Leading international academics, primary school leaders and governors and public health professionals joined forces this week to create a new framework for high-quality physical activity, PE and school sport programmes.
The aim is to promote physical and mental wellbeing by helping primary schools embed more exercise and activities into the school day – not just in PE lessons.
The experts gathered for a two-day conference in Leeds on 4-5 June organised by Yorkshire Sport Foundation, Public Health England and Leeds Beckett University.
Dr Andy Daly-Smith, senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Sport said: “Children are less active, less fit, more overweight and present more issues of poor mental health than at any time in our past.
“Worryingly, if we do not reverse this, many children will fail to achieve their true potential.
“While the current educational landscape presents many challenges, a more holistic view of education is emerging. From the new Ofsted framework to the continued support for the PE and Sport Premium, the focus on physical and mental wellbeing is growing.
“Traditionally, the focus has been Physical Education and school sport. Yet, so far, these strategies alone have failed to achieve significant improvement.
“The conference was about broadening our vision to wider opportunities for movement across the school day.”
About 150 regional, national and international experts from schools, education, public health, sporting partners and research attended the conference, which is sponsored by Twinkl Educational Publishing.
Dan Wilson, Yorkshire Sport Foundation Development Manager for PE and School Sport, said: “School leaders are under huge pressure to improve standards in English and maths. However, this must not be at the expense of their pupils’ mental and physical health.
“We hope this conference will help schools across Yorkshire to embed engaging and motivating physical activity at the heart of the curriculum so that it becomes part of a pupil’s everyday life.”
Nicola Corrigan, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager for Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Physical activity is crucial for good physical and mental health of children and is key in reducing fast-increasing rates of childhood obesity.
“Around three million children (43.3%) lead active lives, doing an average of 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day, and even more worryingly just 28% of children are active in school for at least 30 minutes per day. Through this conference we’re helping schools to do more.
“Where schools have succeeded they’ve taken a holistic approach. They’ve engaged pupils and listened to what works for them, created active environments, offered choice and variety of activities, embedded physical activity in the curriculum and teaching, promoted active travel to-and-from school and provided the school workforce with the skills they need to encourage pupils to move more.
“But schools are just one part of the physical activity jigsaw and they can’t increase childhood activity alone – parents, the sport and leisure industry and government all have a role to play too – and today’s the day to make a change.”