Healthy New Year’s resolutions – boosting physical activities


At the top of many of our lists of New Year’s Resolutions is the affirmation to ‘get healthy and be more active’, but encouraging this same enthusiasm and determination among students has traditionally proved more challenging.

All Saints Secondary School in Dagenham, however, seems to be bucking this trend. Last year, the school reported a significant increase in students’ uptake of physical activities, with 95 percent of Key Stage 3 pupils attending at least one extracurricular club.

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Daisy Hamilton, head of PE at the school, shares her tips for keeping kids enthusiastic about physical education (PE).

Research has shown that childhood obesity is a growing concern in the UK, and with children spending the majority of their waking hours in school, it’s important for us as teachers to ensure that students are practicing a healthy lifestyle. By providing a broad and balanced extracurricular programme for all our students, we aim to help each and every one find a sport that they enjoy and want to play. We are working hard to ensure that regardless of their age or physical ability, students are able and willing to participate. Here are my top tips for engaging students in PE which you might find useful:

  1. Excuses not accepted

Above everything else, don’t let ‘sitting out’ be an option! Having all your students present, at the very least, is a great starting point.

The NHS recommends that young people get 60 minutes of physical activity per day. However, today’s students have very busy lives. With coursework, after school jobs and general teenage drama, finding a spare 60 minutes can feel like a mammoth task. Nevertheless, schools should not allow students to simply opt out of PE.

From the social interaction you get through sport, to the mood-boosting endorphins released when you exercise: it is, quite literally, incredibly healthy for students to find an outlet for stress through sport. By changing the attitude of children so that they see exercise as a fundamental part of day-to-day life, we are cultivating their future lifestyle into one which will make them healthier and happier.

  1. Change it up

It’s important to encourage pupils to experience as many different sporting roles as possible, such as umpiring and coaching. By utilising the roles of coach, organiser or official, every student can engage and participate, without having to be a player every time. In addition, this develops a larger skill set and deeper understanding of the sport at hand.

But student engagement is not the only factor of a successful PE department; having enthusiastic staff is also crucial. If staff are willing get involved, it helps to build a school community which has teamwork and supportiveness at its core.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"182","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignright size-full wp-image-7565","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"816","height":"612","alt":"Pic5 - Copy"}}]]

  1. Practice inclusion

Offering a wide range of sports to students is crucial in achieving the highest possible levels of student participation; including everyone is a key objective after all. Offering both recreational and competitive clubs is also a good idea, as students who don’t want to compete against other schools or their peers are still presented with an opportunity to get active.

And by making sure everybody, irrespective of ability, is able to get involved, you are generating an environment which fosters both physical activity and inclusivity. As a part of our endeavour to be as all-inclusive as possible, we have been running an SEN club that has had the opportunity to go to the Dagenham YMCA to try Boccia (a precision ball sport, related to bowls), boxing, and to use the fitness suite. The SEN club has also received football coaching with Euro Dagenham and Panathalon, where three of our pupils were selected to go through to the next round of the competition representing Barking and Dagenham.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"183","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignright size-full wp-image-7566","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"800","height":"600","alt":"Pic4"}}]]Experts have, quite rightly in my opinion, described sitting as a ticking time bomb of ill health just waiting to explode.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead of obesity. As such, we’re determined to generate enthusiasm in our students for sport and physical education from an early age. By ensuring that a wide variety of activities are available for students of all abilities, they will grow to see sport, exercise and being healthy as a natural part of their daily life.