Sarah Barrett SPHE and PE Assignment PME 626/614 1,616 words
Outline the rationale for implementation and impact of the Active School Flag initiative in promoting well-being in schools. Refer to PE and SPHE in your answer.
The Active School Flag (ASF) is a Department of Education and Skills initiative supported by Healthy Ireland. The initiative “encourages all members of the school community, with the support of local and national agencies, to work together to promote physical activity” (Schooldays.ie, 2018). The award recognises schools that
“Strive to achieve a physically educated and physically active school community. It is open to primary and post primary, special schools and Youthreach centres in the Republic of Ireland.”
The initiative challenges participating schools to enhance physical education and physical activity in their schools and goes further in encouraging engagement with their wider local communities.
The ASF initiative requires schools to
“Self-evaluate across three areas: Physical Education/Physical Activity/Partnerships. Thereafter schools are required to plan and implement improvements that will have a tangible effect on their school community and will satisfy the ASF Success Criteria.”
Further detail on the self-evaluation criteria are included in the appendix.
RATIONALE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF ASF
The Active School Flag initiative encourages schools to ‘Get Active’ by delivering a varied programme of activities that are inclusive, energising, stimulating and fun. Reaching out to local communities and organisations, the ASF programme has the potential to set the foundations for healthy lifestyle and community involvement from an early age which many will carry on into adulthood. In this essay, I will take a more detailed look at the ASF programme in the promotion of well-being within schools.
The Oxford English defines well-being as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”
(Oxford Dictionaries, 2018)
In 1948 the World Health Organization, in its constitution, referred to well-being in its definition of health, stating that
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
(World Health Organization, 1948)
In my opinion the definition given in the NCCA guidelines encapsulates the essence of student wellbeing when it asserts that
“Student wellbeing is present when students realise their abilities, take care of their physical wellbeing, can cope with the normal stresses of life, and have a sense of purpose and belonging to a wider community”
(NCCA, 2017, p17)’.
It appears to me that well-being requires physical wellness together with opportunities to build confidence and self-esteem in a supportive environment. An individual in a state of well-being will be able to cope well in society and will have the ability and confidence to achieve goals, to deal with stress and to be happy and healthy.
The objectives of the ASF initiative are core to the principles of well-being as outlined above and as such, the effective implementation of the initiative provides an ideal opportunity to promote well-being in schools. The two key curricular areas of PE and SPHE provide excellent opportunities to implement the programme, providing a good foundation for developing the three cornerstones of ASF – physical health, physical education and partnerships.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION (PE)
The PE curriculum is designed to encourage full participation by children of all abilities in a wide ranging programme of fun and challenging activities. Participation in PE, further aims to encourage development of social skills from an early age
“The school setting is an ideal environment for population-based physical activity interventions. It provides benefits to children from all risk groups (Harrell 1996; WHO 2004), particularly those with limited or no access to play areas (McKenzie 1996); and avoids stigmatization of at-risk children (Harrell 1998)”.(Obesity.publichealthwell.ie, 2009).
The objective of PE is to embed quality physical education in the school timetable and as outlined earlier, Physical Education and Physical Activity are fundamental criteria for success in the Active School Flag initiative.
With consideration, it is possible to include a varied programme of age appropriate events in the PE curriculum. These should advocate inclusivity and fun, allowing children to perform to their potential in a non-judgmental environment, thereby enabling and promoting well-being. In addition to this, the ASF programme encourages teachers and children to identify ways to extend this active approach beyond the timetabled PE time e.g. 10 at 10, Active transport, Drop Everything and Dance etc. These activities help to invigorate children by embedding an active approach throughout the school day.
I see opportunity here to also build confidence in children, seeking their input into decisions about activities and increasing their awareness of considerations such as catering for differing levels of fitness, special needs requirements, identifying strengths within the team, acknowledging effort, celebrating achievement etc. These are ideal opportunities to foster well-being within the classroom.
