The need for Active Classrooms

Published on 19th October, 2021

1 in 5 primary school children are now living with obesity. Prevention is better than a cure, and we are best placed to make a difference…

Modern workplaces encourage adults to frequently move around the workspace to help manage stress, improve concentration, and reduce physical health impairment – so should we be encouraging more movement in our classrooms?

A recent statistic released in December 2020 by Public Health England told us that “1 in 3 children leaving primary school are overweight or living with obesity with 1 in 5 living with obesity”.

We know that obesity can significantly lower life expectancy, puts pressure on our Health Service and causes chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and many more mental and physical health issues.

Obesity has been a problem for several years, but with inactivity levels becoming higher in children during the pandemic, now is the time act.

Children should be active for 60 minutes every day, and at least 30 minutes of that should be within school time.  Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 children hit their whole daily target, and only 1 in 10 pupils hit their in-school target!

So, what can be done to increase this?

Primary School Children in Reception are familiar with active learning as it is the norm during the Early Years Foundation Stage, yet classes in both Key Stage One and Key Stage Two tend to use the traditional ‘seated learning’.

Here’s a few recommendations for creating a more active classroom:

  • Introduce a morning and/or after lunch wake up activity;  this can be a quick easy 2 minute activity such as the ‘hey macarena’ dance, your own short aerobics sequence, or learning small sections of a whole Dance Unit together as a class.  This will engage pupils from the start and help them focus on the task ahead.
  • Interval activities;  instead of just answering names on the register, can the children act out “yes miss” or “here sir” in a YMCA dance fashion?  Performing a movement before answering a question is also an easy way to get pupils up and out of their seat.
  • Frequent brain breaks;  have been proven to help improve learning ability, help pupils concentrate and improve cognitive performance.  A quick game of musical chairs or a knock-out round of rock-paper-scissors can be quick but effective.
  • Adapt teaching;  in the classroom to incorporate moving around to work in groups, standing up and using whiteboards to share learning, and changing places.  Little opportunities like this can add minutes onto the pupils recommended activity levels.  Just 10 minutes throughout the day is 33% of the in-school target.
  • Classroom games;  whether it be for 5 minutes in between subjects, or for PE during a rainy day, PE Planning has lots of Classroom PE resources to deliver Physical Education in the classroom where space and equipment is limited.
  • Specialist equipment;  such as standing desks, balance chairs and foot pedal exercisers can be used to furnish classrooms and keep pupils active at their desks.  This will obviously come at a cost, but you should be able to use your PE & Sports Premium funding for these types of equipment.
  • Get outside where possible;  take your lesson, or parts of it outside.  Use the outdoor space you have, to switch up the learning environment for you and your pupils.  Primary School Pupils love to learn outside.

Recently the Government set out a ‘Tackling Obesity’ plan for the country to become healthier.  Prevention is better than a cure, and as Primary School Leaders we are best placed to make a difference.  With benefits to – physical healthmental healthbehaviourfocus and knowledge retention, Active Learning really is the way forward.

The thought of integrating activity and movement into the classroom may be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.  Make a plan, start off small and notice motivation, engagement and performance begin to increase.

Here are our Classroom PE Resources to help you get started.  If we can help with anything, please get in touch.