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Physical Activity & Mental Health

Despite the fact we are in the midst of a pandemice, it’s still a really exciting time of year if you love watching sports. With the Rugby Six Nations in fast approaching, cricket, football, skiing and the fingers crossed the impending 2021 Olympic Games to look forward to this summer, we really are spoilt for choice. The unfortunate reality however, is that for millions of school children they do not have access to decent sports facilities or coaches. It is only now that we are realising the long-term effect this is having on our children. 

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NHS figures published recently revealed that almost 400,000 children and young people aged 18 and under are in contact with the health service for mental health problems. It’s apparent that young people are struggling to attain a decent level of happiness let alone reach their full potential in life. With many teachers recognising it as ‘silent epidemic’ there needs to be a real impetus on making learning outside, engaging in group activities and participating in regular exercise a way of life for schools in a way which will compliment their classroom learning. 

Mental and physical well being

Physical activity is not just about feeling fit and being healthy, It’s about conquering the small or big challenges, dealing with disappointment, and coming together as a team. it’s about the mental strength it gives you - the kind of survival techniques that will allow youngsters to cope in times of stress, deal with the pressure of exams, maintain concentration and learn to stay calm in difficult situations. Exercise and physical activity has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety and boost positive thinking.

As part of Rockley’s National Diploma L3 Sport (Outdoor Adventure) course, teacher Mark Ames commented that "Outdoor activities really rejuvenates the students and enhances their ability to learn and concentrate in the classroom”

What our teachers say

Our experience over the years, has taught us that there is so much potential for youngsters to excel in a more relaxed outside learning environment without the stifling restriction of the classroom walls. Our camping adventures allows youngsters to connect to the landscape and gives them a real appreciation of nature and their surroundings. With so much pressure to succeed academically, it is important that we provide activities that will not only encourage learning but also enhance mental well-being. 

Many of our teachers have told us how “happy and creative” their children have been during their time with us and how some have “excelled beyond their expectations.” There is also much more opportunity for teachers to put the onus on the pupils to problem solve, interact more with others and show their resilience. 

In an interview with Lorna Good and Jess Wheadon from Poole High School, they identified how their own residential experience really opened their students’ eyes to what they can achieve when they put their mind to it and how it hugely improved the relationship they had with their students: 

"You go on this trip and you think you’re going to learn and experience watersports but actually it’s not just about learning to paddleboard or sail a catamaran, it’s so much more than that. They’re learning so much more about teamwork, confidence, listening and it really brought everyone together."

Andrew Mead MA (Hons) (Oxon), Headmaster at Lytchett Minster School agrees that education is about more than what can be measured by exams:

“For young people to thrive and develop into well-rounded, healthy, confident young adults, they need opportunities that will enthuse, excite and challenge them - both physically and mentally. Rockley offers these opportunities in abundance!”

As parents and teachers, we really need to be the driving force in providing opportunities for youngsters to be more physically active. For many, the desire is there and we need to seriously tap in to that, for others, it’s about actively encouraging a basic level of fitness. We are not expecting everybody to reach a top level of sport but we can set achievable targets for them to aspire to. If youngsters can work together as a team, improve their health and contribute to reaching a group goal then we can look forward to a younger generation who aspire to have healthier lives and ultimately a more positive mental attitude.

When we finally do come through the pandemic, it will be more important than ever to actively encourage young people to participate regularly in physical activity. Such positive habits as part of everyday life is imperative to ensure future generations of happy, confident and healthy children and adults.

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