recommend hour of daily exercise? Or that it’s an issue that’s even worse among girls? It was previously thought that it was during the teenage year that girls became reluctant to take part in sports and other physical activity. However, by the age of 9 just a third of girls are being active for an hour each day, half the number of boys that do the same.

For key stage two pupils, those from seven to eleven, it means that active schooling is even more important in this age group. The good news is that many children in this category will need little encouragement to try something new and will look forward to getting away from the desk and moving around once in a while when it’s suggested.  

Key stage 3

It’s at this age that there’s a greater focus on academic achievements and preparing children for sitting their exams. It means that for schools across the country one of the biggest challenges is balancing physical activity with the curriculum that they need to cover.

To ensure that active schooling is a success, schools need to look in-depth at the benefits changes could make. Not only has physical activity been shown to improve results but it can also benefit wellbeing and ensuring that pupils are generally happier and in the right frame of mind for learning.

Parents and teachers alike have another distraction to contend with at this age -technology. As they head to secondary school, most pupils have a smartphone and are keen to use social media and other platforms to keep in touch with friends. Tech addiction isn’t only harming physical wellbeing but mental too, with some experts linking the rise of smartphones to increasing mental health issues among teens. According to Ofcom data, children are spending 15 hours each week online.

Key stage 4

Key stage four, when pupils are preparing to take their GCSEs, can be one of the most challenging ages to introduce activity as many habits will have already been formed. Challenges seen during other school years also remain, including girls being less engaged in physical activity and an addiction to technology.

To interact and ensure that year 10 and 11 pupils benefit from active learning, educational establishments might need to come up with a different approach. Activities will need to be something that pupils enjoy and would seek to take part in from their own initiative too. One positive step could be to ensure that there are a wide range of after active focussed school clubs to choose from, with incentives to join