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More PE each week is good but it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ problem

I don’t think it would be a shock to anyone that knows me that I was would enjoy two hours of PE a day. In fact not a lot would’ve made me happier at school than spending ten hours a week playing sport. Yes I said playing sport and not doing Physical Education. I think there is a distinct difference between the two and one that should not be ignored.

When the Mayor of London said last week that he thought two hours of PE a day was a great idea then he’s right. It is. However great ideas in theory don’t always equate to being great ideas in practice. If there was compulsory two hours of PE a day then most schools would need to either find eight hours extra a week or cut time from other subjects. Now if you were to ask me whether PE was more important than algebra then I’d say it was but many would disagree.

How many students would like the school day lengthened by an hour each day so extra PE time could be taught? Not many I suspect and those who don’t like PE anyway would be distraught but maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing. We have a very short school day as it is so what is there to stop the school day going on an extra hour each day?

I remember in Year 8 we had double Games and double Geography back-to-back between morning break and Lunch. Our Games teacher was also our Geography teacher so it was ok as we often came in late all hot and bothered when the girls were sitting there waiting for five minutes for us to turn up (he often overran the Games lesson as a) we liked it and b) he’d forget the time) and we had no issues being late as he knew why. However this also happened in Year 7 but this wasn’t the same teacher. Luckily he was a good teacher and was understanding. I know other kids didn’t have that understanding. I do think PE and/or Games should preferably be taught in a period where there is a natural break after it or preferably at the end of the day although a whole school having PE last thing doesn’t really work.

I can hear the tens of you that will read this yelling out ‘but I didn’t like PE so I wouldn’t like this’ but the reality is most of us didn’t like most of our lessons anyway. The important thing is to give options. At school we didn’t really have many PE options. The choice was made for us. Also looking back I think at both my senior schools there were only four full-time PE staff at both so that doesn’t leave to much wiggle room for multiple choices. So staffing levels need to be addressed if this government are genuinely keen on making PE a vital part of the curriculum again.

Personally speaking I think there are many things that students need to learn but don’t and I like the Japanese model of after-school clubs that cater for all. Whilst Japanese classes may finish at say around 3, kids won’t go home until nearer 6 as they have a variety of after-school clubs that they have to attend but they get the choice of what to attend but I’m digressing away from just the PE aspect and into the whole make-up of school days and that is probably not the way to go at this juncture.

Back at PE. At my first secondary school we had both PE and Games. So PE was things like Gym and working on general fitness and Games was whatever sport you were playing that half-term so Rugby, Hockey, Basketball, Cricket etc… – we were a Rugby school and not a Football one. Lots of talk about Indian dance and I do recall somewhere in the annals of my mind that we did do dance for a half-term at some point. I see no problem with dance being taught in a PE lesson. PE should mostly be about getting kids active.

PE is not a ‘one size fits all’ lesson but to be blunt neither is any subject taught in school. Schools are often about things you enjoy and then things you endure. Technology for me was something I had less than zero interest in. Whether it be graphics or woodwork or design or cooking I just didn’t care. I possibly could have used that cooking skill now as I live off microwave meals and bunging things in the oven but I still had to do it for two hours a week. The same should be levied at PE.

I have read so many people saying that they had bad experiences of PE at school and that we shouldn’t force it upon those that don’t like it because they didn’t. Well that’s crap. We can’t pick and choose what we do at school until we are 14 pretty much and PE is not only part of a broad education it is part of making this country a healthier one. PE can inspire just as much as Maths or English can. Reading Shakespeare or Dickens will inspire a writer but running around a muddy field will inspire someone else.

Physical Education can and should become part of the Olympics legacy. They want to inspire a generation well this is the opportunity. If I was Michael Gove I would find a way to extend the school day and get an hour of PE at least three days a week and community projects in two days a week. Education isn’t just about learning stuff but also about maturing and getting interested in things. After-school clubs were in my day pretty much limited to sporting endeavours but how good would it be if lots of other interests were catered for? Building robots or making a community radio station or fashion design or whatever. We need to inspire kids and get them interested in things after school that aren’t going home and watching cartoons, playing on the games console, surfing the internet or wandering around the shops.

PE can be a big part of this but there are other things that will inspire people. Yes this would involve more work for teachers but for me the onus on teachers now to fill students brains with useless information to pass exams and to get up league tables. Teachers should be there to inspire kids in whatever interests them. All teachers have hobbies that they are interested in and no doubt they’ll be many students who would also be interested in that.

So to conclude as I have again waffled off subject. I think the school day should be extended. PE options should be wide and varied. However inspiring a generation isn’t just about sport it is about everything. Students need inspiring or they’ll do nothing and a motivated student in one capacity will lead to doing well in others.

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