Generic Playground Markings

Can I ask a question? As a member of school staff, what would a ‘good’ playtime look like to you? Your answer may well depend on your role, the sort of day you are having and, more importantly, the cycle of the moon and the weather!

For me, a good playtime was one where I actually managed to get a slurp of cold coffee and wee before the next lesson started again. If I had been out on duty, it was one where I only had to stop two arguments and had not tripped up over yet another 4 year old under my feet – but usually the wee and coffee would have to wait.

Playtimes and lunchtimes are often the one thing in school that are not really thought about and planned for by the staff. Everyone needs a break and to get out of the classroom to let off some steam. This is great but if we are not careful can result in bored children, rough play and accidents. How many times have you been called to patch someone up or sort out that Avengers game that resulted in a thump to the face?

Playground markings are a school’s way of providing long lasting, easily accessible activities for children in their playtimes. Almost every school I have been in to has a hopscotch, number square and alphabet jump somewhere on site. They may even have a world map and compass. These look great and are useful in lessons where an adult uses it with them but honestly, how is a 6 year old going to ‘play’ and have fun with a map without adult support? They aren’t. So why has the school just spent over £1000 on it for the children to use at playtimes to keep them out of trouble?

An Inspired Playground with Active Markings might be the answer. The Active Stations can be placed wherever you want. They fill the space available and look great. Each Active Station is self-explanatory and big enough for a large group of children to use- independently! The markings encourage physical activity, so the children are up and moving. After 15 minutes their endorphins are flowing and the children return to the classroom buzzing and happy to work. 

With all this happy, purposeful play the number of accidents decreases and there are fewer ‘incidents’ to deal with. This means that the adults on duty have a better experience which is always a plus.

One day, there may even be a playtime when a child is not sent to the staffroom for the icepack or to see the Head because Captain America has floored Spiderman (again)- we can dream can’t we?! 



Inspired Playgrounds v's Trim Trails

Ok, it’s 8 o’clock and you are eventually sitting down in this glorious sunshine to enjoy a glass of something cold and reflect on the long day and success of yet another Summer Fayre. Your PTA, fellow staff members, parents and pupils have worked hard for weeks to organise the event and the fundraising bank balance is looking healthy.

Now, here comes the hard part- what are you going to spend it on? All of you would say something worthwhile, that would benefit children across the whole school but that teachers and other members of staff would get some benefit out of too. A hot tub and bar for the staffroom doesn’t quite meet these needs so back to drawing board!

When I was a deputy head I had this conversation with the staff time and time again. In the end we bought play equipment. A trim trail, large four sided climbing frame and balance bars were installed around the edge of the field (I know, we had a very hard working and generous PTA over the years!) Then the fun began.

Play equipment needs be checked properly every week and given a visual check daily. The equipment needs to be serviced annually and maintained. This is costly where could we get this money from?

As the person responsible for Health and Safety across the school I was also aware that large items of play equipment like that needed to be risk assessed before the children could use them. It was judged that a member of staff should be next to the larger climbing wall at all times whilst it was being used. This meant that it could not be used at playtimes as there were not enough staff on duty. Lunchtimes were ok but if there was an injury and staff had to leave the playground we were then short staffed again. Did we take children off the equipment? Did we accept the risk if we didn’t? Would we be liable if there was an accident? What about use after school? Were we responsible for the children or were their parents?

The field under the equipment became a mud pit within the first week of use! Safety matting was needed but this became boggy and slippy and the equipment was out of bounds for much of the Winter term. Climbing frame and trim trail is not much fun if you are not allowed to use it!

On top of all these things we then had the reality of its use day in and day out. Play equipment is very, very appealing to children. Let’s be honest, it’s fun! Kids love climbing, challenging themselves and exploring what they can do. These are all skills we want to develop in our pupils and one of the reasons we choose play equipment in the first place. What isn’t fun is queuing up for half of your playtime to have a go. It isn’t fun having to wait and learn how to turn take and negotiate when someone else pushes in. It isn’t much fun for the teacher on duty either when you have to sort out yet another ‘issue’!

