We don’t have a literacy problem

A head teacher I spoke to recently was unable to take time out to develop his PE curriculum beyond the minimum requirements. To describe this fellow as a sports enthusiast would be an understatement. Yet he struggled.

The reason? Numeracy and literacy.

Child Running
Physical activity helps kids develop their brains

What’s the link, you may ask. There is one, it’s strong, researched, and not the link you expected.

This hard-working head’s problem was that OFSTED (and HMI) were making demands on his time and on the school to put pressure on teachers to improve the numeracy and literacy of the children.

Actually, numeracy and literacy are irrelevant if you are not physically healthy. But the immediate pressure is to respond to OFSTED, rather than focus on the long-term success of the children. So, here are a few questions for you:

  • Have you ever come across a primary school child that would prefer to walk rather than run?
  • Did natural selection and the growing up process design children to feel better when they sit in a classroom than to run around?
  • It is possible to improve pupil test results without spending yet more time on numeracy and literacy?

But first, tell me what you think:


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There are a whole range of academic studies on the study of “Active Education”, which demonstrate a link between physical activity and academic performance. It’s an extremely strong positive link in case you were wondering.

The research is quite astonishing.

For example the University of Illinois demonstrated that children who walked on a treadmill for 20 minutes not only responded significantly better to test questions in the areas of reading, spelling and arithmetic immediately afterwards, but they also were found to complete learning tasks faster (1). There are countless such studies, one summary of which can be found at here.

So the answer?

To get OFSTED off his back at short notice, my friend should get his pupils to exercise (star jumps, leg drives, spotty dogs, anything really) for 20 minutes immediately before they do their test. In fact, if he just got every class to start with 5 minutes of 1-minute-on-1-minute-off rapid running on the spot, he might never need to worry about his pupils revising for their SATs.

It’s so simple.

Want to find out more? My next article will explain why this works, and give you a few tips. Click on the button below to get it sent straight to you.


Michael Ledzion


PS: Congratulations to St Monica’s primary school that kick-off every morning with 5 minutes of vigorous dancing “Wake and Shake”. Parents invited. Awesome.

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