Student Voice and Wellbeing: Making the connection

** This post was originally published on the Ed Studies (Primary) webpage on Friday 4th December**

As a Sport Studies student you are familiar with being asked your opinion, possibly connected to module experience or maybe responding to a survey about a new initiative. This culminates in the final year of under-graduate study when in the Spring the National Student Survey (NSS) consultation is conducted. The NSS collates students view with an aim to improve the overall student experience and its powerful results are openly published.

On a different subject – or is it? – levels of poor mental health and low wellbeing amongst Higher Education students are disproportionately high compared to the remainder of the UK adult population, and are increasing (Thorley, 2017). It is no surprise that higher education attainment can be affected by stress, anxiety, depression, grief, sleeping difficulties and relationship problems. Students experiencing these issues report a lower sense of belonging and engagement with their university which can affect retention and progression. In 2017, the #stepchange agenda was launched by Universities UK to improve mental health and wellbeing in universities. The #stepchange framework comprises eight strands which identify the necessary focus for change:

 

The #stepchange agenda works to increase students sense of belonging and enable students to develop their social identity. This has the potential to improve retention and academic success and ultimately to enhance student experience (Thomas, 2012). In 2020 the #stepchange agenda was developed into a University Mental Health Charter where universities are required to develop a wellbeing strategy (link to OU mental health and wellbeing strategy) and can be nationally recognised for this work.

 

The connectivity between student voice and wellbeing is evident in the way #stepchange is delivered; through co-creation between students and their university. Co-creation is the new buzzword in higher education and requires high levels of student participation, where student voice has the potential to make the most positive impact on student experience. Let’s contextualise our perspective of participation. You might be familiar with Arnstein’s model of participation, where power and control are represented in a hierarchical ladder and students (or citizens in the model) progress to achieve high levels of participation. The highest levels of participation are the hardest to achieve but bear the most fruit in respect of student experience and student success. They cultivate ‘buy in’ from students through authentic collaboration which lower levels of participation such as surveys struggle to achieve.

Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation (1969).

Research with children and young people informs us that a participatory approach to educational relationships produces the best outcomes (Lyndon in Williams-Brown and Mander, 2020). It is the same for higher education students and might be considered more meaningful because study at university is voluntary rather than statutory like school, and we engage in adult: adult relationships where power should be more evenly distributed. In respect of wellbeing, the Universities UK strategy is clear that co-creation opportunities should be available through a whole university approach if student wellbeing is to improve. However, the relinquishing of power can be uncomfortable and impractical. It is best managed as a conscious uncoupling (to use celebrity speak) of the old to introduce the new. It challenges existing, ingrained ways of working within universities, and reshapes the cultural climate which informs our identity as individuals and an institution.

One of the ways in which ECYS are improving student voice and wellbeing is to incorporate a student panel within staff recruitment processes. This happened for the first time in November 2020, with aims for it to be an integral activity in the future. Students who participated said it was a privilege and an honour, planning of activities including a scenario were enjoyable, working as a team was effective, and they felt very well supported and informed about the process. Their wellbeing was enhanced; they reported that being involved was fun and satisfying, it helped to build confidence and they felt valued because their opinion and input mattered. This leaves us wanting more student co-creation opportunities. Can you think of any you would like to be involved in? Let us know, we love to hear about them and promise to respond.

Sarah Mander is a Staff Tutor (line managing Associate Lecturers) and Tutor for E102 module. She is also a serial student, studying for a Doctorate in Education. Sarah leads the ECYS Student Voice and Wellbeing Champions group.

Sarah has researched and written about wellbeing, mental health and the student population for the publication Childhood Well-being and Resilience: influences on educational outcomes (Williams- Brown, Z. and Mander, S.Eds., 2020).

References

 Lyndon, H. (2020) ‘Listening to children the rights of the child’ In, Williams- Brown, Z. and Mander, S.Eds. ‘Childhood Well-being and Resilience: influences on educational outcomes’. Abingdon: Routledge.

Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change[online]. [accessed 7 January 2020].

Thorley, C. (2017) Not by degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities. London: Institute for Public Policy Research.

Universities UK (2017) #stepchange mental health in higher education [online]. http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/stepchange/Pages/default.aspx [accessed 10 January 2020].