SOCIAL, PERSONAL AND HEALTH EDUCATION (SPHE)
SPHE aims to
“Enable the students to develop skills for self-fulfilment and living in communities, promote self-esteem and self-confidence, enable the students to develop a framework for responsible decision-making, provide opportunities for reflection and discussion and promote physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing”.
(SPHE Support Service, 2018)
SPHE as part of the curriculum supports “the personal development, health and well-being of young people and helps them create and maintain supportive relationships”
The principles outlined above are closely aligned to the partnerships criteria of the ASF initiative. This encourages collaboration between schools and the wider community and rewards competencies such as self-motivation, teamwork, recognition, inclusion and discretionary effort, all of which are important skills in developing and sustaining well-being.
Children’s well-being can be developed greatly through the ASF initiative, similar to other whole-school initiatives such as ‘switch-off- get active’, which was said to “foster positive self-esteem, develop decision-making skills, provide opportunities for self-reflection and discussion and promote personal development”
(Harrison et al., 2006)
One of the success criteria for SPHE, is that pupils are encouraged to become actively involved in the promotion of the ASF programme both within school and the wider community. What better way is there to develop a programme of activities that pupils will engage with, than to ask the students themselves to brainstorm ideas for activities and challenges? Taking care to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, and everyone’s ideas captured, provides a great opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem, to develop a sense of inclusion and an acceptance of the importance of diversity. Each week, I would feel it important to spend some time reflecting on progress made in the previous week, by querying what worked well and how we could further develop that idea for the future, again encouraging every pupil to have a voice. I would also look ahead to next week’s events, to ensure that everyone was aware and had an opportunity to be involved on an ongoing basis.
To encourage engagement with the community I would encourage pupils to participate in the delivery of the programme, playing to each person’s strengths and abilities. This could be achieved by partnering pupils with senior members of the community, children with special needs etc.
The reward for successful engagement with the ASF programme is the achievement of the Active School Flag, visible evidence of the achievement of the school, pupils and community. The opportunity to secure a flag provides motivation to achieve a goal and also to commit to a plan of action – a valuable skill for life. The flag is normally presented at a celebratory event involving the school, pupils and members of the local community. This award ceremony itself engenders a shared sense of pride, achievement and celebration for the school and wider community. Each year the school has an opportunity to renew their focus so as to retain the Active School Flag. This provides opportunities for reflection and renewed planning, reinvigorating the school and community to build on success to date.
As outlined above, I believe that pupils, schools and the wider community can benefit greatly from the Active School Flag initiative. In fact this initiative has the potential to transform the relationships between pupils, schools and local communities, with positive consequences for the well-being of all.
The ASF at a basic level encourages schools to facilitate a wide range of physical activities for students while forging links with the community. The PE and SPHE curricula provide ample opportunity to develop a creative programme of events to deliver on these objectives. By taking a broader view and a whole-school approach, I see potential to extend the active school model across many curricular areas so that being active becomes an approach rather than merely an activity. e.g. Geography could include a challenge to walk the length of Ireland over the course of the school year, Science could include a study of the healthy heart or nutrition, with opportunities to involve community-based guest speakers etc.
The ASF success criteria rewards schools who embed healthy lifestyle and emotional development of pupils. It encourages the holistic development of children through teamwork, inclusion, self-motivation, ambition, and the opportunity for every pupil to contribute, to be involved and to be recognised and all while having fun.
Similarly, the ASF initiative supports the well-being of teachers. It allows teachers to connect with their local communities, to keep active by participating in various physical activities, to keep learning as new activities are suggested and to stay motivated to achieve or retain the Active School Flag for their school.
I believe that within the school environment, increased well-being of students resulting from involvement with the ASF programme will reflect on all areas of the school experience. It cultivates a positive learning environment which is inclusive and tolerant, motivating students to perform to the best of their ability and encouraging them to set and achieve personal and team goals. This fosters a sense of loyalty, pride and belonging to their school community – ultimately developing a sense of well-being. This creates an extremely positive platform from which students can step forward with confidence in learning and in life.
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