Category Archives: Children

How can schools make sport the foundation of culture and society?

By Russell Dyas, Dean Ellis, Emma Hardwicke and Kevin Smith (E119 18J 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 four best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


Research acknowledges the benefits of physical education and sport (PES) for all generations through participation in a wide range of activities. Although it is admirable that those from any generation turn to physical activity to improve their quality of life, there is greater value to the societies of tomorrow that we positively discriminate in supporting the children and youth of today.

Talbot (2001) cited in Bailey (2006, p.397) claims that ‘physical education helps children to develop respect for the body – their own and others, contributes toward the integrated development of mind and body, develops an understanding of the role of aerobic and anaerobic physical activity in health, positively enhances self-confidence and self-esteem, and enhances social and cognitive development and academic achievement.’

The mental health charity ‘Mind’ (2016) has reiterated the importance of being active from an early age and maintaining this throughout life. Some of the key mental health benefits from regular exercise and sport include:

  • Increased self-esteem – Increased confidence not only in a sporting environment but in everyday life. Glenn (2003) describes healthy self-esteem as a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself.
  • Reduced feelings of stress – Exercise and physical activity helps control the body’s cortisol levels; elevated cortisol levels can increase the chance of heart disease and high blood pressure, and can affect our learning (Christopher, 2013).
  • Reduced risk of depression – One study has found that increasing activity levels – from doing nothing to exercising at least three times a week – will reduce the risk of depression by almost 20% (Mind, 2016).

Obesity amongst primary school aged children is now at an all-time high of 1 child in 3. This means that there needs to be more of an emphasis on exercise and sport activities in schools (Jenkin, 2015).

Oasis Academy Blakenhale Infants’ School introduced a fitness programme called ‘Fit4Schools’, to increase the pupils’ physical health and mental alertness (Hood-Truman, 2015). A teacher at the school explained that ‘our key stage 1 results changed dramatically this year. That is not only down to good teaching but also because we’ve created a really positive learning environment that incorporates physical activity.’

Stephen Roberts, the Managing Director of Fit4Schools, recommends the form of exercise being a 20 second warm-up, then a 20-40 second intense activity followed by a cooldown period, so this could mean jumping on the spot or coordination and balance work (Jenkin, 2015).

There are also behaviour benefits that can stem from being physically active, as Keith Barton from the Youth Trust explains: ‘The thing that leads to poor behaviour is kids not feeling any ownership of what they are doing and not feeling a part of anything. Sport can really help people to feel like part of a team’ (Jenkin, 2015).

Regarding participation in sport and exercise, a recent survey (Sport England, 2018) demonstrates a bottom-up PES position of 130,000 active 5-16-year olds between September 2017 and July 2018. A survey described as ‘phase 1’ by Sport England (2018) ‘specifically focuses on behaviours.’ The survey data highlights that 17.5% of the sample size were active for over 60 minutes every day, thus meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on PES participation. Promisingly, 25.7% and 23.9% were involved in PES for an average of over 60 minutes (but not every day) and 30-59 minutes daily respectively.

Sport England (2018) proffers that ‘… attitudes towards sport and physical activity are often shaped by experiences in childhood attitudes towards sport.’ With this and the current statistics in mind, should society today direct the dispersal of ‘limited funding’ towards radically reshaping a culture of acceptance in the participation in PES? Specifically, should the funding for schools be ‘ring-fenced’ for PES, as opposed to that for academia? There are various influences on participation, whereby schools – moreover, a collective of highly trained experts – can be the ‘hub,’ ensuring inclusion of all levels of ability and interest.

To that end, a cross-functional team of experts (sports scientists, nutritionists, physios, coaches etc.) can be employed/deployed at countrywide ‘hubs’ to assess the ability of the children in a catchment area and guide them into participation based on their personal needs. The funding should come from Government and private sources (where appropriate) as a projected offset to the billions spent in the NHS on conditions related to non-participation in PES from an early age.

The position of sport in schools is often influenced by the perception of its importance. Sir Michael Wilshaw, an OFSTED Chief Inspector, describes how head teachers commonly view PE as an ‘optional extra’ (Paton, 2014). Attendance at the ‘hub’ should be part of the national curriculum, thus proactively focusing on sport.

This positivity towards sporting activity in schools, especially primary schools, is not only critical to positive mental health and wellbeing but also to the success of a country’s elite programme. The long-term athlete development model (Istvan el al, 2013) is used by numerous different sports organisations as a fundamental building block for sports development. A critical stage of the model is the FUNdamental stage. This is especially true in late specialisation sports such as athletics, combative sports, rowing and team sports (Balyi, N.D). This stage is often developed between the ages of 6 and 10 years, with schools providing an essential role. If a school has a negative view of sporting activity, this may pass on to the young people.

