I am shocked by the government move to give schools the responsibility to allocate time for physical education. The reason is extraordinary, being that in order to follow the two hour requirement, schools had been ‘filling’ physical education time with activities such as yoga and circus skills. While I feel that this relates to only a minority of schools, I see no reason why, if they increase leaner motivation, such activities should not be included. Many young people want to experience a wide range of physical challenges and may well be disillusioned by ‘more of the same’. Some of the most successful physical education programmes cover a wide variety of activities within and outside curriculum time to meet the interests and needs of all learners.
I can see no positive outcome for this change in policy – only that there will be less time for any sort of physical activity in school – and this at a time when we desperately need to promote activity to make a contribution to fighting the rise in obesity.
It was interesting to hear on the radio this morning that the reason why Australia has so few medals in the 2012 Olympics is that their Government is not investing money in elite sport. I find this revealing as Australia has strong physical education and should not, perhaps, need so much funding to produce top athletes. It all goes to show that government cannot point the finger at physical education when we do not win medals. Undoubtedly we play a major part in laying the foundation for elite sports performance, but, in my view it is not our job to train Olympians. Our job is surely to encourage every learner with whom we work to have the motivation, confidence, physical competence and knowledge and understanding to value physical activity and to continue with active participation after they leave school. In other words to be physically literate.
I return to my first point, I believe that to foster this commitment to activity, we need enough time in school and also we need to use that time imaginatively to motivate all our learners. There is much more that could be said on this topic. What do you think?
This post was contributed by Professor Margaret Whitehead.