'Missed Olympic opportunity' to get children exercising

Children at a school sports day Let us achieve future success now by building in a PE curriculum that is competitive, says Andrew Franklyn-Miller

Childhood obesity remains an issue. One in three 10 and 11-year-olds in England are overweight or obese.

In this week's Scrubbing Up, Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller says the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics offers the perfect chance to encourage children to be more active - but that it is an opportunity being missed.

If our children are struggling in maths or English, we are aware because of poor performance in tests, and the child gets appropriate help.

But what about physical development, cardiovascular fitness or coordination?

Where are the assessments of "physical literacy" alongside numeracy and literacy?

How do we recognise physical limitations due to shortness of breath or low glucose causing problems, and step in before it becomes too late?

'Let it be competitive'

Society has deemed it acceptable to aspire to participate rather than achieve, to hope that vaguely defined skills might maintain fitness rather than test our children against benchmarks.

Start Quote

We need to make exercise a normal part of day-to-day life, not a weekly obligatory trip to the gym ”

End Quote Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller

Our national curriculum for PE talks of "aspirations of stringing together movements", floating in a swimming pool and "achievements" of participation and understanding.

I quite understand the reluctance to test further in school and increase the burden on teachers, but we risk neglecting the physical competence of our future generations from a fear of failure, challenge and aspiration we do not see in other aspects of education.

Surely part of the Olympic legacy should be that we give future generations the benefit of experience that our Olympians give in achievement, aspiration and success?

They all compete on a daily basis in training and in competition - even to maintain funding - and ultimately will compete for a medal at London 2012.

London 2012 - Begin your journey here

London view

Where will our next generation be without the competition and physical literacy goals as they develop?

Let us achieve future success now by building in a PE curriculum that embraces push, pull, squat, brace, rotate, accelerate and change of direction.

Let it be competitive and let us test our children against each other and identify those who need support from the network of doctors trained in sport and exercise medicine as an existing Olympic legacy.

Teachers and parents need support with training and a curriculum that builds on the lessons learnt in athlete development, and sport talent identification, not to build potential superstars but to change a lifestyle.

We need to make exercise a normal part of day-to-day life, not a weekly obligatory trip to the gym.

Surely we need to act now to help those millions otherwise destined for obesity?


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  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    PE is all very well but the nub of the issue is kids dont get enough exercise generally. Their parents cart them to school in the car in case something happens to them.When i was at school in the 80`s PE was grim and to be avoided yet few kids were overweight and you wouldnt be seen dead being brought to school.These days i exercise regularly despite PE being rubbish when i was at school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    As a child I once had a great teacher who managed to get all the kids involved in athletics out of school. Our school team won many awards at athletics competitions and obesity was practically nil.

    Then we moved on to secondary school where our enthusiasm was wiped out by 'PE' teachers who considered 'sports' to mean football every week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    When I remember PE in school in the 1980s I shudder. I absolutely hated PE at school - I wasn't unfit but I was no good at sports and the "one size fits all" approach used by my PE teachers meant that those who were naturally athletic sailed through while the rest of us struggled and couldn't wait for the lesson to be over. It's taken me until my 30s to realise that exercise can be fun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I am a teacher, currently teaching across keystages 1-4 (4-16). This year we have had our PE allocation cut from 3h to 1.5h per week. Children need to let off steam and run about and with the current poor dietary habits of many of our children it is even more important to give every possible chance for these kids to get active and develop healthy habits that will stay with them for a lifetime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    For non-sporty kids (these are the kids more at risk and I believe in focus here), exercise should be encouraged alongside nutritional education. Exercise in school focusses on sport, kicking a ball, swinging a racket. Allow exercise professionals and coaches to get involved and teach kids that exercise doesnt have to be sport and make exercise habitual, disassociating exercise with sport!


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