WITH a sunny start to April and the longer days ahead, you might begin to see the streets and green spaces of Scotland filled with children and wonder: is it not always so? Sadly, like the rose-tinted memories of endless childhood summers, it isn’t. But it could be.

While Scotland’s children and their families have been taking full advantage of the weather and time off school to go outside and play, it is, in truth, far from the common state of affairs. Children are not playing outside enough and it is a serious problem.

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular problems, and mental health issues are all linked to inactivity and are on the rise. Instances of bone fractures and osteoporosis are also increasing, caused by a lack of physical activity and poor motor skills. Our children are sitting inside too much and not running and playing outside enough, and the ill-effects of this will be with them long into adulthood.

In a 2016 study of 38 countries, the Active Healthy Kids Report Card, Scotland scored an F for levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour – joint last place. Yet we scored high marks – joint second place – for both physical activity policy and facilities.

Public investment has been made into the play sector but we are not yet at tipping point. The problem lies with us as adults. It is up to us to unplug the computer, take away the tablet or smartphone, open the back door and put our wellies on. It is easier not to, of course. It is less demanding of our time, effort and energy to settle for sitting on the couch with a screen but it is damaging our children.

The benefits for children of playing, and playing outside, are enormous. Research, from Scotland and elsewhere, shows playing physically active games increases children’s health and fitness and teaches them the basic physical skills they need throughout their lives. Studies also link active playing, and the interaction that comes with it, with the development of social skills and emotional resilience. Children learn to problem-solve and risk-assess through play and being physically active develops cognitive ability and is linked to academic achievement.

And all of this comes perfectly naturally to children; play is physical activity, and personal development, by stealth. But we still keep our children indoors.

If we believe in a better future for our children, we need to make playing outdoors a fundamental part of growing up. Why don’t we take down No Ball Games signs and make outdoor spaces in our communities safe, child-friendly places where play is encouraged? Why should we make playing outside weather-dependent when puddles are fun and snow is magical? Why don’t we make playgrounds accessible outside of school hours to act as community spaces?

We need to start early and make outdoor play something children do every single day and not the preserve of school holidays or a lucky few kids. Playing doesn’t need expensive equipment or facilities, just space – a street corner, a park, a garden or a woodland. And all children want to play. All we need to do is learn to let them.

Article taken from The Herald – 18th April 2017.

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Primary schools can help spearhead a national drive to improve family fitness by signing up to a pioneering new health and wellbeing program for pupils and their parents.

Premier Transition – an initiative from leading children’s coaching company Premier Sport – gives parents the chance to attend fitness classes at their child’s school straight after dropping them off, or just before picking them up.

Participating schools are also given a 6-12 week program to educate pupils on the importance of active, healthy lifestyles – a key part of the national curriculum’s focus on wellbeing.

Olympic gold medallist and mother-of-three, Sally Gunnell OBE, says the scheme – thought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the UK – is a great example of how primary schools can work with parents to improve outcomes for the whole family, not just their children.

“The great thing about Premier Transition is that it removes some of the key barriers we know parents struggle with when it comes to family fitness,” she says.

“Not only do the classes provide parents with low-cost access to fitness facilities at a time when they would to be heading to school anyway, they also give them tips and advice on nutrition so they can help their families get fitter and healthier too.”

Gunnell was speaking as Premier Sport published research showing that UK children are missing out on the best possible start in life because their parents don’t have the time, money or knowledge to help them lead a healthier lifestyle.

Two thirds of parents polled by the company said they didn’t know enough to educate their children on healthy living, while 37% blamed lack of time and 30% cited the cost of healthy food and gym facilities as a barrier.

The survey also found that despite just 16% of children leading the healthiest lifestyle in their household, less than half of parents said they would be encouraging their children to get fitter over the next 12 months.

Gunnell says families need more support to get active if future generations are to thrive.

