Archive For The “Blog” Category

Mental Health & Well-being in Schools

Mental Health & Well-being in Schools

Ofsted‚Äôs decision to create separate judgments for ‚Äėbehavior and attitudes‚Äô and ‚Äėpersonal development‚Äô is finally within reach. However, this is long overdue. ¬†I believe that this will help to begin to shift focus away from academic outcomes as there is too much emphasis on academic attainment and not enough focus on promoting the wellbeing of students, (which as teachers, is our main focus and drive) but ¬†does not to reflect the depth and breadth of learning that should be offered by your training provider in order to develop you as a person. Moreover, the new Ofsted inspection requiring seprate judgements in these categories will allow more room to assess education providers and provide a better reflection on just how good their curriculum really is (hence a more student centered) approach to well-being. An important factor that has been missing from previous iterations of Ofsted‚Äôs inspection framework.

What should Schools do?

Recently, there has be a rising number of students being excluded and we cannot ignore the issue. We have all become wiser to the methods used in schools seeking to expel ‚Äúawkward‚Äô pupils (even in our primary schools!) as a last resort we see a number of exclusions or an informal transfer called ‚Äúoff rolling‚ÄĚ for our most vulnerable young people are being left ‚Äúout of sight and out of mind‚ÄĚ by a system that is quick to condemn them to a life without a proper education. It is believed that some schools are increasingly ‚Äúplaying‚ÄĚ the system ‚Äď getting rid of students who might do badly in their GCSE‚Äôs and compromise the school‚Äôs performance in league tables. (Controversial, I know).


In June 2018 an Ofsted investigation into the practice of ‚Äúoff-rolling‚ÄĚ ‚Äď where pupils disappear from the school register just before GCSEs ‚Äď found that more than 19,000 pupils who were in year 10 in 2016 had vanished from the school roll by the start of year 11, the year when pupils sit their GCSEs. While many of those pupils moved to new schools and reappeared on roll elsewhere, around half disappeared without trace, raising concerns that a number will have dropped out of education altogether.



Young people are then handed a life sentence of being lost in the system and very little support to reengage with education, employment or training. So now, we have encouraging news from Ofsted we need to do more as educational providers. An interesting study by the Youth Index highlights the complexities and challenges that young people face.  According to the report some 48 per cent of pupils said that they experienced problems during their school years that prevented them from concentrating on their academic work. Of these, 46 per cent pupils did not talk to anyone about their problems, mainly because they did not want other people to know that they were struggling.


Pupils abandoned by schools need to be accountable for their actions and source the main problems for disengagement, to how exclusions are used and why certain groups are disproportionally affected. Schools have a duty of care and a rigorous approach to support the well-being of young people. How far do schools go in auditing well-being for both staff and pupils in schools. We need an open forum on mental health and well-being and a neutral space to highlight concerns within schools. Intervention is key and pre-empting issues that may arise with young people is key. A school must be a safe haven for young people.

What schools can do to support staff and pupils.

  • Build on an ethos of constructive, caring relationships across the school built on trust, safety and security.
  • Create a safe, neutral space and a sense of belonging, encourage pupils to talk to staff about worries and difficulties.
  • Enable pupils to become emotional resilient, manage social and emotional skills to identify feelings and triggers.
  • Promote well-being in staff as good role models for pupils. Provide staff with training of how to encounter issues with pupils.
  • Promote staff to encourage and support and to be alert, learn how to be curious and don‚Äôt be afraid to challenge pupils, in school.
  • Promote healthy and positive relationships in and out of the classroom.
  • Encourage mindful relationships and embed in the school ethos.
  • Build a strong foundation of good staff mental health and well-being and encourage strong relationships and partnerships with parents and outside agencies.
  • Train staff to signpost students to help appropriately and promptly.



ofsted reports - mental health and well-being in schools
6 Ways to Support Immune Health: Does CBD Help?

6 Ways to Support Immune Health: Does CBD Help?

6 Ways to Support Immune Health: Does CBD Help?

You’re rushing around to get Christmas gifts, the house needs cleaning, you have five-holiday parties to go to, and family is in town; does this sound familiar? The holidays can be a very stressful time, and excess stress has been known to weaken the immune system, thus making us more susceptible to falling ill. This paired with the fact we are exposed to more germs due to family visiting from out of town, it’s no wonder we are all getting sick during this time of year. Fortunately, there are several preventative measures you can take to make sure you’re doing the best to maintain overall well-being during this busy time of year.

CBD Health Benefits for the Immune System


As we have talked about previously, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for regulating most functions in the human body. One of these functions is our immune response. Cannabinoids (like CBD) interact with our ECS. When our ECS is active, it helps to aid our body in bringing itself back into balance (homeostasis). When our body is in balance, it is more likely to make sure proper immune function and regulation is occurring.

The immune system is extremely complex, and there is still much to be learned about it. We are excited to see more research being conducted about the relationship between CBD and the immune system. For now, though, it appears the ECS and CBD are very much involved in the maintenance of a properly functioning immune response.

Due to the complex nature of the immune system, there are many misconceptions when it comes to staying well as the weather changes. Let’s bust some of those myths before jumping into the best preventative measures you can take to keep sickness at bay.



Busting Myths About Immune Health

Many of us have heard the phrase ‚Äėput a coat on or you‚Äôll catch a cold!‚Äô Although we may associate sickness with colder weather, research suggests our increase in sickness during the winter months is most likely due to spending more time indoors (to avoid the cold) and spending more time in close contact with others who may pass a virus to us.

Having busted this common misconception, let’s dive into some effective, preventative measures to keep you healthy this winter.


1. Manage stress

Stress is the single most important factor you can manage to avoid weakening your immune system. Stress wears down our immune system rapidly, making us more likely to fall ill when we are exposed to germs.

It’s not uncommon to be stressed out during the holidays, it can be a stressful time! You can help mitigate this stress by meditating, indulging in regular exercise, and practicing mindfulness. There are many various ways to manage stress over the holidays, so whichever option works best based on you and your schedule is great! We’re not so concerned HOW you manage stress, we’re merely advocating for you to do so!


We look at 6 ways to support immune health & ask the question; Does CBD help? We look at the endocannabinoid system & ways to stay healthy this winter.

2. Prioritize sleep (or make yours better!)

Getting your circadian rhythm in sync is crucial to a good nights sleep.

Our bodies repair themselves while we sleep ‚Äď which is why it is so crucial to make sure we‚Äôre getting enough quality sleep. When we skip out on our regular amounts of sleep, the number of infection-fighting antibodies and cells in our bodies are reduced.

Supplementing with a CBD supplement before bed will help you relax and therefore get into a deeper sleep. There are several things you can do to ensure you get a better night’s rest, and it is in your immune system’s best interest to get quality sleep when you can. Read More on this topic

3. Support your body with herbs and supplements

At SFE Academy & MadeByHemp, we always recommend using a supplement as just that ‚Äď a supplement to an already healthy lifestyle! Things like sleeping well and managing stress, will always make a more significant impact than a supplement, but we listed a few supplements that can help boost your immunity nonetheless.


As we mentioned before, CBD can be a powerful tool to help maintain balance in your body. Including CBD into your daily routine will be all-around beneficial ‚Äď and will especially aid in activating your ECS and keeping you balanced this winter.

Reishi mushroom

Mushrooms are widely used in Eastern medicine and have been known to act as a powerful immune sidekick. Source high-quality reishi mushroom powder and try mixing it into your morning latte.


Echinacea has been shown to increase the number of white blood cells, which helps to fight off colds or infection. Try an herbal echinacea spray or a bag of tea that contains dried echinacea.


4. Load up on healthy foods

loading up on healthy foods to suppport your immune system - Good eating habits

Vitamins can help an infection from even happening in the first place. If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, then you should not need to take a supplement ‚Äď the vitamins are already in the food we eat! We know there are plenty of treats around this time of year and we are not suggesting you don‚Äôt indulge (because we sure do!), but that doesn‚Äôt mean you have to completely ditch your healthy lifestyle altogether. You can still eat healthy meals in between your holiday get-togethers, and squeeze in workouts when able.

