According to the former head of UK Sport, Britain is facing a “crisis of inactivity” that is driving high obesity levels and damaging children’s performance at school.
A marked dip on the amount of student exercise has resulted from “sedentary lifestyles” and pressures on time, as warned by Baroness Sue Campbell. In addition, she said that over the last decade, the “costs of physical inactivity” were clear following a rise in weight problems among children.
However, the problems weren’t confined to the schoolyard, as a lack of exercise has also limited young people’s “ability to achieve in all areas of school life”, with active pupils more likely to perform in the classroom and show higher levels of self-esteem, insisted by the chairman of the charity the Youth Sport Trust, Lady Campbell.
As Graeme Paton of The Telegraph reports, to raise standards in primary schools, the Government is investing £150 million in both 2013/14 and 2014/15, with heads expected to spend the money on specialist games teachers, running sport competitions and improving facilities.
The publications of figures showing almost a third of school-age children in England are overweight and between 14 and 20% are obese.
Baroness Campbell, who left UK Sport last year after leading the organization through the Olympics, said:
“In the UK, and across the globe, we are facing a crisis of inactivity. The onset of sedentary lifestyles and time pressures both inside and outside of school mean that many young people are not being encouraged to lead healthy, active lives.
“The costs of physical inactivity are plain for all to see – childhood obesity levels continue to dominate the headlines, and we know that being inactive increases the risk of developing a host of other chronic conditions.
“However, being inactive not only adversely affects children’s physical health; it can also undermine their mental and emotional wellbeing, and limit their ability to achieve in all areas of school life.
“A healthy, active child is more likely to perform better academically across all subjects; they will be more confident individuals; have greater employability skills, and are far more likely to have higher levels of self esteem.”
A third of primary schools were failing to provide effective PE for pupils, with children not being given proper warm ups, able athletes ignored and a failure to focus on strenuous exercise, showed a report last year from Ofsted.
Many schools understood how to use PE and sport to make an impact on pupils’ well-being, but “others are missing the opportunity and risk not tackling some of the major issues facing young people,” Lady Campbell said.
“The Government investment in primary PE and sport announced last year can make a significant difference in schools if spent wisely,” she said. “I firmly believe that head teachers should focus this money on up skilling their teaching workforce to ensure sustainable improvements in PE can be made.”
However, it was “important it is to engender a love of sport in children from an early age,” according to Children’s Minister Edward Timpson.
“That’s why this government is giving more than £150m per year to primary schools to spend on improving sport and PE, and trusting head teachers to spend it on what they think will benefit their pupils most,” he said.