Sunday, March 20, 2016

British Primary school where the children are made to run a mile every day has NO overweight pupils - and their behaviour is better too

This is actually a traditional idea.  At certain ages during my primary school education in the '50s, the kids in my class were all made to run around the sports oval before classes began.  It burnt off restless energy and settled kids down

A primary school where children are made to run a mile every day has proved so successful in tackling obesity it could soon be introduced nationwide.

Teachers at St Ninians school in Stirling have sent pupils out for the daily run for the last four years and claim it has improved their behaviour as well as their fitness.

Given the popularity of the scheme, a campaign has now been launched to persuade all primary schools across the UK to copy the model.

Five hundred other primaries across Britain have already adopted the scheme as part of their drive to cut childhood obesity.

Daily miles are now run in schools in London, Gateshead, Wales and other parts of Scotland, with 30 schools in Stirling alone taking part.

'It's a commonsense approach to children's fitness, which is free and easy. The most important thing is that the children really enjoy it, otherwise you couldn't sustain it. They come back in bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked, how children used to look. It's joyous to see.'

She added: 'We want all schools to give their children the opportunity to run a mile each day. 'It only takes fifteen minutes and has been shown to improve their health, fitness and concentration in class.'

Experts recommend all children spend an hour a day being physically active in order to remain healthy.

At St Ninians, teachers take their pupils out of lessons on to a specially built circuit around the school's playing field for their daily mile whenever it best suits that day's timetable. Only ice or very heavy rain stops them.

Children who have difficulty with mobility are supported to take part.

Tanni Grey-Thompson, the celebrated Paralympian, peer and chair of ukactive, the UK's leading not-for-profit health body for physical activity, told The Guardian: 'All children need to achieve 60 active minutes every day, whether in a lesson, on the walk to school, or in the playground.  'We know sitting still kills; not sitting still helps children build skills that will stay with them for life.'

Meanwhile, researchers from Stirling University are looking for quantitative evidence of the physical, cognitive and emotional benefits of the daily mile.

St Ninians pupils will be compared with children from a school in Stirling that has yet to start the scheme.

Dr Colin Moran, who is leading the study, told the Guardian: 'The children [at St Ninians] don't seem to have problems with obesity; they seem happier and staff say they settle into lessons faster, so we designed a study that would test all of these things. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits but there aren't any scientific facts yet.'

The results of the study should be published in July.   


Massachusetts: Taunting at high school games is a challenge for administrators

Woburn fans chanted "We can’t hear you," at Bishop Feehan fans on the other side of the court at a state girls’ basketball semifinal on Monday at TD Garden

In 20 years as a high school athletic director, Phil Vaccaro heard it all.

"The cheerleaders are ugly, the administrators are dumb, the kids stink, the parents are this, the mascot is that," said Vaccaro, offering a taste of the taunts that emanated more often from opposing bleachers than from his own. On his side, few of the home fans in Reading dared, knowing he was a hawk who would swoop in at the first sign of heckling.

Now he works for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, where just last week — days before Catholic Memorial and Newton North High exchanged offensive chants — officials were feeling good about the absence of any major taunting incidents across the various winter postseason tournaments conducted by the MIAA.

Indeed, in a message to the MIAA board, executive director Bill Gaine hailed "the quality of competition, the support and behavior of fans, and the sportsmanship of participants" in tournament games featuring 800 teams and drawing tens of thousands of student-athletes and spectators. And then anti-Semitic chants erupted the next night during that playoff game in Newton, thrusting Massachusetts school-sports spectators into the national spotlight.

Officials here say that incident was an aberration, citing the work of MIAA and school policies, of an annual fall sportsmanship summit for 1,000-plus student-athletes at Gillette Stadium, and of a spring "Battle of the Fans" contest for positive booster videos. They also attributed it to perpetual vigilance on the part of athletic directors and other staff monitoring the stands.

"It’s a hard thing. It’s not a sometimes thing, my friend," said Vaccaro, who previously emblazoned all of Reading’s athletic trash barrels with the motto "Sportsmanship, Character, Integrity" and once spent an entire Super 8 hockey championship at TD Garden with his back to the ice — concerned less with the on-ice outcome than "the reputation of my community."

Still, some officials in Massachusetts worry that teen taunting is getting more vulgar and more frequent — either because parents or other adults are more reluctant than in previous generations to "nip it," as Vaccaro put it, or because teens are mimicking fever-pitch college crowds and gaining a wider audience for their antics through social media.

"It’s a challenge, and it’s getting more and more difficult," said Rob Pearl, athletic director at Medway High. "A lot of the kids go to a college game or watch a game on TV and see what the college kids are doing, and think it would be funny for a high school game as well, and it doesn’t always amount to the same amount of quote-unquote fun."

Winter is the toughest season, they say, because taunts that might die in the wind on a wide-open field reverberate in enclosed gyms and rinks, and because elbow-to-elbow bleachers provide both more kindling for taunts to spread and more cover for offenders to hide in a crowd.