Vitamin D

Due to the decreased amount of sunshine, vitamin D is an important supplement to add to your regime. You can either purchase a high-quality vitamin D supplement or look for fortified milk and cereals.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably the most well-known immune booster. You can get your dose of vitamin C by eating citrus (like oranges, grapefruit, or lemon), bell peppers, kale, and broccoli.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that will help the body fight infection. You can get vitamin E from nuts (like sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, or hazelnuts), avocados, mango, and kiwi!


Zinc is a mineral that keeps the immune system strong and aids in healing. You can find zinc in legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

 Prioritize eating a salad packed with vegetables, drinking a green juice, or even making your own vegetable broth before your next holiday get-together. Your immune system will thank you!

5. Stay hydrated

stay hydrated - Be that Personal Trainer

Making sure you stay hydrated aids your body in eliminating toxins and other unwanted bacteria. Soda, alcohol, and sugary drinks are not substitutes for water; if you need to, try herbal teas or add flavorings to your water to make sure you are getting enough.

As a guideline, to be properly hydrated, our bodies need ¬Ĺ of our body weight in ounces per day to stay hydrated. If you weigh 150lbs then 75oz of water daily is what you need. We know drinking that much water isn‚Äôt always possible, but 35oz of water daily is better than zero. Do your best!

6. Wash your hands

One of the easiest tips of all, but we had to mention it! Thoroughly wash your hands, especially before handling food or after being in an environment with a lot of germs (like a Christmas work party or family dinner).

 These tips can help you avoid sickness this winter (or anytime in general). We want to show you how easy it is to integrate a wellness lifestyle into your already busy schedule. Wellness is a choice that everyone can make!

Stay well this holiday season from Made By Hemp!

This article originally appeared on in collaboration with SFE Academy 

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019/2020

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019/2020

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019/2020

Take a deep dive into the top 10 fitness trends for 2019 and the 10 fitness trends for 2020. sit back, relax and soak up the info! enjoy…


Exercise and fitness is a high priority for the UK government at the moment as the realisation  sets in that exercise can ameliorate some of the diseases that can develop as a result of our lifestyle habits. The cost to the NHS every year to treat some of these preventable diseases is huge. Recent estimates from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests that a sedentary lifestyle costs the taxpayer in excess of £1billion every year. 

Year on year we are becoming more aware of the importance of exercise for our health and well-being. The American College of Sports Medicine the foremost academic authority on sport science and exercise physiology (ACSM) examined the responses of 200 health and fitness professionals for their opinion on what the fitness trends for 2019 will be. Take a look at the top 10 fitness trends for 2019. 

1. Wearable tech

ACSM define wearable tech as smart watches, heart rate monitors, fitness trackers and GPS tracking devices. Wearable tech has truly transformed the fitness industry, instead of having to go to an expensive and exclusive sport science laboratories to get valid and reliable data on your fitness and how your body is performing and coping with the exercise stresses you are putting it through.  Now you can simply wear the tech on your wrist and get real time feedback and analysis of everything from the distance and elevation of your running route to how your cardiovascular system is performing during your workout. 


Tech such as Loadsol a wearable  insole for your running shoe that wirelessly transmits a real time data on your gait is just one of the new and emerging wearable tech that goes beyond just analysing your heart rate during exercise. Recent developments in wearable tech mean that we are on the threshold of analysing a whole range of parameters that could only be done by expensive lab equipment. Examples of this are; immune responses to exercise, EMG,  acceleration, respiratory, metabolic and neuromuscular parameters. 


2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is defined as short bursts of exercise followed a short period of rest (ACSM) HIIT has been shown to derive benefits to your body composition. One of the main proponents of HIIT is the British 6 time MR Olympia Dorian Yates. We are not suggesting that HIIT will turn you into a Mr Olympia ( at least not overnight!) but we are suggesting that it can be an effective way to train if done correctly. Dorian Yeates honed his HIIT workout routine over many years, constantly experimenting with what worked for his body and what didn’t. Why not give HIIT a try in your next workout.

3. Group Training

Group training is defined an exercise with five or more participants with instructor  teaching and motivating the class. 

Group training is an excellent way to train socially. E are all social animals and we need company and sometimes competition to bring the best out of us. Training with a friend or friends can be a great way to exercise whilst developing other friendships and to also reduce dome of the self consciousness and¬† anxiety of exercising alone in a room full of strangers. The instructor worth their salt will be a good motivator, teacher and above all …qualified! This can help you to learn the basics of exercise whilst you develop your confidence and exercise habits.

4. Body Weight Training

As the name implies , body weight training is you using your body weight to perform different types of dynamic exercise. It is an inexpensive way to exercise but it does have its limitations. You may train to the point where your body weight is no longer sufficient to overload your muscles thus provoking them to adapt and become fitter. However, in some sports, body weight training is more than enough. 


More and more local councils are installing body weight training equipment in local parks. When you next visit your local park, o over a have a look at what equipment there is and then …have a go! body weight training is becoming so popular, we are confident that body weight training will make the 10 fitness trends for 2020 and beyond!


5. Fitness Programs for Older Adults

As we age, numerous genetic and hormonal changes cause our bodies to lose not only bone density but muscle mass too. Gerontologists are on the case in trying to unravel the mechanisms that cause this process to happen as we age. But what we do know is that exercise can increase bone density and muscle mass. Slowing the ageing process and reducing the risk of age related diseases that can really affect our physical and mental health later in life.  The best way to reduce the risk of age related diseases and to live healthy for as long as possible is to exercise regularly along with a healthy diet, good social network (not the FaceBook type!)

6. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals

SFE Academy is a training provider that trains and certifies fitness professionals. We really do understand the importance of the knowledge and skill when designing and delivering exercise programs. We train all of our fitness professionals to be able to train a diverse population of people from children to older adults and everyone in between. 


It is important that all fitness professionals feel comfortable in all environments and with all people. We recognise that that skill, knowledge and friendly manner go along way to get people the results they want. All of our students are vigorously tested so that they meet the highest industry knowledge and standards. You have a right to demand that of your fitness professionals too.


7. Yoga

Yoga has been around for an extremely long time. The health benefits are numerous. Including, developing strength, flexibility and balance. There are many different types of Yoga out there. There will almost certainly be a type for you.


8. Personal Training

It just so happens that we also train the next generation of personal trainers at SFE Academy too! 

ACSM has listed Personal Training in the top 10 since 2006! This is a sign of how important personal training can be  when it comes to exercise and fitness. Personal trainers are able to develop training programs tailored to your unique needs and targets. They are there to help motivate you and teach you about how the body adapts and develops during and following a period of exercise. They will also be able to provide you with nutritional advice and guidance and monitor you exercise program. 

9. Functional Fitness Training

When you think of functional fitness training, think of the training montage in the film Rocky! Functional fitness aims to develop your strength, coordination and balance by doing of simulating everyday tasks and movements that you may do at home or at work. This type of training is advantageous as it uses all of the muscles (the agonist, antagonist, synergist and fixator muscles) used in that movement. Therefore, replicating real life situations. An advantage over fixed resistance machines at the gym that only pull in one direction.

10. Exercise as Medicine

The paradigm is shifting Ladies and Gentlemen! The role and usefulness of exercise to reverse a number of preventable diseases is becoming more apparent by the day! The knowledge that exercise as a medicine is filtering into schools, colleges, the Government and the medical profession too. Going to your GP (after the long wait!) will be more about analysing you exercise habits and prescribing exercise as a modal of treatment. The benefits of exercise on both physical and mental health are numerous

What is the Value of Well-Being In Schools?

What is the Value of Well-Being In Schools?

What is the value of well-being in schools?

Well-being, just seems to be a buzz word at the moment, but should we take heed? Yes.


The national focus on children and young people‚Äôs well-being in recent years has been long overdue and now we have work to do, in fact, we are making matters worse from the lack of resources for children and young people, in and out of the classroom. Children and young people need education to include, how to understand and look after their well-being ‚Äď paramount – before we can engage in any learning. (An element of the educational system I feel strongly about). But we need to shift the focus to preventing mental and health problems and reevaluating the need to build on resilience, we can do so much to improve the lives of so many children and young people.


One in ten young people between the age of five and 16 suffers from a diagnosed mental health problem ‚Äď on average, that‚Äôs three pupils in every class. Referrals to specialist mental health services nearly doubled between 2010-11 and 2014-15. As a result, NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are overwhelmed, we see the issues with long waiting lists, remain undiagnosed, limited outreach and limited access to treatment and care that they need.