 

 

 

The importance of psychological resilience in extreme environments

By Dave Harrison

In extreme environments there are many things that can cause stress for people operating and performing in them. These stressors, such as isolation, danger, and risk (Smith & Barrett, 2019), would be the same for everyone at that given time but it is how an individual perceives and digests these stressors that is important to their overall experience. Indeed, extreme environments are complex, and the array of demands and stressors can give a perceived lack of control to people within them (Leach, 2016).

Resilience can help us to function more effectively under conditions within extreme environments. This short article will examine why understanding resilience is important to those functioning in extreme environments and reflect on what we can learn from emerging research in this area.

Why is it important to study resilience in extreme environments?

Psychological resilience has been described as the ability to use personal qualities to withstand pressure and maintain functioning (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2016), and there are two key components; a stressor (or adversity) and a subsequent positive adaptation (changes of a positive nature). This sounds simple enough, but it is important to remember that people are affected differently in the same environment at varying intensities and for different durations. This means resilience, like extreme environments, is complex, and can be influenced by factors such as your past experiences. For example, the past experiences you have had in the extreme environment as well as the personal qualities you have, such as motivation and confidence can help you to respond positively to the given demands of the situation.

However, if a cluster effect (where many different stressors come together) occurs in a particular order, intensity or timeframe you might struggle regardless of the amount of experience you have or personal qualities at your disposal. For example, you might be able to deal with a rainstorm for a short time but if it persisted, and the sky went dark and you had no shelter you might be less able to function. Resilience is a process that helps individuals deal with this complexity and there are also numerous anecdotal accounts of the importance of resilience within these environments.

Emerging research on resilience in extreme environments

An interest in how people perform in extreme environments led me to pursue my PhD studies in this area, and I have investigated the challenge of an extreme environment and what impact it can have on resilience. For example, the environment plays a significant role on a person’s resilience in relation to the amount of challenge (risk and adversity) and support (from others) present. This makes extreme environments the ideal setting to investigate psychological resilience because there is usually an increased and inherent element of risk and or adversity. For example, during my first piece of research the extreme environment was the mountains of the UK, where team members had to deal with difficult terrain under foot and severe and everchanging weather.

In this research we observed that these demands and stressors can group together in a cluster effect. This is where the grouping of stressors within the environment can potentially have a greater negative effect on performance as opposed to if individuals were exposed to individual stressors (Smith & Barrett, 2019), and there is the potential to for stressors to cascade over time. People operating in an extreme environment have to deal with specific clusters of stressors before moving on to deal with the next set of stressors and this can take time. But time is not always a luxury afforded in these environments. For example, you might be out on the mountain for 15 hours before returning to basecamp tired with wet and dirty kit but you are back out on the mountain in a couple of hours. You would literally have no time to deal with these stressors before facing the next day’s stressors as seen in my research.

Also, people will identify different environments as extreme at different times. This is due to how they perceive their skills, qualities and support needed to perform within them so any environment that pushes an individual outside of their comfort zone can be considered extreme (Galli and Vealey, 2008). A 5km Parkrun might be considered an extreme environment for some but not for an experienced runner.  Therefore, people operating in extreme environments need to get experience of these stressors – to lessen the impact of them individually and within a cluster. These stressors are still present and in certain situations will still have (sometimes a major) effect but experience provides opportunity to learn what skills and qualities are needed first to maintain function and then for positive adaptation to potentially occur.

Adopting a challenge mindset

Increasing the time spent and getting the right experience in an extreme environment allows you to evaluate the risk associated with these stressors and links to something called a challenge mindset. A challenge mindset is the ability to see situations as a challenge and it is important that this is adopted and then maintained within an extreme environment to buffer against the potential negative effect of the cluster effect of stressors and allow individuals to function. This mindset allows individuals to focus on stressors as a challenge and not threatening. This is done by increasing their awareness of specific stressors, their importance and the potential consequences of not attending to them. Increasing your experience allows you to slowly build up exposure to stressors in the extreme environment and works to slowly inoculate you to the potential negative effect of stressors. So, you could consider your current situation is not as ‘bad’ as previously experienced and more of a challenge that needs to be overcome to be successful. For example, this current storm isn’t as bad as previous storms I have experienced, and I made good progress then and I can now.

