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 106.

    ok, so a reason not to is the cost. Providing more money for schools would probably long term cost far less than treating all the obesity related disorders generated by lack of exercise as Britain turns into a mirror of America. We need joined up thinking which was obviously not on the curriculum at Eton.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Maybe our kids should spend less time glued to screens and more time spent outside. It may also help and the ridiculous notion that seems to have developed in this country that you can't allow your children to play outside as there is a paedophile hidden behind every bush.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Recent research suggests exercise has no impact on obesity -


    Athletes might know a lot about running round in circles and throwing things but it doesn’t make them medical experts qualified to give advice on problems like obesity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Like everyone else, I resent paying money to exercise. Therefore I don't. When I wanted to get rid of my gut, I simply bought a decent pair of running shoes, and started running. I accompanied this with swapping chips for salad.

    Being fat is a choice, and nothing but a choice (it's because of a medical condition in less than 1% of people - shut up and get running).

    Same for children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I remember one thing about PE.

    Taking off my shirt to play *shirts and skins* teams on the football field, freezing and wet from head to toe with winter drizzle, nose streaming, arms numb from a muddy football patterned bruise while I shivered and my teeth chattered in goal.

    At which point the PE teacher in his full tracksuit and cap yelled to the field to get moving, because it wasn't cold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Being physically active is to be encouraged but that doesn't necessarily mean sport. Inactivity and poor diet create obesity. Parents that are inactive and feed their kids a poor diet have obese kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Shame we sold off so many playing fields really!! PE and diet/nutrition should certainly be core subjects for school age childredn, and as its unlikely that those that really need to understand why PE and good balanced diet are so important are unlikely to get the required info at home, it should be taught in schools!

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    85. Tarka Dal

    I don't agree. Its how you come back from it.

    I broke fingers, thumbs, toes, lost a tooth all playing sport in school. I saw a kid get his jaw shattered by a hockey ball and he was playing next year.

    Last year I broke my wrist (playing footie) and was told I'll definitely get arthritis in that joint. Told not to play for a year. 3 months later I was back on the field (hockey).

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Why is Welsh a core subject?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    not reassured
    Sport for all is unknown in secondary schools."

    I do hope so. Sport is NOT "for all" despite the silly slogan.

    Gardening for all? Angling for all? Knitting for all? No? Why should sport get preferential status?

    There are very many physical activities that do not involve "sport" so let's stop this obsession with silly games, it's long overdue. Media please note.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    'Alot of children hate sport. They should not be made to do it.'

    Most children have to do at least one subject they don't enjoy. I hated sport (I had poor coordination) until I discovered fencing in the 6th form. PE lessons should introduce a range of competetive and non-competetive activities and make sure less able children are neither bullied or ignored by teachers & kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Woody Allen: Those who can't do, teach. Those that can't teach, teach Gym

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Can't we just have a catergory in the paralympics for the chronically obese ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I appreciate there are social problems that are evident in schools, but surely they are not social workers, they are teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I don't have a problem with PE given higher status - provided that it also caters for those amongst us who don't have a competitive bone in our bodies. By which I mean - no compulsory sport.

    Children (and adults) need to keep fit but there are many ways of keeping fit that don't involve competition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    The answer is simple if you want a new generation of athletes and retain the olympics legacy you need to encourage children at all ages & abilities to take part in some kind of sport. It might be cycling, running or tennis, but make it a pleasant experience. When I was at secondary school it was Cricket,Rugby or Football depending on season or gym if wet. Primary was running,rounders and football.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Hated PE in school because I was always being made to play football or hockey which I hated and was hopeless at. Despite this I was by no means inactive and spent a lot of time running about outside and playing on my bike when I was not at school. To this day I still enjoy running, cycling and horseriding but I still despise football.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    PE in schools is such a great opportunity wasted:

    1. Complement it with good lessons in nutrition and basic, healthy cooking
    2. Use it to help girls (and boys) understand that cardio/starving yourself is much less preferable to building strength and activity for life
    3. Help kids explore many, many different forms of sport and exercise to find what suits them best

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    In the sixth form, in my kids school in Wales there was no time-tabled sporting activity , unless you are doing PE as an A level subject. So unless you were a sports person with outside sporting interest, there was no physical activity in that young persons life. I think schools have a duty to produce a rounded education and that should include a positive encouragement of sport and exercise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    We were made to wear Grey Knickers at PE lessons. Ban sport it is just boring. Why do kids these days have to do Team Work. Can't they work out anything on there own. That is why you have got Gang Culture.


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