So, consider a class of thirty students, many of which have not yet accessed resources. Questions as educators, how do we diagnose such scenarios, where is the training and support in the class? Government has lost its focus and its paramount that educational providers take responsibility and prioritise well-being.


SFE-Academy and Youthology are building a movement for change, to recognise that well-being has to be a priority for schools and the education system needs re-balancing. We believe that schools are much more than centres of learning. Schools can provide the most reliable conduit to address a worrying trend, however, for schools to succeed in helping their students, our priorities as a nation must be realigned, and the education system must re-balance academic learning and well-being. It’s a win-win situation for schools, parents and students.  More to the point, it is, what young people deserve.

Young people deserve an excellent education that prepares them academically and emotionally for the challenges they will face inside the classroom and for lifelong learning.


Well-being must be top of the agenda, when funding pastoral care is first to be removed from school agendas or efforts remain isolated and undervalued. It should be the opposite. Such work should be at the crux of our educational system and recognised at the highest level. We believe that each child deserves a dedicated place to learn to care for their own mental health, and it is our duty as a society to provide this. With schools at the helm, we can create a generation of resilient, healthy and confident individuals.


Well-being is a clear indicator of academic achievement, success and satisfaction in later life. Evidence shows that mental health and well-being programmes in schools, can lead to significant improvements in children’s mental health, and social and emotional skills. Well-being provision in schools can also lead to reductions in classroom misbehaviour and risk of exclusion. This is high on the school agenda. The education system is unbalanced. There is too much emphasis on academic attainment and not enough focus on promoting the well-being of students.


With the new Ofsted Framework, we have to do more in schools, the new framework summarises the need to providers play a crucial role in ensuring that learners of all ages are equipped with the knowledge and skills that improve their life chances. Redefining and evaluating learners’ wider development is just as important to ensure that our young people can prosper, lead successful lives and make meaningful contributions to society. If young people are to develop the skills they need to succeed later in life, appropriate mental health support is essential. The new inspection framework presents an ideal opportunity to embed mental health and well-being at the heart of schools’, and Ofsted’s, work, while recognising the need to provide better support to schools and teachers to deliver appropriate guidance and to direct learners to the right support.


Finally, we have some recognition from Ofsted for more than a decade, there is an urgency to restore the curriculum and provide a holistic approach to learning.


SFE-Academy and Youthology can support and update existing legislation to enshrine well-being as a fundamental priority of schools.


  • Establish mental health and well-being as a central part of school improvement, by strengthening the focus on well-being provision within the Ofsted framework.
  • Develop, personalise and establish well-being programmes and ethos in schools
  • Embed an understanding of wellbeing, mental health and resilience in all teacher training.
  • Provide schools with designated funding to resource wellbeing provision.
  • Provide highly experienced staff to deliver accredited qualifications and informal workshops.

What is the value of mental health and well-being in schools? We take a look at the value of well-being training in our education system. Are we doing enough to tackle the issue?

7 Keys To Increase-Productivity

7 Keys To Increase-Productivity

What are the 7 Keys to Increase Productivity?
We’ve all had those days when we feel like we are not accomplishing anything no matter how hard we work.
Looming deadlines, increasing workload, multitasking, and stress could all disrupt a person‚Äôs productivity. ‚ÄúWork smarter, not harder‚ÄĚ has become a famous motto among the workforce. And this statement actually has merit. Sometimes, when we wear too many hats, take on too much work, instead of becoming more productive, our productivity actually decreases. So what can we do to increase our productivity?

1. Have a healthy breakfast… or skip it!

have a healthy breakfast or even skip it to try and boost your productivity

I don’t mean to confuse you, but there are studies showing that skipping the most important meal of the day can benefit various brain functions. Intermittent fasting has been gaining popularity lately, and there are scientific studies to back it up. However, if you want to give this a try, it is best to ask for a doctor or a nutritionist’s advice first. For anything to work, one has to have the know-how and the right motivation. On the other hand, if you are a huge fan of breakfast and could not possibly start a day without it, by all means, eat! Fuel your body with the right food. Make healthy choices.

2. Take that coffee break

take a coffee break to help you increase your productivity

Though it might be tempting to just keep plugging away at work and skip your breaks in order to meet your deadlines, it would not be a very good idea. You need to relax and take a breather. This will give your brain a much-needed break and you a chance to walk around and enjoy a nice cup of joe, maybe even socialize with your other harried co-workers.

3. CBD Oil

Hemp Based Products

Adderall has been making the rounds around colleges and even workplaces. However, if you prefer a more natural approach to boost your concentration and productivity, why not give CBD oil a try. It has been known to increase alertness, help calm nerves, and boost your mood. So when you find yourself stressed with your head all over the place, why not try popping a CBD gummy, a flavored tincture, or even straight up CBD oil to help ease your stress and calm your nerves. Unlike its addictive cousin, THC, CBD will not get you high.

4. Limit multitasking

Avoid multitasking and focus on one job at a time - be more productive

Multitasking is not something the human brain is built for. It has proven to cause loss of productivity. Doing too many things at once will take away your concentration from the crucial things that need doing. This will make your work prone to errors and cost you time that you were trying to save by multitasking in the first place. Do one thing at a time before moving on to the next task. This way you can ensure each task is accomplished properly. Try doing the tasks that take the least amount of time to accomplish first. This will get these tasks out of the way and allow you to focus on the more complicated ones.

5. Take exercise breaks

Take exercise breaks to try and help ypou increase your productivity

Isn‚Äôt it ironic that a post about being productive is talking about breaks a lot? That‚Äôs because taking breaks in between tasks is a good way resetting your brain and preparing it for the whole new task ahead. Exercising will send a rush of much-needed oxygen to your brain and will help loosen your muscles that might have bunched up from getting the previous task done. Taking a brief walk, or a short stretch will allow your brain to stop thinking about work and ‚Äúbreathe‚ÄĚ. This will help bring your focus back to where it is supposed to be ‚Äď your looming tasks.

6. Use tools

use tools such as apps and other software to help you increase your productivity

Using online tools or apps to track your work and tasks for the day is one easy way of getting your day organized. When you have your day organized, you won’t need to spend extra time trying to remember what to do next; you would already have it laid out for you. Most of these tools are free and can be linked to your personal or work email. Just make sure that the apps abide by your company rules and risk profile.

7. Say no to meetings

work hard and play hard say no to meetings sometimes

Meetings take time. And a lot of the time, these meetings are not even really necessary. If you have a lot of things to do, and someone schedules a meeting, try to find out if your presence is necessary for the meeting. Or if the items on the agenda could be discussed through email, that would be a better venue. You only get so many hours in a day, after all.

This article first appeared on in Collaboration with SFE Academy

9 Tips For Better Sleep Hygiene (Get A Better Night’s Rest!)

9 Tips For Better Sleep Hygiene (Get A Better Night’s Rest!)

What Is Sleep Hygiene? Why Does it Matter?
Sleep hygiene is a series of routines, habits, and behaviors you partake in relation to your sleep. Unknowingly or not, each of us has our own rituals and behaviors which may impact our overall feeling of rest. Things like a 3 pm cup of coffee or sleeping in on the weekend to ‚Äėcatch up‚Äô on sleep are examples of undesirable sleep hygiene behaviors.
Sleep hygiene is important because it can either improve or reduce the quality of sleep you are getting. A few simple tweaks can really improve the amount of sleep you are able to get ‚Äď whether that is 6 hours or 9 hours.


This list is a holistic approach to improving your nighttime habits and is not a simple one-step solution.

1. Learn about your Circadian Rhythm

To fully understand the power and importance of sleep to your health and wellbeing, we must first look at the how the body regulates this process. We can then start to understand why sleep is important and how you can get reap the benefit of sleep by adjusting certain behaviors and routines.


Our bodies have a natural 24hr cycle, we call this internal body clock the Circadian rhythm. The word circadian comes from the Latin word circa diem or about a day. The circadian rhythm is controlled by a structure in the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) these neurons serve to regulate and synchronize the circadian rhythms of the body’s tissues using cues from our environment such as light, eating, exercise and social cues. The 24hr circadian rhythm is important in the regulation of gene expression, thermoregulation, memory, learning, alertness and sleep/wake behaviors in each of us.


