When students at Papakura’s Edmund Hilary School went into lockdown again in August 2021, take-home play packs and gutter boards made by the school’s caretaker meant they were encouraged to stay active at home.
It’s one of a handful of recent school-wide physical activity initiatives that put student-voice and wellbeing at the centre of decision making. Others include hiring a classroom assistant to design lunchtime activity programmes based on student input, a Magic Play Box for the junior school, and new play equipment including a giant chess and Jenga set.
This string of creative actions is the result of Edmund Hilary School’s collaboration with the Healthy Active Learning team at CLM Community Sport, which supports 36 Healthy Active Learning schools in Counties Manukau.
This is part of a nationwide initiative from Sport NZ, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education that’s now operating at 800 schools and kura around Aotearoa.
Since joining Healthy Active Learning two years ago, the school has been supported to design a new HPE curriculum and provide professional development around it for staff. This had led to increased teacher confidence in delivering HPE and a deeper school-wide understanding of the value of the curriculum and physical activity to students’ overall wellbeing.
Principal Kataraina Nock says the impact has been felt beyond the curriculum: “Professional development and other opportunities provided by Healthy Active Learning have led to new possibilities for our school and helped us to think more about how we can keep improving children’s wellbeing.
“We’ve now got high levels of student engagement because of improved teacher knowledge and understanding. Students have an appreciation that it is a whole-school focus and that everyone is participating, which is a change in the school ethos that was previously absent.”
Principal Nock says teachers are now more confident and excited to deliver the HPE curriculum and are increasingly taking students outside the classroom to do so, encouraging more students to enjoy being active while also learning physical and interpersonal skills. More students are choosing to be active at break times too, the principal has noticed.
CLM Healthy Active Learning advisor Nikki Johnson agreed the impact on the wider school culture had been dramatic.
“It’s great to see kids laughing, problem solving, interacting, and having that active outdoor learning opportunity, knowing the effort we put in today may influence their decisions and future outlook on active recreation.
“This really has been a story of significant change over the past 15 months. From where the school was at to where it is now is tremendous and can be attributed to the hard work of staff and their belief in what we are advocating for,” she said.
The physical activity component of Healthy Active Learning is delivered in partnership between Sport NZ and regional sports trusts and sees a skilled regional physical activity workforce support schools to improve active learning environments and better connect schools to their local communities.