The study was controlled for other factors – like a child’s background and whether they were young or old for their school year – but it supported other global studies that suggested sport offers a clear route to reducing educational inequalities and closing attainment gaps.
Wigmore wrote: ‘The Institute of Education found that economically disadvantaged children who took part in more sport fared markedly better in their exams. Disadvantaged children who took part in after-school sports achieved, on average, a two-point higher total score in their Key Stage 2 assessments. The extra points amount to 40 per cent of the average attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children aged 11.’
Disadvantaged children who took part in after-school sports achieved, on average, a two-point higher total score in their Key Stage 2 assessments. The extra points amount to 40 per cent of the average attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children aged 11.
Wigmore also quoted research findings in Canada, Germany and other countries where, across different classes, cultures and countries, children who do more physical activity tended to perform better in class. Alongside the accepted qualities of developing resilience, relationship skills and confidence from turning up in all weathers to play with friends, coping with failure and developing self-belief, Wigmore also spoke of research by Professor Craig Williams from the University of Exeter, linking levels of aerobic fitness to improving cognitive function. It was clear that regular physical activity can make children better-equipped to learn – developing brain function through increased oxygen to the brain.
‘By boosting fitness and stamina, sport can give children more energy, sharpening their focus when they return to the schoolbooks. Regular sports participation has been linked to greater attentiveness and concentration in class,’ wrote Wigmore. ‘As Covid-19 has illustrated to many children and adults alike, regular sport also improves mental health. Doing sport releases endorphins, helping relieve stress. Children doing more sport report greater well-being, which can in turn benefit their studies.”
Wigmore concluded: ‘The distinction between work and play is a false dichotomy. If children are not keeping physically active, by implication they are not giving themselves the best chance of succeeding in class. For children to fulfil their potential in the classroom, they need to spend enough time doing sport, too. So, perhaps the parents of children struggling at school need to change their advice. Not getting the grades? Maybe you need to spend more time on the pitch.”
The challenge currently in Scotland is that parents do not have this choice as Scottish councils have taken the decision to delay the return of sport. PE teachers contacted by the OSS stated that the only reason they had been given was that it the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak was considered too high.
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