Once again we are joined by Trevor Smith, senior member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, to talk about health and wellbeing

This week, I wanted to bring to your attention two major reports that were published.

Firstly, the Youth Sport Trust issued their research about PE levels in schools across the country and it made for very grim reading indeed.

I have recently been in contact with a number of teachers across the region and the majority feel that logistical issues, cautiousness around guidelines and a focus on a recovery curriculum has led to a significant decrease in the amount of PE currently taught in schools.

Approximately 17 per cent of schools are teaching less or even no curriculum PE at all this term, even though government guidance states that PE and extra-curricular sessions should go ahead, if the schools consider it is safe to do so.

Around half of all schools are delivering less extracurricular activities in the Autumn term and around four in ten schools will offer none.

At a time when organisations such as ukactive, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust fear a national crisis of physical activity levels across all age groups of children, the study also showed:

  • 73 per cent of teachers reported children returning with low levels of physical fitness;
  • 49 per cent have noticed mental wellbeing issues in pupils including anxiety and fear;
  • 65 per cent of all teachers surveyed said that being able to follow delivery guidance due to logistical issues including cleaning equipment, social distancing, having to stay in class bubbles or staggered break/lunch times was an issue or barrier to delivering PE;
  • 52 per cent of teachers have noticed educational gaps as children return.

The YST study highlighted: “Many schools have been working really creatively to ensure young people access daily physical activity, weekly Physical Education and after-school sport. However, our insight reveals that too many schools are struggling with the confidence to resume or are prioritising other subjects.”

As schools return teachers were encouraged to conduct PE outdoors as much as possible, but now the weather has changed there is limited space because most halls are used for staggered break times and lunch times.

The Northern Echo:

Get active and your wellbeing will improve

Research has long shown that the effects of physical activity on physical fitness, mental wellbeing and academic achievement are incredibly beneficial. It is such a shame therefore, that we find ourselves in a position where the children are not able to gain these benefits.

The second report was regarding the extremely alarming news that child poverty in the North-East has risen by three times the national average since 2013.

I know there are a significant number of issues we would all like resolved in our region, however, the issue of child poverty is a red line that successive governments should hang their head in shame.

Having our children go hungry is something that we cannot tolerate and must be a minimum for this government to resolve going forward, if it wants to stand any chance of re-election.

With this in mind, I wanted to share some of my frustrations and the blocks that I have been dealing with even prior to Covid-19, when trying to improve the health and wellbeing of children across the North-East.

The Northern Echo:

A healthy outdoor activity is good for the mind and body

When looking for a school venue in various parts of the county to host activity camps during the school holidays, I regularly receive comments such as, “I’m sorry you can’t use our facilities as we are polishing the hall floor during the holidays” or “I’m sorry you can’t use our facilities because our caretaker is away on holiday and there’s noone to open up for you”.

Although my favourite interaction this year, was in February while trying to find a venue to deliver the Sainsbury’s Active Kids holiday camp over the summer months.

This was the largest activity camp of its kind in the country with a national partner and the first time it would have been held in this particular area. To give you an idea of the scope of the project, the previous year the camp in Sunderland attracted more than 2,000 children over a five-week period.

The children who attended had a full day of physical activity and were provided with a healthy lunch and snack every day. Having met with a member of a local authority to discuss the opportunity, he informed me that, “it wouldn’t work here”. I have not heard anything since.

If you would like further information on activities, events, projects, research, as well as resources for schools, follow me on Twitter @TSmith_PE or you can contact me on tsmith@premier-education.com

Trevor Smith works for Premier Education supporting primary schools to improve children’s health and wellbeing through active learning. He is a senior member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).