Joel James, Founder of The Actives Challenge, talks to QA Education about the importance of schools embracing digital technology to lead the battle against childhood obesity…

We all know the challenges around childhood obesity, highlighted once again last week with the Government’s latest strategy document.

It’s hard to argue with much of what was in this latest strategy: it aims to reduce sugar intake, restrict promotion of unhealthy food and drink and encourage schools to adopt more regular physical activity. However, my fear is that too much of this is based on “consultation” and could take years to implement, by which time it’s too late for another generation of young children.

What I found most surprising in the strategy was the lack of any focus on using technology to help kids to be healthier. Technology and screens are often portrayed as the enemy (or the last resort of the “lazy” parent) in this debate, but these tools are immensely powerful if used in the right way. Virtually every parent, teacher (and many children) owns a smartphone, so let’s put them to good use! Actives Challenge Joel

That’s exactly what we are doing with The Actives Challenge - an app that engages and empowers children, teachers and parents to live healthier lives. This isn’t a consultation or a project in the pipeline, it’s something that schools can adopt right now to have a measurable impact on the wellbeing of their pupils.

Let's be crystal clear: schools alone cannot be expected to solve the childhood obesity epidemic or reduce the alarming increase of children suffering from 'mental health' issues, but I do believe schools and parents play the two most important roles and need to work closer together. Here again, I think technology has a big role to play in enabling that collaboration and communication.

I'm not a teacher, so when we developed The Actives Challenge I spent invaluable time with a real cross section of school stakeholders, so we had the full picture that allowed us to develop the app to help schools and not inadvertently hinder them. 

It quickly became apparent that we needed a technology solution that could connect and empower schools, parents and children, making it easy and enjoyable to move more, eat healthily and develop self-confidence. Our research specifically showed that any piece of technology above all needed to be:

  • Fun - to maximise interest and sustain engagement levels, especially for young children
  • Trackable - providing data (for Ofsted) to schools and parents without any additional admin
  • Flexible - allowing teachers and parents to utilise 'tools' that are relevant for their own teaching and parenting principles and methodologies
  • Simple - so that both schools and parents can use quickly and easily either independent of one another or as a collaborative effort  
  • Accessible and inclusive - to ensure the tools and resources can be accessed by everyone, especially families living in deprived areas
  •  Collaborative - the ability to link to and support great initiatives like 'The Daily Mile', ‘Walk to School Week’ and others
  • Holistic - promoting physical, mental and emotional wellbeing

I strongly believe that technology has a huge role to play in helping children to grow up healthier and happier, if we can only harness it in the right way.

If your primary school is ready to take a lead in using an innovative digital solution to promote health and wellbeing we would love for your school to join The Actives Challenge.   

Joel James

Founder, The Actives Challenge

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