THE role of parents, teachers and carers has a huge impact on the development and education of our children. Much of what we learn from a young age comes from the adults around us, but naturally we also learn from playing with other children. Playground games and sporting activities are where many of us first grasp the concepts of communication, teamwork, sharing and cooperation. However, these early sporting and active play opportunities have been in decline, and Winning Scotland Foundation wanted to do something about it.

Our “On Our Marks” project is a partnership with Saracen Primary School and ng homes, a housing association based in north Glasgow. We have been working with ng homes for six years, pioneering a new way of working that supports the local community, responds to local challenges and creates lasting change. The project builds on the legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by encouraging more children and their families to be physically active.

The project is about creating sustainable change and meaningful impact. It encourages parents and pupils to increase their physical activity together by playing simple, fun games outlined in take-home cards and a mobile app. Through our ongoing relationship with the school and ng homes We hoped this would increase activity levels across pupils, parents and teaching staff.

A range of social issues in the area have an impact on the activity levels of local children, and rising levels of childhood obesity can be seen across Scotland and the UK. Local parks aren’t always the safest and parents are anxious about letting their children play outside. The nearest leisure facilities might not be in reach for some parents due to cost of entry or lack of accessible transport.

Due to these barriers we chose to focus On Our Marks on the school and what parents could do at home and in the local area. By working with the teachers to implement a culture of daily activity in the school and then introducing physical homework, the school began to engage with the parents in a different way.

Parent training sessions were organised, well attended, and introduced the parents to some basic games and exercises using everyday items around the house that the children had already been introduced to at school. The parents attending were given a pack of cards and could download an On Our Marks app with lots of new games to play at home as a family. The app has also allowed to us to gather feedback from the parents and a recent survey showed that 82% of parents said they and their children were increasing their activity and reducing their screen time.

Evelyn Gibson, the headteacher at the school, has witnessed a notable increase in the number of parents attending events at Saracen since August 2017. The school has been able to make important links with parents, and staff are now more confident delivering an active curriculum. For some teachers, PE class was daunting without any specialist knowledge or training, but the project gave them the skills and confidence to teach PE with easy-to-set-up activities for the children.

Health and wellbeing has also improved at the school. The pupil council has been involved with reviewing and improving the school’s healthy eating policy. Long gone are the days where chocolate, fizzy drinks and sweets were available – now they have been replaced with fruit snacks and water. With this new approach, health and wellbeing is at the forefront of the school’s improvement plan as it continues to work with pupils and their families to produce healthy outcomes and lasting change.

This is just the beginning for On Our Marks. After this successful pilot we are working with ng homes and six other schools to spread these positive changes further.

Morag Arnot
Executive director, Winning Scotland Foundation