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Announcement Summary: Physical Activity Initiative

Announcement Summary: Physical Activity Initiative

- New Zealand children are less physically active
In 2001, 13 per cent of young people aged between five and 17 years of age were sedentary, compared to 8 per cent in 1997.

Only 62 per cent of those between 13 and 15 years of age reported being active in 2001,that is doing more than two and a half hours of physical activity a week, compared to 74 per cent in 1997. Physical activity rates for young Maori are also down, from 75 per cent in 1997 to 66 per cent in 2001. Pacific youth are among the most inactive, with only 52 per cent being active on a regular basis.

- There is a high prevalence of obesity amongst young children
The Ministry of Health’s latest research indicates 31 per cent of children were either overweight or obese.

(from the NZ Food NZ Children: Key results of the 2002 National Children's Nutrition Survey at

- This is having a negative impact on their health
The potential health risks of obesity are extensively documented. Childhood obesity can lead to lifelong illness for people, including adult obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions and a range of other health disorders that can shorten a person’s life expectancy.

- Activities that help children be physically coordinated also help brain development and learning.
A child is born with billions of neurons which need sensory stimulation in order to link together to form neural pathways. The development of these neural connections is vital for memory, sensory development, communication between the two sides of the brain, processing of information, participation in the arts and the later formal learning of reading, writing and mathematics.

Physical activity strengthens these neural pathways or connections within the brain.

- The new physical activity initiative:
- Primary teachers will receive 10 hours classroom release time from next September.
- This provides an opportunity to put in properly trained people to increase the amount, and to lift the quality of physical activity that children receive.
- Regulations will change to enable schools to do this.
- The government will provide professional development and support.

Questions and answers: Physical Activity Initiative

How will the regulations change?
The regulations will be amended to give priority to raising levels of physical activity.

The National Education Guidelines (comprised of the National Education Goals [goals], the National Administration Guidelines [NAGs] and the National Curriculum Statements) significantly influence schools’ areas of focus.

A change to the NAGs and goals to explicitly include physical activity education as a focus will result in the Education Review Office asking schools specifically about physical activity education as part of their regular reviews, and is likely to increase schools’ focus on physical activity education through their planning and reporting processes.

How much physical activity do schools currently have to do?
There are no minimum requirements and it depends on the teacher and the school. The practice varies considerably from school to school.

How will schools provide this extra time for physical activity?
Extra staffing will be generated by the classroom release time provision for teachers that is a part of the primary teachers employment agreement.
Schools can use this extra staffing to employ physical activity education specialists. The costs of this will be funded by the government.

Schools may collaborate or form clusters and share the physical activity education specialists, or they may employ part-time specialists.

Where will the physical education specialists come from?
Teachers who are new graduates with specialisation in this field and current teachers who go through additional professional development to raise their knowledge and skills in physical activity education could take this role.

How will this initiative affect other curriculum requirements?
It will not affect other curriculum requirements.

What other help will schools receive?
- Guidelines for physical education/ physical activity/ sport/ recreation/ fitness.
- Guidelines for food and nutrition education MoE/SPARC/MoH).
- Curriculum in Action – a series of books (MoE).
- Development of an Active Schools Teaching Resource (SPARC)
- Additional professional development and training services around physical activity for educators (MoE/SPARC).

How much will the initiative cost?
This initiative is part of the Active Schools strategy, currently funded at $6.6 million for the next four years, but expected to increase. The classroom release time is estimated to cost about $158 million over four years.


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