Birkby Infant and Nursery School have become the latest school to be recognised as a Centre of Excellence for physical activity by Yorkshire Sport Foundation.
The school is just the third to be awarded the status, which has come under the ‘Physically Active Learning’ category, one of seven categories in which schools can achieve the prestigious status, aligned to the Creating Active Schools framework.
Using insight that told them pupils were increasingly sedentary outside of school during the pandemic, the school made changes to the way they teach to a more active approach. This was underpinned by staff training and providing a classroom environment more conducive to children being active, such as using exercise balls rather than chairs, and encouraging children to work where they are comfortable, rather than just at their desk.
Diana Wilson Head Teacher at the school, commented: “The journey to the Centre of Excellence award for Physically Active Learning across the curriculum has been a truly remarkable experience.”
“Reflection was needed to consider how we could adapt our teaching to ensure our children were more actively engaged in their learning while increasing the opportunity to get them up and moving. Children’s physical and mental wellbeing is at the heart of our school’s ethos, adapting our teaching to ensure children are increasingly active has enabled us to engage children in their learning while increasing their daily activity.
“The benefits and impact of active learning are evident throughout the school, lessons are active and the atmosphere is engaging.”
Paula Manser, PE lead, added: “Our teacher’s passion and belief that physically active learning engages and enthuses children in their learning along with having a positive impact on their mental wellbeing and academic achievement are a testament to the work that has gone in to creating active lessons across the whole curriculum.
“We recognise the role we need to play in ensuring children receive 60 minutes of physical activity everyday by creating an environment that supports, encourages and aids increased movement.”
Alex Ogden, PE, School Sport and Physical Activity Manager at Yorkshire Sport Foundation, concluded: “The journey the school has gone on over the past two years, led by a strong and passionate leadership team, to ensure physically active learning is embedded and sustained across the school and curriculum is one which needs celebrating and taken notice of.
“Using the Creating Active Schools Framework they have considered how to sustainably implement active learning and it has proved very successful.
“The small changes to the classroom environment has had a huge impact. We speak to many schools who often feel that increasing movement within the classroom environment could lead to a more ‘chaotic’ classroom and would see Birkby’s decision to make space for children to move safely around desks, work on the floor or sit on exercise balls as a brave move. But this is proof that it can work, and the staff deserve full credit for embracing it and nurturing the children into the process so they now consider these practices completely normal.
“Research tells us that the best place to learn isn’t always at your desk and that through movement we are preparing the brain to retain information more effectively, however small that movement may be.
“Birkby have taken a principle of the Creating Active Schools framework – devised here in Yorkshire – and made it work for them. The results in the short, medium and long term is healthier, happier children who can learn better – and who can argue against that?
“We are really looking forward to working with them to support other schools to try and do the same.”
Staff from Birkby and Infants Nursery School will present a webinar in the next academic year to share their learning with other schools. We will share these details through our primary PE newsletter.