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 126.

    The problem with PE as it now stands is that due to its forced nature it ingrains the mentality into kids that physical activity is a chore. Whilst a lot harder to implement than the current curriculum, freedom of choice is vital to help young people maintain an active lifestyle during and after their school years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I disliked sport at school and avoided. At 20 I took up running, cycling and climbing, no idea why other than it was my decision and enjoy it still to this day. I wasn't overweight before as there was very little junk food at that time. I learnt to eat healthy by making the most of what there was, these days it's about more choice. Sport is not for everyone, and miserable unless you enjoy it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    For the good of sport facilities should be upgraded too. It seems silly that Netherlands, with a population of just under 7mil, can produce more world-class footballers than England, with population of 53mil.
    The reason they can is that they have much better facilities. Throughout the whole of the UK school football is played on uneven surfaces, whereas in Netherlands they play on rolled fields.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    113 Hilaryj

    The articles main point and I quote exactly is -

    " few people, an overwhelming body of research shows, achieve significant weight loss with exercise alone"

    It certainly doesn't justify bullying bored reluctant pupils into taking part in a sport they hate once or twice as a remedy for obesity.

    Besides the fat kids don't get picked to play – so how does it help them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I think if we were to concentrate more on personal fitness and training and less on team games, then more children would carry through with exercise as adults.

    As adults most of your exercise will be come from walking, running, cycling, swimming & the gym, not playing football or rugby. By getting children used to this from an early age it will become the norm, leading to a healthier population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Nice to see the teacher unions are opposed.

    And we wonder why we have a problem educating our children.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Yet another interfering 'expert' who side-skirts the real issue. We all know wrong diet, lack of exercise has led to a rise in child obesity. When is someone actually going to have the guts to say it is the parents' responsibility. We have a pathetic, apologist society where everyone seems to be to blame except of course, the parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Perhaps there should be more consideration given to floors in the selection process?

    If talent scouting takes place during PE lessons (at source), less talent could be lost, to bad decisions and the demands of pushy parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I hated PE as none of the sports I enjoyed were ever taught, only football. You were supposedly given a choice of what sports to do but only those on the football team got what they chose, I along with several classmates played rugby for the local team but were made to play football, I tried to get badminton out of season but was forced to do trampolining for 3 years. I have never been overweight

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I enjoyed sport at school, particularly team games were some of the fun came from what people did and working together.

    What didn't interest me was a career in sport.

    You train eight to ten hours a day, year in year out for a moment of glory and spend the rest of your life selling Cereal.

    I'd rather work for a living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    @99. Unbelievable Tekkers
    Maybe you don't agree but I have suffered so I won't want others to suffer so I don't agree!

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I knew a guy once who was really into going to the gym, keeping fit, eating the right food, not smoking or drinking alcohol and he took vitamin pills. Guess what?
    He crossed over the road without looking and was run over by a bus. Still the Undertaker said he was the best looking corpse he'd laid out in years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    PE together with a bit more outdoor out of school activities.
    My generation kept very fit with knock and run.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Luke Caster

    Recent research suggests exercise has no impact on obesity -

    The blog actually reported a small impact from exercise alone (av 7lbs loss in 12 weeks).

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Sad how many people on this forum, including myself, were turned off games at school. You'd have thought society would want to get as many as possible out and enjoying themselves. If we want a healthy nation and lots of sports achievement, we must expose children to as many sports as possible and remove the class element from some of them, such as skiing and rowing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Why do people who are good at sport always want to force those of us who useless to take part?

    Do they just want us to provide them with easy opponents to boost their egos, or do they just want to humiliate us?

    Isn't it just a form of bullying?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Private schools offer a very good range of sports/ activities as part of a well-rounded education.
    If there were doubt as to necessity, then the offerings would be cut, naturally saving the school money.
    School P.E I feels is highly useful because some parents are disabled/ unable for whatever reason but many i'm afraid are too bone
    idle. No wonder there is a huge obesity problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I think that to maintain a good level of fitness exercise should be regular which means it should be built in to the day such as walking the dog or to work. Other exercise, to be maintained, has to be for fun, if its not when the enthusiasm wears off you stop. Schools should build in a regular daily exercise routine such as keep fit or dance which everyone does - including the teachers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    If numeracy and literacy standards in UK schools are at an all time low, why make children spend less time in the classroom!? Also, schools tend to concentrate on team sports which only the best pupils are chosen to do competitively. Children are much more likely to enjoy physical activities if they're done outside school. It's the parents' responsibility to ensure children are active and healthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    In my primary school days we had a wonderful teacher who motivated the entire class with his love for athletics. Many voluntarily attended after school and we had many City champions. At Secondary school PE meant football. Winter or summer, rain hail or snow, out came the bag of wind and we had to kick it round. Most of us put on weight from standing around bored.


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