Our body’s have a natural internal¬† 24hr body clock that regulates many physiological processes to maintain our health. This includes the sleep/wake cycle. We need to be mindful of any disruption to our body clock as it can mean thsat our health can be affected.¬†

2. Sync your Body Clock

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted in the Pineal gland. Melatonin is an integral part of the circadian rhythm and modulates the sleep/wake cycle and also has an effect on thermoregulation of the body. Melatonin secretion is modulated by the external light levels. Typically, melatonin shows a higher concentration at night and peaks at around 3-4am.


The development of the 24hr society over the last few decades means that we are disturbing the natural melatonin ‚Äď circadian rhythm axis. Different wavelengths of light have a different effect on the secretion Melatonin and the onset of the sleep/wake cycle as well as other molecular and gene expressive functions of our cells. Short wavelength visible light that is resent during the day has the effect of suppressing melatonin levels making us more alert. However, during the night, no light is present, leading to the higher concentrations of melatonin, leading to increased Delta and Alpha wave brain activity. Eventually leading to sleep.


The 24hr society and the abundance of artificial light, not to mention the differing shift patterns of some workers provides the conditions for disruption to the Circadian rhythm. Furthermore, research has suggested that our health maybe affected by this disruption, leading to increased risk of disease and mortality.


Artificial light used in our homes may have an effect on our body clock (Circadian Rhythm) potentially disrupting our normal sleep/wake cycle and leaving open the possibility of increased risk of affecting our mental and physical health.

3. Limit your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a widely used psychoactive substance that is present in a lot of foods and drinks that we consume. People tend to use caffeine for different reasons; to enhance cognitive performance (say on an exam) to stay awake and prevent sleepiness, taste, enjoyment and many other reasons.

On the other hand, caffeine could also be impairing our ability to get a good night’s sleep that leaves us feeling refreshed and energised. Research suggests that caffeine can reduce the time to fall off to sleep, the duration and the quality of the sleep itself.

Your tolerance and reaction to caffeine vary from person to person. With some people being very sensitive and other not. The pharmacodynamics of Caffeine mean that in conjunction with exposure to artificial light during the night can have a profound effect on the Circadian rhythm, bodily processes and the sleep/wake cycle.

In order to minimise the impact on your quality of sleep and your overall health you could adopt the following new habits to replace the old ones.

Recognise you’re consuming too much caffeine РThis includes some foods that are high in caffeine

Switch to Decaf ‚Äď Switching to decaf is a good way to reduce your caffeine intake without sacrificing taste.

Cut back gradually ‚Äď Caffeine withdrawal syndrome can cause symptoms such as; headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating and focusing on tasks, feeling irritable and not feeling clear minded.


Caffeine is powerful stimulant that promotes wakefulness and disrupts the natural circadian rhythm if taken in high enough quantities. Also, high caffeine intake can reduce the time to fall to sleep and the quality of the sleep itself. Reducing your caffeine intake can help with the quality and duration of sleep.

4. Be Mindful of the Temperature of the Room

Body temperature for better sleep tips

Core body temperature and the temperature of your surrounding environment plays a part in your ability to fall asleep. Recent research has suggested that the reduced blood to the extremities has a detrimental effect on your ability to fall asleep. Heat loss at the extremities has been suggested to be a benefit to inducing sleep and preventing insomnia.


Have you felt sleepy after a long hot bath? If like most of us the answer is yes, this is because blood has been shunted to the skin and your extremities trying to dissipate the heat. This triggers a physiological cascade that results in sleepiness. Therefore, one of the ways in which you could initiate the sleep cycle is to wear a hat, socks and gloves if your feet and hands are particularly cold.


Core and peripheral body temperature plays a role in inducing sleepiness. Constriction of blood vessels at the end of your limbs plays a part in preventing sleep. If your hands and feet are cold, wearing socks or gloves may help to dilate the blood vessels leading to increased blood flow and helping you fall off to sleep.

5. Move your Body Throughout the Day

pt training course

The research around the impact of physical activity and exercise on sleep quality generally shows that being active and getting recommended 30mins moderate to vigorous activity per day helps to boost the quality of sleep.

There is a complex interaction between exercise and how it positively affects sleep quality and duration. Exercise may induce physiological changes in the body that allow the body to enter into the sleep cycle easier and may have benefits on your ability to have better quality sleep at each stage of the sleep cycle.

There is evidence that suggests that sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep impair not only your cognitive function but your ability to perform exercise and your body’s ability to repair damaged tissues. There is inclusive evidence of the exercise dose relationship between intensity and type of exercise that illicit sleep improvements.


Being active through the day and having a healthy exercise routine (minimum of 30mins/day moderate to vigorous intensity.) will help you to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep.

6. Write Down a to-do list: Sleep and Anxiety

Anxiety is sometimes a debilitating disorder that can leave people unable to function or go about their daily lives.

The main ‚Äėstress‚Äô hormone that mediates our stress responses is cortisol. It has wide ranging physiological functions in the body to prepare us for a perceived danger. However, prolonged release of cortisol can result in negative psychosomatic effects such as sleep deprivation, depression, weight gain and cardiometabolic dysfunction.¬† This has the effect of disturbing your circadian rhythm and preventing good quality sleep and can lead to insomnia itself.

If you find it hard to fall asleep at night because your mind is racing with all of the things you need to finish tomorrow, take a minute to jot all of your thoughts down. Having a place to keep all of these thoughts is helpful because you won‚Äôt have to stress or worry about forgetting something ‚Äď all of those thoughts will be waiting for you in the morning!


Use techniques that will help you to unwind before bed. This can include; writing down your fears, reading, steering clear of stressful activities, having a bath, breathing techniques and meditation.

7. Will sleep supplements help you?

Hemp Based Products

Chamomile has been known for its tranquilsing effects for some time. Research has suggested that Chamomile can help you achieve a better quality of sleep compared to a placebo.


Prescribed and even some over the counter medication has been attributed to all sorts of health risks associated with both acute and chronic usage. Research suggests that although the supplements and prescribed medication may help you get off to sleep ok, they may not help you when it comes to the quality of sleep you have. This could indicate that you are not moving through the different stages of sleep as you should or not spending enough time in them. Therefore, the underlying causes of your sleep disturbance needs to be found out in order for you to be able to start to address that problems you are having with sleep.


It is always best that you learn what the root cause of your sleeping issues are. There may be a need for supplements but you should always need to seek medical advise and guidance before you do so. Ask you self ‘why’ you are feeling bad when you wake up and why you cannot fall off to sleep. Start from there before heading down the supplement route.¬†¬†

8. Aim to fall asleep and wake up at a similar time each night

tips for better sleep

Waking up at a similar time will help strengthen your body‚Äôs natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies are designed to rise with the sun and sleep when it goes down ‚Äď and sleeping in on weekends can throw this rhythm off.

The same goes for falling asleep at a similar time. You will find falling asleep will get easier as your body gets used to its new routine.  

Try to sync your daily routines with your own body clock. When you feel sleepy,  take that as a big hint that your body is telling you that now is the time to sleep. Many native tribes around the world sync their sleep and  wake cycles with daylight and nighttime cycle. As soon as dusk set in, the tribe sleep. As soon as daylight starts to appear, the tribes are awake. Although this is an ideal situation. Many of us are not fortunate enough to follow this pattern. You could takes steps to limit social media use in the nighttime and ensure that the lights are off or dimmed. 


Get into a good routine 

9. Block out all distractions

mental health courses

Try to use curtains or blinds that block out light as much as possible. especially if you live in an urban area like a city or town where there is a lot of light pollution. 

Get a light that you can set to switch on at dawn, this mimics the light from the sun that triggers your wakefulness. 

Some people are very sensitive  to noise during the night. Whilst others would sleep through a thermonuclear detonation next to their head! If you are the former, then make sure you minimise the noise pollution as much as you possibly can


Reduce the external distractions that may affect your sleep pattern. Write down all of the issues that you know distract you from having a good sleep, and systematically go through each of them on your list one by one. 

