'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 93.

    I would agree that PE should be to encourage a desire to play sports and stay healthy, as was quite successfully the case at my school.

    Those few "stop being mean to fat people" posters here need to grow up. Being overweight (or underweight) is a health issue, and costs the taxpayers money, just like poverty etc. How many of you have moaned most righteously about "those damn welfare dependants"?

  • 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 89.

    Futher to my 86 I would add that i exelled at rowing, sailing , horse riding as i still do and am healthy and fit. All this stuff is a desparate attempt at justifying the unaffordable expense of the olympics which excludes most of the populatin by cost of travelling and staying in London. Or shall we all be couch potatoes and watch it on tv

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    PE and school sports were great if you were good at them. If not they were absolute torture and no amount of 'for your own good' speeches will every convince me otherwise. I think perhaps some of the sadistic practices have been weeded out now but it is never going to suit everyone and the ones you want to reach are usually the ones it suits least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    A good start to getting children more active is to let them walk to school. Back in the 70s I had a 4 mile round trip to my school. This and a reasonable diet would be progress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I can only speak of my own experience of school pe and games which convinced me that all pe teachers were ignorant sadists . I was born blind in one eye which naturally gave me problems with balance and judging distances much to the delight of the teachers during so called sports and the delight they got from making fun of me. I hate football to this day.
    I will add that I was never a fat kid

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    In my experience PE teachers were often sadists and bullies. As an adult, I keep myself fit, but it's no thanks to them. In addition, many kids are coerced into team sports like rugby which have a high risk of injury, pain and permanent damage. Of course kids need to know about health and fitness, But is school the right place? Parents need to protect children from school inflicted misery!

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Ahh. Just the type of obsessive views that turned me off of sports in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Comment 64. Ellie, agree with your comment about making it fun. We love the quote 'the easiest way to change behaviour is to make something fun'

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I enjoy non-competitive running, Yoga and cycling-as-transport. I never watch or have anything to do with "sport" and hardly anyone I mix with does.

    Whys should a minority of people who do enjoy taking part in competitive sport impose it on the rest of us?

    Why should my kids be made to do what I wouldn't want to do?

    Competitive sport is not the same as being physically healthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    We recognise that children's fitness has never mattered more, our programme, Exercise with Champions, where we work with primary schools nationwide. To engage young children with a lifelong programme of healthy choices, we arrange for a sporting champion to come into school and exercise with all of the children. The champion will also talk to them about the importance of staying fit and healthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Sport should be compulsory in all schools every afternoon.

    Still if something good comes out of the damn Olympics I will be shocked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Utter drivel from the PE bully tendency.

    PE, sport, is tedious junk. Children play actively given the chance, they do not chose to do stupid sports or PE. This call is just the sporting mafia trying it on to gain more power and access to our money like the Olympics lot.

    'Physical literacy' new buzz word garbage from those with too much pay and self importance and nothing real to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Engaging physical activity that challenges, delights and allows for all children to achieve success is what is needed in primary schools.

    Unfortunately expertise to deliver this does not readily exist amongst staff in all schools.

    Specialist external support is needed despite the objections of the Youth Sports Trust. They have failed to fully engage the next generation and need to step aside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    back in the sixties when I was at primary school our headmaster used to take us all for PE and we used to throw balls to each other, as we all practised we all became able to do it. Kids who were unable to run found playing British Bulldog fun and they began to run also. Nowadays no doubt H&S would stop al lot of this

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    A home Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus on our "physicality". Everyone has some skills and physical potentials - despite how deep they may be buried.
    Young children need to be inspired to develop their physical potential in terms of skills and fitness for sound social and health outcomes.

    Primary school PE needs to be totally revamped - away from the YST propaganda machine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Ignoring the competitve element of this article what does stand out and should be adhered to is "We need to make exercise a normal part of day-to-day life, not a weekly obligatory trip to the gym." This means parents taking more reponsibility and leading my example (fat lazy parents = fat lazy children) and schools educating on physical exercise and nutrition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    How much consideration has been given to existing sporting facilities within the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework? I refer to (para.129), a developer who wants to build some houses & knock down a couple of squash courts or a leisure centre, under the forthcoming 'relaxed-planning-laws' - CAN DO. I spoke to my MP & those developers would not be obliged to exchange like for like.


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