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- 01 August 2013 00:00
- in Government
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A major report on Physical Activity in Schools in Wales says that PE must be given top status in schools across the country alongside English, Welsh, maths and science in order to prevent an ‘obesity time-bomb’ going off in the near future.
The single recommendation was contained in the report, which was prepared by a review group under the leadership of Wales’ 11-time Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
It calls for school provision for PE to be formally and regularly assessed and for all teachers to be thoroughly prepared to deliver the subject through their initial training.
The report has been presented to the Welsh Minister for Education and Skills Leighton Andrews and the Welsh Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths.
"Evidence shows that we are facing a ticking obesity time-bomb,” said Baroness Tanni.
"Unless we make physical education a core subject, we will still be here in 20 years’ time having made little or no progress.”
Baroness Tanni added it was very worrying that teachers were expected to provide good quality physical education when they received as little as four hours instruction on this subject during their initial teacher training.
"Parents would be horrified if that happened with maths, English or Welsh,” she said.
"It is hard to deliver good physical education instruction and teachers need strong initial training and continuous professional development to equip them for this.
"We have chosen very deliberately to make only one core recommendation rather than a list of more detailed recommendations.
"We wanted to be radical in what we said because this is about the long-term future of Wales.
"Our view was that a single strong core recommendation would be more effective than a jigsaw puzzle of changes that wouldn't address the pivotal concerns.”
The report does commend the Welsh Government’s commitment to making ‘physical literacy’ as important in schools as reading, writing and numeracy but say that giving PE core-subject status is the only way to make this aspiration a reality.
The report points out that Wales would become the first nation globally to take this step, while the estimated cost of elevating PE to core-subject status would be approximately £5 million a year – which the group argues should be set against the estimated £73 million annual cost to the health service of continuing with current levels of obesity.
National Assembly for Wales figures, quoted in the report, show that childhood obesity rates in Wales are the highest in the UK with about 36% of children aged under 16 being overweight or obese.
"The recommendation from this report translates into reality the Welsh Government commitment to physical literacy being as important as reading and writing,” said Sport Wales chair Laura McAllister, who was a member of the review group.
"This recognises that the school experience is not exclusively about academic achievement, important as this is, but also about preparing young people to live active, healthy lives.
"Through the delivery of high quality PE and sporting opportunities in schools and outside, we believe that we can create a generation of active young people equipped with the skills to enjoy a lifelong involvement in sport.”