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 66.

    Most PE teachers are unable to spell "PE".

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    People are only fat because they want to be - it's pretty simple: eat less and move more.

    Childhood obesity is the responsibility of parents, just as malnutrition is.

    Fruit and vegetables = good, burgers and cake = bad. It's hardly rocket surgery.

    Feed your children fruit for treats, not pies.

    Of course, there's no accounting for stupidity, and let's face it, where there's blame there's claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Ahh!!!! the old chestnut of school sports. Well of course the children can go play in the school fields and the dedicated teahers will coach them.

    There are 2 major flaws in the above, most of which can be laid at that woman and her cronies feet.

    The social engineering experiment is certainally paying dividends now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Obesity won't be solved by more PE alone - you need a 'balanced diet' - which mean fruit after school - not a packet of Monster Munch, a Mars bar - and a glass of coke. Sorry, but many parents these days are clueless. If a child was sent to school 2 stone underweight, Social Services would be called, and yet if it's two stone overweight, the school would be accused of being 'fat-ist' - good !

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    For half of the year it is too dark for kids to play outside after school.
    There are 2 days every week when regardless of the time of year it is light enough for outdoor activity for at least 6 hours. It's called the weekend. Oh silly me - that would mean parents doing something instead of foisting their responsibilities onto the state

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    It was forced sport at school that turned me off for life, especially as the smallest boy in my year.

    Take away the PlayStations and get them playing outside after school. School is for learning; it's not a universal panacea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I agree with other comments that PE has to be more fun, rather than take a place as a core subject. Personally I loved sport when I was younger, but as an unpopular kid, I also had to suffer the social exclusion pain of being one of the last to be picked for team sports. Whilst skills in sports are invaluable for finding previously unknown talent, exercise does not always have to be traditional.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    If you want to reduce childhood obesity then why not give kids a graphic horror show in Food Tech lessons by demonstrating / explaining the actual physical consequences of an unhealthy diet?

    I'm sure there are plenty of people out there for whom it's too late who would be willing to be involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    PE is a waste of school time.

    Spend that time working on maths, English skills and a second language instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    @53. Additionally. I think the best way to tackle childhood obesity is not through forced exercise, but through proper education regarding food and nutrition. Show children how to prepare and cook healthy, balanced meals. Stop trying to hide the fact that meat comes from dead animals. Once you know how to cook properly, the rest is a doddle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Klopper Hump
    4 Minutes ago

    Kids know no better these days and think this is how food is and believe
    eg. McDonalds is actually a decent meal.
    Whilst no great lover of McD's I have to take you to task over this, a burger in a bun with salad is not in itself a badly balance meal - even with fries. The problem lies in consuming too much of these, and others like them, types of food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Further to the comment below, those not in the school teams, were bawled at and gave up trying at PE. Now I do the activities I enjoy, but I know my niece does not enjoy PE as it is boring. She prefers dancing, and a lot of her friends are like minded. Why not let folk who don't enjoy sport learn all types of dance or fitness activities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Obesity is down to diet, not exercise. When I was at school we had to do rugby which I hated. Fortunately the school had the foresight to let me do cross country instead.
    Forty years later? I am still entering races and running as fast as ever but largely because I also control my diet. The rugby players, to a man, have long term injuries or overweight or both. Or in a few cases, dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    It needs to be done right though. Nobody wants to get dirty and/or wet doing PE and then have to change back into normal school clothes. I hated this when I was in school and it put me off PE. There needs to be more variety to PE at an earlier stage. I remember late in the school years where we were given the choice of what we wanted to do, I chose lifting weights. Needs to happen sooner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    41.Michael Lloyd
    Oh how right you are ! All this obesity angst and hype is total claptrap and the people who bang on about it need to get proper jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I'm 77 years of age. I'm fairly robuist in weight yet most, if, not of all the skinny folk in my former school classes are dead! The fatties are alive with most of them walkers instead of drivers, or, passengers in vehicles. PT never helped any of the ones who have died, so walk a sensible distance each day and enjoy life without whimpering about obesity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Right then! PE was largely scrapped and playing fields sold off by the Westminster Club. Now, it looks as if there's some brownie points to be gained by another politicians "initiative" in bringing PE back! The cycle is almost complete!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Not everyone who is overweight is inactive. Not everyone who is inactive is lazy. I gained weight when my job was moved and I had no option but a long drive instead of walking to and from the station.
    Can anyone else read the completely contradictory statement in this posting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The Govt should concentrate on food manufacturers/producers and stop making it easy for them to fill foods with artificial fillers, chemicals and denaturing food in order to maximise profits.

    Many overweight folks eat this stuff in volumes simply because it lacks any real substance. Kids know no better these days and think this is how food is and believe eg. McDonalds is actually a decent meal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Farcical, nonsense. From vested interests. Children can run about outside education time. Their parents can even use the car less, stuff them less. PE and sport is no part of education, and should be removed from school time consumption. Make them walk home!


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