Monday, 21 November 2011

Monday Madness: PE assessments to be made compulsory?

For today’s Monday Madness article - looking at a news story which promises to raise question and debate in the week ahead – I have chosen the recent calls on PE to be tested in schools, alongside reading and writing, as the main article for this week.

Stop dreading PE lessons, because they could become essential
Imagine you are running around a rugby pitch, guns blazing, with the ball in one hand and the opposing team in sight. You dodge the hooker - the boy who mocks your accent for being posh - you push past the two jocks and crash past the emo and slam the ball on to the ground, shouting “Try!” to your enthusiastic teammates. Sounds familiar? Well not to me. I was the one in secondary school PE who ran around helplessly, considered the ball a WW2 bomb and the opposing team a group of Nazis, and ran away from the ball at any chance I had. Slap on a bit of mud, volunteer for the odd scrum now and again – and hey presto, you look like you have joined in and your mouthy PE teacher is none the wiser.
Yes this is how I remember my PE lessons. Where those who liked sport, those who weren’t fussed and those who despised it came together on a wet winters day for a kick about, or in most cases, an hour of humiliation and torture. In the autumn, it was football, hockey and rugby, where teams were a popularity contest, with the person no one liked stuck in goal, and an opportunity for many of the bullies to push and shove as if they were a bull in a china shop.
In the spring, it was trampolining; a chance to bounce whilst the gender-confused boy waiting in line looks up your shorts. Followed by badminton; where the game involved hitting the shuttle cocks at the guy everyone hates. Completed with table tennis; the wimpiest excuse for a sport I have ever seen.
The summer was just as bad. Volleyball was tiresome, softball was complicated and tennis was just an excuse to see who can make the most impressive orgasm noise. And just mentioning athletics brings about an asthma attack, let alone partaking in it!
The fact I am trying to demonstrate here, rather comically, is that PE lessons for most people, besides the GCSE PE guys – those poor individuals - were a chance to muck around and have a laugh, not to get fit. They were infrequently enjoyable, nearly always ruined by bad weather, and at times, so humiliating, you dared go to school for the next week. Come on, who has never faked a sick note or misplaced an item of gym kit to get out of Friday afternoons hockey session?
So the news that Sports groups and medicine specialists are proposing that the government make PE exams compulsory, certainly shocked me, and many others across the nation.

Now on face value, the plans sound like a good idea. I personally feel that the rising diabetes rates and obesity figures in the UK need to be addressed, and are at a significant cost to the tax payer. Being overweight is not just about eating healthy, doing exercise is important and it should be persuaded.
However, deciding to make PE exams compulsory seems extreme. The problem with PE lessons is that they are stereotypically designed for those who are good at sport, not for those who just want to exercise and have fun. On the other hand, they are sexist too. At my old school, we were divided into sex – despite the only difference being girls did dance, and the boys did rugby. The only compromise was the ‘mixed group’, made up of both sexes – a group which was deemed ‘gay’ and ‘sissy’ – so no one ever went in this group either.
Yes, to some extent the kids of today are lazy – and for that, I would say look closer to home and blame the parents. But also blame the schools and authorities. For two hours each week, I was subject to doing an activity I didn’t enjoy, had no input or decision in taking part in, and subsequently did little to keep me fit or healthy.
Now I am not suggesting PE lessons are a waste of time. Quite the opposite in fact. I had some great memories of rounders, basketball and gym in my years at secondary, which I strongly deny was down alone to the gorgeous just-out-of-uni female teacher we had. But what I do propose is that if PE lessons are examined, which might be a good thing, then there needs to be a fundamental change.
In my last few months at Secondary school, we were allowed to pick the sport we wanted to play – usually a choice of three, which worked really well with all parties involved. It meant 9 times out of 10, pupils were actually partaking in sports they wanted to do. If they had implemented this in Year 7, when a nervous and apprehensive 11 year old transferred from beanbag throwing to running the 1500 metres, then maybe the experience of PE lessons would have been more enjoyable.
As Dr Andy Franklyn-Miller warns, “the physical competence of future generations is being put at risk because of a failure to give PE the same priority as other subjects in the school curriculum.” This gives schools and the government a fantastic opportunity to address the current problems in PE, and improve the fitness levels of teens across the country. And with the Olympics coming next year, what better time than the present! A win for all parties, perhaps?
Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. I think it's wrong to make them compulsory. PE is defiantly a popularity contest, well at least it was in my school. The girls who were popular would only pass the ball to each other and would give you an elbow in the face every chance they got.

    PE is defiantly important but why force it on kids. Do they really think forcing a kid to do sports they ate will make them carry on after school. It will make them detest it even more.