This previous experience also allows you to develop the necessary skills and qualities to ‘protect’ yourself from the demands and stressors of the extreme environment which forms an important part of showing resilience. Fletcher and Sarkar (2016) highlight that individuals must positively evaluate the demands of the environment as a challenge and themselves (e.g. their own skills, thoughts and emotions). So, it is more your reaction to the environment (showing resilience) rather than the environment itself that is important. The question is therefore, do you have the experiences, skills and qualities to successfully deal with what the environment can throw at you to complete the task in the required time?

What can we take from this?

Extreme environments are not too dissimilar to other sporting environments. Each is different and individualised with clusters of stressors that are perceived differently by different individuals. There is risk and adversity albeit to a lesser extent than within an extreme environment where there is a potentially a greater risk of injury or death. So, how can ways in which individuals develop and use resilience in these extreme environments be applied to us in everyday life and in our own sporting pursuits?

  • Resilience is a complex and individualised process that changes over time and can be essential to maintaining function in our everyday lives, including our participation in sport and exercise.
  • Sporting environments, and life in general, can produce a cluster effect of stressors that can potentially cascade over time that individuals need to deal with.
  • Gaining experience of the environments/situations in which you will train/work/compete can help ‘protect’ against this cluster effect by developing the challenge mindset.

References

Fletcher, D. & Sarkar, M. (2016) Mental fortitude training: An evidence- based approach to developing psychological resilience for sustained success. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 7(3), 135-157.

Galli, N. & Vealey, R.S. (2008) “Bouncing Back” from adversity: Athletes’ experiences of resilience. The Sport Psychologist, 22, 316-335.

Leach, J. (2016) Psychological factors in exceptional, extreme and torturous environments. Extreme Physiology & Medicine5(1), 7–7.

Smith, N. & Barrett, E.C. (2019) Psychology, extreme environments, and counter-terrorism operations. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 11(1), 48-72.

 

Dave Harrison is an AL on the OU S&F modules E235 and E313. He also works at Sheffield Hallam University as a Lecturer in Sport Coaching and is currently undertaking a part time PhD on Psychological Resilience in Extreme Environments at Nottingham Trent University. You can find him on Twitter: @sheffclaret 

Uncovering Britain’s Lost Black Sporting Heroes

By Jim Lusted

If you’re a sport enthusiast like me, you will claim to know a lot about sport. After all, we dedicate much of our waking lives obsessing over our favourite sports, teams and players. So, let’s test your sporting knowledge out on these questions:

  1. Which International Boxing Hall-of-Famer was an usher at the coronation of George IV in 1821?
  2. Which footballer made her debut for the British Ladies football team in 1895 and for many years was mistakenly called Carrie Boustead?
  3. Which England Rugby Union player was dropped because opponents South Africa refused to play against him?

Hats off to you if you spotted Bill Richmond, Emma Clarke and Jimmy Peters – you are likely to be one of the very few! If none of these names immediately spring to mind it isn’t because you’ve not been paying attention. Until very recently, they were pretty much unheard of. They are all Black sportspeople from Britain’s past and, like many others, their stories have generally been forgotten, untold and uncelebrated. This isn’t something limited to sport – there is a widespread absence of Black history in popular accounts of British history, as discussed in a 2016 BBC series ‘Black and British: A Forgotten History ’ currently being repeated on the iPlayer platform.

Slowly, we are (re)discovering Black British sporting figures and their fascinating stories. Increasingly we see profiles emerge of these forgotten sporting icons in the media, often as content created to mark Black History Month. But what do the historic achievements of Black sportspeople tell us about the relationship between ‘race’, racism and sport, and why haven’t their often-extraordinary stories been woven into British sporting folklore and memory?

Take Bill Richmond, for example. Only very dedicated followers of boxing history will know of him – at least until recently, as the story of the ‘first black sporting icon in history’ has emerged. Richmond’s story is a fascinating one in itself, but it is illustrative in that it shows how sport can challenge – in an often fleeting and highly contingent way – the racial politics of a particular historical period.

