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Newcastle United Foundation initiative keeps students active in lockdown with fitness trackers

Teenage students staying home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are being encouraged to stay active with daily targets and support from Newcastle United Foundation.

Gym closures, restrictions on team sports and PE lessons on hold have meant many young adults have struggled to maintain a daily exercise routine in lockdown. However, Foundation staff dedicated to maintaining young people’s physical and mental wellness have introduced a new way to keep students happy and healthy.

Newcastle United Foundation Partner Schools Coordinator Bryan Wood began working with Grace College, in Gateshead, as part of the charity’s Partner Schools programme – a curriculum-based programme delivered by Newcastle United Foundation on site.

Since then, Bryan has built strong relationships with students and knew he could continue to inspire the pupils during the ongoing lockdown period with an innovative way of keeping them engaged.

Bryan said: “Since we have had no face-to-face contact with students, myself and Grace College staff have been allocated a group of pupils to carry out welfare calls, once, twice or three times a week.

“On top of this, I’ve continued chatting with students using the school’s online systems where we can set home-learning tasks, which has been fantastic. But I knew I could offer more support for some pupils by introducing daily or weekly exercise targets.

“With support from Grace College’s Senior Management Team, we have been able to provide 15 students with Fitbit-style fitness trackers to encourage them to be a little more active, especially in lockdown.

“It’s been a great success so far and we’ve able to set step goals, periods of activity and to suggest exercise routines online. Students are able to send me their results in confidence so we can work as a team to create a healthy routine and a lifestyle that will help them feel physically and mentally well.”

Grace College in Gateshead is part of a clutch of North East schools partnered with the Foundation, providing weekly visits from the charity to deliver a mixture of timetabled sessions, one-to-one support and social action volunteering opportunities.

Bryan added: “Working with the team at Grace College has been fantastic and our Foundation can introduce a number of different ways of learning – in or out of lockdown.

“It is our hope that after trialling the fitness trackers with a small number of students that we can roll this initiative further as part of Grace College’s physical education provision.”

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Newcastle United Foundation staff have ensured all schoolchildren have remained engaged with education and physical activity, including Easter holiday PE lessons for children of key workers and School Project Officer Shayan Gazerani translating schoolwork for Iranian asylum seekers who have recently moved to Newcastle.

Mark Hall, Grace College Head Teacher, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to have Bryan Wood, from Newcastle United Foundation, constantly looking for ways to support our students.

“Exercise is important for our wellbeing and making it routine is key. The number of ordinary people out walking, running or cycling is so good to see.

“The innovative use of smart watches to assist our students to set routines, challenge themselves and enable us to encourage them is another example of the Foundation’s ‘can do attitude’.

“I am sure the students will enjoy the opportunity to measure and track their progress and count their steps each day!”

Newcastle United Foundation staff are now back in schools across the North East, bringing the curriculum to life for pupils aged for to 18 using PE, PSHE, literacy and numeracy.

For more information on Newcastle United Foundation’s School Programmes, email liam.atkin@nufc.co.uk


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