Tackling the lack of activity in lockdown

As more pupils return to school in September, teachers across the country are increasingly concerned about how they will tackle the issues many children are experiencing as a result of spending many weeks away from school due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The impact on learning has been widely reported and a recent YouGov poll revealed that 70% of teachers are concerned that their pupils’ education has been harmed. But there will be other impacts too.

According to Sport England, as many as 44 per cent of the nation’s children did less than half an hour of daily activity during the coronavirus lockdown, and one in ten children getting no physical activity at all.  For this reason, many schools will need to prioritise the physical health of children as well as addressing any attainment gap.

Jumping jack maths

Colmore Junior School in Birmingham is one school that is targeting inactivity by giving children the chance to be physically active in maths lessons. The school uses Teach Active, a website that provides teachers with lesson plans for teaching primary maths and English lessons through a range of physical activities linked to the national curriculum. 

So, rather than learning how to tell the time by looking at pictures of clocks on a page or screen, pupils get out into the playground, become the numbers on the clock themselves and use skipping ropes as hands to learn the different times.

Instead of sitting at desks doing sums children become decimals and fractions and get to dance around the room until the music stops then pair up with their relevant numerical partner – so the child who is ½ seeks out the child who is 0.5.

Emma Marshall, specialist subject lead for PE at Colmore Junior School, believes that children’s concentration and energy levels will not be what they were prior to lockdown. “Schools need to help build this up again at the start of term. By introducing more physical activity, such as scavenger hunts to find solutions to a range of maths problems hidden around the school, we have found that children enjoy the activities far more, whilst still learning.”

Improving mental health

The school has noticed that being more active is helping mental well-being as well as many of the activities require children to work together in teams. “The activities will help them reconnect with friends and adjust to socialising in school once again, following what for some has been an intense period of isolation,” she continues.

Steve Tindall, headteacher at Holy Family Catholic School in Addlestone, Surrey is also a firm believer in active learning to help improve mental wellbeing. “Active learning changes the psychology of learning as children forget that it’s maths or English. They are just learning while they run round having fun with their friends.”

The impact on children’s enjoyment of the subject is palpable too. “Maths used to be our pupils’ ninth favourite subject, but since we introduced active learning in lessons, it had risen up the ranks to take third place after art and PE. We’re delighted about that.”

Luckily education secretary, Gavin Williamson recently recognised the importance of keeping active and its benefits to both physical and mental health, offering a guaranteed £320 million of funding for primary school PE. It looks like active learning is here to stay.

Useful links: www.teachactive.org