Premier Education Group (consisting of Premier Sport, Premier Performing Arts and The Golden Mile) played a prominent role at the report launch sponsoring the event. In addition our ambassador and former Olympian, Duncan Goodhew MBE provided his thoughts on a panel discussing which explored actions that could be taken to increase activity levels amongst today’s youth.
Following the event and the report launch, Premier Education Group’s Chief Executive, David Batch said: “Measuring children's fitness levels is actually very easy and lots of fun for the children. We are still delivering a pilot scheme along with ukactive and Greenwich University which has received 100% support and enjoyment from all participating children and parents.
This gives very tangible evidence into how fit the children are and is delivering crucial information for Head Teachers and parents to consider interventions.
I am sure we will help many children around the country in the near future as this opportunity becomes more readily available.”
The event was the first time that Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson had spoken in her new role as Chair of the ukactive board. She spoke about her desire to ‘turn rhetoric into action’ on this crucial issue and called on all stakeholders to play their part in getting Britain’s children moving again.
The Generation Inactive report calls for routine testing of children’s fitness, revealed that less than half of primary schools are recording time spent being physically active. Within the report, ukactive calls for primary schools to test pupils’ fitness in the same way as subjects like Maths and English to stem the tide of physical inactivity threatening to overwhelm the NHS.
The report, which has received backing from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, highlights how ever-rising rates of physical inactivity in children could lead to ‘generation inactive’ becoming a huge drain on the NHS in years to come as they develop chronic conditions associated with inactivity ranging from diabetes to cancers.
A series of worrying statistics set out in the report highlight the scale of the problem and the impact it is already having:
- Only half of seven year olds are meeting the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day.
- Inactivity directly and indirectly costs the UK economy £20 bn a year. NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has stated that an extra £8billion a year is required by 2020 to maintain health services – on top of £22bn of efficiency savings.
- An inactive person spends 37 per cent more days in hospital and visits the doctor 5.5 per cent more often than an active individual.
- Inactive people are also significantly more likely to suffer from depression, and dementia than physically active adults.
- The report describes the physical inactivity pandemic as “a ticking time bomb under the shared pledges of all political parties to maintain a NHS free at the point of need”.
ukactive outlines a series of recommendations providing a pathway towards solving the physical inactivity pandemic in schools – where good and bad exercise habits learned at a young age can carry on into later life.
They include integrating physical activity throughout the school day to ensure children achieve the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended by CMOs. Better measurement of physical fitness and health needs to be done in a fun, inclusive and age-appropriate way. The report highlights examples of where this is already being done successfully.
The call for fitness testing comes following NHS England boss Mr Stevens’ appeal for a national debate around the role of parents, schools and the food industry in tackling obesity. Failing to take action could “bankrupt the NHS”, Mr Stevens has warned.
Previous research by ukactive has shown that physical inactivity is responsible for more deaths than obesity or even smoking in England, and is estimated to cost public services and the wider economy around £20bn per year.
Currently, schools in England aim to provide two hours of high quality PE or sport per week for pupils aged 5-16, but many still fail to achieve even that. While the Government has committed an additional £150 million per year towards PE and Sport via the PE & Sport Premium, there is little clarity on how the impact of this investment will be measured or assessed.
Key recommendations in the Generation Inactive report include:
- The government should extend the National Child measurement programme to measure fitness in addition to the current measurement of Body Mass Index based on height and weight – as BMI alone gives little indication of a child’s physical fitness.
- To address the core issue of inactivity, the primary ‘PE & Sport Premium’ should be rebranded as the primary ‘Physical Activity and PE Premium’.
- Government should ensure that the competency to deliver an effective physical education curriculum is built in to teacher training alongside Maths, English and Science.
- The forthcoming Childcare Bill, which guarantees 30 hours’ free childcare per week for children aged 3-4, should include a statutory requirement for a dedicated allocation of time for play, physical activity and cultivating physical literacy skills.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, ukactive’s Chair and Britain’s most decorated Paralympian, said:
“The current national ambition focused solely around PE lessons is simply not bold enough. We should aim higher and demand more.
“The focus should be on ensuring that children are given all the necessary support possible in order to achieve the 60 minutes of daily activity recommended in the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines.
“This does not mean we wish to see 60 minutes of timetabled PE per day. Instead, we are calling for a focus on a ‘whole school approach’. This means looking at how children travel to and from school, the manner in which they integrate activity as simple as standing in lessons, the development of more effective and structured use of play time opportunities and the provision of pre- and post school activities.
“Schools which have adopted such an approach have had outstanding success in enhancing the health and wellbeing of their students as well as their educational attainment.”
Former Children’s Commissioner for England Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said “Whether walking, cycling or being active in and out of PE lessons, providing children with opportunities to be active throughout the day, before, during and after school, is key to engaging even the most disengaged children.”