She said: “These are truly worrying statistics. Parents lead very busy lives but we are facing a child obesity epidemic in this country, so it’s vital we do all we can to give our kids the best start in life.

“A positive approach to healthy living starts in the home, but schools that sign up to Premier Transition will be demonstrating their commitment to supporting parents and ensuring a joined up approach to family wellbeing.”

The program, which is open to early years support and nurseries as well as primary schools, includes an option for in-school health and wellbeing classes for teachers, should enough staff show an interest.

Research from Premier Sport last year found that just 10% of UK youngsters are doing physical activity every day at school, while only 25% are managing an hour or more’s exercise a day.

The Children’s Inactivity study also found that 85% of parents think their children would benefit from more education around fitness in school, while 60% are worried about childhood obesity levels.

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The largest smartphone-based study examining the relationship between physical activity and happiness has found that even minimal levels of activity can have a positive effect on happiness.

A new study, based on reports from more than 10,000 individuals, has found that physical activity, whether or not it is classified as exercise, can have a positive effect on emotional well-being.

The results, by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Essex, are reported in the journal PLOS ONE, and demonstrate how smartphones can be used to collect large-scale data to examine psychological, behavioural and health-related phenomena as they occur in everyday life.

Using data gathered from users of a mood tracking app for Android phones, the researchers found that modest levels of physical activity – even if it couldn’t be classified as exercise – can increase a person’s reported emotional well-being, regardless of their baseline level of happiness. They also found that people reported being happier when they were physically active.

Earlier studies in this area have focused on the relationship between exercise and happiness, with mixed results. Some studies have found that happier people report exercising more, while others have found no relationship between happiness and exercise. Much of this past research has relied solely on retrospective self-reports, on data collected at only one time period, and on small samples.

For the new study, data on physical activity was passively gathered from smartphone accelerometers, and participants were also sent a short survey at two random intervals throughout the day which asked questions about their emotional state. Users reported their emotional state on a grid, based on how positive or negative, and how energetic or sleepy, they were feeling. Users were also asked a handful of questions about how their mood compared to normal.

The activity data was then averaged over the course of the day, so while the researchers could not pinpoint what participants were doing at any given time, they found that participants who had higher levels of activity throughout the day reported a more positive emotional state.

“Our data show that happy people are more active in general,” said the paper’s senior author Dr Jason Rentfrow, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. “However, our analyses also indicated that periods of physical activity led to increased positive mood, regardless of individuals’ baseline happiness. There have been many studies about the positive psychological effects of exercise, but what we’ve found is that in order to be happier, you don’t have to go out and run a marathon – all you’ve really got to do is periodically engage in slight physical activity throughout the day.”

“Most of us don’t keep track of all of our movements during the day,” said study co-author Dr Gillian Sandstrom from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. “A person might track whether they went for a walk or went to the gym, but when asked, most of them probably wouldn’t remember walking from the desk to the photocopier, or from the car to the office door.”

“This study shows how mobile and wearable technology really can allow social psychologists to perform large longitudinal studies as well as open a direct and permanent connection with the users for advice and intervention,” said study co-author Professor Cecilia Mascolo from Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory.

The research was supported by the UK Engineering and Physical Research Council’s UBhave (Ubiquitous and Social Computing for Positive Behaviour Change) project.

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British children some of the least active in the world, new report claims.

England and Wales score a ‘D minus’ when it comes to overall physical activity but Scotland is at the joint bottom of the table with an ‘F’.

British children are among the least active in the world, an international study has warned.

Research comparing the activity levels of children in 38 countries across the world put England, Wales and Scotland behind countries like Ireland, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates.

England and Wales were given a “D minus” rating in the survey which was presented to the International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health in Toronto, Canada while Scotland received an “F”, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Although the UK government recommends children should do at least an hour of moderate intensity physical activity just 15 per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys aged 11 to 15 in England managed this.

The report showed the situation had declined since a similar survey was published two years ago despite a pledge by the Government to tackle child obesity.

