Every day’s a school day: Lessons learned through a global pandemic – Why physical activity is more important than ever



Over the past year we have all learned lessons, we have all experienced life very differently and, in some cases, we have realised what we have taken for granted. In the past it became military to agree that exercise is good for us, it was a habit that we would speak about, but over the last year we have been able to treat it with the respect it deserves.

A global pandemic has forced us to evaluate the existence of physical activity in our lives. At one point, it was the nation’s lifeline. That one walk, run or cycle a day was what we looked forward to, it was what our day was focussed around, and it was what made us happy. It became a priority and a social outlet when we could meet with ‘one other person for exercise’, we valued and cherished the freedom of the outdoors.

In a flash, online learning took off, the content that schools were providing for pupils at home to make sure they could continue their learning journey, was incredible. At ECS we produced a full and balanced curriculum through a screen, something no one ever thought was possible.

With the help of Joe Wicks, Oti Mabuse and many other celebrities, suddenly schools were realising that children learning through a screen was doable with many subjects, but what the children really needed was to step away from the screen. They needed to breathe in fresh air and experience all the lovely benefits on the body that exercise has to offer. Suddenly physical activity lessons became a priority in the curriculum, this was more than just PE lessons or Games lessons, this was an outlet, it was needed for children, it was a lifeline in lockdown.

I recently watched a Ted Talk (The brain-changing benefits of exercise) about how exercise has a direct link to the brain. The science is there, it is fascinating that exercise can affect mood, energy, self-esteem, social interaction, concentration, confidence, appetite and has been known to lower anxiety levels and help with depression. Wendy Suzuki (Professor of Neuroscience) found that it can affect overall performance in school and work and can also promote positive mental wellbeing. If you have some time, I recommend watching it. I included it in our Year 7 and 8 Health and Wellbeing module, and the pupil response was that of motivation and enthusiasm.

We have now returned to school site to continue our learning journey, but what is the bigger picture with physical activity in schools? A pandemic has made us review our curriculum, what we offer, and how we can make it even more effective and wholesome for our pupils. The future of sport as a whole is exciting, and I believe new ways of thinking have been developed. More creativity and freedom within the curriculum, to really create something special and paramount.

It has been lovely to see more people than ever out running, walking and cycling. The last year has allowed people to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. Some may have tried online fitness classes, dance classes or challenged themselves to a couch to 5k. The point is that we were given the opportunity, given the time, to experience something different, to realise that it makes us feel better. We could build a passion for exercise and embrace how it becomes a habit. This is what we strive for at ECS, to instil in our pupils, a passion for being active. When their journey at ECS comes to an end, we want their overall experience to have enhanced a love for sport and a habit for a lifetime. Sport for all, sport for life.


Mrs Emma Ross

Director of Sport


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