The Department for Education (DfE) has strongly recommended that physical education be a central part of the curriculum on the return to school next week. Across the UK, one in three children is doing less than 30 minutes of exercise per day due to a combination of lockdowns and self-isolation.
The switch to digital learning has not only revealed vast inequalities but the lack of social interaction with peers has had a huge impact on children’s emotional wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation has reviewed schooling in Europe and found that regular physical activity is essential for improving motor, cognitive and social skills in children.
Self-directed play is a key area, that children have missed out on due to successive lockdowns and darker nights over the winter period.
Much of the development that happens during peer-to-peer contact through outdoor and indoor play has been neglected in the past year.
The strong connection between academic success and regular physical activity should make the target for teachers to create a learning environment that includes both.
This transition can and should be supported by local community sport and the activities industry for maximum impact. Information as to how the logistics of keeping up with activities will be released to help keep teaching staff and children safe.
The Department has also discouraged using the language of the ‘catch-up’ narrative for students to reduce any unnecessary pressure on children.
The risk is that this language will promote anxiety when easing back into a routine and sustaining concentration should be the initial focus.
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