What about inclusion? Are all your pupils able to use the equipment? Are the physically more confident and able allowing others to have their turn?

In conclusion, large play equipment will certainly help the children to be physically active and teach them patience and resilience but are there better ways for these skills to be developed?

An Inspired Playground may well be the solution. It is certainly something that I wish we knew about before spending several thousand pounds on the climbing frame which became almost a daily nightmare for me! Inspired Playground markings last for years and are maintenance free- once they are down, they are down. The activity stations are bright and appealing and will keep pupils occupied and challenged for hours. The training we provide with each installation helps to develop leadership skills in your school and guides the pupil’s use of the playground but it also encourages the children to be creative and to find new ways of moving. Turn taking is developed as are skills of negotiation, problem solving and healthy competition. Cross curricular links are made with the use of an online App to record activity. Children are active and occupied at breaktimes without hours of waiting for their turn or not being allowed to use it. As long as the children are outside they can use the playground markings.

Seems like no contest for me and an Inspired Playground is certainly something that I am sad I missed out on in my teaching carreer. Now, where’s that time machine to go back 2 years and suggest this instead?!

Wonderful article from Cathy Ward, former Deputy Head and now delighted to say that she has joined the Inspired Playground's Team.

1.4 years out 7 years at Primary School spent at playtimes

Play England's research states that children spend 1.4 years of their primary school attendance in playtime. This time is valuable and needs coherent planning. Changes in culture and society have led to 'play poverty' in childhood which has numerous negative impacts. Better play means happier children. Happier children mean fewer behaviour problems, a more positive attitude to school, more effective lessons, core skills development, less staff time spent resolving unnecessary problems, fewer accidents and happier staff. Play England drew up The Charter for Children’s Play which sets out a vision for play and states that:

- Children need time and space to play at school

- Adults should let children play

- Children value and benefit from staffed play provision

- Children’s play is enriched by skilled playworkers

- Children sometimes need extra support to enjoy their right to play

Play is recognised for the important contribution it makes to education and lifelong learning, a finding confirmed by many studies of early childhood. Research shows that play can enhance problem solving; it is also widely regarded as providing opportunities for social interaction and language development. The contribution of play to educational development is suggested through the inherent value of different play types, e.g. through risk taking and exploratory play in formal and informal settings, allowing children to experiment, try new things and push their boundaries.Research also suggests that “the learning outcomes from play are enhanced when play is ‘properly directed’ by adults.”

The other area of focus for the impact of play and playwork on education and learning is the role of play at school break periods and the impact on children’s behaviour and learning in class. One of the current concerns voiced is that children’s opportunities for imaginative play and its educational benefits are being limited because of the demands of the school curriculum threatening to make school playtimes shorter.

As a result of effective playtimes we believe that children will:

- be happier;

- increase self-awareness and self-esteem;

- improve language and communication skills;

- improve concentration;

- improve their imagination, independence and creativity;

- improve social skills;

- be resilient, confident, good problem solvers;

- be ready for anything as a result of negotiation and independence of thought;

- be better at problem solving;

- develop life skills; and

- improve their physical development, co-ordination and fitness.

Credit - Adamsrill School

What do your playtimes look like at your school? Could they be improved?

Resilient Revolution

An article on the BBC website states that Children from low income families are far more likely to face mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. 

"Blackpool is one of England's most deprived towns but a new £10m scheme (Resilience Revolution) there is trying to help families cope with their hardships. "

Schools have a massive part to play in building resilience, those working in schools are at the coal face of what is happening in young people's lives, almost on a daily basis. Moreover the link between physical activity and mental health is clear. 

An article on found that "Obese children are more likely to suffer from mental health problems when they start secondary school, a new study has found.

Research by the University of Liverpool found that mental health and obesityare closely linked and overweight seven-year-olds are at greater risk of emotional problems such as anxiety or depression by the time they reach the age of 11.

Charlotte Hardman, a senior lecturer at the university and co-author of the study, said the two were “intertwined”."

On the flip side, increased physical activity can lead to:

- better sleep – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
- happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
- managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.
- better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
- reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
- connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people, and make new friends.