In 2014, England was given an overall grade of C-D in the first “Global Matrix of Grades” examining fitness which used nine different measures to rank activity levels and government strategies, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Of these nine measures, four had got worse while the rest had stayed the same.

Meanwhile north of the border Scotland retained its place at the join bottom of the table with countries such as China, Qatar and Chile as researchers found it had the highest levels of sedentary behaviour and lowest levels of overall physical activity.

Wales was not included in the 2014 but scored the same as England among 11-15 years according to the new research.

In Slovenia, which scored most As and Bs across all nine categories, researchers found that 80 per cent of boys and 70 per cent of girls aged between six and 18 took part in some form of physical activity every day.

The research comes just months after Theresa May’s ministers secretly abandoned a plan to stop 800,000 children becoming obese in the next 10 years.

In a watered down childhood obesity strategy published in August, the Government only pledged to have “fewer” obese children by 2026.

It also abandoned proposals to restrict advertising and promotional deals on junk food and abandoned the sugar tax announced in former Chancellor George Osborne’s final Budget in March.

Instead, it proposed a “voluntary” system where food companies would be asked to reduce the amount of sugar in their products by 20 per cent.

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new approach to physical education (PE), based on physical literacy and “fun fitness”, could transform school sport and help all children embrace physical activity – according to its creators.

Developed jointly by health club operator Virgin Active and the University of Bedfordshire, the Playmakers programme is the result of a one-year pilot initiative involving 30 primary schools and 7,500 pupils across the UK.

Rather than focusing on traditional aspects of PE – which emphasise winning, losing and sporting prowess – the Playmakers pilot used teaching methods which encouraged pupils to “harness their imagination” and focused on teaching children fundamental movement skills.

The Playmakers sessions included getting children to design their own activities, such as dances based on animal movements and adventure circuits where they tackle obstacles while in character.

The results showed that the Playmakers approach was more effective in getting children active than traditional PE.

Robert Cook, Virgin Active’s UK managing director, said: “The results of our programme show what is possible when teachers are given the tools to facilitate new ways of teaching PE.

“Harnessing the imagination of kids and getting them moving is something we do in our clubs every day.

“By applying this in the school environment and transforming PE lessons into fun and entertaining games, we can ensure future generations love being active and help turn the tide against rising levels of obesity.”

The findings come at a time when more than a third (39 per cent) of children dislike being physically active when they leave primary school.

Meanwhile, the government is calling for schools to devote more time than ever to physical activity, as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan. In the 2017-18 academic year, primary schools will be required to deliver 30 minutes of exercise within the school day.

Dr Helen Ives, senior lecturer and course coordinator sport and PE at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “This has been a great initiative to be involved in with Virgin Active.

“We have been able to put together a programme that not only ensures teachers will have the tools necessary to teach PE but hopefully will also help primary age students develop a love of physical activity which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

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A £1.4 million programme to create a step change in tackling obesity in nursery school children has been launched.

The scheme – funded by NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Hastings and Rother CCG and East Sussex County Council Public Health – is offering £5,000 grants to each of the area’s 158 nursery schools.

It is being delivered in partnership with East Sussex County Council Public Health as part of the joint East Sussex Better Together programme. The investment complements a similar initiative launched by the county council earlier this year, aimed at schools and colleges.

The grants will pay for a range of activities aimed at increasing physical activity and promoting healthy eating, both in nursery schools and at home.

Dr David Warden, chair of NHS Hastings and Rother CCG and Dr Martin Writer, chair of NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG, said: “By targeting obesity in children aged 2-5 years, we are aiming to create a positive step change in the health of local children.

“Sadly one in five children in East Sussex area are overweight or obese by the time they reach school age. These children are at risk of poor health including diabetes, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. And of course the risks increase as overweight children grow up to be overweight adults.”

