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Exercise at school supercharges children's recovery from lockdown

Children at UK schools which have adopted Active Recovery Curriculums feel fitter and stronger than their peers – both physically and mentally – and also do better academically.

Active Recovery Curriculums – which prioritise physical activity and time outdoors for children while at school – have been designed to supercharge recovery speed and outcomes following the national lockdowns associated with COVID-19.

A pilot initiative involving ten schools has been led by The Youth Sport Trust, which commissioned The Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research at Canterbury Christchurch University (SPEAR) to research the new curriculums.

The results of the pilot are promising, with evidence of Active Recovery Curriculums positively impacting not only pupils’ physical fitness but also their academic progress and mental stamina.

In total, 470 young people were surveyed as part of the research.

Three-quarters (74 per cent) of pupils said being active at school helps them learn, while 71 per cent increased their physical activity levels.

There was a link to improved learning too, as 75 per cent of teachers reported improvements in academic progress – and 86 per cent of teachers felt children’s mental wellbeing had improved.

Sian Hall, headteacher at St Breock Primary School in Cornwall – one of the schools that have adopted an Active Recovery Curriculum – said: "When children returned to school in March, their stamina for schoolwork had significantly reduced and their physical fitness had also declined.

"After introducing the new curriculum, we saw increased engagement, stamina, progress and a more resilient attitude towards their learning.

"The introduction of simple active strategies had a huge impact on our positive return to school, and I would highly encourage other schools to look at how they could increase activity throughout the day."

Alison Oliver, CEO of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “Teachers have been working tirelessly to support young people’s recovery following the huge disruption of the past 18 months.

"We hope these findings inspire more schools to embrace the contribution exercise and activity can make in helping young people to reconnect, rebuild their confidence and learn.

"This research shows the positive impact an active curriculum can have in helping young people recover from the consequences of the pandemic and also supporting them in more settled times. We believe exercise, sport, activity and PE should be core to the education and development of all young people, not just in a moment of crisis but for the long-term.”


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