Space. Not the universe and stars sort. The sort where you can just stretch your arms out without getting in someone else’s way. For so many schools, particularly primary, space is at a premium – often requiring management and teachers to think imaginatively about how to optimise the use of every centimetre.

Fortunately, educational professionals tend to be a creative bunch and, just as they encourage their pupils and students to face a challenge not be crushed by it, schools are finding solutions to expand PE and sporting options.

‘For central London schools, outdoor space is a precious commodity and not something many have masses of onsite – therefore, being creative when it comes to ensuring students have access to a wide range of fun, engaging and challenging sports activities is paramount.’

Read More Here

‘Children need space. We appreciate that some schools are on restricted sites, but they should do whatever they can’ – David Burchett, ‘Learning through Landscapes’. ‘When the bell rings to signal wet play it is often met with a disappointed groan from both children and teachers throughout the school. But staying indoors during break time doesn’t have to be boring!’

Definitely not boring! Instead of feeling down because you can’t go outside, turn it around and be excited because you can be inside! After all, ‘there is no dependency on the climate conditions outside and indoor games require less space and the temperature can be controlled.’

Enthusiasm for indoor sport, fitness and play can be lifted a lot by attention to the appearance of the sports hall, school gym or multi-use central space. If it looks tatty and uninviting, then pupils and students have the right to think wistfully of outdoor running tracks and airy Netball courts instead.

Simple improvements could include colourful, inspirational and educational posters on display, repainted bright walls and a set of new mats (the staple requirements for so many indoor activities).

‘From the front door and school grounds to the classroom, the aesthetics of learning spaces impact brain function and influence how students feel when they’re in school – as well as how they feel about their school.’

Another straightforward, but very effective, way to make an immediate positive impact on both the appearance and variety of use in your sports and PE space is to upgrade or refurbish your flooring, or smarten up and increase your games lines and markings.

Accurate markings, professionally installed, can take your plain hall floor from a simple mat and yoga space to a basketball/netball/indoor football/tennis/badminton/pickleball court or pitch in an instant. Equally, professional deep cleaning, sanding or sealing of a tired wooden floor will inspire pupils and students to feel good in this cared-for, smart sports space. Add your school logo or motto to the wall or floor and you have the perfect parents’ evening/assembly area too!

Your previously limited or weary space could suddenly offer everything from Yoga, Dance, Meditation, Table Tennis, Hoola-Hooping and Basketball to Trampolining, Indoor Cricket and Badminton! The sky (or ceiling!) is the limit for conjuring up indoor activity ideas.

Our school hall doubles up as a fantastic studio where we host ballet, Zumba and other forms of dance classes. We also offer judo sessions…our indoor sport provision allows us to host intense bursts of exercise throughout the day, still leaving plenty of time to focus on their wider studies….the school has aimed to recruit teachers with a background or experience in certain sports that predominantly take place indoors – the idea being that their passion for the sport will help to further engage and encourage students when taking part,

–  Hilary Wyatt, Headmistress at The Lyceum School in Shoreditch.

By sprucing up an indoor facility, not only can schools suddenly bring the great outdoors, indoors, and make rainy days a pleasure not a pain, they can become resources to enhance other indoor curriculum lessons.

‘To be able to learn children must first be able to focus their attention… how often do we teach children how to do this? …Building focusing games into the school day provide children with a regular opportunity to train their attention… yoga practices would be a valuable addition to children and schools.’ – Rebecca Pyle Active Learning Matters and afPE.

Then, of course, a pleasant, imaginatively considered indoor space could also be use on a rainy, or sunny, day for all kinds of spontaneous activities that bring variety and fun to the school day. The power of dance is emerging as a fascinating resource for motivating and energising all ages, as well as improving learning and mental resilience. It doesn’t have to be a formal, scheduled lesson – a pre or after-school club, wet play session, or even just ten minutes before a lesson can make all the difference.

‘What I found was extraordinary: people with Parkinson’s disease and dementia getting a new lease of life; an increase in self-esteem of teenagers; reduction in depression and anxiety in adults; increases in social bonding between people; and fundamental changes in the way people think and solve problems. All because of dancing.

Dancing stimulates the link between the body and brain. Signals are relayed from the motor areas of the brain to nerves, muscles and joints, and the moving body also sends signals back to different parts of the brain and creates activity deep down at the core of the nervous system and in the neocortex, the brain’s outer layer. Dance provides a full brain and body massage… In our lab experiments we found that people who did 20 minutes of improvised dancing became more creative in the answers they gave to divergent-thinking tasks.’

Read more on this here

The positive potential of the indoor sports space is enormous. Obviously, state-of-the-art climbing frames, professional division curtains and Cricket nets, full-size trampolines, fully-equipped gyms, match-play Basketball goals and elastic flooring might be the ultimate dream – but so much can be achieved by just focusing on clear games markings, good lighting, comfortable heating and efficient equipment storage ideas… and an enthusiastic teacher!

Click me to read more about afPE! Find out more about Sportsafe