The benefits of sports – both group and individual – have long been recognised and understood as a vital part of a child’s education.
Following research released last year that showed today’s generation of children spend less time outdoors than prisoners, a clear need amongst educators for more regular exercise, outdoor activities and sporting clubs was recognised. And in a world where outdoor learning, field-based lessons and free-flow classes are common place, it has never been easier to take children out of the classroom and into the great outdoors for PE lessons and extra-curricular clubs. However, in central London schools, where outdoor spaces are a precious, albeit limited commodity, hosting running clubs, football games and horse-riding isn’t necessarily that easy.
So how can we ensure students still receive the same level of exercise – and in a fun, engaging way – without having to travel great distances to the local parks?
Hilary Wyatt, Headmistress at Hyde Park School in South Kensington, explained, “We are huge believers of indoor exercise and sport at Hyde Park. Even though there are plenty of green spaces close to the school, escorting a class of nearly 20 students there and back each day can be a logistical challenge. Plus indoor sports can be held in quick, intense bursts leaving students with more time to pursue other interests or focus on their studies.”
“With that in mind, we always try to strike a balance between indoor and outdoor activities for both our timetabled sports lessons and after-school activities – ensuring our students get the best of both worlds,” added Hilary. “Most recently, we introduced regular yoga sessions for students, parents and teachers to not only support their physical health, but also to help with their mental wellbeing – particularly during times, like exam season, where they may face increased pressure and a bigger workload. We run these flexibly at different times throughout the day, giving people the freedom to join whenever they are able or when they feel it would be particularly beneficial.”
The school has a series of external instructors who run the sessions throughout the week, but Hilary also invites students and families to practise independently in the school’s exercise studio space, with teachers on hand to support. iPads and laptops are also made available so that online tutorials can be used for guidance.
“Since launching the yoga sessions, we’ve found that students and parents alike have really gotten into it. Unlike other more traditional forms of exercise or sport, yoga doesn’t require a huge amount of preparation and even just 15–20 minutes can be really beneficial both mentally and physically. Plus, it’s great on a rainy day when you don’t fancy heading outside,” said Hilary.
The Lyceum School, based on Paul Street in Shoreditch, also offers a wide range of indoor sports for students and even boasts a former Olympian as a teacher.
Headteacher, Vanessa Bingham, said, “The Lyceum is based in one of the busiest places in London and while being in the hustle-bustle is incredibly exciting and stimulating for our students, it can make it tricky to provide big, group sports like football or netball that other schools often take for granted.”
‘Over the years, we have become highly skilled at making full use of the indoor space that we have, and we have tailored our sporting timetable and after-school clubs to provide a range of exciting and fun classes that don’t require a lot of space,” continued Vanessa. “Our most popular has to be judo. The students (and parents!) absolutely love it. There’s a clear reason why too – we are lucky enough to have a former judo Olympian as our dedicated teacher. She joined The Lyceum after a car accident sadly left her paralysed – however, she was determined to continue her passion for the sport and does this through weekly classes for students.
“Having a teacher with such a clear flair and commitment to a sport means that students automatically engage on a much deeper level – it becomes their passion too, which is just incredible to see. And, it just goes to show, you don’t need masses of room or space – just enthusiasm, energy and a positive attitude,” concluded Vanessa.