Cynthia Lyons, acting director of public health for East Sussex, said: “We are aiming to transform outcomes for children. This investment scales up our existing programme to tackle obesity and will ensure a welcome focus on pre-school aged children. Our vision is to support nurseries to deliver best practice in physical activity and nutrition and give parents the knowledge and skills to do the same at home.”

The funding will support nurseries to help children achieve the recommended levels of physical activity, train staff to promote health and wellbeing in children and provide healthy snacks and drinks the nursery. There will be a range of support available to parents to encourage healthy diets and exercise.

The scheme was launched on Friday 22 July at Rainbow Childcare Centre in Ninfield Road, Bexhill. Rainbow is a local pilot nursery for HALO (Healthy Alternative for Little Ones) – a curriculum that promotes health and wellbeing in young children.

Rainbow childcare centre manager Jo Unsworth said: “We believe it’s never too young for children to be aware about the importance of exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. It’s already a big part of what we do at Rainbow and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to apply for this additional funding and support.”

Cllr Nick Bennett, East Sussex County Council lead member for education and inclusion, said: “I was delighted to be able to attend the launch of a scheme which sees colleagues from the NHS and the county council working together to deliver real benefits to children and which will help to give them a good start in life and a healthy future.”

Nurseries will be invited to apply for grants this summer, with the scheme launching at the start of the autumn term in September 2016.

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SPECIAL OFFER – 10% DISCOUNT ON ALL MINI MUGA COURTS – For installation between Nov 2016 – May 2017.

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PlayQuest is now on Instagram.

Follow us – @playquestadventureplayltd

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Schools that are using a wide range of activities to help broaden children’s learning experiences and boost character can now receive a share of £6 million to boost that work and share it with others, Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson announced.

This year’s character grants – a scheme that began in 2015 to fund schools and organisations promoting traits such as resilience and respect – are aimed at schools that use activities such as sports, debating or music to provide a rounded learning experience for children. From today, schools, colleges and organisations can apply for a share of the £6 million fund.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

”Instilling positive character traits and academic excellence are 2 sides of the same coin – children that develop resilience are far more likely to succeed, not only in school but in later life, too.”

”Whether it’s fencing classes, debating clubs or drama societies, I want schools across the country to seize the opportunity to help their pupils thrive by broadening the range of activity that they offer.”

This year’s grants also include up to £2 million earmarked for projects with a military ethos, following the success of initiatives like Commando Joe’s and Challenger Troop, which use the expertise of former armed services personnel to instil resilience in children.

Further information

Who can apply for character awards grants:

Applications are open to:

  • schools
  • colleges
  • universities
  • local authorities
  • voluntary, community or social enterprise (VCSE) organisations or other profit or non-profit organisations

Proposals must be provided on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis and must be designed to work within or in partnership with school(s) and/or college(s) in England.

What they are looking for:

They want to fund a diversity of approaches that will achieve the following outcomes:

  • increasing the number of children aged 5 to 16 involved in activities and environments that promote character education
  • developing key character traits, attributes and behaviours in children aged 5 to 16 that:
    • support academic attainment
    • are valued by employers
    • enable children to make a positive contribution to British society

They expect all projects to be able to demonstrate that they:

  • could in future be adopted or adapted by a school or schools that wish to increase the range of high-quality activity that they offer
  • involve joint or consortium working, with involvement of several schools. They expect all projects will involve at least one school rated good or outstanding by Ofsted in the design and delivery of their project
  • are sufficiently replicable and scalable to be rolled out across a very large number of schools nationally

Grant level

Up to £6 million is available to grant-fund projects in the 2016 to 2017 financial year. As part of this, they have allocated up to £2 million to fund projects that have a military ethos approach to develop character. There is no pre-determined level of grant award, but, as a guide, grant awards are expected to be in the region of £50,000 to £750,000.

How to apply for funding

Organisations have until 23 June to submit a proposal for grant funding. Grants are expected to be awarded by the end of September.

For a full specification, application form and further guidance go to Contracts Finder: character education grants.

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