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Exercise is the best medicine

I had a very unique experience on Friday last week. For the very first time I found myself reading the ‘New Scientist’ magazine. Other than delivering them on my paper round in mid- 90’s, this is not a publication that normally comes into my orbit. The headline on the front cover grabbed my attention so I bought it to find out more: “how much exercise do we really need?”

This is a question that I have often wondered about. I won’t go into details of the article but I’m afraid it’s more than the 10,000 steps that those of us with Fitbits aim for! The answer to the question wasn’t the biggest take away from the article, it was the reminder of how important exercise actually is. The article gives lots of evidence and examples, including; benefits to major organs, blood vessels and our brain, which in turn, decreases our likelihood of illness from heart disease, mental illness, cancer, and diabetes…… The list goes on. It even wards off the onset of dementia. It was summed up well by the following quote;


“exercise helps prevent many of the diseases that haunt the developed world”.


The bad news is that it recommends more daily exercise than most of us can physically manage in our busy lives, but the good news is that “a little of this medicine (exercise) is still far better than none. Studies consistently show that even modest amounts of exercise confer huge health benefits compared with a slothful existence”. Our drive is to get all young people active for 60 minutes a day. We know this is crucial. We know life habits are set at a young age so we owe it to the young people in our schools to give them an active and healthy start to life. Nothing is more important than this. It is literally the difference between life and death.

PE, school sport and health have been continually in the news recently. It appears the world is taken notice of the health crisis we have on our hands. The good news is we also have the cure; to move more!

I am really pleased that Ofsted have forged ahead with their plans to reform their framework for schools. Less focus on testing can only be a good thing for the mental and physical health of our young people and the staff in our schools. The focus on “personal development” and a return to a “broad balanced curriculum” will hopefully turn the lens on the young person’s journey in school and not just the results of the tests at the end of the journey. Anyone who has been involved in PE knows the power it can have on young people with benefits going far beyond the physical. PE and sport can develop vital life skills that will lead them to success in their future lives (24 life skills according to the CBI).

We have been working closely with the Youth Sport Trust to launch an initiative called ‘My Personal Best’ which uses PE and sport as the vehicle to develop and harness the life skills that our young people need to be a success. This has been really well received by our primary schools and I am really looking forward to seeing the positive impact this is going to have on our young people in the next few months and beyond. The YST are also very interested in continuing to work with us on My PB as they appreciate the impact we can have if this is embraced across the partnership.

Some of the news nationally has been less positive. The revelation that young people have less ‘play time’ in schools than prison inmates, made for a startling headline, but the detail behind it is concerning. 80% of teachers have indicated that there has been a decrease in mental health of students in the past 2 years alone. The petition to move PE to be a core subject placed alongside English, Maths and Science has been rejected, despite a huge swell of support. These are challenges we must overcome.

There is no doubt that this is a difficult time for schools; budgets being squeezed within a climate of increasing demands mean that leadership and decision making become more difficult. Sadly, sometimes it’s the young people that lose out. I have been dismayed to hear that PE curriculum time cuts have been planned in a couple of our partnership secondary schools. One school planning to decrease time at Key Stage 3 is in my view, scandalous. I will be doing all I can to continue to put the health and happiness of young people at the forefront of the minds of decision makers in schools. Reflecting on the points raised earlier, surely nothing is more important that the lifelong health of the students in our care?

Despite some challenges this is an exciting time for the partnership. The announcement from the DFE of extended ‘doubled’ funding for Sports Premium is great news for our primary schools. We have School Sport Week this week with lots happening across schools in the partnership, giving us the opportunity to showcase all that is good in our schools. Looking further ahead I am excited to share with colleagues some of the plans we have for next year.

We have grown our partnership with the local council, who are keen to support families and young people to be more active.We have developed a partnership with our local FA PE unit and Oxford United, which is going to help to support curriculum PE delivery next year.We are hoping to have an exciting announcement about girls’ football in the coming weeks, hopefully this will coincide with the success of the Lionesses in the World Cup.

These just some of many ways in which we are hoping to increase the effectiveness of our great partnership.

It always amazes me where inspiration may come from. This time last week the New Scientist wouldn’t have been where I expected it to appear. But, it has reconfirmed to me the importance of what we do. So, let’s make sure our young people are more active, lets lead by example by being more active ourselves, and let’s continue to promote the power of sport in our schools. It really is a matter of life and death.

Be active, be healthy, be happy.


North Oxfordshire School Sport Partnership
Blessed George Napier Sports College


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