By Mr Phil Askew, Head of PDHPE/Sport

“Sport and physical activity participation are generally promoted for their positive impact on children’s physical and mental health.

“However, increased participation in sport and other forms of physical activity is also thought to lead to enhanced cognitive functioning (information processing), memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement for children.”

Reflecting the view of a growing number of academics, Dr Karen Martin, lecturer at the University of Western Australia, continues: “The link between physical activity and academic achievement is of increasing interest in the field of education and sport.”

International research

Professor Richard Bailey, for instance, headed a recent major international research project investigating the role of Physical Education and sport in Education.

He states that “overall the evidence suggests that increased levels of physical activity in school does not interfere with pupils’ academic achievement (although the time spent on subjects is consequently reduced) and in many instances is associated with improved academic performance.”

We have, for a long time, quantified the value of sports participation in terms of physical health along with “character building” and teamwork qualities. We strive for success, but because, in the nature of competition not everyone can win, participants gain in areas unrelated to the outcome.

We realise that, while each individual should aim to do his or her personal best, it is often in our combined efforts (as a team) that the greatest satisfaction can be had.

We see the importance of sport in the physical development and wellbeing of our children. Many recognise the strong links between sport and social and emotional development.

Sensible balance

But what if we knew that far from adversely affecting our academic results, participation in sport and physical activity could actually improve school marks?

The challenge to maintain a correct balance between passive and active recreation has never been greater due to the addictive and sedentary nature of the technology available to our students. At the same time, the challenge to study hard and achieve well at school is ever-present, and is unfortunately often seen as being at odds with participation in physical activity.

This is a worrying trend I’ve noticed under increasingly younger students. Some students feel stressed about the work they might miss if they go to a carnival or play in a team at a gala day.

The answer is that balance is the key, with evidence now suggesting that “all work and no play” might make Jack a dull boy in more ways than originally thought.