The nation’s playing fields, usually filled with the sights and sounds of muddy kids diving around in puddles chasing balls of various shapes and sizes, have fallen empty and silent.
As classes move online, P.E teachers face a different challenge to many. How can they replicate the benefits of exercise from both a mental and physical perspective?
“It’s a challenge,” James Long, Assistant Head and P.E Teacher at Whitefriars School in London, conceded on the struggles of trying to inspire his students through a webcam, adding that: “The distance between teacher and student completely impacts the relationship.”
In England, it is compulsory for schools to have at least two hours of timetabled physical education.
Meaning by the time lockdown restrictions are lifted again, potentially in March, children could have missed at least 20 hours of physical activity.
Far from a vast open field, or a bustling sports hall, the only teams these budding locked down athletes are familiar with are owned by Microsoft.
Limited space and restrictions at home pose all kinds of health and safety risks for students, and James has heard rumours some schools are actually worried about promoting physical activity at home because of “when there’s a blame, there’s a claim type-scenarios.”
But, the importance of sport affects not only the body, but the mind as well. “Children need stimulation, and they need engagement in lots of different factors,” James explains.
“One of the great things about physical activity is that it alleviates those symptoms of social, emotional, and mental health issues.
“When you stub your toe, everyone in the room knows you’ve stubbed your toe. When you’re suffering mentally, not everybody could know.”
James refers to the difficulty teachers are facing as “trying to build a dam but the river is still flowing” as they try to help their students from afar while the force of the “lockdown current” is strong.
Even the children who still are going to school, as their parents are key workers or they are vulnerable, are not able to exercise together. As James explains children will ask for a football or a basketball and he will have to say no: “Suddenly that is an object that gets passed around by lots of different people, and it becomes an object for transmission.
“When you want to be able to give them the opportunity to do something fun, that can bring them some semblance of enjoyment, the underscore is the risk assessment.
“It’s just sad on so many different levels for so many different reasons.”
And while celebrities like Joe Wicks have received adulation for their lockdown P.E lessons, P.E teachers may not have been finding life so easy.
“My December was literally spent in isolation, and I live in a one-bedroom flat,” explains James.
“I found my mental health struggling because I wasn’t engaging with people and I wasn’t able to go outside. I’m somebody who likes to be active and be in the outdoors.
“Closing myself off from that I found a real challenge. And I’m an adult, the impact for children is heightened,” James stressed.