SFE Academy in collaboration with

10 Top Health & Wellness Trends this 2019

10 Top Health & Wellness Trends this 2019


This year has been a year when most of the world focused on health and wellness in a more holistic manner: both physical and mental wellness. And it is beginning to look like 2019 will be a glorious continuation of what we have been opening our minds up to in 2018. So what can we expect to see in the health and wellness sphere in 2019?

1. Ayurveda

The 5,000-year-old health system, Ayurveda (in Sanskrit means ‚Äúknowledge of life‚ÄĚ) is responsible for a lot of health movements in 2018. Perhaps the most familiar of which would be the ketogenic diet. Ayurveda is an old system of medicine that incorporates plants and animal products, particularly fats. The practice of Ayurveda involves using fats both for consumption, meaning eating fats like ghee, and external use, like oils for the skin. The practice connects both mind and body in bringing about wellness.

2. More Plant Based Alternatives

Plant based diet

2018 has seen the rise of plant based food, a whopping 23% rise in sales. Gone are the days when the choices we had regarding plant based food were TVP and tofu. Now it is beginning to look like there will be a huge movement in the plant based fish sector. Expect your local Whole Foods aisles to have more plant based fish meat choices. The plant based fish movement stemmed from the awareness of people of the negative impact of over fishing has on our environment.

3. More Sleep

More Sleep

A lot of people, students and workers alike, are severely lacking in sleep. In the coming year, we will have a better understanding of our circadian rhythm and the effects of melatonin and cortisol on our sleep patterns. If these two hormones get out of whack, our circadian rhythm will be thrown out of its cycle and our sleep gets messed up.

4. CBD Oil

This year has seen a massive rise in popularity of CBD oil. Despite its being taboo in certain circles, Whole Foods Market’s projection predicts that CBD oil will have an even higher spike in popularity in 2019.


Expect that in the coming year, we will be learning more about the endocannabinoid system or the ECS. This is a major bodily system which compounds like CBD and other cannabinoids interact with. We have seen how CBD oil has helped manage anxiety and we’ve marvelled at its anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure effects. Cannabis might also help with setting our sleep pattern straight. It most certainly helps with keeping a lid on anxiety and stress.

5. Eco - Consciousness


More and more people are becoming aware of global warming and the dire situation the Earth is currently in. Expect that in 2019, the strong rise of the eco-friendly movement will continue. It is predicted that the use of single use plastics and other single use items will see a further decline and the BYOB (bring your own bag) movement will continue to become more popular.

6. Mental Health

Mental health

This year, mental health continues to be given its due importance. People are now realising that in order to be physically healthy, you need to think about your mental health as well. Hemp based products (like CBD oil) has become a more popular alternative to the usual stress medications. It is predicted that 2019 will see the continuation of this mental health trend.

7. Oat Milk

Oat Milk

Is oat milk the new soy? This year, sales have grown by an impressive 45%. Lactose averse people have found a good alternative to dairy and soy milk and the rise of its popularity does not seem to be ending soon. Grab yourself a bottle of oat milk this 2019 because it looks like they will be flying off the shelves still.


8. MCT Oil


Aside from CBD, 2018 brought MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil into the spotlight. This oil is odourless and colourless and stays liquid at room temperature. Putting MCT oil into your coffee, making it ‚Äúbulletproof‚ÄĚ is a good way of boosting your energy. Expect to see MCT become even more popular in 2019 as more people become aware of its benefits.

9. Body Positivity

Body positivity

Thanks to Rihanna and her Fenty brand, body positivity moved from the fringes to mainstream. Body positivity saw a rise in popularity in 2018 as more and more people focus on loving their bodies instead of shrinking them to fit into the image that society wanted them to look. As more people shift their focus to mental health, this 2019 will see an even bigger rise in the body positivity movement.

10. Hemp Based Products

Hemp Based Products

Aside from CBD oil, hemp based products have found their way into our lives from our beauty products, to our food. With the 2018 Farm Bill already signed into law, hemp based farming will be legal nationwide. Expect that in 2019, there will be more choices in hemp based products.

This article first appeared on

Popular Weight Loss Supplements Reviewed

Popular Weight Loss Supplements Reviewed

As we train the next generation of of fitness professionals at SFE Academy, we often get emails sent to us with questions posed to us like “how to lose weight fast without exercise” or “how to lose weight fast in 2 weeks”.


Our reply is always “A balanced diet with plenty of exercise” you need to get the energy balance equation on your side.


The supplement industry is big business, we wanted to scientifically analyse the most popular weight loss or weight gain supplements out there to see if the evidence matched the claim…

Garcinia Cambogia

What is it?

Garcinia gummi -gutta is also more commonly known as Gacinia cambogia. A fruit that has a similar shape to a pumpkin but is much smaller and green or yellow in colour. It is widely used in cooking and the fruit is a native of Indonesia.

The claim: 

It can help weight loss.

How it works: 

(-) ‚Äď hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a compound that can be found in Garcinia cambogia and is a derivative of citric acid. Research suggests that (-) ‚Äď hydroxycitric acid (HCA) inhibits the activity f the enzyme adenosine triphosphatase citrate lyase which plays a role in the synthesis of fatty acids in the body. Furthermore, Garcina cambogia is said to increase serotonin release in the brain leading to suppression of appetite.

What does the evidence say?

One study shows that Garcinia cambogia supplementation led to a small reduction in weight of about 2lbs in a period of between 2-12 weeks compared to the placebo control group.  (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 )


Studies also suggest that Garcinia cambogia supplementation has no statistically significant effect on weight loss. A large study to examine the effect of taking Garcinia cambogia suggest no effect on weight loss at all; (11, 12)


Some studies have shown weight loss through Garcinia cambogia supplementation and other have not. The current optimal does levels are currently unknown. One study has suggested a link between supplementation and a reduction in belly fat.


What is it?

Pyruvate is a 3-carbon intermediate molecule produced in the last step of anaerobic glycolysis.

The claim: Increased energy and weight loss

How it works:

One of the end products of anaerobic glycolysis that takes place in the cell and responsible for part of our energy production systems carries carbon atoms into the mitochondria for the Krebs cycle and is also responsible for the production of acetyl co-enzyme A (acetyl-CoA). The current theory for supplementation is that by having more pyruvate available for the mitochondria, you are increasing its energy production capacity. There, increasing metabolic rate and acting as a fat burner.

What does the evidence say?

Studies have suggested that pyruvate supplementation does not have any effect of fat loss (16,) one study showed a decrease in body weight and fat mass. However, this result should be interpreted carefully as the study group also participated in a vigorous exercise program along with pyruvate supplementation, so it could be that increased exercise regime that is producing the weight loss. (13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19)


Pyruvate supplementation does not show any effect on reducing fat mass or promoting weight loss. Nor is there any evidence that total cholesterol, blood pressure, training volume or muscular power out are affected in any way by

Green Tea

What is it?

Green tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The difference between Green tea and normal black tea is that the green tea leaves have not been processed.

The claim: Reduces body fat helps weight loss

How it works

Green tea contains many antioxidants. One such molecule called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) this has an affect on adipogenesis (fat cell production) and lipolysis (fat burning)

What does the evidence say?

Studies do suggest that Green Tea does increase fat burning and promote fat loss over the long term (12 weeks or more) however, caffeine contained within the Green tea may also play a role in fat loss too. Caffeine sensitive people should avoid excessive caffeine consumption. (20, 21, 22, 23 )



Green tea can increase fat burning. People with a caffeine sensitivity should be aware of the risks of a high caffeine intake.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

What is it?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid derived from linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is found in many dairy, animal products and oils.

The claim: Increases fat loss and weight loss

How it works

Thought to have a role in energy production, fat burning, inflammation and fat production.

What does the evidence say?

In short, the results are mixed. Some studies in obese populations suggests that CLA is effective at decreasing body fat mass where as other studies suggest that it s not effective at helping to reduce body fat mass in healthy populations (people not classified as obese) Continued and long term consumption of CLA has been attributed to fatty liver, digestive problems and insulin resistance.   (24, 25, 26, 27)

weight gain.


Will only produce modest fat loss in some people and can be dangerous in the long term. Taking CLA long term does not prevent weight gain.


What is it?

Found in the plant Coleus forskohlii.

The claim: Promotes weight loss

How it works

Forskolin increases levels of Cyclic AMP (cAMP) in cells which could stimulate fat burning (28, 29)

What does the evidence say?

