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Reflective diary entry – Autumn 2017

This is a wonderful example of sensitive observations matched perfectly to provision and practice. This teacher is working under challenging conditions – and finds interesting and illuminating opportunities to extend the children’s knowledge and language – always being mindful of the positive behaviours that are being practised as the children work and play together.


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Joy, play and doing together

Publications of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland 2016-12-03

Recommendations for physical activity in early childhood

The Joy in Motion programme, aimed at increasing the level of physical activity in children’s day especially by increasing child-focused operating methods, was launched in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) last year. The child has the right to be and act in ways peculiar to children, which means that the child uses his or her whole body when playing, moving and exploring. Research results have shown that this kind of physical activity supports the child’s holistic growth and development. Research results guide us adults by showing us what kind of physical activity and exercise we can use in our various roles to support children’s wellbeing. 


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APPG | Physical education | October 2016

Dr Lala Manners | 'The role of PE in the curriculum for Primary and Secondary children had not been revised since 1944 – so there was a clear need for review and change.' 

But – there is also a need to recognise that the EY has a major part to play in ensuring that children arrive at school as confident and competent movers, ready to engage in any and all opportunities for physical activity. Please read the EY section in this report – there is a lot of underpinning knowledge included, but the recommendations are sound. Also, EY has a presence in the Obesity Strategy section – again, well worth reading the recommendations.


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EYFS Best Practice – All about… child obesity

Nursery World | 05 September 2016 by Dr Lala Manners

Abstract from original article by Dr Lala Manners | A Weighty Problem

The age at which obesity affects overall health and wellbeing – and compromises life chances and opportunities – has now reached the youngest members of societies worldwide. Obesity has no respect for age, gender or geography and has a significant impact on the fiscal, environmental, educational, transport and health policies of all countries.

Globally, in 1990, 32 million children between 0–5 years were obese; by 2014 this figure had risen to 41 million. The predicted figure for 2025 is 75 million. In developing countries there has been a 30% increase in childhood obesity in the last 10 years.

In the UK, 12% of children are obese by aged 3 – 15% are considered to be overweight. In the USA, 7.1% of children under 2 years are obese. By aged 5 (UK 2014/5) 9% children were obese – 22% were overweight. By Year 6 these figures had risen to 19% and 33% respectively. In the USA the prevalence of obesity in the 2.5– 5 year age group has risen from 5% in the 1970s to 8.4% in 2014. One third of all children 6–9 years in European countries are now either overweight or obese.

The toll of obesity on healthcare systems is immense. Between 2–7% of healthcare spending in developed countries is devoted to this issue. In the UK, 5% of the entire NHS budget is spent on obesity-related conditions – around £44.7 billion per year.


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Childhood Obesity | A Plan for Action

Commentary by Dr Lala Manners | 18 August 2016

In an overall weak strategy – what are the positives for EY/PD/PA?

  • That EY is recognised as a critical period that informs and supports the future health and wellbeing of all young children.
  • ‘Updating’ the EYFS Framework to include the CMO EY PA guidelines is a much-needed amendment that will support the PD component of the curriculum.
  • This will ensure that PA is embedded in daily practice and will drive changes in accompanying assessment procedures for this area.
  • Ofsted will then be encouraged to amend their inspection procedures to include measures taken by settings to support PA/Health and Wellbeing.
  • Practitioners will therefore be encouraged to seek relevant training to ensure they fully support PA within their PD practice.


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Case for improving the promotion, delivery and evaluation of Early Years Physical Development, Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing

activematters commentary written by Dr Lala Manners | July 2016

Case for improving the promotion, delivery and evaluation of Early Years Physical Development, Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing



  1. Currently, in the UK there are three separate frameworks (spanning the Department for Health and Education) that support Early Years Physical Development, Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing.
  2. Their contrasting remits have resulted in confusion and inconsistent promotion, delivery and evaluation of Early Years (EY) Physical Development (PD), Physical Activity (PA) Health and Wellbeing.
  3. Training in this field is inconsistent and urgently requires a mechanism for quality assurance.
  4. Recommendations to support/improve best practice in EY PD/PA include:
  • Review the PD component of the EYFS, CMO physical activity guidelines and relevant elements of the CIF to ensure alignment of purpose.
  • Review the Ofsted inspection requirements for EY PD/PA.
  • Create National Quality Guidelines for EY PD/PA.
  • Develop quality training opportunities for the EY workforce to ensure their inclusion and effective participation in the PHE ‘wider workforce’ initiative.
  • Designate a PD/PA coordinator/champion in every EY setting – supported by Healthy Early Years schemes.
  • Review the concept of ‘School Readiness’.
  • Review DfE KS1 PE curriculum to align with the EYFS PD component.
  • Create a professional body/organisation to support EY PD/PA professionals.
  • Establish an EY PD/PA taskforce to inform and drive policy/practice in this field.


