The Academy at St. James in Bradford is the first school to be awarded status as a Centre of Excellence for Physical Activity, by the Yorkshire Sport Foundation.
The Allerton primary school has been recognised for ‘Whole School Practice and Ethos’, due to prioritising physical activity as a way of driving whole school improvement.
The school’s policies and routines have helped to enhance academic achievement and improve the physical and mental health of their pupils.
Data provided by Born in Bradford on children’s activity levels revealed the school has revolutionised its PE, school sport and physical opportunities in recent years.
Their ‘Physically active Enrichment’ sessions represent a dedicated approach to embedding positive physical activity behaviours and ensure every child within key stages one and two receives one hour of protected physical activity every Friday afternoon.
The sessions are in line with the PE curriculum and provide experiences which may not be accessible to children and families beyond a school day, such as fencing, archery and snooker.
The Academy also delivers Forest School sessions which involve connecting with nature, teaching fire lighting and cooking skills, den building, safe tool use and visits to local green spaces.
The sessions are specifically targeted at the most inactive pupils, and those with specific social and emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.
After being informed by the latest PE research and teaching approaches, the school has designed their own bespoke PE curriculum, allowing for a progressive skills-based approach.
Chris Tolson, the Headteacher, commented, “As a school leader I felt it was important to not only make time for physical activity but also to celebrate the benefits of this approach. Our attainment in school at the end of Key Stage two is now above the national average and our progress for reading in 2021 put us in line with the top 5% of schools nationally.
“In essence, our approach has supported our children to make even better progress in their basic skills whilst simultaneously improving their physical health and wellbeing. I am proud of the work we have done and will continue to do”.
Alex Ogden, PE, School Sport and Physical Activity Manager at Yorkshire Sport Foundation, added: “A huge congratulations to the Academy at St. James for this recognition.
“The school has come a long way in a relatively short period and is now one of the leaders in this area not only in Bradford but across West Yorkshire and the region.
“While this is about how schools do things, the ones to benefit are the pupils, their families and the staff. The evidence shows the physical and mental health benefits of moving more, and the positive impact it can have on behaviour and attainment.”
The school will share their approach with other schools locally and across the wider region to provide best practices to others so that as many children as possible have the chance to receive high-quality opportunities to be active.
It was also recently recognised for Active School of the Year at the annual active Bradford Sports Awards.
Status as a Centre of Excellence for Physical Activity is awarded for two years, at which point it will be reviewed and, if successful, renewed for a further two years.