One study suggests that Forskolin resulted in a decrease in body fat percentage, body fat and it also showed an increase in bone density. However, the same study also saw a rise in testosterone levels amongst the obese men and women tested. Testosterone has a well-documented fat burning effect as well as muscle and bone building properties. This could have accounted for the fat loss seen.



No clear evidence of Forskolin as a fat burner.

Bitter Orange / Synephrine

What is it?

The real name for bitter orange is ‚ÄėCitrus aurantium‚Äô and contains the active molecule p-synephrine.

The claim: Weight loss, appetite control, increased energy


How it works

p-synephrine is similar to ephedrine which is a stimulant but does not affect the cardiovascular system in the same way as ephedrine or norepinephrine. (30) p-synephrine/bitter orange is reported to also increase your metabolic rate.

What does the evidence say?

One study looking at the effects of bitter orange on weight loss and mood suggest that the 20 overweight men and women in the study did lose small amounts of weight, but they were also taking caffeine with the biter orange extract pills. This could have attributed to the weight loss seen as caffeine can have potent fat burning effects. There was an increase metabolism for all the men and women in the study. (31)



There is too little evidence for its fat burning properties to say that it is likely to lead to weight loss. More evidence is needed to conclude its effectiveness either way.

Raspberry Ketones

What is it?

Raspberry ketones are found in raspberries, cranberries and blackberries.

The claim: Helps you lose weight

How it works

The Raspberry ketones have been shown to down regulate some of proteins essential for fat production, storage and fat burning.

What does the evidence say?

The studies on humans are limited. However, some of the studies on rats show that the raspberry ketones do produce a fat burning effect.


No evidence that raspberry ketones have any effect on fat burning or weight loss. (32)

Further Education: Driven by Targets or Target Driven?

Further Education: Driven by Targets or Target Driven?

Further Education & Training: Driven by Targets or Target Driven?

The UK spending review 2010 was the first act in a then new conservative/Liberal democrat coalition to redress the fiscal deficit accrued due to the banking crash of 2008 and the unsustainable overspending by the New Labour government (HM Treasury: 2010) expenditure for FE was reduced to 2007 levels using the vehicle of accountability, fairness and the drive to increase standards not only in the education sector but across all government departments (Browne review: 2010; HM Treasury: 2010) 


The spending review 2010 brought about  strategic and structural changes to the FE sector that had the explicit aim to increase achievement and overall standards in the sector by continuing and even accelerating the market reforms of education ( Skills funding agency: 2011) as direct consequence of the funding cuts and the ideological realignment of the sector to a more progressive reform agenda (Osbourne: 2009) funding initiatives such as funding for ESOL (English as a second language) and the education maintenance allowance (EMA) has been abolished, the funding formula for colleges has been altered and the train to gain scheme has been rebranded as the small to medium enterprise apprenticeship. The balance of power is being purposely decentralised in favour of the institution. (Beck: 2008; Watters: 2007) 


The question of the effects of the policy of cuts to FE sector must have a multidimensional answer due to its wide-ranging effects. The cuts by themselves should not be analysed on its own merit, the ideological undercurrent must be examined too in order to ascertain how the cuts are likely to impact the organisational structure of the institution, the professional identity of the teacher and how they fit in with the new fiscal realities and ideological shifts. Not least, the moral and ethical impacts of the new funding realities on the learner, local communities and the wider economy. 

In the Beginning: The Spending Review

UK education spending for all stages of education

Research examining the effects of the spending review on the FE sector is scarce. A reason for this finding could be due to the short amount of time between the spending review, and the implementation of the policy.


This could indicate that sufficient time has not elapsed to fully elucidate the effects of the funding cuts.¬† An increasing amount of research has focused on the modernisation and adoption of marketisation of the education system in an era of reduced funding . Steer et al: 2007 examines the use of funding as a mechanism to “steer ” educational policy to meet the government’s own ends. With funding not being available to the institution should their aims not meet the governments aims.


Their research seeks to unpick the effect of policy steering on the institution and adequately ties this in with the adoption of modernisation in the FE sector. They go on to suggest that institutions that fall in line with their policy receive the highest funding and an “arm’s length” approach to governance. This would seem to be at odds with the idea and ideals of a neo liberalist educational policy and therein lay the tensions between funding, the institution and the state.¬† Steer et al: 2007 has suggested that funding of FE is dependent on compliance with a policy set by the state in order to garner the desired funding with the added carrot of an arm’s length regulatory system upon compliance. However, Bonal:2003 tries to make the connection between the external economic and global position of the UK and the competitive market forces that govern the UK’s and other countries relationship to the transformation of what Bonal calls the “internal educational market”. Bonal states that a contradiction exists or has existed where the country as a whole takes part in neoliberal market and that quite often the internal structures i.e educational policy and other departments lag behind in reform that would match the external economic environment.

The Impact of the Financial Crash

As the age of austerity bites and bites hard on the UK the traditional form of social welfare system and current funding arrangements will come up against a buffer of realism that could force reform to accommodate the decreased fiscal clout of the UK (Bonal: 2003)The research by Bonal (2003) does document accurately how changes in the global picture affect education policy which translates into the distribution of resources and funds available for education. 


Bonal’s work does not comment on the effect of politic on educational policy or the realities of underfunding or the effect of half committed market reform changes which closely reflects the reality in the UK. The FE sector exists in a funding reform halfway house with certain commentators espousing free market reform (Osbourne: 2009) whilst the realities are that funding policies are “steered” from¬† the top down with the institution expected to invoke market reform from the down up and therein lies the conflict and confusion surrounding FE funding.¬†


Other commentators seem to increasingly link the funding of the FE sector with the flow of market reforms from one government and ideology to the next (Stoten: 2011; Avis: 2009; Steer et al: 2007) therefore it would be prudent to examine the ideological currents in order to measure the policy shifts in educational funding as they seem to be inextricably linked.  

What about the Front line?

The front line - Further education reform

This blog takes the frontline to mean the level of the teacher and learner. And what about the teacher and learner? Within the maelstrom that is FE funding sits the teacher and learner or the frontline. Just how are the cuts in funding from the review effecting them? Researchers such as Coffield et al:2007 have examined the effect of funding determined parameters such as achievement and retention and how the fits in with the financial priorities of the institution, the demands of the policy, lack of resources and their duties to the learner. Stoten et al:(2011) and Edward et al: (2007) examine this very concept.


Both¬†Stoten¬†and Edward’s¬†work,¬†whilst providing some insights into¬†a teachers changing pedagogy along with the changing relationships¬†between teachers and the managers within an institution as a result of¬†funding initiatives.¬†However, the research¬†by¬†Stoten¬†et al:¬†(2011)¬†did not¬†have a large enough sample size for it to¬† be truly representative of the views across the FE sector. Furthermore,¬†¬†Stoten¬†et al¬†¬†had only examined a sample size of seven further education establishments who were chosen based on available demographic data that were to represent a cross section of society.

An argument can be made that demographic data may not be the best selection criteria to analyse the effects of funding policies on the  organisational structure and a teachers professional identity (Forrest et al:2004) Forrest et al: (2004) suggest that there could be differences in the organisational structure of an institution regardless of its demographics. This would suggest that Stoten et al: (2011) would either need to increase the sample size to include many more institutions or change the process of selecting the institutions. By using this method the relationship between; funding and organisational structure, funding and demographics and also funding and policy initiatives can be ascertained and elucidated at a greater statistical significance. 


The link between the funding of the FE sector and the means by which it is delivered has been established (targets, retention, achievement) (Finlay:2007) so too has the link between funding and reform. To begin to fully understand the how the funding cuts to the FE sector are affecting their organisational structures and also the frontline, it would be beneficial to begin with an historical overview that has led to the spending review 2010. 

Target Driven Funding: The Right Approach?