Born into slavery in the USA in 1763, at the age of 13, Richmond was taken to York, England by a British army commander and provided with an education – highly unusual at the time. He later moved, with his Yorkshire wife, to London to live with and work for Thomas Pitt, cousin of then Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. By 1821 he had seemingly reached the highest levels of British gentry, becoming an usher at the coronation of King George IV. His 2015 biography, ‘Richmond Unchained ’, suggests that much of this astonishing journey was down to his special talent for boxing – in those days a brutal, bare-knuckled version of the sport hugely popular among all sections of British society including the aristocracy. That Thomas Pitt was a boxing enthusiast was no coincidence, and around the turn of the nineteenth century, Richmond gained a reputation and a following as he won a series of prize fights against well-known and highly regarded opponents. He later ran a boxing academy where, it is said, he trained high profile establishment figures including Lord Byron.

Would Richmond have achieved such a social standing without his sporting prowess? Being a Black person in nineteenth-century England he faced widespread racial discrimination – put into context, he died some 4 years before slavery was legally abolished in the UK in 1833. His early boxing experiences appear to have come from violent brawls he endured as a result of the persistent racist abuse and insults he suffered. So while sport opened up some unlikely opportunities, it by no means protected him from the racist realities of the day.

Richmond’s biographer, Luke Williams, rightly observes that it is ‘a staggering collective omission by sports and social historians that the story of Bill Richmond has scarcely been told’. So why has it taken over 175 years for his life and career to emerge? For this we should consider how exactly history is crafted – who decides which figures and which stories are preserved, and what historical narratives take precedence over others. In the aforementioned BBC series, historian David Olusoga claims that British history has been ‘whitewashed’, with the presence and influence of Black Britons largely ignored. This partial history reinforces the idea of Britain as a ‘white’ country and downplays its long-standing, complex connections with Africa and other parts of the world. It also serves to divert attention away from the relationship between modern industrial Britain’s economic success, its leading role in the Atlantic Slave Trade and its often violent, exploitative colonial rule.

These historical narratives also perpetuate a crude racialised hierarchy between white and black. The stories that underpin this ‘whitewashed’ history are selected because they conform to this frame – so that influential, successful Black figures in British history are conveniently forgotten while tales of powerful and heroic white people (usually men) are remembered and re-imagined. As Black British poet Benjamin Zephaniah says:

“I wasn’t interested in history at school, because I was being taught that black people had no history. We were usually being “discovered” by great white explorers, civilised by the great white conquerors and missionaries, or freed by the great white abolitionists.”

It is certainly a positive sign that figures such as Bill Richmond, Emma Clarke and Jimmy Peters are being re-discovered and their achievements are finally being recognised. Celebrating the lives of prominent Black figures – including sportspeople – in Britain’s past can play an important role in re-balancing the dominant historical narrative of British history and will begin to help us appreciate the plurality and complexity of influences that shape Britain today.

References

Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016) BBC Two. Available at: BBC iPlayer https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b082x0h6 (Accessed: 20 October 2020).

Williams, L. (2015) ‘Richmond Unchained: The Biography of the World’s First Black Sporting Superstar’. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

Williams, L. (2015) ‘Bill Richmond: The Black Boxer wowed the Court of George IV And taught Lord Byron To spar’, The Independent, 26 August. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/bill-richmond-black-boxer-wowed-court-george-iv-and-taught-lord-byron-spar-10473577.html (Accessed: 20 October 2020).

Zephaniah, B. (2020) ‘Black people will not be respected until our history is respected’, The Guardian, 12 October. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/12/black-people-history-respected-teachers-police-benjamin-zephaniah (Accessed: 20 October 2020).

This article was originally posted on OpenLearn

How to have the best experience of studying sport at The Open University

By Simon Rea

Firstly, welcome to The Open University and secondly, thank you for choosing to study on the sport, fitness, and coaching degree. We have a range of fantastic courses for you to study to support you towards achieving a fulfilling career working in sport or fitness. During this turbulent year of 2020 it seems to me that sport has become even more important. Research has shown that fit and healthy people are less affected by Covid-19 and as a result we have   been encouraged to take daily exercise outdoors, and the fitness industry has seen a surge in people engaging with online fitness platforms. During this time I felt lost when there was no live sport for three months and like many others have binged on sport since its return.

As a sport and fitness student it is likely that you feel as passionate about sport and fitness as I do and in this blog I want to encourage you to make the most of your undergraduate studies. I want you to get the best value for the personal and financial investment you have undertaken and the sacrifices you may have to make. While sport and fitness offer a range of exciting careers and the opportunity to work with interesting and inspiring people the job market is highly competitive. Sport science, studies and sports coaching courses are now the most popular degree course in the UK with around 15,000 graduates a year leaving around 138 universities that offer these degrees. Indeed there are almost 1500 students enrolling, along with yourself, on year 1 sport and fitness modules at The Open University.

