ukactive Kids and Nike have announced the winners of Active School Hero 2020, which recognises primary school staff across Birmingham and London that are making an outstanding contribution to getting students moving.
Research shows that active children are healthier, happier, perform better at school and have improved social skills. But more than one third of children and young people across London and Birmingham are active for fewer than 30 minutes a day – that is less than half the minimum amount of daily activity recommended by the World Health Organisation.
In an online awards ceremony last night (25 November) with Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Nike track and field hurdler Jessie Knight, the winner of Birmingham’s inaugural Active School Hero was named as Gemma Spiers, Pastoral Manager at Paget Primary School in Erdington.
And this year’s London Active School Hero was awarded to Reon Thomas, PE Co-Ordinator at Wembley Primary School.
The ceremony also recognised 10 area winners from Birmingham and 32 borough winners from London, before a Q&A with Chair of ukactive, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, and hurdler Jessie Knight.
Gemma Spiers, one of 10 Birmingham finalists, won the award due to her dedication and commitment to getting children of all abilities active. In her role as Pastoral Manager, she uses physical activity as a means of motivating students with greater needs. Spiers has instilled her endless enthusiasm for physical activity in the children and staff at Paget, and has delivered a ‘whole school’ approach to getting children from reception to year 6 active, whether in the classroom or outside.
Her dedication to the health and wellbeing of kids at her school has never been more apparent than through the COVID-19 pandemic, during which she supported the children through social media and TikTok with daily exercise and sporting challenges.
London winner Reon Thomas was recognised as a passionate faculty member at Wembley Primary School and for ensuring that all the children he teaches are given as many opportunities as possible to be physically active.
He is dedicated to the wellbeing of everyone, and has always been passionate about health, fitness and holistic healthy lifestyles. This passion inspired him to create his ‘boys to men’ club which helps build boys self-esteem, courage and discipline, and address any problems they may have in and around school. He also worked tirelessly through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the kids at his school were engaged and active during lockdown.
In recognition of their dedication, the two winners will receive professional development training from Nike and the Youth Sport Trust, their schools will gain access to exclusive Nike opportunities and experiences to further inspire the students to be active.
Gemma Spiers said: “I am speechless, I really didn’t expect to be Birmingham’s first Active School Hero, but I am so grateful.
“Active School Hero has shown me how much the passion I have put into improving Paget sport and PE has been appreciated, and the impact I have been able to have on both the kids and parents at my school.
“This has been an amazing experience for the whole school, especially in the current context of COVID restrictions, and I am so happy to be able to provide the kids at Paget with more opportunities to be active.”
Reon Thomas said: “I am so overwhelmed to be the Active School Hero for winner for London, it is such a great award and my school are so proud. Active School Hero has shown me that the work I do is important.
“I really try to make a positive change in every child I inspire but I have to say this win is not just down to me it has been a partnership between myself and the deputy head, and the whole school itself. This is a life-changing moment for me and I am looking forward to what the future and this award will bring for the kids at Wembley Primary.”
Nike track and field hurdler Jessie Knight said: “As both a primary school teacher and professional athlete, I’m incredibly proud to support the Active School Hero initiative.
“Being active is such an important part of my life and also for the kids I teach. Regular movement is beneficial on so many levels, from improved mental wellbeing, to better focus in class. And having a teacher that is involved with and so passionate about activity, is integral to keep kids moving.
“Having incredible role models like the Active School Heroes on the ground in schools, keeping kids active day in and day out is something to be celebrated. I am really happy to be here to help recognise their achievements.”
Jade Harris, Head of Children, Young People and Families at ukactive, said: “The role of primary school staff in getting kids active is largely undervalued. 2020 has showcased more than ever before the importance of front-line workers such as those heroes in primary schools across London and Birmingham who kept children active during the pandemic.
“The work of Gemma and Reon with their schools and local communities shows the true power and influence school staff members have to create happy and healthy young people who thrive.
“School staff members not only teach, they motivate, empower and inspire kids to move in the right direction and achieve great things. Active School Hero shines a spotlight on the amazing work these individuals do and shares their stories to inspire others.”
Dan Burrows, Nike’s Senior Director of Social & Community Impact, EMEA, said: “Projects such as Active School Hero, are key to Nike’s Made to Play commitment to help get more kids moving.
“Today’s generation of kids is the least active in history and we know that this past year has created even more challenges for them to be active.
“We are proud to partner with ukactive to support and celebrate the heroes in primary schools across both London and Birmingham, who have continuously gone above and beyond to create more inclusive play and sport environments that inspire kids to reach their full potential.”
For more information on Active School Hero visit activeschoolhero.com