Action Mats: Social Distancing Friendly

With exercise, health and well-being placed front and centre during lockdown, the positive momentum achieved in this period needs to be maintained.
Children should not be denied engaging and meaningful PE when they return to school. Some pupils will have experienced high levels of inactivity during lockdown, therefore PE will be needed more than ever to get those children moving and active again. Others will benefit from connecting with their friends again.

There is an understandable degree of nervousness about running PE Sessions in these challenging times. This is where Action Mats can be used in a really positive way. Action Mats are already used in hundreds of schools in different countries. Because of the current situation with the virus, I realised that adjustments would need to be made to give teachers the confidence to use them successfully in this ‘new-normal’. It is clear Action Mats are the embodiment of social distancing already. Each mat is already an individual workstation. We simply needed to tweak the activity plans and guidance to create the games and activities, to ensure we weren’t simply asking children to keep doing ‘Jumping Jacks’ all lesson!

Action Mats are 1M x 1M. Arrow mats are 50cm x 25cm, target mats are 50cm x 50cm. Action Mats can be used easily to measure and demonstrate social distancing. You can set them up to put children where you want them.
Each highly visual mat has a defined space showing children the boundary within which they are to work. The boundary colours used provide an instant visual contrast for all children to acknowledge, even those with limited vision.
The instructional graphics within each mat’s boundary show children how, and where, to carry out each exercise, thus reducing the need or desire to move away from the mat prematurely, as the children will be largely self-sufficient.

Arranging Action Mats around your available space will ensure the children are where you want them to be because the mats are an easy, attractive reference point for them to focus on. The arrow mats will ensure children rotate around the circuit of mats in the specific single direction laid out, therefore spacing and social distancing will be adhered to.

The requirement for additional resources is minimal; mainly hoola hoops, bean bags and skipping ropes. Those resources are usually plentiful in schools so each child should be able to use their own ‘set’ throughout the lesson.

A core role of PE is, of course, equipping children with life-skills. As an extension of that, children should be taught how essential hygiene is after using the equipment. Handwashing and sanitiser use should always conclude an Action Mats session.

For clear, authoritative guidance about interpreting the Govt. guidance in a PESSPA context, please see the linked doc.