If sport is to become the foundation of culture and society and reap the benefits of better physical and mental health, and the benefit of providing the next generation of elite athletes, we must empower the next generation by using schools’ systems to provide a positive outlook on sports to young people. This will also provide infrastructure for country wide ‘hubs’ to provide a stepping stone between schools and ‘centres of excellence.

Reference List
Balyi, I, Way, R and Higgs, C. (2013) Long-Term Athlete Development, Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.

Balyi, I. (n.d) FHS [Online]. Available at https://www.activeoxfordshire.org/uploads/long-term-athlete-development-article.pdf (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Bailey, R. (2006). ‘Physical Education and Sport in Schools: A Review of Benefits and Outcomes’. Journal of School Health October 2006, Vol. 76, No.8 d 2006, American School Health Association

Christopher, B. (2013) Psychology Today [Online]. Available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1 (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Glenn, S. (202) The Self-Esteem Workbook, Oakland, CA, New Harbinger.

Jenkin, M. (2015) ‘Fit for Learning’ [online] available at: theguardian.com [27th January 2019]

Mind (2016), Mind How to improve your wellbeing through physical activity and sport [Online]. Available at https://www.mind.org.uk/media/2976123/how-to-improve-your-wellbeing-through-physical-activity-and-sport.pdf (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Paton, G. (2014) ‘Ofsted: state school pupils ‘under-represented’ in top sport’, The Telegraph, [Online]. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10912704/Ofsted-state-school-pupils-under-represented-in-top-sport.html (Accessed 29th January 2019).

Sport England (2018). ‘Active lives children and young people survey academic year 2017/18’.

Talbot M. (2001). ‘The case for physical education’. In: Doll-Tepper G, Scoretz D, eds. World Summit on Physical Education. Berlin, Germany: ICSSPE; 2001:39-50.

Abstract Call for 4th Annual OU Sport & Fitness Conference – My Child: The Athlete

My Child: The Athlete

Tickets are on sale now – Click here to register!

The 4th annual OU Sport and Fitness Conference focuses on youth development in sport with particular attention paid to contemporary issues such as:

  • Youth physical development

    E.g. Strength and conditioning, injury prevention, physical literacy, skill acquisition

  • Psychological development

    E.g. Building resilience, coping with and learning from failure

  • Parental support for talented athletes

    E.g. Research to support parents of talented athletes, effects on siblings and family members, family dynamics and youth development

  • Coaching considerations when working with children

    E.g. planning training and practice, coaching behaviours, managing expectations, managing the needs of each athlete

With three world-leading keynotes confirmed, this promises to be an illuminating and thought provoking two days:

Toni Minichiello – Coach to GB’s 2012 gold medal-winning Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill. (Day 1 evening keynote presenter)

Dr Jean CôtéProfessor at Queen’s University, Canada and world-renowned researcher within the fields of youth sports and coach development. @JeanCote46

Dr Camilla Knight – Associate Professor at Swansea University and leading expert on the psychosocial experiences of children in sport, with a particular focus upon the influence of parents. @cjknight

Whether you’re an academic, a student, a coach, teacher or parent, we invite you to join us for two action packed days full of dissemination, discussion, and learning opportunities.

Call for Abstracts (Now Open for Submissions):

The OU Sport and Fitness Conference team invites the submission of abstracts for consideration as either an oral or poster presentation. Submissions may have either an academic or applied focus resonating with the themes of the conference (see above bullet points). We would also welcome submissions which report on research in progress or the initial stages of development.

Please download the abstract submission guidelines here:

Abstract Submission Guidelines

Delegates:

Click here to register!

Full conference packages:
Access to the whole two days – keynotes and breakout sessions
Three course conference dinner on day 1*
Lunch and refreshments on both days

*Please note – we have a limited number of tickets for the evening session – book early to avoid disappointment.

Evening only package*:
Access to the evening session on day 1
Keynote presentation from Toni Minichiello
Q&A Panel with Toni, Dr Jean Côté and Dr Camilla Knight
Three course conference dinner

*Please note – the evening session will take place at Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre, MK7 6BZ. There are a limited number of tickets available for this session so please book early to avoid disappointment. 

Twitter

Don’t forget to follow us for all the latest conference updates: @OU_SportConf and use the hashtag #OUSportConf to share that you’ve registered!

 

We look forward to welcoming you to My Child: The Athlete in March 2019!

For any conference queries please contact WELS-Research-Events@open.ac.uk

 

Let the children play

By Linda Plowright

If noise levels are anything to go by then school playgrounds, ball parks and bouncy castles all seem to be high octane centres of energy expenditure and yet it still seems difficult to get our children as active as the UK Chief Medical Officers advise (UK CMO 2012 Report, published March 2014).

