Sexism storm as Lord Coe says women teachers can’t do PE lessons because they lack confidence

Lord Coe has plunged into a sexism row after saying that most women teachers lack the confidence to take PE lessons in primary schools. This is from the Daily Mail… 

The former London 2012 chairman blamed their failings on training colleges that offer only six to ten hours of sports tuition over two years.

Although he was simply highlighting research carried out by a sports charity, his comments drew an angry backlash.

‘It is entirely unacceptable to be peddling such sexist nonsense,’ said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

‘I’m sure Jessica Ennis and all those other female Olympians would be outraged by such views. To imply that female primary school teachers don’t have as much ability as men to teach sport isn’t right.’

But Lord Coe, the Government’s Olympic legacy ambassador, insisted it was not a question of ability, but one of training.

‘I was shocked by how little they get,’ he said.

‘Eight out of ten teachers in primary schools are women. And this is not remotely pejorative but I think that something like 80 per cent of them said they just did not feel confident taking physical education.

‘I am guessing that there will be a lot of men who will feel the same way.’

Lord Coe has long emphasised the ‘crucial’ need to provide better PE teaching in primary schools.

He raised the issue during a talk he gave in Tilford, Surrey, where he lives.

Andrew Carter, head teacher of a nearby primary school who was among the audience, said: ‘Lord Coe said 80 per cent of primary school teachers are women who have had no formal training in PE at all. His implication was that women are less sporty than men, but that’s ridiculous.

‘It was basically the old-fashioned view that women teachers are a bit fluffy and not keen on sport and, if it came to football, would not know the rules. Lord Coe was not trying to be clever but just trying to make a point that was not really valid.

‘He needs to look at the dance and aerobics activities going on and similar sports activities and not just traditional sports such as football and running.

‘Lord Coe is a highly successful athlete in his own right and the trouble is people who don’t know better believe him and they go away saying, “No one runs sports in primary schools.”

‘So if parents are going to help out with school sports activities, they may wonder what the point is after hearing him express  that view.

‘Lord Coe seems to think that we should turn out Olympians and athletes, but our job is to make children fit and understand their bodies. That way we can lengthen their lives.’

Earlier this year, Baroness Campbell, the head of the Youth Sport Trust which carried out the research, claimed that many children starting secondary school  were unable to throw a ball, catch, jump or run.

She said that even pupils inspired to take up a sport after watching the Olympics missed out because teachers were not well trained enough to help them.

Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford said: ‘We do need to improve the quality of teaching sport in primary schools but if Lord Coe is implying that female teachers can’t teach sport because they’re women, then he’s wrong.

‘If he’s saying teaching sport  is poor because it’s predominately taught by women in primary schools then he is taking us  backwards, rather than moving forwards.’

Earlier this month Lord Coe helped launch a new £150 million grant for school sports facilities. The investment comes as the Government unveils plans to train teachers to specialise in PE at  primary school.

Lord Coe said: ‘The problem in primary schools is that PE has become too much of a lottery. If you have a head teacher – male or female – who understands sport then probably you’ll have  a better chance of getting good provision.

‘But if their experience of sport was not good then that tends to filter through the school. It occurred to me that the big gap in provision was in primary schools.

‘I saw this as not just a money issue – it was also about changing attitudes, particularly in teacher training. The amount of teacher training that was carried out shocked me.

More at:  Sexism storm as Lord Coe says women teachers can’t do PE lessons because they lack confidence

Are the critics right to have a go at @sebcoe or was he actually making a valid point in that most primary school teachers feel that are not sufficiently trained in how to provide good PE – isn’t that where the focus should be? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Health and Primary.


  1. geckogirl77

    SchoolsImprove sebcoe I think so: he makes comments about how it’s the lack of training time spent on PE as opposed to gender being issue.

