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 186.

    175. Miss T Fied "Exercise includes walking and also gardening"

    And swimming, which is low impact and hence good for larger folk. However my local council have closed the swimming pools and opted to spend the money on an anti-obesity bullying - sorry, 'awareness' campaign instead. As for those who can't get thin, most would now probably deem them of no use to society and advocate shooting them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    "I think you meant "brain" - one can do far more with a mind and no legs than ultimate fitness and low IQ... earnings on the other hand....."

    Your brain is part of your body, you know. If you don't look after it, it doesn't work. If you put diesel in a petrol car and never give it an MOT, it won't last long. If you put junk in your body and do no exercise, the same applies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    161.Derpsworth - 'I think you meant "brain" - one can do far more with a mind and no legs than ultimate fitness and low IQ... earnings on the other hand.....'
    I always thought ones brain was part of ones body.... I think your post proves the point that more Physical Education is required, when educated people don't know basic facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    181, when i was at school, we played Rugby/ Cricket/ swimming matches, athletics on a Saturday, and the PE/Sports teachers did it beacuse they wanted to, and presumably was part of their interview. I asked at my daughters school, why they don't do this anymore, and the simple answer was, "we aren't paid to work at the weekends"

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    A growing number of studies warn that our neurotic obsession with weight is doing infinitely more harm than good. Still the number of anti-obesity campaigners and charities continues to mushroom; there is clearly good money in fearmongering. Ironically many 'obesity-related' conditions have been linked to the stress of living in a climate of such intense fat hatred, but that doesn't sell papers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    176 Trytastic

    "... you would have to change teachers contracts to do "out of hours" work."

    That wouldn't free up staff to teach sports and games because teachers work way beyond contractual hours anyway, typically a 60 hour week. In France, for example, teachers teach academic subjects during school day, with a very early start. Sports and games are taught by different staffs after those hours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    My memory of PE was being taught hockey (which I played at regional level at the time) by a rugby specialist. Some of the basic technique he was suggesting was flawed, there was nothing on working as a team and when we were split into teams he would join the other team and I would run rings round him.

    My report card from him suggested I struggled to understand the basics of the game...

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Agreed movement is essential in schools but if PISA is to be believed the whole climate of UK education would improve rapidly if we had fewer edicts from above and more professional input.
    It works across the channel and in our independents.
    Britain's top-down approach promotes a neurotic attitude that's not conducive to physical health either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    A bad idea. There's already way too much emphasis on sport (and for that matter so-called 'obesity') in schools. Who needs to learn to think or question when you can stand in line doing star jumps to ensure you're a thin, beautiful model citizen? Might as well just clear all other subjects from the curriculum and turn schools into weight-loss camps - from what I hear they're not far off that now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    PE is not the answer. Life-style is the key. PE is only part of that.

    People who needlessly drive their children to school or use their cars to get to the corner shop or whose only exercise is to raise a pint or a Big Mac to their mouths are the problem. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, modest portions and light drinking are the answer.

    We only need the gym to make up for shortcomings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    168, 2 points, good food is cheaper than processed rubbish, and 2 , make good healthy school meals compulsory as well. Then you know everyone is getting one good meal a day.

    Bring back competitive sports and games as well, why we are at it, though you would have to change teachers contracts to do "out of hours" work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Sport may be over-rated. Exercise is not.

    Exercise includes walking and also gardening, cleaning windows, washing cars, litter picking - things both useful and productive to society, and which don't need expensive equipment - could even help someone else.

    #134 James Barton - just what provision do you make for the 20% of the population who can not get fitter no matter how hard they try?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    172 fat peace

    i see morbidly obese children everyday up my neck of the woods, must be a right pain for em as everything is either up hill or down hill where i live,it will make you feel physically sick seeing some of the states these people eat themselves into,happy days though..freedom,personal choice and idiocracy will win the day no doubt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    While PE is a valuable subject, no amount of it will be of significant use in 'combatting obesity', especially if it consists of the kind of team sports that are all most schools are equipped to teach! These are great for those who enjoy sport but negatively impact those who don't. Of course, PE lessons may have changed dramatically since I was at school.

    Now music on the other hand...

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Yet another BBC scare story about the alleged upcoming obesity apocalypse, and the third HYS on the topic in a week. No wonder people's perception of the scale and severity of the 'problem' have been massively distorted, along with simplistic beliefs (eat less! move more!) of what 'should be done'. I live by a school and don't see all these fat kids, who are statistically 'obese' only on paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    What has sport got to do with PE? PE is about simple exercise to assist with fitness & health

    Sport is about making a fool of yourself if you happen to be not very good while others show off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Like many other lads at my school, I disliked all sports activities whether on the field or in the gym, and as to team activities such as football, cricket or rugby - well, they just didn't happen.

    Yet it must have done us much good. Except for one lad who piled on the pounds due to some medical cause, we were all very fit and healthy and, outside school, walked or cycled miles every week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    this smacks of the nanny state.If i want to make my child obese by feeding him the same rubbish I shovel into my gullet then I WILL MAKE THAT CHOICE FOR MY CHILD,i'm happy to keep him locked in cause of the paedos on every street corner and for him to just watch TV and play games on the xbox/PS,why do I want my kid doing PE when he barely walk 50meters without wheezing like an old man

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Let's be clear about nutrition here. Yes, there will be parents feeding their kids with the wrong food, but there will be an increasing number who simply cannot afford to feed their children sufficiently.

    PE is a desirable aim, but we have to ensure that hungry children aren't forced to to lower their already dangerously low blood sugar levels by teachers who are probably well fed themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Oh yes make PE a core subject, train another generation of PE Teachers, and shelf stackers. It's not as if the job market is hard enough for young people now, why not make it even worse by concentrating on running in circles, dancing, and playing games.

    We need doctors, scientists, engineers, programmers, accountants, not more bloody PE teachers.


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