Meanwhile there is a steadily growing body of research reporting what children say about why they like to be active – “because it is fun” (Visek et.al. 2015 The Fun Integration Theory). It doesn’t seem that difficult to work out ways in which children can experience an hour’s ‘active fun’ each day, however over 75% of primary school aged children fail to meet this physical activity target.

How do children have fun?

Curious to try to find some answers to this seemingly simple question, I conducted a small study observing some 5-11 year olds during their holiday Activity Camp to gain some insight into how they chose to spend their time. I wanted to see what they chose to do and how much physical activity was involved. Videos, drawings and photographs that told the children’s story of what they loved about their Activity Camp demonstrated that being with friends was key to their choices. With friends they developed and sustained highly imaginative and creative fantasy games. The power of being with friends has been highlighted in a number of studies, particularly for girls. See StreetGames’ recent “How to ..” guide on understanding how to harness the impact of socialising to engage girls in physical activity (Friendships How to guide). In addition children appeared to be motivated by novel equipment and environments. They fully exploited large equipment that probably wasn’t usually available to them comprising a bouncy castle, giant sponge building bricks and ride-in cars. They appeared to enjoy a range of physical sensations, bouncing, going upside down, racing around pushing cars and having rides. Novelty also existed in the space available – a large fully equipped sports hall – and other children and play scheme leaders who the children engaged in their activities allocating them roles and tasks.

What do we mean by ‘active fun’?

What children showed and talked to me about active fun had the following ingredients:
• Opportunities for the children to interact – often noisily and in role play – with their friends: a time to chat and socialize, encourage one another, banter and make noise. These elements are often alien to a learning or coaching environment which is what differentiates ‘active fun’ from PE or sport participation most starkly.
• Opportunities for children to let their imaginations drive the activity, where they choose what they do and how they do it: room for individuality, opportunities for children to create the activity themselves with their friends. There must be the opportunity to ‘not’ be committed to the game, to temporarily leave and return at will.
• Something that the children feel competent to engage in: this might mean the activity is extremely simple or it may mean that an environment of carefreeness where taking part provides the fun – ‘failing/losing’ in the activity is as much fun as ‘achieving/winning’. Play may be entirely collaborative. In the context of an hour’s ‘active fun’, keeping it fun is not about teaching new skills it’s about creating a safe environment in which the children’s imagination can drive fantastical creative activity. This does not deny increased competence, can increase enjoyment and commitment when children have chosen to pursue a particular sport. Nor does it deny that having a skilled adult to encourage and assist children to take part in an activity can be beneficial. However these things can also get in the way of fun.

So why is it seemingly so difficult for children to have an hour’s activity each day?

One answer seems to be the age-old problem of adults over-complicating the world. The challenge of encouraging our children to be active for at least an hour a day has resulted in a focus on whose responsibility it is. Neither the PE teacher, the sports coach, National Governing Bodies for sports nor parents can be solely responsible. It needs team work! We should all applaud and learn from simple, fun, cost free initiatives such as St Ninian’s daily mile (St. Ninian’s Primary School, Stirling). At St. Ninian’s every classroom teacher, not just the PE teacher, accompanies their class on a recreational mile’s walk or run each day. It is unscheduled allowing teachers to be spontaneous and creative in how and when they use the break from academic studies. The teacher joins in and the children complete it in their own way – as an exuberant run or a sociable walk. We all need to start thinking how we can weave active fun into our time with children.

Keeping the hour’s daily activity simple, spontaneous, accessible and child-centred seems to sum up the way of developing the physical activity habit for a healthy lifestyle. Games whilst walking to school, active tea-times and novel playground equipment do not require specialist knowledge. Creating opportunities and incentives for children to have ‘active fun’ is best not viewed as a specialist’s responsibility but as a way of life to be encouraged by all those who care for children. Physical activity specialists, whether that is the PE teacher or the sports coach, can then engage children further in their subject. In short “Let the Children Play”.

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Linda is a PhD Research student in the Faculty of Education and Language Studies, Department of Childhood, Youth and Sport and Centre for Research in Education and Education Technology at the Open University. Trained initially as a Physical Education specialist she had a 35 year career in sport and recreation management spanning public, private and voluntary sectors. During that time she gained an MBA and MBRM studying as an open learning student with the OU before taking up her current full time research student role.

Linda’s main interest is children’s physical activity and the power of physical activity to enrich health and wellbeing. She is particularly interested in middle childhood and unlocking the power of research with rather than on children to gain insight into their understanding and beliefs. She hopes that with greater insight, new ways may be found for motivating children to develop active lifestyles – for life. As part of her Masters in Research Degree she undertook a small ethnographic pilot study focused on how 5-11 year olds chose to experience physical activity in their recreation time. She is continuing these studies in her PhD.