    • SchoolsImprove

      RT geckogirl77: sebcoe I think so: he makes comments about how it’s the lack of training time spent on PE as opposed to gender being…

      • scattj

        SchoolsImprove geckogirl77 sebcoe Would have been much better to say all teachers; we need specialist MFL, music as well as PE teachers

        • geckogirl77

          scattj SchoolsImprove sebcoe I know. Same could be said for any subject but only so much time in initial training. CPD: lifelong learners

  2. VillaGirl75

    Lord Coe is correct but his comments are being misinterpreted. I was one of a team of secondary PE teachers from all over the country employed as part of the School Sport Partnerships. It started in 2003 and the labour government invested almost £1billion over the period up to 2011. The. Inexplicably at the very time they needed to keep investing -LondonOlympics they pulled the programme. One of the things we did was go into our local cluster of primary schools and support the teachers delivering PE – train them, team teach to improve confidence, help with resources etc. Many of them are terrified of teaching gymnastics because of the health and safety issues of doing forward rolls and damaging necks & heads etc Now it’s stopped and school sport has gone backwards.

    • Blackthornia

      smcpeers Senior figures in athletics need to tackle drugs in track & field before lecturing schools or anyone else about “sport” #doping

      • smcpeers

        “Blackthornia: smcpeers Senior figures in athletics need to tackle drugs in track & field before lecturing schools” #doping” oh agreed!

      • smcpeers

        “Blackthornia: Senior figures in athletics need to tackle drugs in track & field before lecturing schools” #doping” oh agreed! sebcoe

  3. KikiNowers

    SchoolsImprove sebcoe a great shame that the NUT have chosen to misinterpret Lord Coe rather than back him trying to get more training 🙁

  4. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove smcpeers EverydaySexism 8yrs ago shu I had mny female P.E stdnts & none that lacked confidence. Diffnt system then tho

  5. KatieJParker1

    AWJFitzgibbon to be fair it is from what female teachers said…. But he needs to see my PE lessons #outstanding #evenwearmytrainers

      • KatieJParker1

        AWJFitzgibbon ehoust I don’t think water polo is in the curriculum. My dance lessons are very impressive!! #strictly

  6. ehoust

    AWJFitzgibbon KatieJParker1 OUTRAGED!He can come&watch one of my lessons!Plus he can look at past Uni work to see how much I studied PE!

    • AWJFitzgibbon

      ehoust KatieJParker1 One of your lessons?#fewandfarbetween these days Em! You looked sporty in university but not sure how good you were!

  7. rrunsworth

    SchoolsImprove He is making valid point – lack of training, majority of primary teachers happen to be women. Comments by villagirl75 apt

  8. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove sarahstinton PE stdnts at SHU were bright & confident. Now system has chngd completely & tchrs R trained elsewhere!!

  9. PE_TotD

    SchoolsImprove Man speaks sense. Wasn’t highlighting a gender issue more that standard of primary PE is generally poor via lack of training

  10. emcatw

    SchoolsImprove surely its down to the PERSON and their own interest in sport, just like any other subject, rather than their GENDER

  11. LovePhyEd

    SchoolsImprove mi_sport Inflammatory article-completely out of context.W/O specialist PE tchrs,sufficient training delivery WILL B sub par

  12. biffboff75

    SchoolsImprove nicevans1978 Were comments about poor training for primary teachers in PE which is true.

  13. una_mc

    SchoolsImprove oh please! It’s the hype of all the h&s issues, and all the “you can’t do this and that”!

  14. ACESport_UK

    SchoolsImprove sebcoe training Primary teachers receive (male & female) is not acceptable. Other subjects have generic pedagogy PE is…

  15. ACESport_UK

    SchoolsImprove sebcoe a totally different ball game! We need specialist PE teachers or organisations lead by PE teachers to deliver..

  16. ACESport_UK

    SchoolsImprove sebcoe ..high quality lessons that are: inclusive, engaging, fun & allow pupils to explore PE. #LoveSport #ACESport

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