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Education

Teens explain barriers to activity

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Increase range of available activities: A key ask by teens

LOCAL, cheaper, good quality activities are just a few recommendations made by teenagers who took part in a study by researchers based at Swansea University.

The recommendations made by the teenagers shed light on the barriers to exercise and what they feel could be done to help them engage more in sporting activities.

Physical inactivity is one of the most important issues in public health today, with heart and circulatory disease killing around one in four people in the UK. It has been linked to health issues later in life and is considered a key contributor to increased obesity. Studies have indicated that there is a decline in physical activity in adolescence. There are growing concerns that these young people are spending increasing amounts of time on sedentary activities including watching television, using a computer and playing video games.

The ACTIVE project, funded by the British Heart Foundation, worked with over 70 teenagers from 7 secondary schools in Swansea. It aimed to see whether giving teenagers vouchers to spend on activities of their choice – such as dancing, swimming, karate, skateboarding or BMXing – could reduce the time spent being sedentary, improve fitness, lower the risk of heart disease and improve general health.

As part of the study, the research team wanted to give the teenagers the chance to make their own recommendations to help other young people be more active and carry on being active in the future. The findings were very interesting with teenagers making several recommendations, including:

Lower activity cost without sacrificing quality. The teenagers said that lowering the cost of activities would help them become more active. They recommended that more free activities should be made available.

Local activities. Removing the need to travel to venues would go some way to making physical activity more accessible to teenagers.

Improve the standards of existing facilities. The teenagers who took part in the study all said that their local facilities need to be improved. Spaces, such as the local parks, have fallen into states of neglect and equipment is broken.

Make activities more specific to teenagers. The young people stated that there is very little that specifically invites teenagers to attend. They believed that council run services in particular neglected their age group.

Give teenagers a choice of activities. Teens don’t want to just be restricted to a small range of sports. The activities they suggested were less traditional, for example, dodgeball, trampolining or going to the gym.

Provide activities that teenage girls enjoy. Teenage girls in the study said that if they do not like what is on offer, they will not do it and would actually prefer to be inactive. The girls said they are more likely to be active if they can do activities they enjoy.

Michaela James, Trial Manager for the ACTIVE project, at Swansea University Medical School, commented: “It is clear that what is currently available for teenagers is not meeting their wants and needs. The ACTIVE Project is aiming to address this by empowering teenagers and giving them a voice. We are very proud to be working collaboratively with this group to help them become more active.”

Adam Fletcher, Head of British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru said: “Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour amongst young people in Wales remain stubbornly high, and increasing participation in physical activity is essential to improve our children’s health and preventing future cardiovascular disease.

“There are lots of different ways people can keep active, from playing football to dancing. The important thing is to find a form of exercise you enjoy, so that you make time for it in your weekly routine.”

“The ACTIVE research project is providing new insights and a better understanding of the barriers to physical activity by teenagers and this report includes some great recommendations into developing new ways to engage with teenagers and to tackle the growing problem of inactivity in young people.”

Education

School’s concern over ‘inappropriate use of images of staff and pupils’

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THE HEADTEACHER of a Pembrokeshire primary school has written to parents and guardians following concerns over certain social media activity.

Mrs Clare Hewitt, of Neyland Community Primary School, said that it filled her “with great sadness” to have to email parents and guardians of pupils at her school.

She added that the school had alerted the police regarding the matter.

Mrs Hewitt said that it came to light that there had been “inappropriate use of images of staff and pupils for TikTok pages and Messenger groups.”

The school said it is asking that all parents, where their child uses social media, to check social media accounts to ensure that they are being used appropriately and safely,

Parents or guardians with concerns have been asked to telephone the school on Monday or to contact Mrs Hewitt by email.

Parents and guardians of pupils were contacted by email on Saturday night (May 15).

