‘It’s about physical activity and the benefits that brings socially and emotionally – these drive everything I do.’
Niall O’Brien, Leader of PE at St James’ Primary School, chats to us about the JU:MP movement, supported by Magpie communications agency, and how schools are paving the way for healthier lifestyles.
“I’ve worked at St James’ Church of England Primary School for just over two months now. Not long before I started to work at the school, I saw that they had been chosen to take part in the JU:MP programme, working with local communities, groups and organisations to embrace movement and play as part of their everyday lives. This was great news and part of the reason I applied for the role.
Prior to my role at St James’, I was invited to be on the expert panel at the ‘creating active schools’ framework’ conference, that included 50 specialists from public health, education, sport and local authorities. My role was to share my expertise as to what’s happening at the grassroots level, focusing on opportunities to embed high quality physical education, school sport and physical activity before, during and beyond the school day. Being significantly involved in the infancy of this movement, it felt like St James’ would be the perfect fit for me, in terms how the senior leadership team placed physical health and wellbeing at the heart of their ethos.
I knew how fantastic and important this social movement is and that the school were serious about putting healthy lifestyles at the forefront of their agenda, which is something I care deeply about. I could really use my skillset to push the boundaries and the agenda for what should be a priority for physical health and wellbeing for young people.
I’ll always remember the first JU:MP expert panel meeting and the opening question from Jan Burkhardt, Director of the JU:MP Programme, ‘Can you tell us about one experience from playing outside that’s always stayed with you from when you were young?’ …
During my primary school years my friends and I would be out building dens in the back field. I remember once we built a triple decker tree house. At the time my dad filmed this on an old camera – he still has the footage somewhere. Thinking about that brings back incredibly powerful and nostalgic memories, it takes me back to a place where I would love to go again. With an increase in sedentary lifestyles amongst children and young people today, I think opportunities to experience a sense of adventure and the awe and wonder of our beautiful green spaces are sadly being lost.
The funding from JU:MP and other national initiatives is opening up opportunities for the children in our school to experience wonderful life enriching experiences. It’s about behaviour change, whole school initiatives, CPD and making changes to the school environment that will become a sustainable part of the day-to-day DNA of our school. These include:
- High quality physical education lessons
- Jiu jitsu sessions culminating in 50 pupils grading at white belt
- Cook and move sessions – we have identified pupils to take part in engaging fun physically active challenges followed by preparing healthy nutritious snacks
- Forest School (outdoor learning) – we have been selected as examples school by the ‘nature friendly schools project’ funded by DofE and Natural England which helps to support our pupil’s mental health through developing practical skills and connection with nature
- Developing our green space – we are creating more opportunities for the children to learn outside
- Cycling and scooting provision soon to be launched in line with developing a cycling track
- Physically active enrichment sessions – these take place for an hour on Friday afternoons and range from low level physical activity to more vigorous exercise such as cricket, outdoor photography and yoga classes
Through JU:MP we have really inspired our parents to celebrate all the physical activities in school. Sometimes it’s as simple as inviting parents in and giving them examples of how to be more active. It’s about building up their confidence as well as their children’s. Not everything has to cost a lot of money, you don’t need to pay for memberships, so many free good quality things happen in the community. Parents have already spoken about events at their local community centre, so you can already see the impact of JU:MP and the ripple effect.
You can feel the change in perception and enthusiasm. These small steps are really making a difference in terms of how parents and children think and feel about their healthy lifestyles – it’s lovely to see. It’s about supporting our parents, to support their children socially, physically and emotionally.
We have a social responsibility to get out in the community and the JU:MP programme is absolutely at the forefront of this. Opening up our schools as community assets will provide spaces where parents and families feel safe and comfortable to engage in physical activity. This will enable us to prioritise and support the physical and emotional wellbeing of our local families.
Through programmes like JU:MP, our schools have a real opportunity to be a beacon in the community for PE and sport, community engagement and leading healthier lifestyles.”
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