Why Didn't I See a Single Overweight Child? - Learning from China
So, every morning after two lessons, the most amazingly simple things happen in thousands of schools across China.
The silence is broken as the speakers hidden everywhere on site start blaring out music. Then up to 6,000 children leave their classes and begin running, skipping or walking utilising all of the available outdoor space...
Not rocket science you may think and not really amazing - until you realise that NONE of the children are being told what to do!
That's right, the large majority of the children are participating in this activity completely unsupervised. Sure, in some, (but not all), of the schools we visited the teaching staff are watching, but in terms of getting on with the activity with no direction and no instruction, the kids take responsibility for their own activity.
There is no messing around at the start, no minute wasted. The lesson stops, the music starts and the children engage in the activity they have been assigned that day - with almost military precision.
Don't get me wrong, it's not all about structured play, but what a fine example of how to embed it into a school. And this happens in EVERY SCHOOL in the country.
Later in the day a free play period started when the music was cranked up and the children began running around enjoying themselves on the playground. As soon as the music stopped they immediately returned to the classroom and began learning - quietly, without fuss and within seconds. Amazing discipline, something which was displayed everywhere by the children (even when these primary school children washed their own plates after lunch).
**Incidentally, what a great touch that music is... at times they even played times tables songs, so sub consciously they were still absorbing information while playing**
I know that the Premier Sport Activity Professionals invited on this trip by the Chinese hierarchy have already shared numerous video of this with schools back home, which in some cases happen to be some the largest Primaries in the UK and already they have Head Teachers requesting help to achieve the same active outcome.
This should serve as a lesson in how easy it is to engage the whole school in physical activity on a daily basis, and from the tens of thousands of kids we've seen this week, it is no surprise that we have not yet seen one single child who looks overweight.
You can't help but wonder why the same thing doesn't happen in every school in the UK? What excuses there would be for NOT doing it. The weather, the staffing?...
Yes, there are many schools in the UK benefiting from programmes such as the Golden Mile - but in China - EVERY CHILD in the country is active in break times and guess what, they have weather and staff in China too!
It's so easy to do, has so much impact yet we continue to procrastinate. I imagine this daily activity isn't the only reason that we didn't see overweight children - but it certainly can't be doing millions and millions of children much harm.
Thanks go to the Chinese Ministry of Sport, Education Bureau and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting us, this was a truly amazing journey.