With such clear and poignant evidence on the benefits of physical activity and mental health and resilience, we have decided to start developing a support package for schools. Resilience and mental health will be one of the themes we will focus on and we will begin offering this to schools from September. The package will centre around 6 themes spread across the year, one day per half term. Each theme will be delivered over the course of one day, with structured plans, resources, success criteria, assemblies and more. Schools can select the children, classes, year groups, focus groups they feel the days would benefit the most.

We have an idea of what the 6 themes are, resilience will definitely be one of them. However, we are always open to suggestions and would to hear your suggestions, whether it is creativity, leadership, or a day for support staff and giving them and active role in the school. We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in preparation for September.

What 6 themes would you choose?

Obesity the second biggest cause of cancer!

You may have heard the public health warnings this week that obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer! Something that is so avoidable, but we are not doing enough to encourage active lifestyles.

This article by The Guardian demonstrates that active children are more likely to become active adults.

St Joseph's School in Bridgwater have recorded 13,530 minutes of physical activity this week with our playground and web app, simply amazing and they are certainly doing there bit to tackle the crisis head on and at the root of the problem.

13,530 minutes!! Staggering.

What an amazing feeling to know that we are making a difference in children's lives by getting them more active.

#education #mentalhealth #cancer #resilience #resilience #growthmindset #living #publichealth

Healthy Children Healthy School

Healthy Children Healthy School

This is backed up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who state that regular activity helps children to:

  • feel good about themselves

  • concentrate better

  • sleep better

  • have a positive outlook on life

  • keep a healthy weight

  • build healthy bones muscles and joints.

A healthy and active school is surely going to be a happier school. Inspired Playgrounds has developed a unique way to get the children at your school more healthy and active through out the school day.

Record number of severely obese children

The data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for children for the year 2016/17 shows one in 25 10 to 11 year olds were severely obese. 

That's more than 22,000 children, and the highest level since records began.

The data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for children for the year 2016/17 has detailed the trends in severe obesity for the first time. 

The programme found:

  • More deprived areas have a much higher rate of overweight and obese children, compared to the most well-off areas. 
  • This disparity is happening at a faster rate in school leavers in year 6, than in reception age. 
  • The figures did however show a downward trend of reception age boys being overweight and obese.
  • When records began in 2006/07, one in 32 primary school leavers were severely obese.
  • Severe obesity is BMI on or above the 99.6th percentile for a child's age and sex.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said the trends were "extremely worrying and have been decades in the making - reversing them will not happen overnight." - Or click link below

Record number of severely obese children

So what is being done about this problem, or crisis if you will?

The Sugar Tax levy was introduced in April 2017, where the tax has been increased on sugary drinks companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. However, no additional tax has been imposed on sugary products such as sweets and biscuits etc, perhaps it should be? It has been demonstrated in the article linked above that sugary drinks consumed by 5 - 19 year olds is above 15% of their daily intake of calories, when it should be below 5%. This clearly outlines the problem and the sugar tax is the first measure to solve this problem, it will be interesting to see if the additional costs imposed on manufacturers and consumers alike will reduce these numbers. This Guardian article shows that biscuits consumed by this age group is very concerning, backed up by the BBC, who also show that biscuits, along with sweets, cakes, preserves and pastries is also very high. This highlights that the tax is warranted across all sugary items.

This would certainly be an unpopular move with adults, as we all love to indulge now and again, or perhaps too much is some cases. I suppose the biggest question is around whether this additional tax will reduce consumption of sugary drinks, and if it is proven to do so then it has been warranted. Public Health England are engaging with the food sector to reduce the amount of sugar in their products and have demonstrated in this article "We have seen some of the food industry make good progress, and they should be commended for this. We also know that further progress is in the pipeline. However, tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action." - Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England.

One option that keeps popping up on my timeline is the need to make healthy food cheaper, whilst I do believe this would help, it does seems like an excuse to some extent. In a future article, I will research into this and form a more detailed opinion. For now, lets focus on the sugar tax and its impact.

