A Northumberland primary school is backing a national strategy to tackle the childhood obesity crisis with a new pupil-led physical activity programme.

Year six pupils at Central Primary School in Ashington are leading on a school-wide project to encourage their peers to increase their physical activity levels.

Championed by the ‘School Sports Crew’, the pupils put together a wish list for sports equipment along with design ideas for a new fit-for-purpose playground and presented it to the school’s leadership team.

Using Sports Premium funding from last year’s budget, the leadership team endorsed the ‘Activate’ project to rejuvenate the year six playground area into a state-of-the-art outdoor space featuring built-in, child-friendly air fitness equipment, a rubber wet pour surface, a daily mile track, a fun fitness trail and a covered area for dance activities.

The children then collaborated with teaching staff from the PE department to develop a comprehensive training rota for the ‘Activate’ programme which would allow pupils from each year group to access a range of exciting opportunities to get physically active during their break and lunch times.

“In response to the childhood obesity crisis, the Government has introduced the Childhood Obesity Plan which aims to halve the number of children classed as clinically obese by 2030,” said Johnjames Smith, PE coordinator at Central Primary School.

“The Plan sets out the ambition for all children to achieve 60 minutes of physical activity every day, with schools being responsible for delivering 30 of these active minutes.

“Our new physical activity programme, ‘Activate’ is our response to this ambition and has been developed to not only reduce sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity, but also to improve concentration and behaviour for learning, build confidence and social skills, improve health and fitness and instil the feel-good factor.

“If we are to form lifelong habits of health and wellbeing then we need to address inactivity at an early stage. At Central Primary School, we have taken a fresh approach to engage pupils to meet their daily physical activity requirements and support them to make positive changes.”

Central Primary School has been supported in its efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of its students at the school by Northumberland Sport.

Northumberland Sport helps schools to meet their activity agenda through the provision of funding and expertise to encourage children to reach their full potential.

Lee Sprudd, director for Northumberland Sport, said:

“It’s great to see a local primary school demonstrating real innovation in utilising their PE & Sport Premium funding to encourage pupils to be active throughout their school day, which adds to the PE, physical activity and sport activities that the school already offers.

“The challenge posed by rising inactivity levels among children in Northumberland is significant, especially when linked to wider health and wellbeing issues including childhood obesity and mental health.  It’s therefore great to see the Activate programme providing a sustainable solution to these issues at Central Primary School, which will also benefit pupils joining the school in future years.

“Helping children to develop healthier habits earlier in life will make them more likely to carry them on into adulthood which in turn, has a range of mental and physical health benefits.”

Andy Roberts, executive principal at Ashington Learning Partnership Trust, added:

“The children’s enthusiasm for the Activate project has been absolutely exceptional. Teaching staff have already remarked on what a huge difference the additional active minutes during the school day have made to classroom behaviours and the children’s general wellbeing.

“We are excited to begin the next stage of the project, to influence the remaining 30 active minutes outside of school time through interaction with families and the introduction of new fitness-based after school clubs and community groups.”

Central Primary School is one of two primary schools which make up the Ashington Learning Partnership (ALP) Trust.

Following the success of the physical activity programme at Central Primary’s upper school site, the Trust is looking to expand the initiative across the school’s lower site and sister site at Bothal Primary School as part of the OPAL Primary Programme which encourages synergy between outdoor play and learning.

To find out more about the Ashington Learning Partnership Trust, visit www.alptrust.co.uk.