Sport England survey shows the benefits of regular physical activity

Sport England’s latest survey suggests that, despite lockdown and other restrictions, children have continued to be active in the last year. It also shows the wider benefits of being physically active.

The Active Lives Children and Young People Survey covers children and young people in years 1–11 (ages 5-16) in England in the academic year 201920. It merits careful study.

It suggests that there has been a reduction in activity levels, particularly for children in years 1–6, but the overall picture is perhaps not as bad as feared. Some activities were unavailable because either schools or facilities were closed, or both.

This is reflected in the drops in swimming, team sports and gymnastics, trampolining and cheerleading compared to 12 months ago. Active play and running, athletics or multi-sports also saw a decline in participation.

Active Lives Children and Young People Survey, Academic year 2019–20

However, children have found other ways to stay active:

… more children and young people have been walking, with an increase of 4.3% going for a walk (up by more than 340,000) and an increase of 10.0% walking to get to places (up by more than three-quarters of a million).

Active Lives Children and Young People Survey, Academic year 2019–20

The survey also shows a strong link between children who are physically active and individual development, good mental health, and rates of volunteering and wider community development. It also suggests that young people who engage in sport and physical activity are less likely to feel lonely.

Sport England’s message reflects one of the aims of life-based learning:

Developing children and young people’s physical literacy is essential in creating a positive and lifelong relationship with activity and without it many will not enjoy the health and social benefits associated with living active lives.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive, Sport England

The Body is one of nine learning themes through which we believe the individual subjects of the UK National Curriculum should be taught, in order to equip children with the knowledge, skills and values to tackle the challenges they will meet as adults.

Its improved learning programme ensures that children meet ambitious targets for daily physical activity and learn healthy habits for life.

The Body

Find out more about the life-based learning Body theme

Sport England Survey

Read the full January 2021 survey produced by Sport England

An Urgent Priority

Why we need a long-term strategy to improve activity levels

Image at the head of this article by MaBraS from Pixabay.

Mental health charity: “Rising calls to helpline show need for support”


Young Minds is a children and young people’s mental health charity. Its mission is “to see a world where no young person feels alone with their mental health, and gets the mental health support they need, when they need it, no matter what.”

Young Minds is one of the charities being supported by this year’s Guardian and Observer Christmas appeal. The quote at the top of this post is from The Guardian. Demand for the charity’s services have been higher than ever as a result of the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. In its recent survey covering the mental health impact of the pandemic, Young Minds said:

“The pandemic has put a huge strain on many young people who were already struggling with their mental health, because of traumatic experiences, social isolation, a loss of routine and a breakdown in formal and informal support.”

Young Minds, Covid-19 autumn 2020 survey

However, problems of mental ill-health long predate Covid-19. Young Minds’ 2018 report A New Era for Young People’s Mental Health Young Minds begins with a stark message: “There is a crisis in mental health support for children and young people.”

Much of the work of Young Minds and other such charities deals with the consequences of mental ill-health. Life-based learning promotes good mental health and emotional wellbeing by raising the profile of emotions education in primary schools.

The aim is to transform mental health and wellbeing. As children grow up with greater self-confidence and stronger self-identity, coupled with a better understanding of the emotional dynamic operating within them, so they will be more emotionally resilient.

Click here to read more about how life-based learning will tackle emotions education as one of nine learning priorities.

Main image courtesy of Design_Miss_C from Pixabay.

Tilting at windmills

Statistics lend credibility to information, or so they say. Anyway, here are three stats to ponder:

  1. The National Audit Office [September 2020] identified 20.2% of 10 to 11 year-old children as obese in 2018/19.
  2. Digital NHS UK states adult overweight/obesity in 2018 as 67% men and 60% women
  3. On present trends, the vast majority of our children will be overweight or obese in their adult life – and expect one or more diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia to blight their lives and reduce their life expectancy.

The government’s ‘Childhood obesity: a plan for action’  created in August 2016 [Updated January 2017] is making no significant difference to curb the inexorable increase in obesity in children.

As outlined in the Ofsted report, ‘Obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in primary schools’, [Age group 5-11: Published July 2018],  Schools ‘have responsibility for a curriculum that gives children a solid body of knowledge about healthy living and the skill to pursue it.’

With no appreciable difference being made to counter the increasing numbers of children becoming obese, all the reports and government exhortations to improve children’s health are tilting at windmills.

The radical solution is to raise the attention and focus on fitness and health.

MAC does this by increasing the attention to children’s fitness and health as one of nine priority themes through which all learning is channelled.

