Teachwire reports that it’s a subject all teenagers should be regularly participating in, with long-term consequences for students’ health and happiness. And with British children often accused of being more interested in screens than sport, PE is arguably more important now than ever. But are tests, league tables and budget cuts getting in the way when it comes to secondary schools delivering PE properly?
Michael Crichton, chair of the Association for Physical Education is a passionate man when it comes to the importance of PE and he’s frank about the fact that some barriers do exist. “Feedback from our members suggests that there can be some issues,” he confirms. “Unsurprisingly, funding is one of them and it’s really difficult for schools to combat, especially schools in vulnerable positions, desperately trying to meet various standards. If you’ve got fewer pupils taking PE option at GCSE and A-level, you might have to look at not offering it. You then lose individuals in the department and if you’re not careful your whole school PE provision is eroded.”
Blogger Rachel Moody, who is PE subject leader at Haughton Academy, also recognises the difficulties some schools face in promoting physical activity. “I think it has become a reality for many PE departments that they are much lower in the pecking order than other subjects within the school setting,” she says. “It is not unusual to hear of PE losing time, particularly in the older year groups, to accommodate extra maths and English.”
Headteacher of Wright Robinson College Neville Beischer is rightly proud of his school’s achievements. With a March 2016 Ofsted judgement of ‘Outstanding in all areas’ and the Youth Sports Trust ‘Outstanding Secondary School” of the year award this February, interestingly Neville feels that far from PE being a distraction, the subject has actually been essential to the school’s transformation.
“A lot of it comes down to our ‘Teamwork Concept’ which is pivotal to success in sport, but actually transferrable across the curriculum,” he explains. “In fact, the concepts we’ve borrowed from our success in sport and PE have helped us match and surpass that achievement by the incredible academic progress and attainment of our students.”
So why is PE still undervalued despite all of these benefits? William Tigbe, Clinical Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Warwick, thinks that there’s a fundamental image problem preventing it from being given the time and attention it deserves.
The last word then, on why timetable and budgets, however constraining, should not be allowed to get in the way of our PE provision goes to Michael, who states unequivocally that “more than an examination, program or unit of work, we believe PE has massive impact on life outcomes.”
How has your school encouraged its pupils to become more active? With obesity and mental health problems becoming increasing more frequent in schools, can PE help? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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