BBC news covered a story earlier this week about sitting down too much, especially in the classroom. There’s also a piece on their website stating a similar thing to what was mentioned on the telly-box. Essentially, if you missed it and can’t be bothered to read the BBC article, primary school children are apparently sitting down too much and not doing enough activity.
I reckon they’re right.
I’m all for activity and getting up and about to learn. I think it’s a fantastic thing to do: encourage the children to be fit and healthy and pack in some learning whilst moving around. It’s usually more fun, caters to the needs of the kinaesthetic learners (if we’re still using this theory), and helps kids to be fit and healthy. Win, win, win.
What about the limitations though? I’m fortunate enough to have a small class of 23 (even if they are spread across plenty of years) so it’s something that’s manageable for us. Often, we’ll push back all the tables and chairs to the edges of the classroom and do some acting. Only a couple of weeks ago we had a mini-maths olympics inside our classroom – the weather was too bad to get outside. I like to think I’m working towards a happy medium of getting the kids out of their chairs and moving around.
What has been difficult has been the preparation of SATs. I always try to do the bare minimum in the way of preparation; I’m a strong believer that preparation started in EYFS and continues right through, so cramming in the last few weeks before their tests isn’t going to do the children a lot of good. Inevitably, there is some preparation as everyone, including the children, start to feel the pressure. What’s even more tricky is the layout and administration of the tests. Most preparation is sitting down, practising and talking through questions because that’s what’s expected of them in the real tests.
The emphasis placed on English and Maths is also something that makes getting up and moving around a little more tricky. Sure, we practise our times tables playing different catching games, or out SPaG activities using a lot of running… but the other 45 minutes of the lesson is spent at a desk working on activities and putting evidence in books. I’d love to be in a position where we could just do the activity and get the kids up and about a bit more but OFSTED need to see evidence in books showing progression. If there’s no written work (especially in KS2), it’s going to make proving I’ve done my job that much more tricky.
As I mentioned, having a small class and moving the furniture to the sides of the room is wonderful. Teaching a class of 33 with 5 other adults, as I did on a placement whilst at uni, is a problem. There was barely any room to move at all. Pushing the tables to the side of the room would’ve resulted in leaving a tiny strip of empty carpet in the middle – probably enough for 5 children to work in at a time. Right outside the classroom was a concrete playing ‘quad’, further in the school was a hall and then a playground outside. With a two-form entry (and massive class sizes), this wasn’t as useful as it seemed. Having over 500 children in the school meant that most of the other spaces around the school were being used by groups at different times, and were pre-booked well in advance of a spontaneous bit of ‘times table catch’.
Finally, we see the children for the hours between 8:50 and 3:15. That, if my maths is right, is six hours and twenty-five minutes each day. Which leaves a remaining seventeen hours and thirty-five minutes outside of school (I think). Less a bit of time for sleep and you’re still looking at around seven or eight hours. If children aren’t getting their recommended hour a day of exercise then are schools the only places that are responsible?
I’m all for getting up and moving around. We should be planning it in more. Schools should be doing as much as possible. But there are limitations. Perhaps we ought to work more on getting away from the expectation of being ‘academically bright at a desk’ and work towards being ‘personally gifted anywhere’.