The Body Theme tackles children’s fitness and health in a relentless and focused whole curriculum approach.

Target to cut childhood obesity in half will be missed

The National Audit Office (Britain’s spending watchdog) has issued a report warning that the government’s target of halving childhood obesity by 2030 is likely to be missed.

As reported in the Guardian newspaper, the report:

  • says that progress has been slow
  • criticises ministers for not delivering on pledges made in recent years
  • warns that more urgency, commitment and cohesion is required

The National Audit Office website states:

In 2018/19, nearly one tenth of 4 to 5 year olds and more than one fifth of 10 to 11 year olds were classified obese. We estimate that roughly 1.4 million children aged from 2 to 15 years old were classified obese in 2018. Not only is obesity increasing for 10 to 11 year olds, it is increasing even faster for children in deprived areas.

National Audit Office childhood obesity report conclusions [as summarised on their website]

We owe it to our children to give them the knowledge and skills they need to grow up leading healthy lives. Life-based learning priorities bodily health. It builds in to the timetable regular physical activity. Children spend time learning about their bodies and how to look after them.

Obesity Link to Covid-19

Image by Phichit Wongsunthi from Pixabay

It’s in the news again: obesity. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, himself the living proof topping out at 16 stone, is calling for action.

The Guardian newspaper highlights the numbers of people overweight: 40% of all men in England, but more women are obese than men, and an increase of 10% in both men and women since 1993.

The Guardian profiling of Boris Johnson’s own overweight admission and declaration to take measures to combat obesity follows on from the report published this month by Public Health England.

According to the report Excess Weight and Covid-19: Insights from new evidence, “Almost two-thirds of adults in England are living with excess weight for their height (BMI ≥25kg/m2), with similar figures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

The report provides “evidence on the links between weight status and Covid-19 outcomes”, but also places the link firmly in the context of how destructive overweight is on health. “Living with excess weight is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many cancers, liver and respiratory disease. Obesity is also associated with reduced life expectancy, and lower quality of life.”

Whilst there are overweight people due to medical conditions, and anorexics may take the government’s campaign to heart by eating even less, the overweight epidemic is very much a life-style condition across all sectors of society.

From the Life-Based Learning Forum perspective, the campaign to combat obesity needs to start with schools — not just as an add-on to the curriculum, but central to it. For example, knowing about and looking after the body is one of nine life themes through which everything is taught. Only by direct focus and attention in the education of the young can there be any hope of slimming down the population.


Public Support for a Focus on Health and Wellbeing

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

A YouGov survey indicates that 82% of the British people would prefer the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth during the current coronavirus emergency. It also suggests that 61% of people would choose improved social and environmental outcomes over economic growth even when the pandemic finally subsides.

The survey was commissioned by a campaigning group called Positive Money and features in a new report called The Tragedy of Growth.

Read more about the survey results here.

Life-based learning promotes health and wellbeing. The Merged Action Curriculum, an example of a life-based curriculum, has themes that focus on body, emotion and mind.

Please note that the Forum does not necessarily support or endorse the aims of the Positive Money campaign. We are highlighting the poll as evidence of popular support for quality-of-life priorities.

Wellbeing Award for Schools

Here is a link to information about an excellent initiative, described by Philippa Stobbs, who is assistant director of the National Children’s Bureau, a UK charity that promotes children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

The Merged Action Curriculum proposes that emotional awareness, resilience and well-being should be at the heart of what children need to learn. The Emotions is one of MAC’s nine learning domains.

We’re new. Come and have a look around the site. Let us know what you think. Join in the discussion about how we make the primary school curriculum better for our children.

Children’s Mental Health Week

It’s good to see children’s mental well-being high on the agenda this week as a result of Children’s Mental Health Week.

Provided that they are not just token gestures — their message all but forgotten once the occasion is over — ‘themed’ days and weeks can be extremely useful for highlighting important issues, raising public awareness and galvanising people into action.

The Merged Action Curriculum does things differently, putting emotional awareness, resilience and well-being at the heart of what children need to learn. The Emotions is one of MAC’s nine learning domains.

We’re new. Come and have a look around the site. Let us know what you think. Join in the discussion about how we make the primary school curriculum better for our children.

Five tips for creating a healthy school

The work of Fairfield Primary School in Cumbria around promoting health and well-being is really inspiring. Click here to read five useful tips to make your school more healthy, courtesy of the tes.com website.

What’s also interesting is that the five tips correspond very closely to what is set out in the Body learning domain.

We’re new. Come and have a look around the site. Let us know what you think. Join in the discussion about how we make the primary school curriculum better for our children.