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Does Physical Activity Really Matter? Dr. Lala Manners Director, activematters

4Children | London | 16 June 2016

Never before has children’s health been deemed a ‘national emergency’, with increasing concern that unhealthy lifestyles will lead to lower life expectancy for this generation of young people compared to previous ones. The health of young children must now be of top importance to every early years practitioner.


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Failing to come with a holistic solution – obesity and mental health

activematters opinion | May 2016

Key points

  • Both obesity and common mental health disorders account for a significant proportion of the global burden of disease
  • There are bi-directional associations between mental health problems and obesity, with levels of obesity, gender, age and socioeconomic status being key risk factors
  • There is strong evidence to suggest an association between obesity and poor mental health in children and adults. This evidence is currently weaker for younger children
  • The relationships between actual body weight, self-perception of weight and weight stigmatisation are complex and this varies across cultures, age and ethnic groups
  • The perception of being obese appears to be more predictive of mental disorders than actual obesity in children
  • Weight stigma increases vulnerability to depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, maladaptive eating behaviours and exercise avoidance
  • Intervention strategies should consider both the physical and mental health of children. This awareness could lead to prevention, early detection, and co-treatment of children at risk, ultimately reducing the burden of both conditions
  • There is an urgent need for evaluations of weight management interventions, both in terms of weight loss and psychological benefits 


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Taxing Sugar to Fund a City – 2nd Stage for Liverpool?

activematters comment | Liverpool city council is to start naming and shaming heavily sugared drinks, such as Lucozade and Coca-Cola, in a hard-hitting drive to warn parents about the health dangers they pose to their children.

Surely, taking it a stage further, rather than use ‘public money’ to address - these issues – tax them to fund ‘real’ change at a local level!

OVER the last decade or so, taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been proposed in a handful of American cities; they’ve failed all but once. Sometimes, this has been through a lack of governmental support — in 2009, David Paterson, then governor of New York, quickly gave up on his proposal for a tax — but mostly their advocates’ efforts have been overwhelmed by injections of cash from soda manufacturers and distributors.


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activematters response | Fit for the future: public health people

Public Health England (PHE) publishes a review of the public health workforce future capabilities and skills | May 19 2015 

The review ignores the key questions:

  • the key challenges facing Public Health People now – obesity, mental health and physical inactivity!
  • why does it not include Early Years educators (practitioners, child minders and nursery staff)
  • are parents – not part of the Public Health People – when it comes to children
  • what are the drivers, measures and training required that will influence the way the workforce will need to develop – education and educators – not just another ‘marketing campaign’
  • what does this mean in terms of the future composition of the workforce, and the skills and capabilities needed? More importantly – who and how are these people trained or up-skilled, evaluated and monitored. More importantly – who is going to fund the required training
  • how should the public health system (and education) respond nationally and locally to prepare a workforce that is fit for the future
    • Why is the division between health and education being maintained


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Why the charter school debate has moved beyond ‘better’ or ‘worse’

Published in The Conversation | written by Joshua Cowen. Associate Professor of Educational Policy, Michigan State University | April 20 2016

activematters comment | The parallels’ between the push for academies in the UK and charter schools in the US – needs to reviewed – in light of the fact that the US, have pursued this strategy since 1991 – with very mixed results. The question remains that children with problems are either pushed out of the system or avoided completely – to maintain grade averages – this begs the question – where will the increasing number of children with obesity fit into this new UK model!

Abstract: The charter school debate is getting even more heated. Recently, charter opponents launched a campaign from the steps of the Massachusetts State House to warn that charter schools were “sapping resources from the traditional schools that serve most minority students, and creating a two-track system.” Similar opposition has been voiced by critics across the country as well.


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activematters opinion | Education white paper and academies

Cross-party move against England's academy schools plan

Leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat groups in the Local Government Association have combined to oppose plans to force all English schools to become academies.

In a joint letter to the Observer, they urge ministers to reconsider the plans.

White Paper proposals:

  • All schools in England to move to academy status
  • New funding system designed to benefit disadvantaged areas
  • Heads who take over struggling schools given a two-and-a-half-year reprieve from Ofsted inspections, to enable them to turn things around
  • An end to the legal obligation for academies to have parents as governors in all schools
  • A shake-up of governance, with a greater obligation to consult with parents

Accreditation system for teacher training to be approved by head teachers - scrapping the current "qualified teacher status".

The letter is signed by Cllr David Hodge, Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Marianne Overton, Leader of the Independent Group and Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.


