Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Making a Play for Tip-Top Health; Teachers at a School Have Come Up with an Innovative Way of Tackling Childhood Obesity. CRAIG THOMPSON Discovers How Playtime Is Helping Put the Fun Back into Fitness

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Making a Play for Tip-Top Health; Teachers at a School Have Come Up with an Innovative Way of Tackling Childhood Obesity. CRAIG THOMPSON Discovers How Playtime Is Helping Put the Fun Back into Fitness

Article excerpt

Byline: CRAIG THOMPSON

CAREFULLY making their way along the beams, schoolchildren learn balance, strength and focus as they enjoy their new revamped playground.

Monkton Infant School, in St Simon Street, South Shields, has become the first school to benefit from a new range of playtime equipment aimed at getting them healthy while they have fun.

Designed for four to six-year-olds, the features of the school's new yard include the balance beams, a scramble tunnel, mini humpback bridge, stepping stones, stepping flowers and stretch posts.

The new equipment has been installed by South Shields-based Play Fitness. The company has installed more than 70 outdoor gyms for children aged seven and above in schools across the region, but has now launched its first products aimed at younger children.

Bosses from the company have been working with Monkton Infant School for some time on various aspects of its playground revamp.

The outdoor gym was funded by a PS10,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund's Awards for All scheme, with a further PS5,900 coming from the school's sports premium grant. Acting deputy headteacher Hayley Winter said: "We did a questionnaire and a lot of parents said they would like to see improvements to the playground, so we decided to use their comments and feedback.

"We have been tackling it in phases and as well as the new outdoor gym, we have introduced a climbing wall and now we are looking to resurface the area. The outdoor gym equipment is fantastic. The children really enjoy it and it is tackling obesity.

"They use it every day at playtimes and lunchtimes and also in PE."

The school has a bronze Healthy School Award and is working towards a silver one.

Play Fitness sales consultant Mark Carter, who has worked closely with the school on the project, said: "For the last five years it has primarily been Key Stage 2 outdoor gym equipment that we have supplied and installed.

"We realised that there wasn't a great deal of choice of equipment for Key Stage 1, so for the last 12 months, we have been developing this range of products.

"Monkton is the first school to purchase it and it is great to see so many children enjoying it and bene-fiting from it.

"Using the equipment in schools, children learn the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and ways of staying active and making better lifestyle choices. We see that children are Turn to Page 26 From Page 25 more confident both physically and socially.

"We see an improvement in the children's behaviour as the exercise more and they show academic improvement."

The goal of the playground gyms is to: Increase the physical and mental |well-being of participants; Reduce health inequality; | Engage individuals in physical |activity; Reduce levels of obesity; | Motivate participants to make |positive lifestyle choices; Develop positive attitudes to exer-|cise. …

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