"It’s kind of an anonymous attack on somebody. That’s the culture that a lot of kids are growing up in now," said John Lilly, a Boston teacher who coaches and officiates multiple sports and runs a volunteer service program for 500 student-athletes in Newton, where he lives.

Lilly said integrity on the court remains constant but bleacher behavior is eroding. "Over the years the focus has drifted from being a positive support group for their players versus aiming insults, which takes away from the accomplishments of the athletes on both teams," he said.

The MIAA’s taunting policy prohibits any comments "intended to bait, anger, embarrass, ridicule, or demean others, whether or not the deeds or words are vulgar or racist" and includes anything "that berates, needles, intimidates, or threatens based on race, gender, ethnic origin or background, and conduct that attacks religious beliefs, size, economic status, speech, family, special needs or personal matters." Should that not cover everything, there is a blanket prohibition on any kind of "trash talk."

In other words, the ban starts with "air ball!" and covers everything downhill from there, including the long history of trash talk on socioeconomic grounds — "pump our gas," "it’s all right, it’s OK, you’ll all work for us someday" — and sordid other subjects.

Taunts tend to start small and escalate. In Medway, Pearl is quick to eject trash-talkers, signalling that attending a game is a privilege, not a right. "I’ve been criticized by parents who say, ‘I don’t let the kids have fun at games,’ but it’s a fine line," said Pearl, chairman of the 20-member MIAA Sportsmanship Committee that Vaccaro advises. "How do you explain to a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old what’s fun and what’s offensive?"

At last Friday’s game, according to witnesses, the volley of mocking between student sections began with Newton North fans calling "where’s your girls?" and the all-boys Catholic Memorial fans retorting, "in your section." Calls of "sausagefest!" from Newton followed, which many construed as homophobic, before widespread Catholic Memorial taunts of "you killed Jesus!" left many on the Newton side speechless.

Administrators from both schools stopped the taunts and admonished both sides; Catholic Memorial students apologized to Newton North’s interim principal and shook his hand one by one.

Officials at the West Roxbury school also announced plans to hold assemblies and bolster their tolerance curriculum, and they banned students from attending Monday’s Eastern Massachusetts championship game.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin athletic director Tom Arria — whose team beat Catholic Memorial in that game Monday — and other ADs said a school should not be judged by one taunt but by how it responds to such an incident.

Arria, who has worked at multiple urban and suburban schools, is not convinced that today’s students jeer any more than their forebears did.

He noted the "Patrick Can’t Read!" taunts that rained down from BC High fans on Cambridge star Patrick Ewing, a soft-spoken Jamaican immigrant, at the old Garden in 1981, and that followed Ewing from that scholastic title game into opposing college arenas in the Big East.

"Administrators at all schools try hard. We’re in education for a reason — we want what’s best for kids; we want them to learn what’s right and wrong," Arria said. "Occasionally a group of teenagers can veer off in a direction, and sometimes it carries, and sometimes we’re able to manage it a little bit better. You do your best to keep them on the right path."


Australian Education Minister unveils sweeping changes to homosexual-support program for schools

THE Safe Schools Coalition program will be overhauled, after a review found "a number of resources" included content not suitable for all children, Education Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Senator Birmingham said the government had ordered several sections of the program be redesigned and all references to external websites, except mental-health support services, be removed.

In response to the review, he said the program would also be restricted to high schools only and require schools to obtain parental consent.

"To further ensure the safety of the official resources generated by the program and also to ensure that it is really mainstreamed alongside of other student wellbeing and anti-bullying programs, we’ll be undertaking actions that will see the official resources of the program moved from the Safe Schools Coalition website to the Safe School hub," he said.

Senator Birmingham said while there was no evidence of "advocacy and activism" in classrooms, he believed some people involved in the program had used it to further political agenda.

He said "advocacy and activism" had no place in the program.

"Just as proselytising is not part of the school chaplaincy program, advocacy must not be part of the Safe School program," he said.

"This is here to help children in their wellbeing in schools and people who might have engaged in the past as presenting themselves as representatives of the program and in doing so speaking about political matters and advocating in those political matters have frankly done themselves and the program an enormous disservice and would be well advised to keep their mouths shut on such matters in future," he said.

The review was ordered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in response to lobbying by conservative Liberals including George Christensen and Cory Bernadi.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the program was being circulated on Wednesday night and had reportedly garnered as many as 40 signatures, including that of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

It followed a backbench briefing by the author of the review, University of Western Australia emeritus professor Bill Louden, with some in attendance reportedly suggesting it was a "white wash".

Mr Christensen said he was pleased by the government’s response.  "As long as all the stuff the Minister said comes to pass, all of the concern is gutted out of the program," he said.

"I still am yet to see the response from the Safe Schools Coalition because we are talking about fundamentally altering what they have proposed and what they have proposed I think was disastrous for schoolchildren so if they reject what the government’s put forward then the funding will just be suspended, that’s my understanding from my conversation with the Minister."

He said the government changes would ensure it was an "anti-bullying program rather than something that’s bringing in queer theory into classrooms and sexual liberation ideals into classrooms."


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