The additional tax has been plowed into Primary Schools, schools with 16 or fewer eligible pupils receive £1,000 per pupil and schools with 17 or more eligible pupils receive £16,000 and an additional payment of £10 per pupil. There is no mention of the impact of the money in Primary Schools in this article is below. So the impact expected purely from sugar reduction is clear, but imagine the additional impact schools can have with the huge amount of money injected.

My experience is largely limited to Somerset and the South West of England, so I would be interested to know if this is replicated across the country.

I completely understand that Primary Schools have had big cuts to their budget, whilst the PE funding has significantly increased. But this is not an excuse to use the PE funding to supplement other pots of money where there are shortfalls. As has been illustrated above, significant research is being done on the impact of reducing sugar in products, but on the flip side, not enough is being done to monitor how schools are spending this money. We are on the front line, and see both obese children that are in desperate need for both healthy meals, but also additional exercise throughout the week, which is what the funding is designed for.

I would love to hear some success stories from schools and how they have spent their money and seen positive impact. My fear is that if a positive impact is not demonstrated across the country then the money will disappear and schools will still have a shortfall across the curriculum, but this will also include PE and sport.

I want to finish with a success story of a school near me, in fact my daughter will be starting there in September, St Mary's in Bridgwater. They have such a wide array of sport available to the children, they use an external coach to deliver PE lessons to the children. They have implemented 'Challenge 15' to get each child active for 15 minutes per day, 'Change for Life' clubs, Staff CPD, 'Inspired Playgrounds' and data tracking, 'Healthy Futures' initiative and a wide array of extra-curricular clubs.

I know there is a plug in here as they have bought into Inspired Playgrounds, however this article isn't about us and perhaps the biggest success story there is the amazing PE co-ordinator Sarah and the sporting ethos the school has created. They celebrate sporting achievement and activity levels and this is reinforced with awards during their celebration assemblies. I am so pleased that Isabelle got a place here, I'm sure she will love it.

To conclude, the money is there to have a real impact, please, please, please, use the money where is meant to spent. The children in this country need to be more active as we lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles, lets make a difference and make the youngsters of this nation healthier.

Record number of severely obese children

A record number of primary school children are leaving school severely obese, according to new figures from Public Health England highlighted in a recent BBC news article.

In summary, the data shows one in 25, 10 to 11 year olds were severely obese, which equates to more than 22,000 children in total, the highest level since records began. The levels of childhood obesity have remained fairly stable in recent years, but the new analysis shows that severe obesity has been on an upward trend over the last decade.

The report also highlighted that more deprived areas have a much higher rate of overweight and obese children, compared to the most well-off areas. It added that the disparity is happening at a faster rate in school leavers in year 6, than in reception age. More positively, the figures did show a downward trend of reception age boys being overweight and obese. In overall terms however, the figures did indicate a worrying trend since when the records began in 2006/07, a much smaller figure of one in 32 primary school leavers were severely obese.

Ben Kirk of Inspired Playgrounds said; "Reports on increasing childhood obesity are coming out regularly now, and whilst it is important to try and improve the diets of our children, it also important that they undertake more exercise. Children can learn how to enjoy exercise while at school given the right conditions. This is something we passionately believe in at Inspired Playgrounds." 


Childhood Obesity in England & Wales - Are 22,000 children really obese?


A recent study by Public Health England and Wales has revealed that almost 60% more children in their last year of primary school are classified as "severely obese" than in their first year. 

BBC news published details of this report in May 2018 that you can read in full here.

Marcus Holmes, Director of Inspired Playgrounds said: "The evidence is mounting, there has now been lots of research into the health of children in our country and the general consensus is that obesity is on the rise which shows how important it is for children to be getting more exercise.

Children learn how to read and write, so it is important that they learn to enjoy taking exercise as well. Inspired Playgrounds was developed to help children enjoy exercising at school.

Government Report - Evidence of Childhood Obesity is Rising

This recent government report highlights that evidence of Childhood Obesity is on the rise click the image to read the full report.. 

Ben Kirk co founder of Inspired Playgrounds said that "Sadly children have become more sedentary as lifestyles change from active habits to more digital one. Our goal is to try and get children to be more active because they are enjoying moving around and having fun. Where better to learn that than at school"