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Healthy Children, Bright Futures - Addressing Key Health Issues for Under 5s

4Children | London | 16 June 2016 

On 16 June, 4Children will host its first health conference to address key issues for the early years, including childhood obesity and oral health. Join us for a full day of insight into what's being called a national emergency, including case studies and practical tips on improving health for under 5s.

Registration will open next month. Stay tuned for additional details. 


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We need more evidence in order to create effective pre-K programs

Brookings |  Dale C. Farran | 25 February 2016 

Executive Summary

The proposition that expanding pre-K will improve later achievement for children from low-income families is premature. Premature as well is the presumption that solid research exists to guide the content and structure of pre-K programs. Despite more than 50 years of preliminary work on pre-K as an early intervention for young children from poor backgrounds, the field of early childhood education has a relatively small database to use as a guide to effective practice. Lack of evidence about which skills and dispositions are most important to effect in pre-K and what instructional practices would affect them has led us to the current situation of poorly defined, enormously varied programs, all called pre-K, as well as a reliance on a set of quality measures with no empirical validity.


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activematters | opinion | Obesity strategy and beyond!

activematters | Successive governments have had  an appalling track record (and getting worse by the day) by pandering to vested interests of the food & drinks industry (salt, sugar, labeling, marketing to children), dating back to the time when major health charities walked away from Andrew Lansley’s “responsibility” partnerships, because of his refusal to overrule the industry on anything much, or even to impose any serious rules on the minimal obligation to inform customers clearly about the nutrition in their food. The fizzy drink tax is another item of this long list of failures. In this light, the delay in the obesity strategy looks less like a necessary pause to give the government time to think, than a crude invitation for the industry to lobby again.

Or as we see it…Change4Life masquerading as a ‘Public Health’ campaign funded by the industry - hell bent on slowing down sectorial intervention on any level! We also know that Physical activity has been made virtually invisible in the obesity strategy!

Editorial | The Guardian view on childhood obesity: fizz with indignation

Abstracts| If the government were earnestly grappling with such complexities, then the latest delay in the childhood obesity strategy might be forgivable. With diabetes already consuming 10% of NHS resources and one child in every four too heavy, the need to do something is urgent and plain. But it might nonetheless be worth taking the time required to get that something right. Sadly, there is absolutely no sign that this is what is going on.


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Exercise + classwork may = better math scores

Medical Xpress | Amy Norton, Healthday Reporter | 24 February 2016

(HealthDay)—Schoolchildren may have an easier time learning if exercise is part of their math and spelling lessons, a new study suggests.

Dutch researchers found that second- and third-graders given "physically active" lessons did better on math and spelling tests, compared with their peers who learned the old-fashioned way.

Experts not involved with the study called the findings "encouraging." But they also said it's too soon to push for physically active classrooms everywhere.

Weaving  into traditional lessons could offer the "amazing possibility" of helping kids learn, while also helping them stay healthy, said Sara Benjamin Neelon, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.


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We need a new approach to assessing special educational needs – here’s why

The Conversation | Jonathan Rix | February 24, 2016

There is a huge variation in the way that children are allocated into categories of special educational needs. It is a lottery which people have known about for years, and it is not going away despite changes to legislation. To add to this unfairness, the categories themselves are of little help to teachers.

A couple of years ago, I looked at how local authorities in England used these categories. I noted that even those categories which might seem really obvious (such as visual, physical or hearing difficulties) were used in widely different ways. For example, in 2013, the category “autistic spectrum disorder” was used to diagnose 3.47% of children with special needs in one local authority, and 22.37% of children in another.

I wondered if the 2015 figures would be different – particularly after the 2014 Children and Families Act introduced a new Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice. The categories of assessment were merely mentioned in passing in the new code, which introduced four new “broad areas of need”: communication and interaction, cognition and learning, social, emotional and mental health difficulties, and sensory and/or physical needs.


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How New York City’s parents took on the welfare system – and changed it

The Guardian | David Tobis | 24 February 2016

The number of children taken into care in New York City (NYC) has decreased from almost 50,000 in 1994 to 10,295 in 2015. In the UK, by contrast, the number is at record levels. Last month in England alone, Cafcass, the children and family court advisory and support service, received a total of 1,040 care applications – a 16% increase on the previous January, despite recent research showing no real rise in the number of children on child protection registers. Social workers and parents increasingly fear and distrust each other, and social workers are even asking: “Have parents become the enemy?”

I set up a grant-making organisation, the Child Welfare Fund, in the early 1990s. Over the next 18 years, it was instrumental in changing New York’s child welfare system. I have been in the UK this week speaking to audiences of social workers and academics in London and Edinburgh at the invitation of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) to share some of our lessons.