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School children and physical activity

A third of children in the UK are overweight or obese by the time they reach primary school. Many other countries are facing the same issue, with a tenfold increase in the worldwide prevalence of childhood obesity over the past four decades. Governments worldwide are attempting to tackle the growing problem of obesity by increasing the amount of physical activity young people are doing on a daily basis. But while this all sounds well and good, robust evidence for the effectiveness of existing school-based physical activity programmes is lacking. It is also unclear whether all children – irrespective of socioeconomic status – benefit equally.

I don’t believe it - What schools are banning now!

What’s on the ‘banned from schools’ list for 2019? Some schools in the UK have banned using toilet paper tubes for craft projects in fear of spreading germs and bacteria. So you won’t see any toilet paper rolls in the classrooms. What next? A ban on sticky back plastic? A UK school has banned TEACHERS from using red pens when they grade students’ work. Apparently, red-inked tests look more upsetting for some individuals. Is this just a way to reduce the marking workload?

Children with problems or problem children?

Research also shows that “naughty” behaviour in schools can be because children lack aspirations and a drive to do well. This can stem from many factors such as low self-esteem and high anxiety – as well as growing up in a low income household. Children who are in care, children with disabilities and children from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are also more likely to be excluded from mainstream school if they live in deprived areas.
Stop blaming children.

The only thing that is certain is uncertainty!

Things just don’t get done and people become afraid to make bold decisions; for that matter decisions of any kind. Like pouring sand into a clock this will make things slow down, until time just stands still. Almost any plans beyond six months become hypothetical. Yet schools have to be seen to plan three years in advance. Education thrives in the dull, boring, predictable years of national stability and that’s not the times we live in.

Long term memory and lessons learned

Instead therefore of having the kind of long-term plans we see in other jurisdictions around the world, our schools and colleges, their students and teachers are buffeted around in a whirlwind of constant reforms all too often characterized by an oppositional and often uninformed debate from which many teachers and school leaders all too easily feel disenfranchised. Reflecting on 40 years working in the British education system this was the reason behind the question mark in the title of my book ‘Lessons Learned?’ Our entire education system has been bedeviled by a lack of long-term memory for many years. The last year has been incredibly tough. I hope that the new one will give our profession the space and courage to do what they know is right.

My Ideal School

What would your ideal school look like?
In my ideal school, mistakes would also be part of the learning process – allowing children to be more independent in their thinking and learn for themselves. Education would be less didactic and controlling. Giving children more choice and autonomy leads to higher self-esteem and stronger intrinsic motivation. Pupils would be given a voice, encouraged to think for themselves, and offered opportunities to develop self-reliance.

Education in UK - An unfair start?

Rather than achieving a fair society, educational inequalities based on characteristics beyond children’s and parents’ control – and for the most part related strongly to the experience of child poverty – are rife. They are perpetuated by an educational system that does little to mitigate the unfair advantages available to better-off families. Urgent action is needed to ensure that all children and families have the resources they need to enjoy childhood and to develop towards a fulfilling adulthood.

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