Therefore, it is advantageous to get ahead of this competition and give yourself as great an advantage for the future as you can. We appreciate that you have busy lives and finding time to study may not always be easy as you juggle work, family, and social commitments. These conflicting priorities can lead to students being tactical in how they study. To encourage you to make the absolute most of your time spent studying with us and to maximise your learning and enjoyment I will offer three pieces of advice for you to consider whilst studying.

 

  1. Engage with all the resources available to you and read as much as you can.

In your module materials you will find a range of resources. There are readings, audio and video clips to watch and listen to, websites to visit and activities to complete. We will also offer additional resources at certain points so that you can find out more. We would encourage you to learn as much as you can about the subjects you are studying by reading widely and visiting websites related to the subject. Social media offers a plethora of opportunities and you can follow experts and influencers that you are interested in. For example, Twitter enables you to follow coaches, personal trainers, and academics in sport.

 

 

  1. Engage with your tutor and your fellow students as much as possible.

Before you start your module you will be assigned a tutor and a tutor group. Your tutor will tell you how to contact them and you will be given information about the schedule of tutorials. You will also find out about your online tutor group forum where you can meet and interact with other students.

This engagement with other people is crucial to your understanding of the module materials as some of the most valuable learning is described as social learning where you learn from other people. Discussing and debating can give you different perspectives on a subject and hearing other student’s experiences can broaden your own understanding. This kind of learning will happen during tutorials and during collaborative tutor group forum activities. During the learning process it is vital that you do not accept all content without questioning it. Ask yourself – ‘where did this knowledge come from?’ ‘Are there other ways of doing things?’

Discussing, debating, and questioning will improve your understanding of a subject but it will also develop critical skills that are so crucial in higher education and valued by employers.

  1. Always keep in mind the question ‘How does this relate to me?’

While knowledge is exciting to have it is most valuable when you can actually apply it. This may be applying it to your own working practice or to help yourself and other people. So, you must always find opportunities to apply your knowledge. This may be reflecting on past experiences and gaining new perspectives on them or thinking about how you can use the knowledge now or in the future.

I have always found that when people know I am involved in sport science they have questions about their training or their diet. Let people know you are studying sport and fitness and talk to them about it and express your views if the opportunity arises. Sharing your knowledge with other people is a great way to increase your own knowledge and understanding of a subject.

 

Final thoughts

As I said earlier we appreciate that studying is just one factor amongst many competing for your time and it may be difficult to implement all three pieces of advice consistently. However, if you bear them in mind during your studies you will improve your chances of success both during your studies and in the future.

We hope you have a wonderful experience during your time studying sport, fitness, and coaching at The Open University.

 

Simon Rea is a Lecturer on the sport and fitness award at The Open University and the author of the books Careers in Sports Science (2019) and Sports Science – a complete introduction (2015).

Credit transfer to BSc (hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

Perhaps you are feeling unsatisfied or demotivated with your current degree study and you need a different way of studying to unlock your academic potential? If so, then it might be time to think about transferring credit to study the BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at The Open University. We have a range of interesting and exciting modules from level 1 to level 3 which make up our degree. Typically, students transferring credit will study level 2 or level 3 modules depending on their circumstances and their available credit. We have two level 2 modules (E235 Sport and Exercise Psychology in Action; E236 Applying sport and exercise sciences to coaching) and two level 3 modules (E313 Exploring psychological aspects of athletic development; E314 Exploring contemporary issues in sport and exercise).

For all our modules, you will learn online in a range of engaging ways to meet your learning needs. This includes learning through interactive activities, academic readings in books and journals, listening to audio and viewing videos such as sport and exercise in action, using exercise science apps, and tutor group forum discussions with other students and your tutor. The online distance study provides you with great flexibility to study from home or on the move and enables you to fit your study around your other commitments such as work and family life. These are just some of the key benefits of studying in this way with the OU. The video below explains more.

