Secondary schools should encourage students to take up graffiti and free running in order to improve attainment and behaviour, new research says.
The report, which calls for schools to offer more inspiring outdoor spaces, recommends that so-called "graffiti walls" should be provided for use in lessons and during breaktime.
The study, published by outdoor education charity Grounds for Learning, says that school playgrounds are often "dull and uninspiring" and that creating more attractive outside spaces for students can improve health, behaviour and academic achievement.
“Playgrounds are often of the bleak tarmac variety,” the report states. “They feature large open spaces with wind whistling through, with a few seats scattered around, laid out to look good on an architect’s plan or to save some budget at the end of a build.
“In many [schools], the choice of being outside is rejected, and legions sit on stairs indoors, interacting with others via social media.”
Some students say that going outside is “frowned upon”, and one school reported: “Our children don’t play.” Some students even feel they are being driven away from school grounds.
To counteract this, schools should provide creative spaces and "vary topography" of playgrounds to allow for PE "parkour" lessons, the report recommends.
"Increase opportunity for artwork outdoors – from graffiti walls (that could be used both in lesson time and break time) to larger sculptural pieces and brighter, more interesting building design and landscape architecture," it says.
And it adds: "The topography changes can vary from the significant (hills to act as viewpoints and physical challenge), to simple changes in levels affording climbing and jumping off or variations in surfaces used. This variance in topography should allow for pupils to engage with suitable risks and building of physical literacy."
The report refers to the London academy Quintin Kynaston, which adapted its grounds for parkour, and a Norwegian school that built its play area out of recycled oil rig parts.