School students in Croydon given fitness trackers and tailored exercise programmes

Students in a “Health Related Fitness” class. Pic: Coombe Wood High School

Secondary school students in Croydon are being given fitness trackers and individually tailored exercise programmes in alternative P.E. classes.

Coombe Wood High School has partnered with training app MyZone to provide students with the devices and programmes designed to suit each student’s physical abilities.

While students can still participate in football, basketball, netball and gymnastics competitively, traditional P.E. is being replaced with Health Related Fitness classes that bridge the gap between students with strong and weak athletic abilities to ensure everyone can improve their fitness in a fun, fair and supportive environment.

Jonathon Wilden, executive headteacher and CEO at Folio Trust, which runs the school, said: “Children across the country are opting out of physical activity because they don’t appreciate that actually getting knackered is of benefit to them.”

“You’ve got children who…may have concerns about their body image or may have parents who themselves have opted out of sport and therefore aren’t interested.”

“What we’ve done with MyZone, is what we call the ‘gamification’ of P.E.”

MyZone’s technology uses children’s urge for visual stimulus to engage them in a program that incentivises participation by offering “effort points” in line with a student’s current fitness level.

Students are given real-time data during classes to track their progress.

Wilden said: “We’re all aware that children like to see things on screens and by linking that up to a colour-coded system, previously disinterested students have become more inquisitive.”

“Some people think Coombe Wood is a sports college for elite sportspeople and we work really hard to say, ‘Coombe Wood is a school which is about everybody being healthy and everybody participating’.”

To prove the point, Coombe Wood has taken up a significant fitness challenge. Using data from the World Health Organisation, MyZone has worked out that 1,300 MyZone Effort Points per month are required for people to live healthy, productive lives.

Coombe Wood is attempting to have all 180 of its year 10 students achieve this baseline of 1,300 MEPS in November.

Wilden said: “We believe we will be the first school ever to put a whole body of children through that process.”

“I know for a fact we’ve already got some children at 1,300 MEPS and we’re only on November 17…but I’m not actually so bothered about them. I’m more bothered about the last five kids on November 29 who are going to go out for a walk with their dog or go for a little park run with their dad because they’ve got to get another 30 MEPS.”

“If they do that, it will be very significant and potentially change those children’s activities and fitness attitudes on a long-term basis.”

Preliminary talks are underway to add this technology into two of Folio Trust’s other schools and Wilden said he hopes to one day see this approach adopted more widely across the UK.

“At the moment we’re not shouting about it too loudly…but it’s exciting and we want to take it further.”

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of schools being built in this country that don’t prioritise health related fitness.”

“I think health, which leads into academic success, positive mental health and more children feeling great about themselves, should be an underlying factor for all new schools and that’s what we’re doing at Coombe Wood.”

“We’re not a sports college, we’re not a specialist school for health, what we’re trying to do is create a template for other schools to follow.”

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