Although you will study independently as an online distance student you certainly will not be alone. In fact, you will receive a high level of support from your tutor via tutorials, assessment feedback, forums, emails and telephone contact. We also have a fantastic Student Support Team and a range of other study resources to support your academic progress. There are many other great opportunities and benefits of being a Sport and Fitness student at the OU. The Sport & Fitness team holds a range of conferences and events that you can attend online and in person. You will also be part of the OU Sport and Fitness community and have an identity as part of #TeamOUsport.

If you would like to explore your options for credit transfer and take the next step towards studying the BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at the OU please visit http://www.open.ac.uk/study/credit-transfer/.

OpenLearn: Women in Sport

In May of this year we launched a Women in Sport portal on our OpenLearn platform showcasing a wide range of articles about womens involvement in sport. Many of these articles have been authored by members of the OU sport and fitness team, including our central academic team and associate lecturers.

These articles include:

  • Stories from grassroots cricket – by Jim Lusted
  • Transgender males to females in sport: is this fair to sportswomen? – by Jan Graydon
  • Leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of female athletic performance – by Emma Ross
  • Are women leaders the key to growing women’s sport? – by Tanya Martin
  • Managing motherhood and sports participation – by Candice Lingam-Willgoss & Jess Pinchbeck
  • Why is it so difficult for Muslim women to play sport? – by Rukhsana Malik

To access the Women in Sport articles on OpenLearn click here

Using the E236 WebApp

Welcome to the support blog for the E236 WebApp. The following screencast will take you through the key features of the WebApp allowing you to apply your professional knowledge from Study Topic 4 (as well as the preceding Study Topics). If, once you have watched the screencast fully, you have any further questions, please comment below or post in your Tutor Group Forum for you tutor to liaise with the central module team.

E236 screencast on Athlete Builder – Audio Transcript

Sure it’s only P.E.

Authored by Bethany Gurr & Emily McDonald, edited by Emily McDonald & Melanie Paterson, researched by Thomas Botfield, Pamela Fabbreschi & Katerina Kubienova, Team Leader: David Senior and Team Moderator: Christine White (E119 19J students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


https://pixabay.com/photos/sport-child-school-ball-basketball-858206/

Ahhh Mrs Hampton, I won’t forget her. She was my Primary School Physical Education (PE) Teacher and she knew all 625 pupils’ names. We had PE twice a week, the whole year of girls and boys for roughly 45 mins each and I LOVED IT. My mother kept me active as a child, which is why I’m sure I’m not obese now (with the amount I ate!) and remain an active adult years later (yes – I still love my food!). My sister on the other hand despised PE. She was the child always forgot her PE kit, (it was always in the cloakroom) had a headache or felt ill… whereas I opted to wear my sports t-shirt daily, sporting trainers and shorts under my skirt. Everybody is different and has preferences, but Primary School age is where fundamental basics of health are cemented which lead on into adolescence and later adulthood.

Children love to be active, exploring their bodies and what they can do. As a parent of three young children, I’m curious where they get their energy from (perhaps they suck it from me). So, what makes children, like my sister, hate PE? What can teachers, schools and parents do to ensure children meet their daily recommendations of physical activity (PA) and enjoy it?

Luckily for me I was proficient at most sporting activities I attempted, blessed with a competitive nature, gifted with good reflexes and speed with massive determination to be able to do what the older kids could (persuaded my Mother to teach me to ride my bike without stabilisers when my sister did – I was only 3). Yet I understand what it must be like for children with poor reflexes, not-quite-there gross-motor skills, lack of co-ordination and lacking in self-confidence, because that child is my son. Why should I, as a parent, ensure he avails of all PE classes, if he’s not really that good? (Forgive me for telling the truth) … What are the benefits obtainable from PE in schools? Why should children do it?

Apart from health and well-being benefits, these hurdles he and many other children face, can be overcome. From strength, to balance, to hand-eye-co-ordination, bringing forth confidence with each accomplishment achieved. Proven to be beneficial to not only their physical health it encourages social, emotional and mental health development (Moray House School of Education and Sport, 2019) and is integral to future wellbeing.

Those team games were not in vain!

Kelsey E via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelseye/786999279

Further to this, research has shown PA induces chemical changes within the brain, encouraging new cells to form which in turn increases the size of the hippocampus, in simple terms the part of the brain that regulates emotion, learning and memory (Human Kinetics, n.d.). These changes are long-lasting, impacting how children think and behave socially, promoting learning which will not only compliment other areas of their education but will also see memory recall improvements.

