Specified sport flooring solutions are needed in education

Improving and expanding physical education facilities is increasingly important to many schools and colleges says David Carter, Sport Marketing & Communication Manager, Gerflor Limited. 

Childhood obesity is rising in children even as young as four or five sparking concerns about a potential obesity crisis and its impact on the health of young people in the UK. 

Sedentary lifestyles and junk food are considered to be much to blame and so to help pupils have healthier lifestyles education secretary, Justine Greening, announced that a ‘Healthy Pupils Capital Programme’ would be available to England’s state-funded primary, secondary and sixth form schools in the 2018 to 2019 academic year. She said: “Schools can really help our children get a healthy start in life from exercise and sport, and also from knowing what a healthy diet is.” 

Schools are therefore to receive a £415 million investment in facilities to support sports, after-school activities and promote healthy eating. The programme extends to improving facilities for children with physical conditions and mental issues.

However, the Government’s current ‘PE and Sport Premium’ is a funding initiative dedicated solely to funding physical education so that schools can develop or add to existing PE and sports activities. This funding can also be used to build capacity and capability to ensure improvements made now will benefit future pupils in years to come. The amount of funding available is based on pupil numbers with schools maintained by the local authority, academies, free schools, special schools, city technology colleges and pupil referral units amongst those eligible.

Given that the Chief Medical Officer guidelines recommend that those aged five to eighteen take part in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, 30 minutes of which should be in school, this is one of the key indicators that schools should expect to see improvements across as well as more sport and exercise provision and greater opportunity to participate in sport with other schools and clubs.

But according to a recent study by the University of Granada in Spain, physical education (PE) can also make children brainier. Research into more than 100 obese and overweight children aged from eight to eleven showed that physical fitness in children is directly linked to brain structure. By recording both fitness levels and the volume of the cortical and sub-cortical regions of their brains during cardiovascular exercise, the study found that taking part in physical activity at least three times a week stimulated the brain. It concluded that physical activity should be taught every day in schools as exercise increases both brain size and academic performance.

The right exercise and sports floorings are needed in education

Growing emphasis on the need for greater physical education provision places increased focus on specifying and installing the best possible flooring solution in every educational establishment, according to its needs. But whereas sport and exercise is good for children, this can be reversed by the potential for injury if the surface on which they play on is not fit-for-purpose or appropriate to the activity.

Timber flooring with a sprung undercarriage remains the most popular choice within multi-use school halls as it is deemed the most durable. Commonly a timber sprung floor is installed in halls predominantly used for exercise as well as activities like assemblies, concerts and exams. However, it may not be the most appropriate type of flooring for the physical activities taking place like PE, dance, play and general sports.

Whereas timber sprung sports floors are extremely effective at reducing impact injuries when a person of applicable weight is playing a fast-paced game like basketball, they are not specifically designed for multi-use facilities or low impact sport.

This is because shock absorbency concerns the protection of the body’s interaction with the floor. Designed to work like a spring, timber sprung floors protect against repeat impact injuries when their inherent shock absorbency benefits work in reaction to the weight of a person’s exertion on the surface. However, the EN14904 standard tests for indoor sports flooring replicate a grown adult running 100m in 11 seconds.

Therefore school children and young people of less weight than necessary to activate the shock absorbency of a timber sprung floor when they run and jump are not protected from potential impact injury if they fall. And timber is a very hard surface to hit. Also, special needs children with impaired motor skills and coordination who are more likely to fall, need the ultimate protection that flooring can provide. For these reasons a sports area within an education facility should be a specified flooring solution.

Floorings that are winners

Synthetic indoor sport flooring solutions have been developed to cater for different levels of activity ranging from playtime in general rooms and low impact sport to strenuous competitive games in purpose-built sports halls and gymnasiums. Cutting edge and in vibrant attractive designs and colours, they are therefore suitable for multi-use spaces to elite sports facilities.

These resilient vinyl sport floors are referred to as point elastic floorings which work by offering different levels of immediate shock absorbency (P1, P2 and P3) coupled with easy-to-maintain, special, surface treatments that lower the friction temperatures generated by sliding on the surface, thereby making friction burns less likely. 

Indoor sports floorings are classified according to EN14904 and must provide shock absorbency levels of 25% (P1) or higher compared with concrete. P1 category flooring may be suitable for multi-purpose areas but for the highest levels of protection against impact injury, a P3 category sports flooring delivers greater than 45% shock absorbency levels and three times the abrasion resistance required to meet indoor sport flooring standards.

Unsurprisingly high quality, vinyl sport flooring solutions are proven in international sporting events like the Olympic Games where sports such as volley ball are played on them. For the vulnerable like special needs children or any young person who could be deterred from exercise and sport by injury, they provide an excellent and reassuring degree of comfort, safety and performance.

Flooring manufacturers like us have invested significantly and developed dedicated, environmentally friendly sports flooring solutions that are suited to all levels of sport and activity regardless of ability. It is the right of every child and young person to have the opportunity to enjoy physical activity as much as possible and to lay the foundations for future well-being and a healthy lifestyle. Therefore increasing these opportunities from the early years and providing safe, comfortable, high quality sport flooring solutions is essential.

Learn more about Gerflor solutions; ask for a free sample or contact us to speak to a specialist today by calling 01926 622 600, emailing contractuk@gerflor.com, or visit gerflor.co.uk for the latest innovations.

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