Two hours of sport per day is unrealistic
I hardly ever find myself in agreement with Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, but in this case I can’t help but agree that the government is once again trying to burden a desperately straining camel with even more responsibility.
As Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT suggested, the government’s statements are once again ‘ratcheting up the high stakes school accountability regime’. With so much significance resting on the academic success of students, how do ministers expect staff and students to take up another of Mr Cameron’s commitments that ‘really matter’?
To make this exchange even more interesting, Boris has decided to wade into the muck and suggest that schools should have two hours of sport per day.
Although I think it is essential for young people to have a healthy amount of daily exercise (at least an hour), the idea that this responsibility should be shouldered entirely by schools is unfair. I would argue that Boris’ experience of sport at Eton is incomparable to somebody attending secondary school today.
There simply isn’t enough time for teachers or students to devote two extra hours a day to compulsory sport. With the increasing pressure on schools to improve performance – regardless of GCSE results capping – there is no capacity for students to meet such a ridiculous quota.
And teachers, who are a favourite whipping post, do not have the time either. Many teachers already arrange extra-curricular clubs and activities outside of school hours. For them to deliver this ridiculous target would add further pressure to their own extra-curricular activities: meetings, marking, planning to name a few.
Although I enjoyed a very privileged education, it was far inferior to Mr Johnson’s halcyon days as ‘the Blonde behemoth’. I had the opportunity to participate in a range of different competitive sports after school, but was in lessons from 8am-3pm. Many schools are now using extra periods after school to offer students booster classes. These classes are necessary for schools to ensure that their A*-C GCSE rates are maintained.
If teachers are required to hold these after school sessions (yet more meetings, planning, marking), and students to attend them, who is going to run the extra PE sessions, and who will attend them? Surely these PE sessions must be as inclusive as mainstream education?
Having worked in primary and secondary classrooms, I have seen the amount of time and effort that teaching staff invest in their students. The advent of league tables and the government’s recent pressure on schools means that teachers now survive in an unsustainable environment.
Politicians need to decide what is most important.
Whilst you can make somebody run around a field for two hours, you can’t make them want to win the race. You can’t make them get up rain or shine, train in the dark and cold and stick at it when things go wrong.
Similarly, you can make somebody stay in school for hours doing extra revision, but you can’t force them to go home and research how penicillin was discovered, or stay up into the wee hours reading a new author.
My point is that teachers, whether they are primary, secondary, PE or physics, are under increasing pressure to provide outstanding results. Whilst I think that all young people should be active, I don’t think they should necessarily be forced into a competitive atmosphere or a sport that they are not proficient in.
Instead of trying to smash square pegs into round holes, schools and sports clubs should encourage students to seek out a shape that suits them. The most amazing thing about the Olympics is the prevalence of sports that are relatively unknown. Surely it shouldn’t be just the BBC’s responsibility to encourage Britons to try something new?
The government should be using the wave of good feeling and positive opinion to support clubs and organisations in the promotion of their sports. Young people – or any people for that matter – should be enjoying a ‘can do’ atmosphere. They should be feeling optimistic about trying different sports.
Instead of forcing people into a fruitless two hours of pointless competition, schools should be able to encourage students to pursue their own exercise and their own sporting interests. Olympic champions aren’t made through draconian pressure and fit-all solutions. Athletes are passionate, committed and resilient. These are traits we should be attempting to encourage and foster in young people, not just in the pursuit of Olympic records, but in everyday life.
Instead of forcing teachers to pick between studies, sports, or sanity, David Cameron has to concede that he can’t have everything he wants in the current package. Something has to give, but who will suffer for it?Tagged in: athletes, boris johnson, children, Chris Keates, Christine Blower, education, exercise, fitness, gcse, health, pe lessons, Sports, youth
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