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Health-related exercise sidelined in schools

The debate over competitive sport in schools has taken a new turn with a publication of a new report suggesting an overemphasis on it is making children unhealthy.

The research, from Loughborough University, suggests that individual exercise - aimed at making children more healthy - is losing out to team games which often have other priorities.

'A teacher who has experienced lifelong success in sport is likely to want to focus upon competitive team games within lessons,' researcher Laura Ward told the BBC. 'This then presents us with a persistent cycle whereby sport is privileged within PE and health-related exercise is marginalised.'

Researchers in the University's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences (SSES) have discovered that despite being a compulsory part of the curriculum, health related exercise (HRE) is being overlooked and poorly delivered in many secondary schools across England.

HRE, which was introduced to the curriculum in 1992, is designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle among young people through non-competitive activities such as aerobics, dance and pilates.

The researchers surveyed 112 secondary school PE teachers from different local authorities and conducted additional detailed interviews with 12 of the respondents. They found that whilst most teachers appreciated the importance of HRE, they received inadequate training leading to inappropriate lessons.

The study identified a lack of formal guidelines around the delivery of HRE and confusion around what activities it constitutes.

'The limited experiences that many teachers had of HRE in their initial training may be a key contributor to the narrow views and limited understanding that many had,' said Laura Ward. 'Many PE teachers come from competitive sports backgrounds. A lack of further training in health related areas means teachers aren't really aware of the activities that could best achieve the aims of HRE.

'For a lot of them health and life-long physical activity were areas which were absent from their continuing professional development profiles and as such, they seem to be relying on their own personal philosophies to guide their practices. Even the £18m National PE and School Sport continuing professional development programme has no health-related element.'

The debate about the role of competitive sport has rumbled on for decades. It was never 'abolished' in schools as some tabloid newspapers claimed but the result was a witch-hunt climate in which the ideal role for competitive and/or team sports in a balanced PE curriculum could not be discussed. Is this result?

Page created on September 8th, 2008

Page updated on December 1st, 2009