Reform in Further Education

The Education Reform Act (1988) was essentially the starting point for the transformation of both the compulsory and FE sectors in England (Strain et al: 2008) It sets out a blue print for the decentralisation of power from the state to the institutions giving them much more responsibility for their own budgets and curriculum’s. The education reform act was derived from the 1977 education green paper that attempted to raise the standards in education (Education reform act: 1988) The act attempted to get the FE sector to create links with local businesses. A comment can be made that¬†¬†the education reform act and the further and higher education reform act (1992) were the starting guns for the decentralisation and the introduction of new public management reforms to the FE sector that will affect how it is funded.¬†

Targets, Finance, Further Education and the Government

targets, finance , further education and the government

Both the education reform act (1988) and the further and higher education reform act (1992) state that the secretary of state sets the national targets for the FE sector. Here in lies the seed of the problem that is being currently felt due to spending review facilitated cuts. The FE sector has a funding formula that is set through achievement and retention rates (Finlay:2007) The reform acts seeks to decentralise power and at the same time centralise power. 



In essence colleges have the illusion of increased competition and a more student led funding arrangement through market reforms but the state sets the targets and therefore allocation of funds. This is the mirror opposite of what a neoliberalist new public management agenda should be (Thorsen et al: 2010) There is scope for the political elite to use targets for their own political ends and therefore play politic with FE through the funding mechanisms. This relationship does not occur in any other free market sector. It would seem that full market reform of the FE sector with the sector fully responsible for their own targets was and is a risky political gamble too far.



As early as 2009 the then shadow chancellor of the exchequer George Osbourne set out his policy in a speech articulating his educational reforms in a time of austerity. In retrospect his speech was a harbinger of the scale of cuts to come.  



In light of the spending review, what has the effect been on the frontline? In a word, the teachers at the sharp end of the cuts have been forced to reassess their priorities (Coffield et al: 2007) Popham et al: 2001 suggested that teaching to the test was a prevalent feature of the education system even at a time of relative economic prosperity. 



This is a symptom of the targets driven funding system. One could extrapolate those findings into today’s educational climate and deduce that the cuts could cause teachers in the FE sector to teach to the test in order to meet the financial constraints placed upon them. This can pose a moral dilemma for the teacher: a choice between doing the right thing for the student and developing their potential¬† against the reality that if they do not “teach to the test” their very institution and even job could be at risk.¬†¬†

A New Way Forward?

The FE funding formula comprises of four main targets that dictate the allocation of funds; The number of students, business or employer engagement, achievement/success rates and the frequency of teachers with the relevant teaching qualification (Learning and skills council:2002; cited in Steer et al: 2007) 



An unintended consequence of the targets¬†could¬†be¬†that colleges feel under pressure to enter students onto additional qualifications in order to increase the level of funding that they received (Leney¬†et al: 1998; Cited in Steer et al: 2007) The policy of fiscal austerity in FE could lead to an increased incidence of this occurring. However, can the institutions be blamed for taking this approach to their own funding? In¬†short,¬†the answer is no. The centralised nature of “funding for targets” leaves scant room for the real issue of FE and that is¬†the¬†student learning experience.¬†¬†



The spending review: 2010 also has an impact on the organisational structure of an institution (Steer et al: 2007; Coffield et al: 2007; Watters: 2007) The new  public management reforms in the FE sector has led to the a sea change in the leadership and organisational structure. Principals and line managers are now responsible for the interpretation and implementation of government policy (Steer et al: 2007) The spending review preceded the Browne review: 2010. The Browne review realigns the state Рinstitution relationship by redefining the funding arrangements for FE again.  



There is a significant sum that is not being collected from students or employers for the cost of their qualification. (Browne review: 2010) the review goes on to suggest that FE and skills be paid for on an equal basis between the state, learner and employers. Funding for a level three qualification for students 24 and over has been abolished. Similarly, funding for the first level 2 qualification has also been abolished  (IFL: 2012) This runs counter to the aims of increasing skills in the UK for economic benefit and social mobility.  

The Wider Societal and Philosophical Impact of Policy

By abolishing the provision for a free first level 2 & 3 qualification could lead to those in society from a lower socio- economic background  missing out on an opportunity to gain skills and increase their chances of employment (IFL:2012) At first it makes little sense to abolish a fund for those at the fringes of society that will help them to gain employment. However, after considered judgement the policy could be right.


 By offering everyone a chance to access free first level 2 and 3 qualifications over the age of 24yrs, there seems to be a cast the net as wide as possible approach to increase skill levels, in the post spending review order of less funds to colleges. the idea of targeting and offering everyone, regardless of financial status the chance of a free qualification does not make financial sense and blows against the prevailing neoliberal marketisation wind of the conservative/ liberal democrat coalitions doctrine of progressive reform and fairness. By targeting scarce resources to those who need it based on means tested data makes for good financial sense. That way the objective of targeting those in with a lower socio-economic status will be met.  


A consequence of what is termed co-investment (increasing student and employer financial contribution) is that colleges will be increasingly responsible for collection of funds from students and employers. Further decreases in funds to an institution will result, should the amount of funds collected not correlate with expected income.  


The effect on the teacher could be to further erode their professionalism by asking them to have a dual role of debt collector and educator. What should happen to the student(s) if funds are not collected¬†from them? Does the teacher have to exclude them from class? This crosses ethical and¬†moral boundaries as the aim of the teacher should be to enable the student to reach their full potential¬†and¬†not¬†erect boundaries to their participation. Similarly, if employers are foot dragging in paying the costs of tuition for their employee’s which then results in litigation, this could cost the institution from both the litigation itself and the penalties imposed from the skills¬†funding agency and the education funding agency (The skills funding agency¬†and further education funding¬†10th report:2010)¬†¬†¬†

Why are we so Surprised? Cause & Effect?

The spending review has meant that funds for ESOL and the EMA have been abolished to be replaced by a learner funded arrangement in the ESOL case and an enhanced discretionary support fund in place of the EMA (Exley:



The commentary surrounding their abolition has been vociferous and represented as an attack on the most vulnerable in society even to go as far as saying that the abolition of the ESOL will affect UK wide immigrant integration (Exley: 2011) However, research by Maguire: 2008 examines the efficacy of the EMA and comes to different conclusions as to its effect if it were abolished. 


The comment by Exley (2011) supporting the argument that the ESOL and EMA removal will be detrimental to inclusivity and participation is a valid comment. However, there is no comment on the effect on teachers of ESOL and the institutions themselves. 


In areas with a high immigrant demographic, colleges that rely on the funds from ESOL students will be at a greater financial disadvantage to those colleges situated in a different catchment with a different demographic. Those colleges with a high ESOL provision will be forced to cut back in other departments or make staff redundancies in order to balance the books. 


However, Research by¬†Maguire: (2008) suggests that retention rates were increased after the introduction of the EMA but that was due to a condition of the learning agreement for the payment to take place. Furthermore, Maguire: (2008) went on to suggest that the decision to go to college did not hinge on the receipt of the EMA. If¬†Maguire’s¬†findings are correct then this would translate to no change in student enrolment, subsequently no loss of funds for the institution.¬†

Treading a New Path

In summary, the spending review of 2010 has posed some difficult and awkward questions for further education institutions and learners alike. The state is realigning the relationship between the state,  learner and the employer onto a more equal footing.


The role of the new market reforms in the spending review has blurred the role of the teacher. Should the teacher teach to the states agenda to guarantee funding or should the teacher teach to realise a student’s full potential? A happy medium must coexist with one eye on financial survival and the other eye on the learning experience.¬†


Perhaps we could take solace in the following statement: 

We have got them (students) to that point where they believe in themselves


This would suggest that despite the funding initiatives and pressures on institutions, the main focus is always….. the student.¬†

Exercise & Cancer: The Protective Effect of Exercise

Exercise & Cancer: The Protective Effect of Exercise

The Benefits of Exercise


We all know someone who has been through the traumatic and sadly often fatal ordeal of a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The UK has made strides to inform the population to the common risk factors for cancer and the benefits of exercise. They roll off the top of your head as easily as your home address or your number. However, we also choose to ignore the advice that successive government health campaigns and even the education system itself has taught us over the years.


This article aims to elucidate the effects of exercise on cancer genesis and progression.


Exercise, Cancer and the Immune System

Exercise has profoundly positive effect on our immune system and the effect is almost instantaneous. The immune system is our body’s way of fighting off foreign cells such as viruses or bacteria, it plays a part in inflammation and importantly it also has a role in tumour suppression and prevention.


The evidence for the role of exercise on the immune response was first discovered in 1893. It first described how leukocytes (white cells)  increased in the bloodstream during physical exertion. The link between exercise and activation of the immune system had now been observed.