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Education

Major prize for UWTSD lecturer

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A UWTSD academic has been awarded the prestigious Henry Stopes Memorial Medal.
Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, Dr Martin Bates accepted the outstanding contribution award from the Geologists’ Association during an online ceremony on Friday 7 May. This prize is awarded just once every three years for exceptional work in the archaeological field and specifically ‘on the Prehistory of Man and his geological environment.’
During his career, Dr. Bates has been involved in several major discoveries within the UK archaeological field including the Dover Bronze Age Boat, the Clactonian Elephant butchery site in Ebbsfleet, the Harnham terminal Lower Palaeolithic site near Salisbury.
He discovered the Happisburgh human footprints in Norfolk (the oldest presently know in the world outside Africa).
It was noted during the presentation that the Henry Stopes Medal had been awarded to Dr Bates for his “significant contributions to understanding the geological environment of prehistoric human occupation of Britain and elsewhere over the last 40 years.”
It was also noted that in the spirit of the Geologists’ Association he was “generous with his time and expertise to colleagues, students and members of the public alike.”
Following the awards ceremony, Dr Martin Bates commented: “It is incredible to be recognised in this way and I’d like to thank the Geologists’ Association for this honour.  
“However, this award really reflects the support I have received through my career from a whole range of specialists who have provided me with the data I have used in my research. Without them I would not have been able to do what I have done”
“I think this all goes back to my very early days spent on the beaches of West Wales being dragged along on Saturday fieldtrips led by my father for students studying geology at Aberystwyth.  He has a lot to answer for!”

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Education

Students relying on free school meals fell further behind

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THE ATTAINMENT gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their classmates has grown in mathematics by one month since the onset of the pandemic, according to interim findings published this week by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The findings are drawn from an ongoing EEF-funded study that aims to understand changes to the gap which might have occurred due to the periods of partial school closure resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While disadvantaged pupils’ outcomes in mathematics seem to have been hit hardest by the first national lockdown, the attainment gap did not widen (or shrink) during the Autumn 2020 term.

Thar suggests that gaps caused by Covid are unlikely to close without intervention.

The research is based on assessment data collected by FFT Education from 132 primary schools prior to and after the first national lockdown.

The report did not measure the impact of school closures on overall learning progress (sometimes referred to as learning loss) but, instead, looked at the differences in progress between pupils eligible for free school meals and those that are not.

Data from reading and maths assessments (PIRA and PUMA tests) taken in Autumn 2019 was used as a baseline to track the trajectory of the attainment gap.

Pupils whose data was included in the sample were all in Years 1 to 5 (5-to-10-year-olds) during the academic year 2019-2020.

Reading and maths tests were administered to these same pupils on their return to the classroom in September 2020, and then again towards the end of the Autumn term 2020.

Disadvantaged pupils’ performance in the tests was compared to that of their classmates to examine changes to the attainment gap which might have resulted from the first period of partial school closures.

The analysis of these results indicates that pupils from socio-economically deprived backgrounds have fallen further behind in maths since the onset of the pandemic.

Contrary to previous estimates, this study found no discernible change to the disadvantage gap in reading.

The findings also highlight the difficulty of combatting educational inequality in classrooms.

Data collected from PIRA and PUMA assessments taken at the end of the Autumn term 2020 indicate the return of all pupils to school in September has not been sufficient in narrowing the gap.

Further analysis is currently underway.

A final data set will be collected in June 2021 to examine whether the disadvantage gap narrows, widens, or remains stable.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s research gives us more evidence of the enormous impact school closures have had on young people, especially those from low-income homes.

“The research indicates the need for long-term, sustained support for schools as they work to accelerate the progress of their disadvantaged pupils.

“To mitigate against the long-term impact of lost learning, large government funding is required. The cost of failing to act now will be a catastrophe for young people from low-income homes.”

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The pandemic has brought the significance of social and educational inequality into sharp focus.

“Research studies like this one are providing clear evidence that substantial existing gaps have grown further due to the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.

“In strategizing an approach to recovery, we are presented with the opportunity to go beyond restoring the learning lost during partial school closures, and work towards rebalancing the scales for disadvantaged pupils.”

Researchers from FFT Education said: “Our study makes a fresh contribution to the research on the effects of COVID.

“We find that attainment gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers have widened slightly in maths, but not reading.

“We also find that there were surprisingly weak associations between school responses to COVID – for example, phoning students during the lockdown – and attainment.”

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