As I write this, we are one week away from coming out of another national lockdown. Whilst this has only been a month long, it certainly has felt a great deal longer. However, it has not been lost on me how lucky we are to be surrounded with areas of natural beauty where we can walk and stretch our legs. We must also be fortunate that the children have had the opportunity to continue with their sport at school, despite facilities being shut. When I first joined Wandsworth Prep, I had a vision of wanting to make sure that every child understood the importance of being physically active and I hope the children are beginning to reap the benefits of their efforts. Hopefully this first term has helped the children understand my reasons, especially with one year group currently in isolation at the time of writing.
With mental health currently being in focus a great deal, now is the time for children to grasp how vital it is to be active for at least half an hour every day, at the very minimum. Studies have shown that despite lower levels of inactivity, lockdown has made many children appreciate the importance of sport in their lives and the benefits that it can bring. In research from Youth Sport Trust, over a quarter (27%) of children and young people said that doing PE, sport and exercise had made them feel better during restrictions. This was particularly true for junior-school-age pupils (8-11). Half of all children and young people said that they planned to do more sport and exercise in the future and over a third (37%) said that they now see sport and Physical Education as more important to their lives than they did before lockdown.
We are trying to make the children understand the importance of sport and being active in their lives, and they have made a fantastic start to the year. However, this is not all about children and their mental health, but about adults as well. So, if you get the opportunity, go for that run, do that workout, and if possible, do it with your child. If you work together, the evidence from Sport England shows that a parent's feelings towards sport and their own activity levels significantly influences their children. 71% of children have been active with their parents during lockdown and data shows that the more active a parent is, the more likely the child is to be active. Similarly, where a parent has increased their activity during lockdown, the child is also likely to be doing more and vice versa.
At school, we place an importance on each child's fitness, and over the term have given them a variety of tasks in PE lessons, with most recent in Key Stage 2 being bleep tests every two weeks in a competition with another school in the Bellevue group, Weston Green. The children, though hesitant at first, have shown a great endeavour in this task, pushing themselves to the absolute limit, and dare I say, shocked even themselves with their results, in a positive manner. In the younger years, we start each lesson off with a quick fitness skill, which might involve anything from sprinting, to jumping, to star jumps, to balancing. It has been a delight to see the children excited to see what we start the lesson with, and wanting to do more.
So, remind the children, if they are at home, that they can do exercise at any part of the day. If they do it in the morning, the exercise will release endorphins and give them a feel-good-factor for the rest of the day. They can do some at lunch time, which might help with focus and give them more energy for the afternoon ahead. Alternatively, and this goes directly to our Year 6’s, they could do it in the evening, finishing their day well and balancing a healthy mind focused on their 11+ exams with a healthy body.
Good luck and remember to enjoy it.