Do you have kids just starting school, moving to a different key stage or heading off to secondary school for the first time? If so, do you know how much exercise they will get during their school day?
This is just one of the questions amongst many others you will have regarding your child's time at school, but is a very important one to consider.
An increasing number of parents are concerned about their children's activity levels or are aware of a health risk relating to their lack of exercise. For that reason, you may wonder how active your kids really are once you send them off for their first day of school.
What are the guidelines for children's school exercise?
According to the NHS, children between the ages of 5 and 18 years old should get a minimum of 60 minutes daily exercise. This includes a mix of moderate and vigorous activities throughout different days of the week.
Under a new strategy to decrease the number of child obesity cases in the UK, the Government now states that primary schools should deliver at least 30 minutes of activity for pupils every day. This should include active break times, physical education (PE) lessons and other active lessons.
Whilst at school the guidelines for play and PE are currently set at this rate, the Department for Education are promising to double the amount of funding for PE and sport in schools by the end of this year.
However, some children aren't always sent to play outside - and can stay inside if they wish. Even though schools are sticking to their guidelines by offering this activity, your child may opt-out of such exercises. Because of this, there's a possibility that your child may not be anywhere near the minimum activity level for their age.
As these school guidelines still don't meet the 60-minute daily requirements set by the NHS, parents still have responsibility to ensure that their children are getting the right amount of exercise.
Checking your child's exercise timetable
In order to provide your child with a varying exercise routine, you should find out what activity timetable that your school offers. Looking to see how playtime and PE lessons fit into your child's day and weekly activities will help you to prevent repeating specific activities at home. For example, if your child's school conducts a football-related activity in their weekly PE lesson, it may be a good idea to focus on other muscle-strengthening activities to vary their exercise regime. Some examples of this including swinging on playground bars, gymnastic lessons or skipping.
You can ask your child's teacher for a breakdown on their activity levels, along with the way in which they are ensuring that your child remains active at school.
If the outcome of this concludes that your child isn't offered access to regular activities, you can consider how to build this into their day outside of the school gates.
Is walking, scooting or riding a bike to school an option? Does your school offer any activity clubs at lunchtime? Is there an after-school club for ballet, gymnastics or football? Can you start a routine at home which means that kids are not just sat watching TV or playing on tablets once they are home from school? It is a good idea to get into good habits now sooner than later!
By thinking outside of the box and looking into any extra-curricular activities that your child's educational facility offers, you can use the school's facilities to fulfil your responsibility to ensure that they exercise daily.
Usually, younger children are happier to get involved in activities than their older siblings. Whether it's because they find play more stimulating or have more energy to burn off, your child's school should be catering to the exercise needs of younger pupils.
Think about the facilities that you see when visiting their school. If there's a playground, ask your child's teacher if (and when) they have access to this throughout the school day.
You may also want to think about the equipment that is available to your child when they have the opportunity to play. Fixed climbing frames, balls and skipping ropes are just a handful of activity items that may be available, so encourage your child to use this equipment to keep active at school.
Many schools offer older children a choice of how they spend their play time. For this reason, you may want to look into the number of PE lessons that they have per week, as well as the activities that are completed within the sessions - and whether or not these vary on a weekly or term basis.
Can older children choose certain sports in addition to the standard PE lessons? Certain extra-curricular activities can help your older children to handpick the activities they enjoy the most, increasing the chances of them trying harder to be more active.
The effects of exercise on children's education
How active a child is will have a big impact on their overall general wellbeing and their ability to learn at school. Exercise has been proven to keep children healthy by stimulating brain growth and boost cognitive performance - both of which can improve their academic performance.
Exercising also enhances children's concentration and attention, further improving class behaviour.
For this reason, we recommend that if you don't already know, find out how active your kids will be at school and what activities they will take part in. Check to see if - and when - they still need to be active at home in order to ensure that they're meeting the minimum requirements and having the best chance of success in their education. Try to find things that they enjoy so that they can get active whilst having fun!
Good luck with the new school year!