Cuts in PE and PSHE prompt pupil health fears… and so they should

by | 20th September 2018

A recent article in the Times Education Supplement claims that cuts in PE and PSHE are prompting pupil health fears.

The director of CoachUnlimited Teresa Hames says, so they should.

We live in a day and age where many children are not, or indeed cannot, meet the recommended daily activity target set by the World Health Organization.

Not every child lives in a leafy, rural village where they can safely walk to school, where they have a parent who can finish work in time to take them to the local football club training night on a Monday and then to Judo on a Tuesday.

Those same children also probably don’t have things like a ‘family walk’ on a Thursday in order to supplement the days they do have PE at school.

If schools cannot provide these children with their physical activity quota, then who does?

Recent figures suggest that just one in four boys and one in five girls in England are doing the recommended 60 minutes of activity each day so maybe the answer to that question is: “Nobody does!”.

If this is the answer, are we willing to sit by and accept that?

There are also, far deeper-reaching issues than simply claiming that a child ‘isn’t active enough’.

If children are not getting the recommended amount of activity then we all know there will be health implications for that child, both physically and mentally. But if, along with not being physically active, children are now not learning about the long-term benefits of exercise, healthy diet, leisure time choices and lifestyle decisions through PSHE, then aren’t we producing a generation of children who may struggle to set examples as parents?

Are we creating parents who may not be physically active role models and who may not make healthy life choices for their children and their grandchildren? Aren’t we setting a long-term ‘non-healthy’ family on their path?

What is the solution?

The TES report states that “PE and PSHE are not the only subjects to see a cut in hours. There has been a drop in the amount of time spent on music, art and drama. Meanwhile, the amount of time spent teaching maths, English and science has increased.”

Few teachers will be surprised at this statement, especially PE teachers!

While schools are under pressure to be judged based on their exam results, and not the type of children they help to mould, this will, sadly, always be the case.

I can recount endless stories of children in my PE classes coming to show me a note written by the English, maths or science teacher excusing them from my PE lesson as they needed to revise, re-take a test or catch up on ‘important work’.

The stated decline in the creative and active subjects is a classic example of “it’s only PE, you can miss that” attitude.

The government has said that all pupils must be taught about good physical and mental health from 2020. Among the subjects that pupils can expect to be taught as part of compulsory health education proposals are the likes of: mental resilience, developing confidence and also recognising when they or others are struggling with poor mental health.

This seems to be a step in the right direction but, this will only be the case if it really is compulsory.

If schools continue to be able to choose how much PE or PSHE is on their curriculum, then they will continue to focus on what they consider the ‘important’ subjects, the ones they are judged on.

No-one can blame the schools for that, they have to survive and perform.

But when we stop judging schools solely on results and league tables and focus more on helping our children become being well rounded individuals who are ‘life ready’ and with strong mental and physical well-being, then we will be doing a much better job of raising the next generation.

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