Obesity: Make school PE a core subject, says Dame Tanni


Paralympic multi-gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson calls for boldness in the approach to PE

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PE should be given the same status as maths, English, science and Welsh in schools to help tackle obesity in Wales, experts have recommended.

A group chaired by Paralympic multi-gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson says it would be the first country in the world to take that step.

It would mean more time for sport, but unions worry too many core curriculum subjects could dilute their importance.

The Welsh government said it would consider the recommendation.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said he wanted to look into how schools can increase levels of physical activity in children and young people.


Although the need for more exercise is clear enough, it isn't just a simple matter of adding PE as a core subject.

Pupils in Wales already have as core subjects Welsh, English, maths and sciences.

They are the areas the government has decided should have most time and resources allocated to them.

And teaching unions fear the more you add to that core, the less of a priority they each become.

More than one-third are either overweight or obese, costing the Welsh NHS more than £70m a year.

The current core subjects in schools in Wales are English, Welsh (as a first language), mathematics, and science, while physical education is a foundation subject.

Having PE elevated to a core part of the curriculum would mean more time devoted to it, as well as extra resources and more training for teachers.

Schools would also need to give greater priority to provision for PE.

As a result:

• Teachers would be required to be competent to deliver the subject on completion of their initial teacher training.

• Well qualified, specialist teachers would be needed to work with schools to ensure high-quality provision.

• Standards and provision in physical education would be rigorously reviewed in school, both by the educational consortia and by schools inspectorate Estyn.

• Progress would be regularly measured.

The move to give PE more status in schools would be a bold move but an important one, according to the group.

In its report, the group, which also included the chair of Sports Wales Laura McAllister, said: "Given the Welsh government's commitment to making physical literacy as important a development skill as reading and writing, the group felt that changing the status of physical education is the only credible and secure way of ensuring this."

But while teaching unions support the idea, they are worried that too many subjects on the core curriculum could dilute their importance.

Dr Philip Dixon, of education union ATL Cymru, says he supports PE becoming part of the core curriculum in Wales

Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said it was important to decide on "what small core we want".

"We certainly want literacy and numeracy in there," he said.

"We may well want physical education in there too, that's for the government to decide.

"But the core has to be kept very small or else we'll see a core which isn't a core and that's just ridiculous."

Owen Hathway, Wales policy officer at the NUT, also warned that schools already had a heavy curriculum in Wales.

"We are constantly being told that literacy and numeracy is a priority, " he said.

"Science is being pushed as a priority with its importance to future PISA testing. We have the core subjects of maths, English, Welsh and so on already in place, while IT is also being promoted as a priority.

"Quite simply, by the nature of the word, not everything can be a priority."

Responding to the report, Education Minister Leighton Andrews said he would be considering the report in the context of the wider review of the national curriculum and assessment.

"We firmly believe in the positive impact that physical activity can have on the people and nation of Wales and I'm determined to ensure that sport continues to make an important contribution to Welsh life," he added.

Sport Minister John Griffiths said sport was important as it improves health and wellbeing, along with helping with team building and making friends.

"We are committed to widening access and encouraging greater participation in physical activity as the health benefits of making physical exercise a part of everyone's daily lives is well-understood," he added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I disagree.
    Parents should be encouraging children to play sports in their spare time.
    Parents should also teach their children how to read, write and do maths because schools can't realistically teach classes of 30+ students these basic skills.
    Parents should be teaching children the joy of learning and how to become lifelong learners.
    Wait, what do we need school or teachers for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I am very sporty now ... and that's despite the disasterous excuse for sport which schools promote.

    All school sport stands for is ignorant 'teachers' inflicting their ignorant prejudices on helpless pupils, enforcing favouratism and bullying.

