Schools should ensure children get 30 minutes of sport or exercise every day to improve both their health and their brain power, according to the recommendations in an official new report.
‘It is urgent advice to the ministers responsible. More exercise is in the national interest,’ Michael van Praag, chairman of the Dutch Sports Council told broadcaster NOS. ‘It is not just healthy. Children learn better and their cognitive skills increase if you move from time to time.’
The report was drawn up by the sports council, the education council and the council for health and society and follows the publication of figures earlier this year showing that 45% of children aged four to 12 do not get the officially-recommended amount of exercise.
The report says that sport is an important part of the education system, encourages children to adopt a healthy lifestyle from a young age, and boosts their social skills.
Schools are currently free to decide how much exercise to include in their timetables. ‘We don’t want to force schools to give gym lessons a certain number of hours a week,’ Van Praag said. ‘Schools can decide how to meet the recommendations themselves, as long as inspectors can check up on them.’
More exercise can be incorporated into the curriculum by, for example, using balls to teach tables or doing knee bends during lessons, Van Praag, the former chief of the Dutch football association, said. In addition, schools could offer more activities during breaks.
The three councils also recommend allowing other experts, rather than teachers, give lessons. Currently only people with teaching qualifications can give sport and movement classes at schools. ‘That would mean someone like [Dutch football coach] Ronald Koeman, with all his qualifications, would not be allowed to do anything during school hours,’ Van Praag told NOS.
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