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Suffolk Primary School Sport Conference 2018: Building Resilient Young People for a Healthy and Active Future

Posted: Fri, 23 Nov 2018 13:49

The Suffolk Primary School Sport Conference, organised by Suffolk Sport and Suffolk PE and Sport Network, took place on the 21st November at the Trinity Park Conference Centre in Ipswich.

Delegates from 68 organisations, including PE Co-Ordinators and Head Teachers from 45 different primary schools, were in attendance to find out how to maximise the effectiveness of PE and School Sport and how to use PE as a tool for whole school improvement. The conference also gave those attending the chance to share challenges, ideas and good practice to help shape the direction of primary school sport in Suffolk.

This year, the conference had an important focus on child mental health and a range of workshops were delivered in accordance with this theme, providing attendees with information, advice and resources to better understand and promote children's well-being. Delegates enjoyed a number of presentations from a variety of keynote speakers, including Clinical Psychologist Dr Beth Mosely, who works for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) but has recently been appointed at Thurston Community College, one of the first schools in the country to have invested in a full-time psychologist to support students with mental health issues.

Children in primary schools face a number of emotional and educational challenges such as shifts in personal relationships and rising levels of exam stress, all at a time where the pressures of social media can also have a detrimental effect on children's mental wellbeing. Recent statistics show that 10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness and 50% of adult mental health problems develop before the age of 18, with most symptoms traceable back to childhood. Teachers and primary school staff have a duty to increase their awareness, knowledge and confidence of mental health issues, in order to support pupils in the best way possible.

Since exercise can have such a profound impact on a person's mental health, with its ability to promote positive chemical changes in the brain, release endorphins and increase overall mood, PE and School Sport are particularly important in helping to improve the health and well-being of primary school children.

Mike Crichton, Chair of the Association for Physical Education and Suffolk Sport Board member, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and spoke about the importance of mental health as the key focus:

"As a PE conference for primary schools, it is important that there is a slightly different theme on the importance of physical, social and mental well being. The purpose of today is to encourage primary schools to develop the resilience, confidence and self-esteem of their students, in order for these young people to deal with and manage the pressures of life both inside and outside of school. We know that stress and anxiety, if not managed appropriately, increase a young person's vulnerability to more serious mental health conditions.

We also know through research and experience that sport and physical education are key areas that are incredibly powerful in terms of supporting pupils' health and capacity to deal with whatever life throws at them."

Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education at Suffolk Mind, also spoke about the importance of physical activity and its correlation with mental health:

"Getting active is a powerful way to influence and benefit mental well being. Exercise releases endorphins, nature's natural anti-depressants and activities such as park runs can meet important needs for community achievement, meaning and purpose. Suffolk Mind is very happy to support and work with Suffolk Sport to promote physical activity and its benefits on mental health".

Jeanette Kwakye, a former Olympic athlete and British 100m Champion, was another one of the keynote speakers at the conference. Now retired from competing, Jeanette is an athlete mentor for the Youth Sport Trust (YST), a British charitable organisation that aims to support the education and development of young people through physical education. Commenting on the success of the Primary School Sport Conference, Jeanette said "It's been a really productive day for everyone involved in PE and School Sport, with some fantastic keynote speakers in attendance. Conferences like this one offer a creative way to share resources, initiatives and ideas.

I think the theme of mental health is particularly important, considering that our young people are exposed to so much and are faced with the building pressures of modern life. PE and School Sport are vital in helping children to deal with the pressures that they face on a regular basis. I am proud to play my role as a mentor with YST and I am proud of our work, in ensuring that PE remains a staple subject."

To find out more about School Sport and for more information on the PE and Sport Premium, visit https://www.suffolksport.com/pepremium

Tags: Conference, Mental Health, PE, Primary School, School Sport, Suffolk

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