    Take PE out of schools away from these ignoramouses and let children find a proper sporting alternative at sports centres and gyms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    PE should be taught based on what it means..Physical Education. This should include classes on general healthy living and ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle suited to your own strengths. Not everyone likes or is good at sports, but this should have nothing to with being able to stay healthy. PE classes need to be properly differentiated into the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    If you want to increase obesity in children, this is an excellent way to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Good for you, Cublon! I was bullied as a child for being bad at gymnastics and swimming, but I can take part in Zumba, Aquacise and other dance-based fitness classes nowadays, as well as badminton and bowling. SingleMaltGarner has it all summed up: parents must set an example, and a wide range of extracurricular sport must be encouraged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Get Sport England to leave Elite sport alone and concentrate on active recreation, different ideology to sport, for the masses!

    A healthy population is far more important than a few medals at the Olympics. Oh, and can the regions have their fair share of the Olympic money back please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Another hair brained idea by those who don't get it. Forcing overweight kids to do PE in school, will achieve further low self esteem, resentment, etc. Which is counterproductive, a child overeats further and skips PE. Processed foods is the culprit in society, look at that first. Exercise needs to be enjoyable and pleasurable, to become a lifestyle choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Sure, have more PE in schools; but you'll only achieve anything if you make it enough fun that children will want to continue doing it out of hours, and as they become adults.

    For me, PE was the humiliation of being last picked, it was freezing outside in January, it was hating a sport I'd loved as teachers pointlessly (I would never be great) picked at my technique.

    No more of that, please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I agree with this proposal. While maths, literacy and science should be the core of what schools teach, the 'children should play sports out of school' attitude is entirely unrealistic. For half of the year it is too dark for kids to play outside after school. Getting them to play sports during the school day is an obvious, practical way to get them into sports and avoid an entirely rotund nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I think there should be more PE although probably not as a core subject. Letting the kids work off more energy outside also helps them to concentrate on work in the classroom so it benefits all subjects.
    Having said that, I loathed traditional sports at school. Better something less formal in small groups than all that ghastly picking of teams and running leagues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    School Sport was always about being good at games, not about fitness.

    A typical games lesson consisted of standing in a field in the drizzle watching some other boys playing cricket; occasionally being mocked if the ball came towards me, and I failed to catch it. This helped me how?

    People interested in sport are the last people who should be teaching PE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    in a previous post I said children should love activity for its own sake and have the opportunity to participate in diverse activities. This was negatively rated? Does that mean you prefer sedentary children with no opportunities? What a pointless HYS. I give up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Our daughter gets plenty of activity outside of school, so I'm not too worried about her. But what annoys me is that her class is meant to have PE twice a week, but when I ask my daughter about it she says they often miss one or both PE sessions during the week for no apparent reason. When I put that to her teachers I get lots of excuses, but no particularly valid reasons. So much for priorities!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    PE in schools doesn't develop fitness. PE is about learning 'skills' that assume a foundation of fitness to execute well. Rarely is it properly 'differentiated' in any way like a good lesson should be.

    As an adult I enjoy running, cycling, swimming and pilates regularly and have tried many other sports. But this due to my determination to get fit DESPITE my experiences of PE and games...

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Blame the parents for overweight lay abouts, not the schools. Its like blaming the police for criminals. Look closer to home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    @10 what if they do not like the feeling of heart pounding and heavy breathing
    do they get sat on the bench and called failures as I was

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The most important thing is to give children a love of activity in whatever form. If they enjoy a feeling of "heart pounding and heavy breathing" that's half the problems solved. Comes by way of diversity in activities offered and the opportunity to participate. Good schools and parents can do this. Politicians should stop bailing out banks and plough the money into school activity programmes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Like others my experience of PE classes was extremely poor with 'teachers' only focussing on those who showed initial ability and being forced into sports I hated didn't help. Although I was good at cricket this wasn't prized at my school and so I was marked as useless at sports. Later I found a brilliant aerobics instructor who made exercise fun again and I qualified as an instructor myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Complete rubbish!
    Overweight children do not do the sport anyway and this will cause them to dislke it more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Great idea. But this should also be backed up with the correct nutrition advice which is equally, if not more important.


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