The focus of recent studies in the field has been on a specific type of white blood cell (WBC) called a ‚Äėnatural Killer‚Äô cell (NK cell) NK cells are produced in the bone marrow from CD34+ precursor cells and are part of the innate immune system and respond rapidly to threats in the body. NK cells are stored in the spleen and the vascular bed and during exercise, both of these organs have their blood flow increased significantly, and also increases their numbers in circulatory system.


NK cells have a ‚Äėnatural‚Äô ability to seek and destroy premalignant and malignant cells without the need to first be exposed to the cell in order to develop a defence (adaptive immunity) However, they do play a major part in training the adaptive immune system. ¬†


Exercise and cancer - Immune system activation during exercise

Credit: Trends in Molecular Medicine.

How NK cells are recruited during Exercise

Research has suggested that NK recruitment into the bloodstream can increase six fold in as little as 70 seconds of physical activity. Whereas, other studies have shown that NK increases in the bloodstream can be produced within minutes of exercise taking place. This is also in agreement with other studies that have investigated the role of exercise and white cells.  However, following 30mins of endurance exercise, NK cell numbers did not increase. The general consensus in the literature is that the exercise intensity to elicit an increase in NK numbers must be sufficient for an increased heart rate and breathlessness to occur. Moderate to high intensity endurance and resistance type activities. However, exercise beyond 3 hours results in a decrease in circulating NK cells.


Research supports evidence for the benefits of exercise that we can all relate to. Overtraining can cause harm and lead to opportunistic infections that would have otherwise been dealt with by the immune system.  A possible example of this is the middle distance runner Sebastian Coe and the American sprinter Carl Lewis. Two such examples of how over training may have been detrimental to success. Seb Coe failed to qualify for the 1988 Seoul Olympics due to a respiratory illness whilst Carl Lewis failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympic 100m due to an infection. While the evidence linking over training to their respective failure to qualify is not sufficient for a definitive answer. The circumstantial evidence would certainly point in that direction.


What are the anti tumour Properties of NK cells and how is it affected by Exercise

The two different subtypes of NK cells that are activated during and post exercise are known as CD56dim and CD16+ compared to all other NK cell subtypes. CD56dim and CD16+ cells are more cytotoxic (cell destroying) than other subtypes which are said to be more cytokine (molecular signalling) producing NK cells.


Cytokines are the messengers of the immune system. They are produced in certain WBC‚Äôs in order to ‚Äėcommunicate‚Äô or signal other cells of the immune system. Exercise releases myokines from the muscle fibres into the circulation. Myokines are proteins released by the muscle during contractions. The myokines are signalling molecules that activate the NK cells. Interleukin 6, 7 and 15 (IL 6, IL7 & IL15) have been seen to play a role in NK cell activation during exercise. Furthermore, epinephrine release pre and during exercise is also thought to recruit NK cells into the circulatory system.

Exercise and cancer

Cytokine Map: This image shows you the different cytokines and their functions.

The role of exercise intensity, mode and duration of exercise and the various signalling pathways that activate the tumour fighting NK cells is now a bit more transparent. This could help fitness professionals to widen the scope of exercise.   

Ageing, Cancer and the role of Exercise

The increasing body of research that has examined the  effects of exercise and aging on cancer and the immune system. The general consensus is that exercise still has the same positive effect on reducing the risk of malignancies developing.

The ageing process is a complex topic involving many different variables that all contribute to the process. However, in essence, the ageing process can be thought of as an accumulation of cellular damage over time. This can be from free radical exposure and oxidative stress on  cells leading to in effect cellular exhaustion. Therefore, leading to cellular dysfunction. However, the already established immediate responses of NK cells to exercise is supported by research that also suggests that elderly populations who undergo a 12 week aerobic and resistance training programme display increased antigen expression on monocytes (immune cell), decreased inflammation and inhibit a tumour promoting environment whilst promoting a tumour suppressive one.


Does Exercise Confer and Benefits for Patients with Malignancies?


There are studies that explore the immune response to exercise in people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  The findings are in agreement with research looking into non cancer patients. The same NK cell response is seen in healthy populations and in control groups or people with malignancies. However, there is still a great deal to be done to find out if the immune response seen in both populations has any beneficial effect on clinical outcomes.


Exercise, Metabolism and Tumour Physiology


Exercise has a profound effect on blood flow around the body. Blood flow is shunted from some organs and redirected to the working muscles during exercise. The redirection of blood flow is to adequate supply the working muscles with oxygen and remove the waste products produced from cellular respiration.


Tumours exhibit hypoxia like conditions due to metabolic and blood vessel abnormalities that mean that oxygen delivery is impaired making the tumour rely on the glycolysis energy pathway for the tumour cells energy needs instead of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway. This is termed the ‚ÄėWarburg effect‚Äô


Exercise is also responsible for activating HIF1…Ď which also enables up regulation of pro-erythrocyte proteins and proteins that promote angiogenesis (increase in vasculature) Several studies have suggested an increase in intratumoral (within tumour) perfusion rate (blood flow) The increase in tumour blood flow sounds counter intuitive and far from being a benefit. However, if blood flow to the tumour is stabilised, would it mean that the tumour will have an increased nutrient supply? Therefore, promoting tumour growth? The counterargument to this is as follows; If the intratumoral vascular network is stabilised, this would increase oxygen supply bringing the tumour to normoxic (normal oxygen levels) conditions, altering tumour metabolism and up regulating ¬†AMPK and reducing tumour growth. ¬†Furthermore, increased intratumoral blood flow also increases Immune cell infiltration and allows easier access for exogenous chemotherapy drugs conferring a possible survival advantage for the patient.



Tumour VS Normal Vasculature - Exercise and cancer

Credit: Research Gate.Net


Caution must be ascribed when interpreting the effect of exercise on tumour metabolism. There are many other factors and genetic mutations affecting metabolism and tumorigenesis where exercise may or may not have an effect upon. There is still much more research to be done on human models.


Mode of Exercise


Interestingly, there is an increasing body of research that examines the mode of exercise and its effects on cancer risk. Research has  suggested that moderate to vigorous exercise lowered the risk of a range of cancers including; colon (23%), breast (12%), renal (12%), prostate (10%), pancreatic, gastroesophageal (18%) and ovarian (11%).


Mode of Exercise - Frequency, Intensity, Time & Type of Exercise


Studies using rodent models of cancer have used various types, duration, distances and intensities of exercise. The researchers postulated a dose dependent relationship between exercise and tumorigenesis. However, they did conclude that more research needs to be done to determine the exercise dose.


Why fitness professionals now need to listen and adapt


We can see why the UK government recommends that the adult population  needs at least 30 mins of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. The benefits of exercise are clear. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise and resistance training has been shown to have a positive effect on the prevention of cancer. Cancer patients could also benefit from exercise in combination with other treatments such as surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.


For those of us who are lucky enough not to have suffered cancer, a balanced, healthy diet with plenty of exercise will reduce your overall risk of developing cancer. Increased activation of the immune system. Increased exercise induced vascularisation, altered tumour metabolism and more.


The Future of Fitness


Current fitness and exercise qualifications only make reference to the benefits of exercise and its cancer prevention properties. There is little to no explanation of why this is so. This can be  detrimental to the overall task of educating a populace to enable them to prevent the onset of this dreadful disease.

As certain as one can be, current fitness professionals may not possess the knowledge to effectively train a cancer patient. (or a one in remission) Given that cancer will affect at least 50% of the population, the notion that fitness professionals do not have this skill set is alarming.

The way forward is for qualification awarding bodies to revamp their qualifications to include much more content on training different populations other than stereotypes of clients who ‚Äėjust wants to get bigger‚Äô or ‚Äėlose weight‚Äô. A reality of towns and cities across the UK is that people have all sorts of ailments and idiosyncrasies. The time for catering for a select few is now over as reality catches up with rigid qualification structures, content and teaching practices.


This is where SFE Academy is different, the courses we offer have been ‚Äėreality checked‚Äô meaning that we have put the course through quality checks to make sure that what we teach you is relevant to the people you are likely to encounter.


We work closely with industry partners to make sure that once qualified, you are ready for the fitness industry. .

Go TopCall Now