A new sports strategy at Auckland's King's College aims to encourage all students to be fit and healthy — and will track their progress alongside academic results.
Long known for its elite sports teams, King's is adopting a new health, fitness and wellbeing policy which will see all students, even non-sporting pupils required to participate in regular physical activity. Through the programme, the school hopes to improve the overall mental and physical health of its students, boosting classroom performance as well.
Headmaster Simon Lamb says the school consulted with its students, staff and parents about their aims and expectations, as well as engaging consultant Garry Carnachan of School Sport New Zealand to look the school's sports offerings and trends in the wider community.
According to Sport New Zealand statistics, only around one per cent of secondary school students are involved in competitive sport exclusively, while more than three-quarters of students are involved in sports and fitness activities primarily for fun.
"Statistics also show that students in this country are increasingly engaging in informal opportunities as opposed to complete season commitments to a sport, in the traditional sense," Lamb says. "Encouraging greater participation therefore means we needed to consider our students' motivations, what sports and physical opportunities we offer, and when and where these activities take place.
"We found that, while many students were already involved in organised sport, they also wanted opportunities to participate in more informal and unstructured sporting activities."
So the school is arranging more casual sporting activities, such as basketball leagues involving other local schools, ultimate frisbee games and futsal matches. Students will be able to access these activities easily, at lunchtimes and after school, as well as the traditional Saturday sports model, Lamb says.
The school has appointed a new head of health, fitness and wellbeing, James Reyburn, who has come from the UK to take up the role. Reyburn, who has experience running sports and PE departments, will integrate the new policy into the King's curriculum. From this year, all students will be required to take part in some regular activity, with their health and fitness tested and monitored.
"We are testing for fitness because we think students will benefit from seeing an improvement, relative to personalised goals," says Lamb. "In the junior school, the fitness testing aspect will be part of the PE programme – and we are looking at more ways in which there can be integration between the curriculum and our wider health, fitness and wellbeing goals."
Students and parents will be able to access their confidential fitness data and track progress through the school's Power BI online reporting tool, which also records academic results and attendance.
"Tracking their fitness this way means they'll be able to monitor improvement and see that connection between physical fitness and wellbeing and their academic results," Lamb says.
The school will also maintain its support of its high-performance sports teams and encourage the participation of top students in elite sporting opportunities outside school, such as regional and age-group teams.
Lamb says the school views student health and fitness as laying the foundations for academic achievement and success and a key part of its holistic approach to providing "the best all-round education".
"We have a long-held belief in students being physically active," he says. "The bottom line is that we want our students to be fit and to enjoy the benefits to their physical and mental wellbeing that that brings, as well as the positive effects it has on academic achievement."