The Calderdale Active Schools Journey - The First 6 Months

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In April 2021, Active Calderdale launched the Creating Active Schools programme, an initiative designed to help children to become fitter and healthier for life by being more active in and around the school day. Presentations were made at meetings of primary and secondary Headteachers with invitations for Expressions of Interest; the number of enquiries received far exceeded expectations and it was clear that there was an appetite for this programme to be implemented in Calderdale’s schools.

The programme is being piloted in two stages; Phase 1 consists of 12 primary and 2 secondary schools, with a further 13 primary schools joining with the Phase 2 stage. These Trailblazers will help to shape the programme and through shared learning, we will build a model of good practice. All schools throughout the borough will be offered the opportunity to come on board in 2022 and access a means of enabling children and young people to make the right choices to help them to become as fit and healthy as possible for life, whilst also improving behaviour, attainment and attendance.

The Phase 1 Trailblazers began their journey in the Summer term with whole school introductory training consisting of:

  • Looking at the difference between physical activity, PE, and school sport
  • Identifying how physical activity can be utilised to engage students and have a positive impact on learning
  • Mapping the school’s current practise
  • An introduction to the Creating Active Schools Framework which shows areas of opportunity to be active such as break times, before and after school and during classroom-based lessons
  • Gathering staff input regarding where opportunities to be active can be implemented and maximised

From this, an action plan is built which is bespoke to each individual school and based on elements such as the school’s own facilities, student demographic, School Improvement Plan, focus areas and existing offer. Phase 1 schools are now in the process of implementing their action plans and Phase 2 schools are about to begin their journey in November 2021.

From the Trailblazers’ ground-breaking work using a system that is designed to be as non-onerous as possible for staff, and based on small wins and incremental change, the impact is already being felt amongst staff, students, parents and guardians through implementing change which has included:

  • Adding ‘Opportunities to be active’ to literacy and numeracy lesson plan templates
  • Reframing assemblies to include an activity and sport slot
  • Creating a weekly family fitness challenge
  • Organising community litter-picks and forest school days
  • Working with parents and carers to establish a walking bus and parent ‘drop off, walk on’ clubs
  • Plans to take Y6 on walks to their secondary school in the summer term to familiarise them with the route to walk from where they live
  • Secondary school Heads of Department adapting schemes of work to initiate activity in lessons
  • Secondary schools holding Active Learning Days
  • School Improvement Plans containing the statement ‘To be a lead school as part of the Calderdale Active Schools trailblazer programme [success criteria] children’s activity levels raised further resulting in improved physical, mental, behavioural and emotional wellbeing’
  • Adapting the curriculum to include an additional extra break time for ‘most active class of the week’
  • Adapting the behaviour policy to recognise Physical Activity effort
  • Nominating a specified governor to take on the role of Physical Activity Champion
  • Adding Physical Activity to governor meeting agendas
  • Organising a Governors’ Physical Activity Learning Walk
  • Questions about active learning included in teacher interviews
  • Guidance on active learning included in student teacher training
Two text boxes of a document circled red to highlight the text.
Box 1: To be a lead school as part of the Calderdale Active Schools trailblazer programme.

Box 2: All deadlines for programme are met. Children's activity levels are raised further resulting in improved physical, mental, behavioural and emotional wellbeing.

The use of social media to share examples of activity in lessons and other areas of the school day has been encouraged and well supported. This has seen Phase 2 schools also begin to become involved in showcasing their implementation of activity before joining the programme in November and has generated multiple conversations amongst both primary and secondary schools.

A pupil and staff survey has been launched to gauge current activity levels throughout the school day and beyond, and some schools have invested in fitness trackers specifically designed for use in schools to monitor how activity levels are increasing. Both student and staff voices are valued highly, and Active Calderdale is in regular contact with Trailblazer schools to gain insight into progress and impact. Meetings between Active School Leads allow sharing of good practice and generate ideas, and a bank of resource ideas for implementing activity into core lessons is available to schools. A training day for Early Years staff is being held and further training days will be offered in accordance with demand.

Despite the programme being in its infancy, schools are reporting that engagement and attainment increase with active learning, whilst implementing structured playtimes has an extremely positive impact on behaviour. Importantly, children are improving physical fitness and emotional wellbeing whilst also developing life skills including perseverance, resilience, co-operation, collaboration and communication.

With the Phase 2 introductory training about to begin and more schools wanting to know how they can become involved in the programme, the outlook is bright for the future health and happiness of Calderdale’s children and young people.

For further information please contact Rebecca Antcliffe, Active Education Project Manager: Rebecca.Antcliffe@calderdale.gov.uk