Research has shown that, for some children, PE is more of a chore than an opportunity to be active and social. Especially for girls, the experience can be so distressing that it would cause truancy of lessons and school.
Alison Oliver, CEO of Youth Sport Trust and a recent guest on The Drive Phase, spoke of her time as a PE teacher as one that offered her food for thought in her current position. She said:
“I spent more time with the young women and boys who got sport and PE…I thought I was doing the right job in…finding out who the best players were and coaching them [to] enter competitions, but most of those young people were already in clubs.”
Many students have highlighted similar dynamics happening in their own schools, arguing that they felt that PE teachers paid far more attention to athletic children and that those children were better liked, which could stand in the way of many children feeling comfortable engaging in PE and sport in schools.
The more old-fashioned onus on competition and changing facilities, as well as kits, have often led to bullying of less able children. Lack of privacy or an emphasis on short skirts and shorts have made children uncomfortable and, in most cases, are completely unnecessary.
Research has suggested instating the following ways to increase participation:
- Swapping aggressive criticism for constructive comments on performance
- Working towards full participation with an equitable degree of support from teaching staff
- For parents to treat a child’s concerns about PE seriously and tactfully
- For families to take part in active travel
- To instigate changes to school kit to make them comfortable and accessible
- To make improvements to changing facilities to ensure privacy
For more information on improving the experience of sport and PE for all children in school, see here.