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Leisure Management - Time to get it right

Editor’s letter

Time to get it right

What’s the most effective way to increase kids’ participation in sport and set them up with good exercise habits for life? Lawrence Dallaglio thinks Ofsted is the answer

Liz Terry, Leisure Media

Speaking at the recent ukactive Summit in London, Lawrence Dallaglio called on the government to take immediate action to improve physical activity in schools, saying: “We have a serious problem...there’s too much pressure put on schools to deliver academic results and nowhere near enough pressure to give students a good education in what to eat and what constitutes the right level of physical activity.

“We need to bake metrics of physical activity and sport into how schools are governed and measured,“ he continued. “We have to do something drastic, we have to do it now and it has to come right from the top.

“If a headteacher gets a ‘highly commended’ Ofsted report because of the number of hours students achieve doing physical activity per week, then lo and behold, I predict there will be lots more physical activity in schools.” he concluded.

It’s a powerful plea, because getting children active and hard wiring them with good exercise and eating habits is the most fundamental thing we can do to build a better future for them. School is – realistically – the only place this can happen comprehensively and fairly for all children, regardless of background.

Getting kids into sport isn’t just about enabling them to grow a healthy mind and body to live in and the good habits to look after it, it’s also about opening them up to a lifestyle that protects them from the dangers of a sedentary, screen-based existence with no body awareness and life-shortening habits.

I sat next to an eminent pulmonologist on a plane recently and asked him the biggest issue he was facing in his work. Childhood asthma, he replied.

He explained that the hard tissue of the respiratory system is formed during childhood by pressure from the inside. As children run around, exercise and gasp for air, the pressure this exerts forces their trachea to widen and they grow big, healthy, open airways.

But lack of exercise at critical stages in their development means they grow small airways which they’re stuck with for life – nothing can be done to increase their size once that growth phase has passed.

He said lack of exercise in childhood means we’re raising a generation of kids who will be asthmatic adults, unable to exercise and with limited physical capacity throughout their lives. They will literally be unable to draw a full breath in comfort.

This is no legacy to be proud of and to aspire to for our kids. Could Ofsted be the answer?

Originally published in Sports Management Nov Dec 2017 issue 134
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