Let’s explore some more…

The Department of Education recommends children receive as a minimum, 2 hours of PE per week and it is compulsory in the primary curriculum, BUT it is at the school’s discretion how much time they invest in it (Department of Education, n.d.). Luckily my children attend a school that adheres to these minimum requirements but what about quality? Unfortunately, Mrs H (whom I thought didn’t like children very much with her vigorous PE sessions) is no longer a PE teacher and like many other schools, there are no ‘PE teachers’, so who delivers them? The class teacher, yes, teachers are required to conduct their classes PE sessions and it’s reported that they receive on average as little as six hours training during their teacher training on how to deliver PE (Youth Sport Trust, 2018).

SIX HOURS!?!

Surely that cannot be enough to equip any person to undertake an hour-long session with 20 – 30 children?! While that may not be congruent within all schools and to each individual, it is a shocking number to see.

The Daily Mile

https://pixabay.com/photos/marathon-sport-children-run-autumn-1797898/

This sounds torturous to someone who isn’t fond of long distance because of their desire to get things done hastily, resulting in not-so-pleasant regurgitation at completion… (me – a sprinter). This initiative was introduced in 2012 (McIvor, 2018) and research shows that those who partake (walking or running) are significantly healthier than those who don’t. Schools are facilitating children’s ability to surpass the minimum 2 hours of PE in schools!

Some more figures for you…

A shocking 20% and 23% of 5-12-year-old girls and boys respectively, meet the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day and even more alarming is the fact that 1 in 5 children enter primary education overweight or obese! (Public Health England, 2017).

What’s going on?

To put it bluntly, children aren’t meeting their daily activity requirements and childhood obesity is AN ISSUE! Although children are receiving 2-hours PE in school per week, 5 hours are lacking and there’s no other way to say this but that it is on us.

So, should PE classes be compulsory in Primary school?

You have to agree PE is an absolute must. If it’s the only 2 hours of PA some children see a week, how can we contend its importance? Don’t we want our children to grow into young healthy active adults? Educating children on vital social skills, developing personal skills that will hold strong throughout their lives is vital. What is even more important is that parents promote healthy life choices, encourage activity, whether that be walking or cycling to school, family walks on a day out, or extra activities outside school hours like football, gymnastics or swimming.

What remains to be seen is how the Government and Schools implement guidelines. How they develop alternative approaches to how PA is delivered, to provide efficient, more enjoyable times spent in shorts, and ultimately encourage our youngsters to choose themselves to be active.

References

Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/articles/statutory-curriculum

Human Kinetics. (n.d.). How physical activity and exercise enhance children’s cognition. Retrieved from Human Kinetics Europe: https://uk.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpts/how-physical-activity-and-exercise-enhance-childrens-cognition

McIvor, J. (2018, May 10). BBC News. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-44053387

Moray House School of Education and Sport. (2019, July 24th). The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/centres-groups/pe-research/importance

Public Health England. (2017, July 17). Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/number-of-children-getting-enough-physical-activity-drops-by-40

Youth Sport Trust. (2018, May 29). Retrieved from https://www.youthsporttrust.org/news/teachers-need-more-support-nurture-love-pe-and-school-sport

Join our team: Lecturer in Sport and Fitness

Salary:  £41,526 – £49,553
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 17329
Closing date: 8th June 2020 (midday)

Note: This post is available as a full-time post or two 0.5 part-time posts.

We are seeking to appoint an enthusiastic Lecturer in Sport and Fitness to join our vibrant team and undertake responsibilities that include:

  • the development and delivery of Sport and Fitness modules and resources
  • writing and updating distance learning modules and resources, including print, audio, video and information/communications technology materials
  • contributing to the Faculty’s programme of research and scholarship and to the academic development of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University.

The successful candidate will have:

  • a higher degree or equivalent professional knowledge in Sport and Fitness or a related field as well
  • proven experience of curriculum development and course design
  • an understanding of different approaches to studying Sport and Fitness
  • evidence of engagement in research and scholarship through a variety of activities such as publications, gaining of external funding and/or widely recognised and disseminated contributions to learning and teaching in Sports and Fitness
  • a strong record of research and/or knowledge exchange that is commensurate to the position.

For more information click on the links below:

Job Description

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply