Birkby Infant & Nursery School – Paula Manser, Assistant Head

Birkby Infant & Nursery School – Paula Manser, Assistant Head

Birkby Infant and Nursery School is a large Infant & Nursery School in Huddersfield that serves families from a wide range of cultural and economic backgrounds. Physical activity and exercise has always been a huge consideration for our school, exercise for many of our children is done solely in school due to cultural commitments, social and economic backgrounds and the parental engagement of some of our families. Our head is passionate about the health and well being of our children and was fully committed and supportive when we embarked on our Move and Learn journey last year.  As a school we recognised children’s habits outside school are increasingly sedentary, how children spend their time in school is becoming increasingly more important.  

As the PE lead I had a vision that physical activity should not just be part of our daily exercise, reserved for our PE lessons and weekly 1K  it needed to become part of our daily teaching and learning too hence the introduction of Move and Learn. 

Views and perceptions

Bringing about change can be an incredibly difficult thing to do in school: children are generally willing to commit to whatever you offer them, staff are not always quite so keen to adapt and change to another way of thinking, another new approach, another new initiative! 

Throughout the year with various staff training, inset days, year group observations and meetings I was continually able to promote the Move and Learn message of the importance of physical activity within learning and the important role it plays in not only engaging children in their learning, the positive effects it has on their mental health but equally the physical benefits it offers. The key to engaging staff was to show them how simple this approach really is, many were initially concerned with losing control of the class, needing too many resources, not having enough space, lessons being too disruptive – only time and a different way of thinking enabled staff to see this is not the reality.

To develop a truly active school we knew we needed to:

  • Create a positive active mindset – where children, parents and colleagues believe that activity is a central value of the school.
  • Create classrooms that aid physically active learning not prevent it.
  • We started by decluttering our classroom spaces,  creating room to be more active around the tables and chairs.
  • Develop active learning throughout the curriculum and lessons, every lesson should have a greater emphasis on the movement of the children while they learn. Staff were asked to consider what they did on a daily basis and reflect upon this when planning subsequent work. Staff are now  in the process of considering ways to incorporate short active bursts of activity along with lessons that require moderate and vigorous activity. 
  • Develop structured Active Play opportunities – are ALL the children active at break times or lunchtimes? All our KS1 children now take part in structured weekly active breaks led by our Year 2 Playleaders.

Our key to success:

Keep it simple, start off small and look for the simple changes that you can make:

  1. What space is there for children to move around? Could you change the layout of your classroom and learning areas so children have to move around it more?
  2. Do the children always need to sit at the tables? Can they work on the floor, stand, write on the wall?
  3. Does everyone need a chair? Are there other alternatives that the children could use to encourage greater movement?
  4. Do your lessons create opportunities for the children to move? Are the children expected to sit and listen while you deliver?
  5. Where are the resources the children need? Do you have the resources ready so the children never need to collect them themselves or can you place them so the children can independently access what they need?
  6. AFL how do children show you what they are on? Can you create different body moves – red – curl up in a ball, amber – star shape, green hands up and on tip toes? It really doesn’t have to be a thumbs up, down or in the middle, get creative!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  7. Do children answer with their hands up? Or do you use questioning as the easiest way to incorporate activity?
  8. Have children respond to a question or prompt by moving instead of just speaking if they know the answer, they could:
    • Stand on one leg
    • Stretch their hands up as high as they can up over their head
    • Stand up and touch your toes
    • Stand up
    • Stand up and touch your knees
    • Yoga moves – also great for multiple choice answers


Active learning has been embraced by the children and staff in school.

Staff feedback that lessons are more interactive, children are more active and engaged in their learning and are increasingly willing to participate and share their ideas. Staff are enjoying the freedom active learning has enabled them to have in their delivery of lessons, the initial concerns regarding loss of control, disruptive to learning and learning environments not being suitable have been overcome and instead of seeing the difficulties staff are now considering ways to incorporate ways to be active throughout each area of the curriculum.

“Active learning is great because it gets the children up and moving which is crucial for their physical and mental wellbeing.  Also, I can clearly see it benefits the children’s learning as they actively learn to read, write, discuss or solve problems at various stages throughout a lesson, we have previously found that many children sit throughout lesson is a passive manner, by introducing active learning children are now learning by doing”.

Year 2 children fed back that they love sitting on the bean bags and working on the exercise balls, “it helps me to concentrate while I am working as sometimes I find it difficult to sit still” Others independently take their work to the floor, “ I enjoy writing on the floor, I find it easier to write my letters on the line when I lie down”  These may sound like a recipe for a nightmare but they really do work, our children respect the freedom to move the active approach has given them.

By using an active approach to learning, children are increasingly able to make their own choices and are able to move between groups, activities and tables in a manner that makes them increasingly responsible for their own actions while allowing them the opportunity to learn in an environment that supports them in being increasingly active. Concentration levels have improved as children are more engaged in their learning due to the active nature and approach. Some of the things they enjoy includes ‘writing on the walls’, working on the carpet, spotting the crimes in punctuation and speed bouncing their spellings. Our journey is by no means over, we will continue to enhance our teaching through the active approach as the children in our society rely more and more on the provision that school provides.