The Beyond 2012 Report published by Ofsted, the UK agency responsible for the regulation of services which care for children and young people and those providing education and skills for learners, found that whilst PE was generally in good health, teaching in more than a quarter of schools is not improving pupil’s fitness.
The Report found that one fifth of primary schools did not ensure all pupils learnt to swim, many teachers lacked specialist PE knowledge and only a minority of schools played competitive sport to a high level. Contributors to the Report stated that PE lessons often did not involve enough strenuous activity.
The Report also stated that very few schools had adapted PE programmes to suit the needs of overweight and obese students despite the Health Service in the UK classifying 3 in every 10 children as obese.
Included in the Report’s recommendations were that a minimum of two hours of physical education be provided each week. The Report calls on the UK government to build on the momentum generated by the Olympics & Paralympics and to ensure that those responsible for the initial training of primary teachers provides them with sufficient knowledge to enable them to teach PE well.
There may be some learnings for Ireland with only 10% of post-primary receiving the 120 minutes of PE per week as recommended by the Department of Education & Skills. There are 300,000 children in the UK estimated to be obese or overweight whilst, four out of five children do not get the minimum physical activity levels as recommended in the Department of Health & Children’s National Physical Activity Guidelines.
Susan Marron, Chairperson of the Irish Primary PE Association, outlined her vision for PE in primary schools by 2020 in the Federation’s Annual Review saying: “By 2020 Physical Education will be at the heart of children’s education. A child’s experience of PE will help develop their physical, social and emotional competences as well as give them the confidence to participate in physical activity and appropriate extra-curricular and community sporting opportunities.
“PE will be supported by physically active schools which maximise opportunities to promote physical activity at lesson transitions and break times and which encourage active travel to and from school. Optional extra-curricular activities will be suported by the National Governing Bodies for Sport, Local Sports Partnerships and the HSE.”
The Federation has for some time been outlining the need for an overall “Masterplan or Vision for Sport” which would cover all aspects of government’s interaction with Sport and physical activity including education and the availability and nature of sport in schools.
Commentating on the Ofsted report, Federation of Irish Sport Chief Executive, Sarah O’Connor, highlighted the need for sport and physically activity to be taken seriously: “Sport & physical activity have a key role to play in public health. 6% of deaths globally each year are due to physical inactivity whilst the UK estimate that 11% of their annual health spend is directly attributable to physical inactivity. ESRI research shows that people who participate in sport and exercise across the life course generally experience better physical and mental health than non-participants. Schools have a key role to play in ensuring that all Ireland’s children are equipped with basic physical literacy skills to facilitate not just adequate levels of fitness but also set the foundations for life long participation in sport and physical activity. A more active Ireland is a healthier Ireland.”
A copy of the Ofsted Beyond 2012 Report can be seen at: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/not-enough-physical-physical-education
A link to the ESRI’s Sporting Lives Research can be viewed at: http://www.esri.ie/publications/latest_publications/view/index.xml?id=2528