On Wednesday the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood published its study of PE in UK schools. The group’s focus is on how to build sustainable engagement with physical activity in young people, something that we’ve been considering at BHHS for a while – i.e. how do we provide a sport and PE curriculum that will encourage girls to pursue physical activity beyond adolescence and into adulthood? How do we encourage activity in girls who do not enjoy competitive sport or who drop away from team games in adolescence?
The APPG study found that traditional, competitive team sport is not enough to foster child engagement with physical wellbeing and a more inclusive and diverse approach is long overdue:
‘Where PE might make a difference seems likely to be restricted, for the most part, to those youngsters already predisposed toward sport and active recreation’ (Green, 2014 ‘Mission impossible? Reflecting upon the relationship between physical education, youth sport and lifelong participation’, Routledge – Sport, Education and Society, 19:4, 357-375).
It concludes that PE for the 21st Century should reflect the many different ways children can express themselves physically and should move away from “skill drill lessons” and that young people should be given greater opportunity to explore what sort of alternative physical activity might suit them, using the natural and outside world as well as sports-specific environments.
The study says girls in particular can be put off by a focus on competitive sports and run the risk of becoming disenfranchised from physical activity. “This could be addressed by ensuring that PE lessons offer a wider type of physical activity, to cater for different tastes and abilities,” it says. “These might include general physical activity such as running and climbing, non-competitive activities such as yoga and dance and individual sports such as swimming.”
Our aim at BHHS is to continue to offer opportunities in traditional sports (we’ve had over 45 hockey and netball and football fixtures this term) whilst broadening this offer with a wider range of alternative sports including tag rugby and handball (we’ve just made it to the Nationals) to more general activity such as bouldering and dance (‘Momentum’ rehearsals are in full swing). We believe that the key to lasting engagement with physical activity lies in encouraging girls to recognise that although we may all differ in our talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience and everyone can enjoy physical activity.
If you would like to know more about our Growth Mindset approaches to sport and PE please talk to a member of the PE department.