“Some pupils can no longer jump across a small puddle or even hit the gym wall when throwing a tennis ball.” Communications received from physical education teachers in recent years reveal a strong polarisation of functional capacity among Finnish children and young people, while some – such as the example mentioned above – are even tragicomic.

In the spring of 2008, the Finnish National Agency for Education started to plan measures to intervene preventively in the highly alarming sedentary lifestyle trends – also familiar from the media.

In early childhood, children’s development is monitored by child health clinics. They assess children’s motor development on a regular basis, drawing conclusions on the progress of their development. Until recently, the clinic monitoring period has been followed by a gap the size of compulsory education (ages 7–15) in the objective monitoring of and knowledge base on physical functional capacity in Finland.

The Move! project is an excellent example of cross-administrative cooperation, as it was implemented in cooperation between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Finnish National Agency for Education, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, and the Trade Union of Education (OAJ). The party responsible for the practical implementation of the development project is the University of Jyväskylä Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences.

Move! is a national physical functional capacity monitoring and feedback system for Finnish fifth- and eighth-grade pupils. It produces information that can be combined with the extensive health check-ups performed for fifth- and eighth-grade pupils. The main purpose of the system is to encourage pupils to take care of their physical functional capacity independently.

While the amount of physical activity that children and young people get has decreased, their physical ability to manage daily challenges has also deteriorated. As a result, in many cases the physical functional capacity of school-age children is not sufficient to deal with everyday situations.

The starting point for the national Move! project was first to determine what physical functional capacity is and for which everyday challenges pupils need it. Based on today’s pupils’ needs, a monitoring system was created to produce information about pupils’ functional capacity and to encourage pupils, parents and professionals to improve the situation.

A Move! feedback system has also been prepared to provide support for pupils, their parents and teachers, and school healthcare staff. The purpose of the feedback materials is to motivate all pupils, regardless of the level of their skills and physical fitness. Move! is based on individual development, not on normative comparisons. It encourages and guides pupils to look after their physical functional capacity both at school and independently.

The Move! project is about encouraging pupils towards wellbeing and caring about their healthy futures.

More information

Move! – monitoring system for physical functional capacity

Matti Pietilä , Counsellor of Education, Finnish National Agency for Education.

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