What's it about?
This strategy creates a culture of safety in all physical activities at school, including physical education, school sports, intramurals, clubs, and other forms of recreation.
Physical activity is vital to student health and wellness and it comes with a range of benefits—from improving fitness and motor skills to building self-esteem, confidence, and leadership skills. But it can also come with a risk of injury.
Staying safe in school sport focuses on five evidence-based ways of preventing injuries at school (the 5Es): engineering, education, engagement, enforcement, and evaluation.
Collaborate with the whole school community to take coordinated action on the 5Es.
Ensure you have the right environment to make participating in school physical activity safe, accessible, and age-appropriate. Focus on physical spaces, infrastructure, and equipment. For example:
- Assess the environment and conditions before starting an activity. Ensure the space you’re using is free of hazards and accessible to everyone.
- Check the weather, outdoor field conditions, and indoor surfaces to make sure they’re safe for movement-based activities.
- Use spaces that are big enough for students to move around safely. Consider the number of students participating and the facilities available at your school and local area.
- Provide protective equipment or encourage students to bring their own. Depending on the sport or activity, this could include helmets, pads, mouth guards, or eye protection. Check equipment regularly to make sure it’s in good condition—get it repaired or replaced as needed.
Help students understand the value of avoiding injuries. Boost their confidence to stay safe by teaching them what they can do. Try these proven strategies:
- Make time for students to properly warm-up and cool-down before and after physical activity. Show them how with Let’s Warm Up posters.
- Choose activities according to students’ age, ability, and experience. Help them practice fundamental movement skills (like jumping, catching, running, kicking, or throwing) before progressing to more advanced skills.
- Teach about respect, fair play, and the rules of school sports and games.
- Talk with students about the role of protective equipment in preventing injuries and role model wearing it. Teach them how to choose equipment that fits properly.
- Remind students to always tell you when they’re injured or not feeling well—especially after getting bumped, falling, or colliding with another student.
- Learn the signs of a concussion and be aware of concussion management protocols.
Education isn’t just for students – it also focuses on school staff, coaches, and volunteers. Provide training and ongoing professional development in injury prevention and first aid.
Connect with people in the broader school community to help nurture a culture of safety at school. Engage with local leaders, community organizations, Elders, and families to support a more enriching sport and recreation experience. For example:
- Reach out to local businesses and organizations—they may be able to donate funds to purchase protective equipment, offer first aid training, or volunteer medical response services.
- Partner with coaches, instructors, Elders, and community members—they may be able to support professional learning, provide mentorship opportunities, or share resources.
- Work with school council to understand safety issues from their perspective, and to explore solutions. They may be able to support fundraising for new sporting equipment or safety gear.
- Encourage parents and families to role model injury prevention at home and in the community—like warming up before activities and wearing the right protective equipment.
Set expectations around safe school sport and physical activity. This helps to make injury prevention practices become the norm. Try these ideas:
- Establish policies around respectful student conduct and fair play in school sport. Communicate them widely across the school community—use e-newsletters, websites, social media, and other channels.
- Ensure there’s adequate adult supervision for all physical activities at school. Require adult supervisors to have proper training, like first aid certification.
- Use certified and/or trained referees to enforce the rules of school sport.
- Set protocols for handling concussion and other injuries in school sport, including return-to-play protocols.
Take stock of what your school community is doing to prevent injuries in school physical activity. This can provide insight on what’s working and what needs adjusting. Consider quantitative data that measures or counts (ask yourself: how many or how often) and qualitative data that measures types or descriptions (ask yourself: what, why or when). Here are some examples that can drive improvement:
- Use a reporting system to record number of injuries and how they happened at school. Notice trends, like a decline or an increase in number and type of injuries.
- Survey student athletes, coaches, families, and others about their ideas to improve safety in school physical activity. Ask about priorities, gaps, and challenges. Ask about successes as well.
How it connects
Injuries can have a profound effect on students’ ability to learn and play at their full potential. With attention to the 5Es, school communities can minimize the harms of injury and keep students active and engaged in everyday life at school.
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