'Missed Olympic opportunity' to get children exercising
- 21 November 2011
- From the section Health
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.
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.
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?